COVID-19: Disinfection of N95 Single-Use Filtering Facepiece Respirators

This publication uses the term “disinfection” of N95 single-use filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) (also called N95 masks) to refer to the chemical or physical process that inactivates infectious agents. It should be noted that the various reference publications and documents on the subject consulted by the Centre d’expertise en retraitement des dispositifs médicaux (CERDM) use the terms “decontamination,” “disinfection,” or both. The CERDM has chosen the term “disinfection” to conform to the reprocessing nomenclature that is generally accepted in Canada (CSA Z314.18). According to this nomenclature, the term decontamination is more general and includes the process of cleaning followed by the inactivation of infectious agents. However, in the context of reprocessing of N95 FFRs, only one step, aimed at inhibiting various pathogenic microorganisms, is performed; therefore, it seems more accurate to use the term “disinfection”.


The CERDM evaluated the available options for disinfection of FFRs in the context of a potential shortage of filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) in health care facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic (INSPQ, 2020a). This represents a solution of last resort to be applied when there is an anticipated shortage1 in order to be able to distribute them to workers only during a real shortage2 and when all other strategies for addressing the shortage of N95 FFRs are insufficient. In fact, this solution is not consistent with the guidelines of regulatory authorities regarding the reprocessing of single-use medical devices (SUMDs). This effort is being undertaken with the aim of identifying alternative strategies that can be added to the measures already available, to provide the best possible protection for workers in the event of a shortage.


This document is intended for decision makers, managers and clinical personnel involved in medical device reprocessing (MDR). It presents the technologies approved by Health Canada in the COVID-19 context as well as a promising - although as yet unauthorized - option for disinfecting N95 FFRs.

1 Strategies to be applied in the event of an anticipated shortage, but while supplies are available (after verification with the procurement department and the ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS)).
2 Strategies to be applied in the event of a known shortage (after verification with the procurement department and the MSSS).