N95 face mask

Do N95 Masks Expire? When to Replace & Where to Buy

Can You Use Expired N95 Masks?

Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer; many factors affect whether or not you can use N95 masks to expire. With increased demand and limited supply, considerations can get made to use N95 masks past their shelf life, but they may not perform to the requirements that they got certified for.

Components like the mask material and straps can degrade, which affects the quality of its seal and fit. You should always inspect an N95 respirator and perform a seal check before use, whether it’s expired or not. Expired N95 masks may no longer meet NIOH certification requirements.

If an organization issue expired N95 masks to its employees, it should notify the staff and reemphasize how important it is to conduct seal checks and user inspections.

You should understand these four things about using an N95 masks expire: 

  • They are no longer NIOSH-approved respirators.
  • Ensure that they got stored according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • They must get inspected properly, especially the nose pieces and head straps.
  • You should not use expired N95 masks if new ones are available.

Related: Are You Protected from COVID?

Why an Expired N95 Masks May Not Perform to Its Requirements

The longer an N95 respirator gets stored after its shelf life, the less likely the mask is to perform in its intended manner. Not only can the filter get affected once the mask is expired, but other components like the headband and nose piece can break or degrade in a way that prevents an effective seal.

You also should consider the safety and health compliance standpoint; once the N95 mask is expired, it has lost BIOSH approval, even if it still works. Because the respirator loses approval, its wearer will technically not be in compliance with regulations regarding face-coverings.

Uses for Expired N95 Masks

That said, there are some uses for expired N95 masks other than as a protective measure. You can still use them for training and fit testing:

Training Purposes

Training activities are an exceptional place to use expired N95 respirators. You can use the masks to train employees on the correct donning techniques like:

  • Headband placement
  • Conducting seal checks
  • Proper nose clip seals

You can use your expired N95 respirators to train your staff, allowing you to save the non-expired ones to use for protection.

Fit Testing

In some situations, you can use expired N95 masks to conduct fit testing in your organization. Here are some ways to help decide if your expired respirators can get used for fit testing:

  • Fit testing should only get performed with expired respirators if they were stored according to manufacturer guidelines.
  • You should visually inspect the expired N95 masks before using them for fit testing to ensure that it’s not defective or damaged. Check the nose clip, foam, shell, and headbands.
  • Consider how long the mask has been expired; if it’s been over a year, you probably want to throw it out.

If you experience fit test pass rates that are less than expected, you should discontinue using the expired N95 masks.

Storing N95 Masks

The way you store your N95 face masks directly contributes to their usable shelf life. Storing these respirators will help them stay effective. Here are some storage tips for your do N95 masks expire:

  • Always store them in the original manufacturer’s packaging.
  • Keep N95 respirators away from areas with dust, extreme temperatures, sunlight, moisture, and damaging chemicals.
  • Use good inventory management; rotate your stock of N95 face masks.

Related: Antiviral Face Masks

Guidelines for Extended Use and Reuse of N95 Masks

Using an N95 face mask

Another common question about N95 respirators is if they can get reused or used for extended periods of time. Normally, the answer would be no, but in times of a pandemic, essential workers may not have access to a large supply of N95 masks. Here are some guidelines regarding the extended use and reuse of N95 respirators:

(Note that requirements vary from organization to organization; these are general guidelines)

N95 Masks: Extended Use

Extended use (wearing an N95 mask between activities without removing it) is considered to be acceptable if the respirator is not contaminated, soiled, or otherwise damaged.

  • Extended use is also typically allowed after aerosol-generating procedures with patients that have viral respiratory symptoms, but you should discard the N95 mask once removed.

N95 Masks: Reuse

Reusing an N95 mask (taking it off in between activities) is typically acceptable if it is not soiled, damaged, or contaminated.

  • You should not reuse an N95 respirator if you came into contact with someone who has viral respiratory symptoms.

General N95 Guidelines

  • It is preferred to use an N95 mask for an extended period rather than reuse it.
  • If you touch your N95 respirator, wash your hands and change your gloves if applicable.
  • Wash your hands before removing your N95 mask.
  • If you plan to reuse your respirator, place it in a designated place between uses.
  • N95 face masks should only get worn by a single user.

When Should You Replace Your N95 Mask?

Do N95 Masks Expire

It’s probably time to replace your N95 respirator if:

  • It is contaminated, damage, or soiled in any way.
  • It is expired, and you plan to use it for protective purposes.
  • It doesn’t fit properly anymore.
  • It has any visible rips, creases, or tears.
  • The straps or nose clip don’t fit correctly any longer.
  • It fails a positive or negative pressure test.

Related: Facts About COVID-19

If your N95 mask fits into one or more of these categories, it’s time for a new one. While expired masks may still be usable if they were properly stored, the best way to stay protected is with a new high-quality N95 respirator.

All of Bielcor’s face masks are field-tested, extensively researched, and 100% guaranteed to perform their intended job. At Bielcor, we believe that everyone should have access to the highest-quality face masks at affordable prices to keep ourselves and our communities safe.

Do you need a new N95 face mask? All of Bielcor’s respirators are high-quality and manufactured for maximum protection!