Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Masks Filters and Cleaning Explained for Coronavirus COVID-19 Protection

Masks Filters and Cleaning Explained for Coronavirus COVID-19 Protection

As of February, 2020 it would seem the Coronavirus COVID-19 is no joke of a virus. It has reportedly infected tens of thousands and potentially killed hundreds with a kill rate of greater than 2% with modern medicine. Experts are saying it may be the most deadly virus ever including the Spanish flu of the early 1900s and even the legendary European Black Plague which estimates note killed 30%-60% of the European population. Sadly as of early February, we know very little, however we do know the pandemic spreads and that is by air, aerosolized spray and direct fluid contact. With the exceptionally obvious rules of don’t touch stuff and wash your hands insanely frequently, what other precautions should be taken.

My site, Major Pandemic, was founded on a common sense preparedness strategy, so I am not advocating taping doors and windows, pulling out the Tyvek body suits and covered face respirators just yet for COVID-19 .. but you do have those, right? Here in the US, we fortunately have a much higher standard of hygiene than most other countries. Though I did really second guess that assumption after watching a few Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen episodes.

This should be in the no shit category, however it is most likely the most missed obvious part of hygiene and the biggest threat in a pandemic. Wash your freaky little hands… and not that splash and three rubs before hitting the paper towels just so your buddy does not think you are gross; I mean a real thorough hand washing.

After recently visiting Paris, I would say our US hygiene is still WAY higher than France’s for sure. Those friends who have been to China have all noted the obvious, that the country as a whole is not at the hygiene standard of the US and terrifyingly far below Paris. Hygiene can prevent catching a crapload of viruses, bacteria, and infections and also prevents them from spreading. Ten out of ten doctors will say that ritualistic meticulous hand washing for a full 30-seconds and attention to general daily hygiene is the greatest tool in the protection against the spread of all things we think of in the realms of Pandemics. What else can we do to step our daily hygiene to prevent the spread of a disease, virus or infection? Before we break out the hardware of masks and gloves, let’s look at cleaners, disinfectants and sanitizers.

Without getting into weird industrial cleaners and sticking to the most common available cleaners, the next set of tools are generally topical antibacterial disinfectants with alcohol contents of 60% or higher and bleach based cleaners, disinfectants/sanitizers and sterilization.

First it is important to understand that there is a difference between each group of cleaners, disinfectants/sanitizers, sterilization, and barriers. Lets say your dog drops one on the carpet. The glove provides a barrier while you use “cleaners” help get the brown out after you scoop up the turd. Of note not all disinfectants/sanitizers or sterilization are good cleaners, so often you need to use a combination of barriers, cleaners, disinfectants/sanitizers and sterilization to things to both look clean and become sanitized or sterile.

The disinfectants kill a huge amount of germs, are generally cheap, and make you feel better that it is clean or smells clean, but you still would not likely stick your tongue on the carpet after disinfecting/sanitizing.  Disinfecting/sanitizing is the step hospitals take which technically reduces organisms significantly by up to 99.99%, but up to could be a big variance. Still though, 99.99% is still not tongue to carpet worthy.

Sterilization is the process of hot steaming and object usually in a vacuum or with pressure continuously for about 20 minutes which does kill all - 100% of all organisms.  One reason I love industrial steam cleaning services for carpets - its not only clean, but it is really insanely close to sterile. After the carpet was sterilized, it would be cleaner than before the turd hit, yeah mentally I am pretty sure you could get the point of tongue tip to carpet. Sterilization is so clean that surgical instruments that were stuck inside one patient in the morning, are stuck in another in the afternoon after being sterilized. Steam sterilization is what my germaphobe wife deems as clean and we are on our sixth steam cleaner I believe.

Cleaners - The range is wide from foaming cleaners, to orange oil and natural cleaners. They get the brown out, clean the surface, but usually have little or no disinfecting abilities. Due to pressures of moronic uninformed consumers, many previously great every day cleaners that did kill 99.9% of germs have now removed disinfecting alcohol or bleach additives. For example, ever notice that Scrubbing Bubbles no longer notes “kills 99.9% of household germs”.

Disinfectants/Sanitizers - Alcohol, Bleach, Electric Steam Mops
Good old drug store isopropyl alcohol or the right ratio of regular laundry bleach or just 212-degree steaming H2O in contact with a surface for a period of time does an excellent job of disinfecting/sanitizing surfaces and objects. The amount of time any of these sanitizers are in contact with the target surface is critical though.

Isopropyl Alcohol 70% is available at any drugstore or superstore and in gel form as a hand cleaner. There is a reason pretty much every hospital, doctor, dental office and even the TSA use this as a disinfectant in a simple spray bottle. That reason is it works extremely well for simply disinfecting is due to being almost completely effective to its potential in just 10-seconds on contact. It is not hard on skin, tools, and equipment with constant use, is cheap, but it does not work well on super viral viruses. Of note, no matter how long you soak something in alcohol it will still not be sterilized… maybe close, but the really bad stuff can live through a soak. You will see that alcohol is often combined with other slower acting cleaners such as bleach to enhance the instantaneous cleaning power. Overall a fantastic cleaner that I even use as a general purpose gun parts cleaner that is also very handy for household/automotive/shop cleaning, and good for quick cleanups when returning to a vehicle. Currently experts are saying 15-second exposure to 70% isopropyl alchohol effectively kills the Coronavirus, however we still know so little about this virus.

Bleach - First I will not that Ammonia is also a good cleaner, but really only good for hard surfaces and if accidentally combined with bleach creates hydrochloric acid which is not something you want to made accidentally inside a home without protective equipment. I generally recommend bleach first. In the right proportions, bleach is super effective up to 99.9% in laboratory tests. Good old Clorox wipes still have enough bleach to kill pretty much anything around us from a bacteria or virus perspective, however again time is critical. Clorox wipes recommend a 4-minute saturation to assure the maximum effective sanitizing/disinfecting power is achieved. Typical laboratory tests note 4-5 minutes of a diluted bleach solution sufficiently kills 99.9% of germs and viruses.

  • Bleach containing 5.25% sodium hypochlorite (Standard Clorox Bleach is about this concentration) is super flexible and could be used for everything from making potable water, to general cleaning, to sanitizing. For each use, common bleach should be diluted as follows:
  • Emergency Water Purification - 2 drops of Regular Clorox Bleach per quart of water OR 8 drops of Regular Clorox Bleach per gallon of water OR 1/2 teaspoon Regular Clorox Bleach per five gallons of water.  If water is cloudy, double the recommended dosages of Clorox Bleach. Only use Regular Clorox Bleach (not Fresh Scent or Lemon Fresh, etc).
  • General Disinfecting/Sanitizing - 1:99 diluted household bleach (mixing 10ml of bleach with 1litre of water) can be used for general household cleaning.
  • Heavy Duty Sanitizing with Bleach - 1:49 diluted household bleach (mixing 10ml of bleach with 0.5litre of water) is used with a full 5-minutes wetting of surfaces to kill 99.9% of germs surfaces or articles contaminated with vomitus, excreta, secretions or blood. Used cleaning tools should have a 30 minute soak in the higher concentration formula above.
Electric Steam Mops - The Bissel model has been rated continually as the best and after owning four in our home, the Bissel has held up better than the other brands. The idea is simple, add water, it is heated to a germ/virus annihilating 212-degrees F steam. A washable cotton mop cover is added and you work back and forth over the floor. These things are rather fantastically amazing and clean surfaces you “thought” were clean before to a disguising level. Kind of like when you first got one of those new high suction vacuums with the clear chamber. You saw how filthy everything was with your old vac. The steam cleaner is like that during the first couple uses. For actual sanitizing, you need a full 30-secs minimum of contact or repeated passes. 

Sterilization requires either submersion in a full rolling boil for two minutes or use of some type of heat, steam and pressure contraption. A pressure cooker is basically what the hospital uses with the Autoclave. However, some autoclaves are vacuum pressurized. Water is a good sterilizer, but again it does take the appropriate heat and time. 

Barriers & Filters/Respirators
Barriers are pretty simple devices that include Tyvek body suits, googles, shoe booties, and rubber gloves. They also include surgical masks, because these masks have little ability to filter, have non-sealing gaps and are only designed to provide a barrier between the wearer’s exhalation and others. Again they are designed to provide an inexpensive simple device to protect you from the wearer. An update from a reader who is a DR was to assure readers understand that basic surgical masks DO NOT provide inhalation protection against viruses because of the typical gaping fitment and filter micron rating and are only a cough/spit/expelled fluid barrier to offer simple barrier protection for others from the wearer. To be clear, basic surgical masks are of little value in protecting yourself from inhalation of a virus or bacteria.

Filters/Respirators are something different and seal against the face completely, allow preferably 0% air leakage and filter, are N%, R% or P% rated and filter the intake air for the wearer. Exhaled air is usually unfiltered and directly vented through a simple valve assembly to ease breathing. When we talk about protecting ourselves from others with a pandemic we are talking about wearing filtered air respirators which come in a disposable packs in the paint isle of the hardware store, to dual filter 3M 6001 rubber respirators, to those full face mask versions they wear with rubber suits you see on the virus plague movies. If the survivors have to slip on a $140 6000 series 3M full face mask respirator, I figure we are all screwed, so that leaves the first two options.

These are relatively cheap, however there is now some hoarding going on so prices are bumping up. What to look for is a N95 rated mask at a minimum which is NIOSH approved (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health). This means you have a N (Not rated for Oil) filter that will filter out 95% of all .3-micron or larger contaminants, viruses, bacteria. SARS was a .1-micron virus, so it could technically get through, however most doctors say this is unlikely since you will likely not just have one virus cell. Its probably going to come in a droplet form which a N95 respirator would capture. 

Why not a better or finer filter. There are N99 filters which capture 99.9% of .3-micron contaminants, however unvented N95 and N99 respirators reduce breathing efficiency by up to 37%. If you have any breathing issue you should not be using a respirator without consulting a doctor because you could suffocate. Vented respirators improve breathing efficiency but breathing is diminished by about 15%. The bottom line is that any finer filter is really hard on the breathing of a wearer and usually if there is that concern for really minute filtration, tanked air is the favored option along with powered respirators. Again if we see government folks with tanked air or powered respirator units, it is already too late.

For the general public N95, and R rated (resistant to oil particulate) R95 and P (oil proof) rated P95 respirators are the only option. For disposable options that do not make you look like you are imitating my logo, N-rated filters are about the only option. 3M and other industrial and healthcare suppliers deliver top rated products such as the 8511 N95 respirator disposable mask, however if you want something cooler looking there are options like RZ Mask which do not carry the NIOSH or N rating, have published independent laboratory results which exceed those ratings. 
The next tier of respirators are almost exclusively thought of as spray paint respirators. These are usually half masks made of rubber and/or silicon and feature a large full vented nose and mouth coverage with dual filter attachment points. These filters usually combine a replaceable ¼-inch p95 filter pad with an longer use activated carbon filter that further filters scents, and containments.

There are some specialized filters including the 3M 60923 which has a P100 rating plus Organic Vapor (OV) and AG (Acid Gas) rating, but just the replacement filters alone ar $20 a pop and still are only rated for 90 minutes. This is about as good as it gets for a public option for a filtered respirator. The N and P rated half mask filters are allegedly more than adequate to protect from airborne viruses. I will be the guy wearing these if I have to fly for work in the next few months. 

So there you have it. Keep clean, get some barriers and filters and live to fight another day. 


skids said...

The half mask "paint respirators" are great for the wearer, assuming a good fit on the face. They are difficult to talk through. They typically have an unfiltered check valve for exhalation which offers no protection to others.

Unknown said...

I have access to a 3M 6300 respirator and 3M 6001 cartridges. My question is do you think these cartridges are effective in protecting me, the wearer, against covid19?

grinning mouths said...

Thank you very much for posting this article. It was extremely informative and chock-full of the information I was looking for. Kudos, good sir.

Malen said...

I have recently bought a 3M half face respirator and 60923 cartridges to accompany it. How long will the cartridges last beyond the vapor/gas lifespan i read in the article? Will it last as long or longer then the standard cartridges for particulates?