COVID-19 July 6

6 tips for preserving PPE

Critical conservation measures for facemasks and gloves

As states have been reopening, we are seeing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. This is again playing havoc on the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves and facemasks, which, like other PPE, have reached critically low supply levels over the last few months as patients continue to flood hospitals, ICUs and Long Term Care facilities.

Given that masks, gloves and other PPE are still on allocation across the industry, crisis or alternate strategies may be necessary if medical gloves or facemasks are running low or not available. For a more detailed look at glove conservation strategies, check out Gloves in the time of scarcity.

Here is a quick look at a few conservation strategies for facemasks and gloves according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Facemasks

Gloves

Fold and store facemasks appropriately.
Facemasks should be carefully folded so that the outer surface is held inward and against itself to reduce contact with the outer surface during storage. The folded mask can be stored between uses in a clean sealable paper bag or breathable container.
Consider using reusable surgeon’s gloves.
Radioactive protective gloves or radiation attenuating surgeon’s gloves also offer fluid barrier protection. These gloves cannot be sterilized but can be cleaned and resused following the manufacturer’s labeling.
Use facemasks beyond the manufacturer-designated expiration date.
Facemasks can be used past their documented shelf life. If there is no date available on the facemask label or packaging, facilities should contact the manufacturer. The user should visually inspect the product prior to use and, if there are concerns (such as degraded materials or visible tears), discard the product.
Conserve gloves when caring for patients without infectious diseases.
Healthcare providers may not need to change gloves between patients with no known infectious diseases, according to the CDC. Gloved hands should always be cleaned between patients and at other times when hand hygiene would normally be performed during routine patient care. Be aware, though, that alcohol-based hand sanitizers may degrade vinyl gloves.
Not all facemasks are the same and can be reused.
Facemasks with elastic ear hooks may be more suitable for re-use. Facemasks that fasten to the provider via ties may not be able to be undone without tearing and should be considered only for extended use, rather than re-use.
Expiration dates may be flexible.
As with facemasks, the CDC states that healthcare professionals may be able to use medical gloves beyond the manufacturer-designated shelf life in situations or settings where there is a lower risk of transmission. For example, around non-surgical, non-sterile patients or individuals with no known COVID 19 diagnosis. Always inspect the gloves prior to use to check for discolorations, stains, visible tears or holes.

We are committed to providing all the tools and tips possible, so that you have all the necessary information on preserving your PPE in the event you are waiting on your supplies. For more insights and practical tips on conservation strategies, skin health while wearing PPE or even how to extend the life of your linens, visit our readiness resources section of our COVID-19 Resource Center.

Also, stay up-to-date on the latest information regarding COVID-19 by visiting our COVID-19 newsroom page and finding the most current government and industry documents from such organizations as the CDC, the FDA, and the WHO on our COVID-19 Toolkit.