Respirator masks tend to offer a higher level of protection compared to medical and surgical face masks and as they are close fitting, typically Fit Tested (fit testing) and Fit Checked, designed to protect both, the wearer and the wearer’s environment. Respirators are designed to filter out small particles, so they are recommended for use in hospital and clinical environments.
While face masks and respirators are still commonly used in healthcare/clinical settings and certain work or dusty/polluted environments they were a common part of everyday life during the COVID-19 pandemic as a measure to reduce the spread of the virus. Although it is likely that you would have donned your masks yourself during that time, did it ever cross your mind to check whether the masks are expired?
Do face masks expire?
In a nutshell - yes, face masks do expire. In Australia, manufacturers are required to print Year of Manufacture, a Date Code, or other means of traceability on the outer packaging. Most face masks and respirators have a shelf life of around three to five years, but it is always best to refer to the packaging, or manufacturer’s guidelines for the expiration date.
And while it is important to avoid using expired masks, it is also worth inspecting the condition of your face mask before use. Check for visible signs of wear and tear, like fraying, holes or broken or stretched elastic bands. If your face mask has expired, damaged or damp, it is probably not going to offer the level of protection you are after. In this case, you are generally better off disposing of your mask and swapping it for a fresh, new mask instead or only using the mask in low-risk environments.