sterilize face mask in microwave

Ontario fire marshal asks people to please stop microwaving their face masks

Personal protective equipment shouldn't be treated like pizza pockets, according to emergency management professionals from the provincial government.

And yet, people all over North America have apparently been trying to microwave their reusable face masks in recent weeks thanks to some Facebook posts.

"Those that use a fabric mask : After wearing place in ziploc bag and microwave for 2-3 minutes to sanitize. Do this after each wear," reads one version of the message, as posted to the Facebook profile of a random guy and shared more than 7,000 times.

Actual experts say this is a very, very bad idea — evidence of which can be seen in dozens of other Facebook posts from people who burned their masks (if not their entire kitchens) by trying to "sterilize" them in the microwave.

This shoddy DIY pandemic tip has become such a problem, in fact, that Ontario's Fire Marshal felt the need to issue an official statement on Tuesday warning Ontarians "to never use microwave ovens to sterilize face masks."

"Ontario's Fire Marshal is urging all Ontarians to follow the recommendations of medical and health professionals on how to use and clean personal protective equipment (PPE) and stresses that microwave ovens should never be used to sterilize a face mask," reads a release from the province's Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management.

"Microwave ovens are not designed to heat cloth materials, so there is a risk of the mask overheating and catching fire. Many disposable masks also have a metal nose wire or staples holding the straps which can cause sparks or a fire if heated in a microwave."

Ontario Fire Marshal Jon Pegg also stated in the release that fire-related fatalities were up 65 per cent across the province between Jan. 1 and May 4, compared to the same period of time last year.

Seventeen Ontario residents died from fires in March of 2020 alone, according to Pegg, who stressed that fire safety is especially important right now during a pandemic-mandated lockdown "when so many families are staying at home and doing more cooking."

Putting a mask in a microwave doesn't count as cooking, but given Pegg's announcement it sounds like at least one person in Ontario has tried.

Some people say that Instant Pots can be used to sterilize cloth masks (and Instant Pot agrees!)  but, again, actual experts say otherwise: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a washing machine is your best bet.

Lead photo by

Kathy Fazio


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