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On Infection Prevention & Control

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Decontaminating & Disinfecting Single Use Respirators


Robert Campbell, PharmD, director, clinical standards interpretation for hospital/ambulatory programs 

Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of The Joint Commission’s daily communication on issues relevant to organizations managing the COVID-19 pandemic. The full list of FAQs is available here. All examples are for illustrative purposes only.

Increasingly, we are getting questions like: Can single use respirators be decontaminated?

State agencies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other stakeholders, including safety organizations, have provided guidance on this practice.

When organizations are approaching crisis surge capacity and anticipate an inability to provide a sufficient number of respirators to protect staff who will be involved in aerosol generating procedures,  the disinfection of single use respirators is an option when organizations have been in communication with local public health partners (e.g., public health emergency preparedness and response staff) and are still unable to obtain replacement supplies to match the anticipated need.

In order to ensure health care worker safety, organizations should work with manufacturers to ensure that the decontamination process is compatible with the respirator components and how many times a respirator can be decontaminated safely. Organizations that are considering this process should develop a safe collection process to collect and hold used respirators while they explore an appropriate process. 

Additional Resources:
CDC:  Decontamination and Reuse of Filtering Facepiece Respirators using Contingency and Crisis Capacity Strategies

ECRI: COVID-19 and Medical Devices: Safe Respirator Usage When Supplies Are Short
ECRI: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance and Resources

Organizations that use Joint Commission accreditation for deemed status purposes should monitor the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) website as waivers are being approved frequently and may include state-specific waivers. Please review the CMS website.  

Robert Campbell, PharmD, is director, Clinical Standards Interpretation Hospital/Ambulatory Programs and director, Medication Management. Prior to these roles, he served as the pharmacist for Clinical Standards Interpretation in the Division of Healthcare Improvement at The Joint Commission. Campbell also surveys as a field representative for The Joint Commission in the Hospital Accreditation and Critical Access Hospital Accreditation Programs and is a reviewer in the Medication Compounding Certification Program. Prior to joining The Joint Commission, Campbell worked in health care organizations and held leadership positions with oversight responsibilities for performance improvement, accreditation readiness, risk management, infection control, medical staff services, as well as inpatient and outpatient pharmacy services.