masks and gloves

What to Do with Expired PPE

Why personal protective equipment expires and how facility departments should handle old products

By By Ashley Beebe, Contributing Writer  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, facilities accumulated an abundance of face masks, gloves and personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Now, many of these protective products are reaching expiration dates, and facility managers are unsure what to do with the equipment. It can be costly to replace expired equipment, and many facilities aren’t aware of where to dispose of such items. 

PPE expires because the materials used to make the equipment can degrade over time, says Katie Segura, a safety manager at ESFM, a self-performing integrated facilities management (IFM) services provider. 

“PPE should never be used past the expiration date because there is no way to be sure how effective its protection will be beyond the expiration date,” Segura says. “When it comes to safety, the stakes are too high to compromise – it is not worth the risk when human lives are involved.” 

N95 disposable respirators, a common product used during the pandemic, are made of non-woven material that is statically charged, says John Thomas, director of health and wellness, for jan/san distributor Imperial Dade.  

“This static charge is what attracts the particulates to the respirator and filters them out,” Thomas says. “This charge weakens over the years, and after five years, the product is ‘expired’ and should be disposed of. Disposal can be in the normal trash stream.” 

Related Content: Tips for Purchasing Personal Protective Equipment

Facility managers can look at PPE like disinfectants and prescription drugs. While they are different, they all have an expiration date, because the materials and components used to make them break down over time, says Phil Carrizales, director of hygiene and facilities solutions at jan/san distributor Acme Paper & Supply Co

“This degradation reduces their effectiveness and potentially places the end user at risk,” says Carrizales. “PPE, if expired, may also give the user a false sense of security, putting the user at risk.” 

To still get use out of expired PPE, the products could be used for training purposes, including the proper donning and doffing of gloves, proper ways to wear face masks, and other procedures, says Carrizales.  

If facility departments decide to get rid of the product, they can consider donating them to paramedics, schools, and nursing schools to help the students and new employees learn the proper procedures, adds Carrizales. 

If not donating expired PPE, it is important to properly dispose of it, following the manufacturer’s recommended disposal procedures, if applicable, says Segura. There are also various recycling programs available to minimize landfill waste. 

Some organizations with a surplus of expired PPE, are reportedly donating the supplies to other countries that, otherwise, would not have access to such equipment.  

Because the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has set the market value of expired supplies at $0, many facilities are simply throwing the equipment out, with the Associated Press reporting more than 18 million masks, 22 million gowns, and 500,000 gloves being thrown out. 

Ashley Beebe, is a freelance writer with Advantage Informatics.   



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  posted on 2/28/2024   Article Use Policy

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