Efficacy and self-similarity of SARS-CoV-2 thermal decontamination

Te Faye Yap, Jason C. Hsu, Zhen Liu, Kempaiah Rayavara, Vivian Tat, Chien Te K. Tseng, Daniel J. Preston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dry heat decontamination has been shown to effectively inactivate viruses without compromising the integrity of delicate personal protective equipment (PPE), allowing safe reuse and helping to alleviate shortages of PPE that have arisen due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, current thermal decontamination guidelines rely on empirical data which are often sparse, limited to a specific virus, and unable to provide fundamental insight into the underlying inactivation reaction. In this work, we experimentally quantified dry heat decontamination of SARS-CoV-2 on disposable masks and validated a model that treats the inactivation reaction as thermal degradation of macromolecules. Furthermore, upon nondimensionalization, all of the experimental data collapse onto a unified curve, revealing that the thermally driven decontamination process exhibits self-similar behavior. Our results show that heating surgical masks to 70 °C for 5 min inactivates over 99.9% of SARS-CoV-2. We also characterized the chemical and physical properties of disposable masks after heat treatment and did not observe degradation. The model presented in this work enables extrapolation of results beyond specific temperatures to provide guidelines for safe PPE decontamination. The modeling framework and self-similar behavior are expected to extend to most viruses—including yet-unencountered novel viruses—while accounting for a range of environmental conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number127709
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
StatePublished - May 5 2022


  • Arrhenius equation
  • COVID-19
  • Dry heat decontamination
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Reaction rate law

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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