An Easy Guide to Keeping Your CPAP Machine Clean

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the treatment we most often prescribe for patients with sleep apnea because it’s very effective. The therapy isn’t possible without a smoothly functioning CPAP machine, which blows a continuous stream of air into your nose or throat when you’re sleeping. This prevents your airway from collapsing as you inhale, which is the most common trigger for apneic episodes (pauses in breathing) while you sleep.

The air produced by your CPAP machine travels through a series of hoses, connectors, and filters that become prime breeding grounds for bacteria when they’re not cleaned properly.

Most CPAP machines also contain a built-in humidifier that keeps the air moist, which helps prevent dryness in your throat, but can also become the perfect environment for bacteria and other microscopic invaders to thrive. From there it’s a quick trip into your throat, nasal cavity, and lungs.

At ApneCare Sleep Lab, we emphasize the importance of keeping your CPAP machine clean because we care about your health and are happy to provide a few easy guidelines for routine cleaning.

Daily cleaning

To remove oils, sweat, dead skin cells, and other substances from the mask, wipe it down with a damp cloth moistened in warm, sudsy water. Use a mild detergent to prevent damaging your mask. Gently rinse with a clean damp towel and allow the mask to air-dry.

You can save time by using conveniently pre-moistened, disposable cloths designed specifically for cleaning CPAP masks.

If your CPAP machine has a humidifier, empty the leftover water each morning rather than letting it remain in the reservoir all day. For best practice, refill the humidifier well with clean, distilled water right before bedtime.

For the same reasons doctors recommend you replace your toothbrush after a bout of strep throat, we recommend you wash your mask, tubing, humidifier, and filters daily if you’ve got a cold or the flu. This helps reduce the risk of re-exposing yourself to these germs.

Weekly cleaning

Take time to give your CPAP headgear and tubing a thorough cleaning each week to keep them free of dust and germs.

Fill a clean sink with warm water and a small amount of mild detergent. Submerge the CPAP components in the water and swish them around vigorously for about five minutes. Rinse with warm water and hang the components on a towel rack, a sturdy clothes hanger, or hook to air-dry. Be sure to drape the tubing in a way that allows all the water to drip away.

You can also purchase brushes that are designed to fit inside the tubes and hoses, which provide an extra measure of clean.

Wipe the outer surfaces of the machine off with a slightly damp cloth to remove dust and grime without exposing the machine to too much water.

Clean washable filters by removing them and rinsing them in warm water until the water you squeeze from the filter is clear. Blot it with a towel and place it in a clean location to air-dry.

Many machines also contain disposable filters that are changed every month, or sooner if they become noticeably dirty. Check with your machine’s manufacturer if you aren’t sure of the size of these filters or where to purchase replacements. We can often help with this information as well.

If your CPAP has a humidifier, clean it weekly by washing the water chamber in the sink with warm, soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and allow to air-dry completely before placing it back in your machine.

Every other week

Disinfect the washable parts of the humidifier every other week by soaking them in a solution of one-part vinegar to five-parts water for 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and allow to air-dry. Or you can check to see if the components are top-rack dishwasher safe and run them through a wash cycle.

You can prevent mineral deposits and other buildup from forming in your machine’s humidifier reservoir by using only distilled water that you change daily.

Cheryl Brown

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