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Alaska Sleep Education Center

Dirty equipment? Our guide to cleaning and maintaining your CPAP machine

Posted by Julia Higginson on Dec 5, 2017, 8:55:26 AM

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At the Alaska Sleep Clinic, we are committed to how well your therapy is going. One of the most important parts of your therapy is often an overlooked or forgotten task: the cleaning of your equipment.

Dirty or broken equipment can worsen your symptoms and make it so your therapy is causing you more harm than good. Regular care and checking of your equipment helps ensure you are getting the right treatment for your sleep issues.

Cleaning CPAP Humidifier

Your CPAP machine will most likely come with a heated humidification system. This help cut down on morning dry mouth as well as keeping your nasal passages from drying out and becoming irritated and inflamed.

However, the humidification chamber needs to be cleaned out daily to prevent bacteria build-up as well as calcification. The following steps are what you must do daily, weekly, and monthly to keep your humidifier in tip-top shape.

Daily

  • Remove chamber from humidifier carefully so water doesn't enter your CPAP machine.
  • Open chamber and wash with warm, soapy water.
  • Rinse well with water and allow to dry on a clean cloth or paper towel out of direct sunlight.
  • Fill with distilled or sterile water. Do not use tap water as it may contain minerals and chemicals that can damage components of the machine. It is also not recommended to use filtered water (i.e. through a Brita filter) for the same reasons.

Weekly

  • Once a week the humidifier chamber should be soaked in a solution of 1 part white vinegar 3 parts water for approximately 15-20 minutes before rinsing thoroughly with distilled water.
  • Some humidifier chambers are dishwasher safe, allowing you to wash in the dishwasher weekly. Make sure to check your CPAP machine's manual before cleaning in a dishwasher. 

Monthly

  • Humidifier chambers should be replaced every 6 months or as needed.

CPAP Mask Cleaning

Most CPAP mask cushions are made of silicone, a gentle, nonirritating material. However, while silicone is a very comfortable material for masks, it doesn't have a very long lifespan, and without proper care can breakdown quicker than expected. Cleaning your CPAP mask is crucial in making it efficient as possible. The following steps are what you must do daily, weekly, and monthly to care for your mask.

Daily 

  • Wash your mask daily with warm water and mild, unscented soap or purchase CPAP mask specific wipes and detergents.
  • Rinse with water and allow to air dry on a clean cloth or paper towel out of direct sunlight.

Nightly

  • Before using your mask at night, wash your face thoroughly and don't use facial moisturizers. Facial oils and moisturizers can breakdown the silicone faster. 

Weekly

  • Once a week, soak your mask in solution of 1 part white vinegar 3 parts water before rinsing in distilled water.
  • Headgear and chinstraps should be washed as needed by hand using warm soapy water, rinsed well, and air dried. Do not place headgear or chinstraps in washing machine or dryer.
  • CPAP tubing should be cleaned weekly in a sink of warm, soapy water, rinsed well, and left to hang dry out of direct sunlight.

Monthly

  • For replacement schedules of CPAP masks you should check both your manufacturer's recommendations and your insurance allowance. However, for most masks it is recommended that you replace the cushions 1-2 times per month, and the mask every 3-6 months. 

CPAP Filter Cleaning

CPAP filters are designed to help you breathe in clean air. Part of the care of your machine is replacing or cleaning your filter is an important step in the maintenance of your CPAP machine.

Your filters are located near the back of the CPAP machine where the device draws air from the room that it compresses to your pressure settings. Nearly all CPAP machines have a disposable white paper filter and some have an additional nondisposable grey filter as well. The following steps are what you must do daily, weekly, and monthly to make sure you have a clean filter:

        Weekly

  • You should clean the grey nondisposable filter at least on a weekly basis. You may have to clean it more regularly if you have pets, smoke inside your house, or if your home is especially dusty.
  • Rinse grey filters with water and allow to dry before placing back into your machine.

       Monthly

  • The grey re-usable filters should be replaced when it begins to look worn or after 6 months.
  • Replace disposable white paper filters monthly or more frequently if it appears dingy or dirty.

General CPAP Maintenance & CPAP Cleaning Tips

All of the tasks for cleaning and maintaining your CPAP machine might seem overwhelming at first. Keeping up with the cleaning and maintenance of your machine will help make your treatment go more smoothly.

Making your CPAP equipment cleaning part of your morning routine will help make the task seem less overwhelming. Cleaning in the morning will also give your machine plenty of time to dry during the day.

Your CPAP machine itself does not need to be cleaned but you may want to dust it down with a slightly damp cloth as desired. Here are some more tips on cleaning and maintaining your CPAP:

  • Keep your machine and accessories out of direct sunlight to avoid damaging them.
  • Never use bleach to clean accessories.
  • Other machine accessories such as power cords and data cards may need to be replaced due to equipment malfunctions.
  • Always use distilled or sterile water when cleaning components. 

In addition to cleaning, make sure you are careful where you place your CPAP. Place your machine on a level surface away from objects such as curtains or clutter that may interfere with the air intake.

Be careful in keeping track of when you should order replacement parts for your mask and accessories so that you always get the most out of your therapy. Following these tips on cleaning and maintaining your CPAP device and accessories will help you have a smoother CPAP therapy.

If you have any concerns about the care of your machine, please contact us at the Alaska Sleep Clinic. Join us next week as we talk about how to replace worn out or broken CPAP equipment parts.

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