How and Why You Should Clean CPAP Equipment

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a leading treatment for the sleep disorder obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), with most users experiencing immediate benefits from the treatment. 

For the treatment to be effective, the equipment needs to be used every night as you sleep. Keeping the various parts clean is also critical, not just to maintain efficiency of the treatment, but to prevent infections and illness. 

The good news is that cleaning CPAP equipment is a quick and straightforward process. The CPAP manufacturers -- ResMed, Philips, Fisher Paykel -- all advise using these cleaning tips as well.

Why Cleaning Is So Important

Keeping the equipment parts clean is essential for hygiene reasons. When using the mask each night, there is a natural accumulation of oil, sweat and dead cells on the inside. As well as being a potential hygiene hazard, this can also begin to irritate the skin and make wearing the mask uncomfortable. 

The oils can also damage the mask, compromising the quality of the seal which is so important for the efficiency of the treatment. This may mean replacing masks on a more regular basis than would be required if properly maintained. 

Moisture in the device, mask and tubing can also become a breeding ground for bacteria, leading to an increased risk of infections and illness.

Developing a Cleaning Routine

As with many things, it is often best to develop a routine for cleaning the various parts of your CPAP equipment. By having set days and set times of day built into our routines, we are more likely to adhere to a stricter cleaning regime. 

Proper cleaning of the equipment will tend to take just five minutes every time, which can be viewed as time well-spent -- when considering the potential benefits to your sleep and health from efficient, well-maintained equipment.

Cleaning can be broken down into daily clean and weekly clean. Although most equipment models can be cleaned using everyday household items, it is important to read the manufacturer’s guide to cleaning their equipment first before you start.

Daily Cleaning

The mask should be cleaned on a daily basis. After switching off the device, the mask can be taken apart and separated in to its constituent parts – cushion, frame and headgear. Unless otherwise stated by the manufacturer, all you require for cleaning is:

  • Tub, sink or bowl
  • Mild soap
  • Soft cloth
  • Drinking quality water, around 30 degrees centigrade in temperature.
  • Clean towel

Just gently rub the mask parts with the soap and water, before rinsing them all out. Place the parts on a clean towel to air dry, ensuring they are not left exposed to direct sunlight.

For devices containing a humidifier, a daily clean is also recommended. With the device unplugged, remove the humidifier and rinse it, once again using mild soap and warm, drinking-quality water. As with the mask parts, the humidifier can be left to air dry on a towel.

Since this equipment needs to air dry, it is usually best to clean them in the morning to allow enough time before their next use.

Weekly Cleaning

The tubing which connects the device to the mask should be cleaned at least every week. Once it is detached, the tubing can also be cleaned by rinsing it thoroughly inside and out with warm drinking quality water and mild soap. Rinse once more with the warm water before leaving the tubing to air dry on a clean towel, away from direct sunlight.

Once every week, you can give your humidifier a more thorough clean. Using a solution consisting of one part white vinegar and one part water, you can leave the disconnected humidifier tub to soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Once complete, rinse the humidifier tub with warm water before setting aside on a clean towel to air dry, once again away from direct sunlight.

Cleaning Products to Avoid

It is key to stick to using a mild soap and warm drinking quality water when cleaning equipment parts, with the exception of adding white vinegar for the weekly humidifier tub soak. Using stronger cleaning substances can harm the material and compromise the equipment. Products to avoid include:

  • Anti-bacterial soap
  • Bleach
  • Alcohol
  • Scented oils such as essential oils
  • Stronger smelling cleaning products

Avoid the temptation to put the parts in the washing machine as this will likely damage them and see you needing to replace them earlier than would otherwise be necessary.

The effectiveness of the treatment is dependent on the equipment used. Finding the right mask with a good seal is critical, not just for its efficiency but for comfort too, aiding continued compliance. Cleaning CPAP is important in maintaining this efficiency by preventing deterioration in the materials used. Just as crucially, cleaning aids hygiene, reducing the risk of infection and illness from a buildup of bacteria and germs.

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