Sleep apnea is a surprisingly common problem that affects millions of Americans — including many who have not been officially diagnosed with a sleep disorder. Though you might initially only notice seemingly minor issues like loud snoring or not feeling rested after a full seven to nine hours of sleep, this condition can result in some very serious side effects.
To manage sleep apnea, most patients are prescribed a CPAP machine. But while these devices can make a big difference in your overall well-being, proper maintenance is essential to enjoy lasting benefits. Understanding how to clean a CPAP machine is key to achieving quality health outcomes.
Sleep Apnea is Very Dangerous
But why do you even need a CPAP machine in the first place? It can be tempting to brush off a lack of sleep as a minor inconvenience, but over time, sleep apnea can result in several serious health consequences.
In fact, studies have linked sleep apnea to conditions like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, unhealthy weight gain, and even an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Trying to get through the day when you’re still drowsy due to poor rest also greatly increases the risk of getting involved in a car crash or workplace accident.
If left untreated, the consequences of sleep apnea could very easily result in an early death. This makes taking any step that can manage this condition — particularly the use of a prescribed CPAP machine — essential for your long-term well-being.
Keeping Your CPAP Machine Working Properly is Crucial
CPAP machines help individuals who suffer from sleep apnea by directly addressing the issues that obstruct the airway. Those diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea typically experience temporary blockages of their respiratory system due to relaxed throat or tongue muscles. Without enough air pressure to keep the respiratory passages open, these areas can close off and cause you to wake up gasping for breath.
A CPAP machine resolves this issue by providing constant, consistent air pressure to the user via a nosepiece or mask. This air pressure is delivered during both inhalation and exhalation, ensuring that the body’s respiratory passages stay open throughout the night.
On average, these devices are expected to last for about five years, though they can last even longer with proper maintenance (which includes understanding how to clean a CPAP machine properly). Of course, other components, such as the mask or tube, need to be replaced with greater frequency to ensure proper function and hygiene.
But what happens if you don’t clean your CPAP machine?
If you don’t know how to clean a CPAP machine, you could experience an unexpected equipment breakdown. Worse still, a lack of cleaning can result in bacterial growth within the masks and tubing. Left unchecked, these growths cause foul odors and even mold growth within your system. Not only will this make using your CPAP machine rather unpleasant, but it could also get you sick. Severe respiratory illnesses, such as flu or pneumonia, could also occur.
Needless to say, proper maintenance is essential if you want to get quality results from your CPAP machine. This quick guide will help you understand how to clean a CPAP machine so you can sleep better and stay healthy.
Cleaning your mask on a daily basis is perhaps the most important element of how to clean a CPAP machine. As the mask comes in contact with your skin, sweat, oil, dead skin cells, and other germs will get stuck to its surface. These germs can actually cause the mask’s silicone components to break down if they aren’t cleaned. Such bacterial buildup can also result in skin or eye irritation. If you’re sick, trapped bacteria could also make it harder to recover from your illness.
To clean your mask, you’ll first need to disconnect it from the tubing and any headgear that might be attached to it. This allows for more effective cleaning and minimizes the risk of causing accidental damage to other parts of your CPAP machine.
Next, create a mix of warm distilled water and a mild detergent or vinegar. Wipe down the mask using a clean cloth and allow it to air-dry. Another option is to submerge the mask in this mixture for half an hour. Specialized wipes are also available to help you quickly and effectively clean the mask surface.
Finally, consider washing your face before you put on your CPAP mask at night. Removing any oil, lotion, or even makeup will reduce the spread of germs and keep the silicone parts in better condition.
Not every CPAP machine comes with a humidifier, but those that do require a little extra daily care. It isn’t unusual for there to still be water left over inside the humidifier even after the unit has been running all night. If left in the machine during the day, the water can cause condensation buildup and create the perfect environment for bacteria.
Thankfully, this problem has a simple solution. Each morning, empty out any water that has been left inside the humidifier. Before you go to bed at night, add fresh distilled water to the chamber. That’s it! If you get sick, however, you should also wash the humidifier each day with the same water and vinegar mixture you use for your mask.
Weekly & Monthly Maintenance
In addition to the daily cleaning of your mask, there are a few weekly and monthly responsibilities you should be aware of as well. The headgear or chin supports that help keeps your mask in place should be washed on a weekly basis using mild detergent and warm water and then rinsed with warm distilled water. As tempting as it might be, don’t put these items in the washing machine or dryer, as this could cause significant damage. Instead, allow the parts to air dry.
In addition to knowing how to clean a CPAP machine, it is also important that you understand when certain parts need to be replaced — and parts of the mask need to be replaced relatively frequently.
The hard plastic mask should typically be replaced after three months of use. However, nasal pillows and cushions will need to be replaced every two weeks or once a month, depending on manufacturer recommendations. This is because continued exposure to your skin actually softens the cushion and keeps it from maintaining an adequately tight seal. Headgear should usually be replaced after six months of use.
Your CPAP machine’s tubing (or hose) requires weekly cleaning to prevent condensation buildup. For best results, the tubing should be separated from the rest of the machine and then completely submerged in warm water that also contains a small quantity of mild dish soap. Users concerned about potential bacteria buildup can also add vinegar to the mix. Allow the tubing to air dry in a position that will allow any lingering water to drain from inside.
Those wondering how to clean a CPAP machine more thoroughly should never use bleach to disinfect their unit’s tubing. Bleach is highly corrosive, which can break down the tubing and cause it to develop microscopic holes, greatly reducing its effectiveness. Scented cleaners could also introduce unhealthy vapors to your CPAP system.
Similar to a CPAP mask, your device’s tubing should be replaced after three months. This ensures that potential cracks or tears that might develop over time won’t keep you from receiving proper air pressure throughout the night. Remember, these replacement costs are often covered by insurance!
Individuals uncertain of how to clean a CPAP machine sometimes make the mistake of throwing out their black filter — but this part is meant to be a permanent feature of your device. In addition to its black color, a standard CPAP filter is distinguished by its spongy, foam-like structure.
After removing the filter from your CPAP machine, wash it with a mix of warm distilled water and mild soap, followed by a warm water rinse, similar to what you do for other components. For best results, squeeze out the filter under running water to eliminate any remaining dust. The filter can then be air dried or blotted dry with a lint-free cloth. This cleaning should be performed once a week.
White Filter (if Present)
Not every CPAP machine has what is referred to as a “white filter,” but this feature is still common enough to be worth mentioning. Unlike the spongy black filter, the white filter is similar to the air filters used for your home’s HVAC system. These filters aren’t washable, but should instead be disposed of and replaced as needed (typically after a few months).
The white filter needs to be replaced if it looks dirty and no longer has a bright white color. Homes with high levels of dust and other air contaminants will likely need to replace this filter on a monthly basis.
Disinfecting the Humidifier
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the humidifier should be cleaned weekly. As with other CPAP machine parts, this component should be separated from the rest of the device and washed in warm water with a mild dish detergent. It should be rinsed, drained, and air-dried before being reattached to the CPAP machine.
Those concerned with how to clean a CPAP machine properly know that a deeper disinfectant cleaning should also be performed every two weeks. For this cleaning, soak the humidifier in a mixture of distilled water and vinegar for half an hour. The use of distilled water is absolutely essential during this process, as regular water can leave behind harmful mineral deposits. However, some humidifiers can also be safely washed in the top rack of a dishwasher.
Finally, keep in mind that the humidifier water chamber will usually need to be replaced after six months of use. Cracks and discoloration are a key indicator that this part needs to be replaced, as such damage can trap bacteria within your unit.
Save Time Cleaning Your CPAP Machine With the SoClean CPAP Cleaner
If the above steps for how to clean a CPAP machine seem like a bit more work than you’d like to add to your daily routine, there’s an easier solution available. The SoClean CPAP Cleaner is an automated device that provides effective cleaning for your mask, tubing, and even the reservoir.
The SoClean CPAP Cleaner simplifies the cleaning process by allowing you to place your mask directly in the container. You don’t need to disconnect the mask from the rest of your CPAP machine, either — in fact, you’re supposed to leave everything hooked up! After you close the lid of your SoClean device, the cleaning process will begin.
The SoClean CPAP Cleaner will use activated oxygen to kill 99.9 percent of bacteria and germs found in your mask, tubing and CPAP reservoir. The entire process can be completed in a matter of minutes. No chemicals or water are used during the cleaning process, minimizing the need to perform additional maintenance to keep this device working properly.
Those concerned about how to clean a CPAP machine can also rest assured that the SoClean CPAP Cleaner will be compatible with their device. This product has been designed to fit all mask varieties and CPAP machines in common use today — even machines that don’t use a humidifier. This effective and reliable cleaning process will help you save time and have confidence that your device is getting the care it needs.
Learning how to clean a CPAP machine isn’t complicated, nor does it require a lot of time. However, like many other small and simple things in life, it can be easy to forget these essential tasks if you’re not careful.
Whether you need to set a reminder alarm in your phone or leave a note on your nightstand, going the extra mile to ensure you don’t forget to clean your device will make all the difference in helping it provide quality results in the years ahead.Of course, your cleaning routine can become even easier with the help of devices like the SoClean CPAP Cleaner, which you can find right here at Help Medical Supplies! We have a great selection of cleaning devices specifically designed to deliver a deep, effective clean. Get everything you need to care for your system here, and you’ll be well on your way to a better night’s sleep.