CPAP Maintenance in a Nutshell
By Andrew Senske, President CPAP-Supply.com
Last Updated 4/13/2007 1:021:00 PM
The new CPAP user often wonders about the maintenance that is required for CPAP equipment. It's nice to be able to tell customers that there is very little maintenance required for CPAP machines and related accessories. Basically, you just need to be sure to keep your CPAP equipment clean. Here's what this means to you.
You should wash your CPAP mask regularly, as often as you can. The manufacturer recommends daily washing, and depending on your skin type and perhaps the conditions of your environment, daily washing may be required for both optimal performance and for comfort and cleanliness. Each component of the CPAP mask should be washed, including cushions, silicone flaps, forehead pads and frames. Headgear should be washed periodically as well.
I recommend using a mild anti-bacterial hand soap that smells good. I happen to favor Bath & Body Works Anti-Bacterial Deep Cleansing Hand Soap with Vitamins B5 and E. The Cotton Blossom fragrance smells really good, so if you want to give your CPAP mask a nice fresh smell, this is a good product to use.
To wash the CPAP mask components you can simply fill a bowl (or a clean sink) with hot water and put some of the soap in the water. Then you can let the components soak and swish them around a little. Adding a little bit of soap directly to the CPAP mask components and cleaning each component thoroughly by hand will ensure you've got the cleanest CPAP mask around!
CPAP headgear (i.e. the straps) can be washed similarly, and it is recommended to let the headgear air dry. You can speed up the process using a hair dryer, but don't be tempted to put the headgear in the washer and dryer unless you've got a gentle hand wash setting and a dryer that allows for items to air dry rather than tumble dry. Your headgear will wear out too quickly on a normal wash setting and a tumble dry setting.
The other CPAP mask components can be dried with a clean cloth or paper towel. It helps to use a cotton swab, like a Q-tip, to dry any hard to reach areas of the cushion. Simply dabbing the water droplets and absorbing them into the cotton swab is all you need to do. This technique is particularly effective when trying to remove water from within an inflatable silicone membrane on a CPAP mask cushion.
You don't really need to do much with the CPAP tubing since it's fairly unlikely for any bacteria to grow in the tube. When you exhale you're not exhaling very far into the tube - probably only one or two inches - so the tube will probably remain pretty clean. If you're using a humidifier then the tube will become contaminated with tap water and whatever happens to be in that tap water, so using distilled water is a good idea.
The CPAP Dryer is a convenient tool for cleaning and drying the interior of CPAP tubes.
Amazingly, Medicare reimburses for a new CPAP tube every month. Way to go Medicare! To me that's crazy. My dad's been using the same CPAP tube for 12 years. According to the bean counters at Medicare he should be on his 144th CPAP tube. Let's see. At a reimbursement rate of $41.02 that would be $5,906.88 that Medicare would have been willing to throw out the window over the course of 12 years. Something to think about at tax time. This stuff isn't free, folks, even if you're not paying for it!
But I digress.
The water chamber is the key, here, and it will serve you well for a long time if you keep it clean and don't drop it. Using distilled water is a good way to go, and washing it out with hot water and soap every few days is also a good idea. If you fill your water chamber with hard water from the tap, it's going to get mineral deposits built up in it which will be very difficult to clean.
Obviously you'll want to keep the exterior case of your CPAP machine looking good, but the only maintenance you really have to perform is changing the filters. I'm often asked how often filters should be changed, and my response is sort of wishy-washy and unsatisfying. Basically, it depends on your environment. If you're in a particularly dusty, smokey or humid environment you'll likely have to change the CPAP machine filters quite a bit more often than someone in a cleaner environment. My dad - the guy who's still on his first CPAP tube after 12 years - doesn't even have a filter installed on his REMstar Plus CPAP machine. He's got nearly 17,000 hours on this particular machine and it seems to be running just fine. Now, if you've got dust-bunnies everywhere you look in your house, then you should definitely be using a machine filter - and you may want to do some vacuuming as well!
There are two basic types of CPAP machine filter: the foam "pollen" filter, and the ultra fine filter. The foam filters are washable and reusable, whereas the ultra fine filters are disposable. Once the ultra fine filter is dirty, you just throw it away, much like the air filter on your car. If you're concerned only about large particles getting into the CPAP machine then the foam filter is all you need. If you feel that you're in a considerably dusty or smokey environment, or if you happen to have allergies, then you should use the ultra fine filter in combination with the foam filter. This will keep both your lungs and your CPAP machine nice and clean.
The foam filter should be rinsed and dried every couple of weeks. The ultra fine filter should be checked at similar intervals. If the ultra fine filter looks dirty, just throw it out and replace it. A typical ultra fine filter will last a few months or more.
That's pretty much all there is to CPAP equipment maintenance. Feel free to call us or send us an email with any advice you may have regarding the care of your CPAP equipment.
CPAP-Supply.com is a leading online retailer of CPAP equipment. Located in Spokane, WA CPAP-Supply.com has been serving thousands of customers around the world since 2001. Founded on a belief that patients are their own best primary care providers, CPAP-Supply.com understands the importance of educating patients and customers on both the effects of and treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. For more information visit CPAP-Supply.com or call toll free 1-888-955-2727.