Positive pressure airway (PAP) devices have revolutionized sleep apnea treatment. These devices include an air pressurizing machine with filters, a humidifying reservoir, tubing to deliver pressurized air and, of course, various kinds of masks to meet the various needs of patients.
Because the machines deliver therapeutic air pressure via devices that make constant contact with the face and airway, they require regular cleaning and care, not only so that they will work efficiently, but so they do not introduce foreign allergens and pathogens to the skin and airway, which can actually lead to health complications. Keeping them clean will help add longevity to their use so you don't need to replace them so often.
Unfortunately, not all users of PAP equipment understand the importance of keeping their gear clean and sanitized, and this results in poorer performance overall and side effects of usage that can be avoided. Don't think you need to clean your PAP gear regularly? Check out this article on what happens when you neglect to keep it clean.
Keeping your gear clean isn't actually too difficult; it's more a matter of making it a priority. Here are the basics:
Wash daily in warm water and mild fragrance-free soap or use wipes or spray cleaners specifically designed to clean PAP masks. Rinse with water; air dry on a clean cloth or paper towel away from direct sunlight (silicone can break down or discolor if exposed too long to sunlight). Before putting on your mask, cleanse your face and skip the moisturizer (which can break down the silicone and possibly interrupt the seal needed to keep your pressure uniform). That's it! Once weekly, sanitize the mask using 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water and rinse in distilled water.
Headgear and chinstraps
Wash by hand using warm soapy water, rinse well and air dry. Try not to stretch the material out of shape. Do not use a washer/dryer for this process.
Clean this once weekly by soaking in a basin of warm soapy water. Rinse well and hang-dry away from direct sunlight.
If your machine does not have a humidifier, it is likely time to get a machine upgrade! Humidifiers help reduce morning dry mouth and stuffy nasal passages while in use.
The water reservoir must be cleaned daily to eliminate both bacteria and mineral buildup along its sides. Wash with warm, soapy water, then rinse well and dry on a clean towel away from direct sunlight. Always fill with distilled or sterile water; tap water contains minerals and chemicals that can damage the mask or tubing. Note: Water filters for tap water do not remove these substances.
Once weekly, sanitize the reservoir using 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water for 20 minutes, then rinse in distilled water.You may have the option of cleaning your humidifier reservoir in the dishwasher; check your PAP machine manual to confirm.
PAP machines draw air from the room to filter and pressurize before they deliver it as therapy. They require filters to remove typical household debris from the air such as allergens like dust, smoke or pet dander. Filters are generally disposable and require regular replacement. Fortunately, filters for PAP devices are cheap, costing maybe $2 a month. It's recommended that you change them at this interval as well. Filters allowed to become dirty for a long time will have a negative impact on your PAP machine's effectiveness and could fail to remove particulate matter from the air coming to you through the hose.
Unless otherwise indicated, the products discussed below can be used for nearly all kinds of PAP gear regardless of therapy (CPAP, BiPAP, AutoPAP, etc.). They can help you establish better cleaning and maintenance practices with your gear. Not only will keeping your equipment clean keep you healthier, but it will also help you keep your gear in better shape, which means less frequency in making replacement purchases down the line.
It's always recommended that you consult your PAP machine manual for advice about cleaning and sanitizing your gear, as it will have the most accurate information available for your particular gear.
SHC cannot be held liable for any damage to any PAP devices caused by using the products listed below.
HOME PAP DEVICE SANITIZER
SoClean may be expensive at $300 a pop, but the time-pressed PAP user may find this to be the perfect solution for keeping up with a daily cleaning schedule.
This home PAP device sanitizing appliance is advertised as "a faster, easier, more effective way to clean your CPAP equipment. SoClean kills 99.9% of CPAP germs and bacteria in your mask, hose and reservoir with no disassembly, no water, and no chemicals."
It really is simple: just place your mask with the tubing still connected into both the SoClean unit and your humidifier, then turn it on and leave for the day. When you get home, your mask, humidifier and hose will be clean and sanitized.
The appliance makers claim it uses the same sanitizing process as used for water purification, produce handling, hotel housekeeping and hospital sanitizing; SoClean is FDA approved and their website at Better Rest Solutions offers laboratory evidence of these claims.
As of the timing of this post, there are no other cleaning machines available to do this kind of work. You can also purchase travel versions and spare parts from the SoClean website.
MASK WIPES & CLEANERS
If buying a sanitizing machine for your system is out of the question, you can certainly simplify the daily task of cleaning your mask by using any one of a number of mask wipes or cleaners made specifically for this task. Mask wipes are generally made of natural products that are biodegradable, alcohol and latex free and with a choice of fragrance or unscented products. Their chief use is to remove dirt, facial oils and other residues from your mask and other PAP gear and they are considered safe and gentle.
Some brands of wipes to look for: Beaumont Citrus II, Contour, Reliable Respiratory
In the same vein, there are spray cleaners that can also be used to clean PAP gear from the same manufacturers listed above (see also: Respiclean). Simply spray onto a lint-free towel and wipe down your mask.
The trick to cleaning the tubing is to effectively remove the bacteria from the hose, but this can be difficult without the right tools. A good cleaning kit will allow you to gently run a cleaning brush or pads through your tubing in one pull as well as flush out the tubing easily and with little mess. A tube cleaning kit should not damage your tubing and insertion tools should be long enough to do the job. Some brands to consider: AG Industries, Beaumont Citrus II, Clair Devices
MACHINE AIR FILTERS
PAP machine manufacturers have filter recommendations included in their manual as well as instructions for how to install, remove and replace them (plus a recommended filter replacement schedule). Your best bet is to find the filters best suited to your particular machine.
SleepyHeadCENTRAL strongly encourages people with ongoing sleep health problems to approach a medical professional to determine appropriate differential diagnoses and treatment. This post, like all other posts on SHC, is not intended to substitute for medical advice.
See SLEEP STUFF series main disclosure notifications here regarding any products discussed on this blog.