If you or your loved one uses a PAP machine, you are well aware of the daily cleaning that is involved. There are multiple parts to the unit that require disassembly and washing every day. The main parts that need to remain as hygienic as possible are the mask, the tubing, and the humidifier chamber.
The mask that is worn touches the surface of the skin and collects body oils, dirt, and bacteria. All masks are made of silicone or non-latex materials. They can be washed in warm soapy water or wiped down with a special wipe made specifically for CPAP masks. Do NOT use alcohol or harsh chemicals. Not only can these chemicals break down the material, but they stay on the product and consequently sit on the skin of the user causing breakdown or rashes. If the user's skin gets inflamed, then compliance can be compromised. It is recommended to change the mask “seal” once per month and the entire mask every three months.
The tubing that connects the mask to the PAP machine needs cleaning at least once per week. Tubing that is not heated can collect water in it and that can grow mold. Whether or not you are using standard six-foot tubing or heated tubing, it needs to be cleaned regularly. The best way to clean the PAP tubing is to either take it into the shower and run water and soap through it or to fill a basin with warm soapy water and submerge the tubing in the basin. Once the tubing is washed, it needs to be rinsed well and hung up to dry. You can simply drape it over a towel rack or a hook. The manufacturer's recommendation is to replace the tubing quarterly. The humidifier chamber is one of the biggest routes of contamination. Water that is left to sit in the tub day after day can grow a lot of bacteria. It is essentially “stagnant water” when left to sit.
It is recommended to use only “distilled water” in your humidifier chamber, dump out the remaining water every morning, wash and rinse the chamber and refill when ready for bed. Tap water can be used in an emergency but the repeated use of sink water can cause mineral deposits and bacteria to the harbor in the chamber. Humidifier chambers should be replaced at a minimum, twice per year.
The advent of PAP cleaning machines has made keeping your equipment clean much easier. It is a way to clean all parts with minimal effort or chemicals, and it is a time-saver. There are currently two types of PAP cleaning machines on the market. One type uses “ozone” to clean and disinfect, and the other uses narrow spectrum UV light.
Ozone cleaners use an activated oxygen radical called O3 or ozone. Sunset Healthcare has the “Zoey CPAP Cleaner.” It is an ozone-generating device and will clean all of the major parts of your PAP setup. Ozone cleaners, when used properly, are 99.9% effective in eliminating harmful microorganisms. This unit is compact and easy to take for travel.
UV light cleaners use narrow-spectrum ultraviolet light to clean and eliminate bacteria. This process is used in hospitals and laboratories. 3B Medical has the “Lumin CPAP Mask and Accessory Cleaner.” This device uses narrow spectrum UV light to kill microorganisms. It is 99.9% effective, and unlike ozone cleaners, leaves no residual odor. Lumin takes only 5 minutes to effectively clean your PAP equipment and you can add your headgear to the unit for dry cleaning as well.
If you are frustrated with cleaning your PAP equipment by hand, or if you need a time-saving device, consider either the Lumin or the Zoey. Both are inexpensive and will save you time and money. Always be sure to check with the manufacturer of your PAP equipment to make sure you can safely use either unit without degradation of your product(s), therapy, or health.
Author Profile: Laura Castricone, Respiratory Therapist
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