How your CPAP device works
To better understand how to properly maintain a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) unit, knowing how it works is a good starting point. The CPAP machine continuously blows oxygen into the airways of the person with sleep apnea.
The mask and tubing are connected to the CPAP machine’s oxygen dispenser. The pressure of the air passing through the tube, and then to the mask, is adjusted to keep the tissues of the primary airway open.
How to Properly Clean Your CPAP Unit
The continuous positive airway pressure device sends air into the lungs. It is therefore essential to prevent the entry of bacteria and other contaminants harmful to respiratory health through the components of the device.
Inevitably, the ambient humidity level and the air expelled by the user lead to the creation of a microscopic layer composed of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa: the biofilm. The biofilm is the focal point of the proliferation of micro-organisms in the mask and the tube of the device. The appearance and growth of biofilm are what increases the risk of respiratory contamination.
It is essential to clean your CPAP device: tube, mask, humidifier, headgear, filter, etc., thoroughly. Always remember not to use disinfectants such as alcohol, bleach or other household products. Also, it is a good idea to leave the CPAP machine near the bed in a well-ventilated, dust-free area.
Best tips for performing maintenance:
- The tube: Using mild soap and warm water, the tube can be cleaned with a soft, non-abrasive sponge the size of the device tube. To ensure that it is completely dry for its next use, it is advisable to carry out this cleaning in the morning. Maintenance frequency: weekly
- The mask: The mask should also be cleaned with warm soapy water and then rinsed with clear water. The mask can be dried in the open air in a dry, cool place. Regular maintenance will prevent skin irritation. Frequency of maintenance: daily, or three times a week (minimum)
- The humidifier: In the evening, before each use, the tank of the appliance should be filled to the maximum load mark on the container. Tap water or water low in calcium can be used, but it is strongly suggested to use demineralized or distilled water. If limescale is visible in the humidifier, deposits can be wiped off with a soft cloth soaked in vinegar and warm water. The tank should then be rinsed thoroughly with clean water. Maintenance Frequency: Daily
- The CPAP device filter (CPAP): The role of the unit’s filter is to trap dust from the ambient air. If the filter on your unit is a foam filter, use soapy water and warm water. It can then be rinsed with clear water. You can then use a clean towel to dab the filter dry. Maintenance frequency: weekly
- The ventilation circuit: The ventilation system of the unit can be cleaned by soaking it in warm soapy water for about 20 minutes. It can then be laid out or hung up to dry in a cool, dry place. It should be washed in the morning so that it can be properly reintegrated into your CPAP machine in the evening. Maintenance frequency: monthly
- The CPAP device: The external part of the CPAP unit must also be maintained. Have a wet sponge on hand, on which a small amount of cleaning soap can be applied. Keep a dry cloth with you to dry your device after cleaning. Maintenance frequency: weekly
When to replace components?
The replacement of certain parts of your treatment plan is unavoidable in order to benefit from optimal functioning. We have grouped together some indicators that allow you to recognize the ideal time to replace its components.
The mask and the cushions deteriorate naturally over time, regardless of the quality and regularity of your care. The sebum that your skin secretes is the main cause of the deterioration of the surfaces of your mask.
The tubing, humidifier, headgear, and filter degrade less quickly. However, care must be taken to ensure their integrity and proper operation.
If you have any doubts about the effectiveness of any of these parts, don’t hesitate to consult your respiratory therapist. Whether it’s your mask that doesn’t seem to fit properly or the sudden drop in the quality of your sleep, he or she is the person to talk to for answers and solutions.
What are the consequences of poorly maintained equipment?
As mentioned above, proper maintenance of your CPAP machine prevents many problems. These problems can be detrimental to your CPAP machine itself, but more importantly: to your health! Here are some of the consequences of poor CPAP machine maintenance:
- Bad smells in the pipes
- Presence of bacteria in the mask
- Fungal growth in the tubing
- Respiratory tract contamination and infection
- Increased risk of superinfection of the respiratory tract
- Sleep deprivation due to decreased effectiveness of the device’s effects on sleep apnea
Important points to remember
Your health is important to us. That’s why we’ve grouped together some important reminders to consider:
In the morning
Validated by Louis Bernier, Respiratory therapist at Médicus