79: What is the MINIMUM CPAP cleaning routine?Oct 07, 2023
Your CPAP needs a cleaning routine, but perfection is not expected. What can you get away with?
Do I have to clean my mask daily? Answer: No, you can probably get away with cleaning every few days to every week (depending on your skin). Your mask will age more quickly with prolonged exposure to skin oils, so that’s a trade-off. And as build-up accumulates on your mask (skin oils, dead skin cells, dust, allergens, mold, and bacteria) your risk for air leaks and skin breakouts will go up. Sometimes a dirty mask means that you are just fussing with the fit more, trying to get comfortable. I find the mask replacement schedule from the manufacturers to be quite conservative. In the interest of making a mask last longer, I will often use a washable cloth CPAP mask liner.
Do I have to dry my tubing every day? Answer: No, but it would be good to shake any standing water out so it isn’t making noise and collecting germs. The tubing is the part that I don’t like cleaning, and I don’t think I’m alone. Tubing is pretty cheap, so I may just replace it every few months.
Do I have to change out the water in my humidifier every day? Answer: No, and you can just top it off with more distilled water for a few nights. That is, IF you are not seeing any discoloration or mold in the water chamber. Sometimes the water can look clear but a little sludgy, and that is a problem (ask me how I know). There is a pink mold called Serratia that commonly grows in the stagnant water of a CPAP humidifier. No bueno. If you are not changing out your CPAP water for extended periods, there is a non-zero chance of airway infections, including pneumonia. So, at the very least, lay eyes on the water in your CPAP machine to make sure all looks well.
Do I have to change my filter out every 2-4 weeks? Answer: No, but you should check your filter if you’ve got nasal congestion or cough–signs that the air you’re breathing isn’t filtered properly. Look for discoloration, buildup, or signs of wear on the filter. Clogged filters put a strain on your CPAP’s motor. If you don’t have pets or live in a dusty environment, your filters may last longer. If the air in your home is humid, check the filter for discoloration or mold.
As you become more experienced with CPAP, you will get familiar with how much you can delay your cleaning routine before running into problems. Remember that every week or two, a good soak in a warm bath with gentle soap can give your CPAP equipment the “reset” it needs to work better for you.
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