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Lauren is a Certified Sleep Science Coach with extensive experience researching and testing a wide variety of sleep products.
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Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are a standard treatment for sleep apnea, a serious breathing disorder. While they are an effective way to treat sleep apnea, CPAP machines do require frequent care and cleaning.
Given that the mask, tubing, and other components are breathed into and deliver air throughout the night, their cleanliness can be a serious health concern. Daily cleaning removes dangerous microbes, mold, dust, and debris to ensure your CPAP treatment makes you feel better and not worse. While daily cleaning may seem overwhelming, it is a relatively quick process that is easy to integrate into your daily schedule.
Manufacturers and experts tend to recommend daily cleaning of your CPAP machine’s components, and users should commit to weekly cleaning at a minimum. There have been cases of serious illness that can be traced back to unclean CPAP machines, and CPAP users who do not regularly clean their machine may also suffer from congestion, coughs, and other indications that their respiratory system is suffering.
Not cleaning your CPAP machine may also shorten its lifespan, and in some cases may void its manufacturer’s warranty. By cleaning your CPAP machine — daily, or weekly if you cannot commit to daily cleanings — you will ensure this crucial piece of medical equipment remains in top condition.
Rinse and Air Dry:
CPAP machines are humid and often warm, making them the perfect home for mold, bacteria, viruses, and other harmful microbes. Cleaning your CPAP components regularly washes these microbes away and prevents them from reaching dangerous levels, but neglecting your CPAP machine’s hygiene can lead to both acute and chronic respiratory conditions.
Regardless of your personal hygiene, facial oils will quickly build up on your mask’s cushion and headgear. Oil attracts dirt and bacteria, and the combination of these can quickly lead to acne and skin irritation around your mask.
Finally, a dirty CPAP machine will have a far shorter lifespan than one that is kept clean. Facial oils and dirt can degrade the materials your mask is made of, while mold and harmful microbes can also damage the hose or humidifier tank, leading to cracks or cloudiness.
CPAP cleaners are water-free devices that use ozone (also known as activated oxygen) or ultraviolet light to sanitize CPAP components. The FDA has not approved any devices for this purpose and has spoken out about their sale, citing concerns about their safety and effectiveness.
Despite this, many CPAP users feel the benefits outweigh the risk and choose to use these products on a daily basis. Warm water and mild soap is the best way to clean your CPAP machine, but if you choose to use a CPAP cleaner it is important to understand their limitations and the potential health risks. Even if you use a CPAP cleaner, it is still crucial to hand-wash your CPAP components regularly to remove facial oils, dust, and debris.
Although there are several at-home CPAP cleaners, the FDA is now warning against using such devices, due to potential health risks. The FDA reports that exposure to high levels of gases released by at-home cleaning products may increase the chance of respiratory infection. It also reports that UV light treatments can cause burns, eye damage, or increase the risk of skin cancer.
Philips Respironics has also issued a recall on some of their medical devices, as a device component can be compromised as a result of improper cleaning or other environmental factors. If you are currently using a CPAP cleaner, consult your physician before continuing in order to avoid any long-term side effects.
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