CPAP/BIPAP Cleaning and Maintenance

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Never has cleaning and cleanliness been at the forefront as it has been since the onset of the COVID- 19 pandemic!

Cleaning is and has always been very important whether or not we are in a health crisis. I have been a respiratory therapist for 30 years and it has always amazed me how careless many clients are about keeping their CPAP or BiPAP machine and supplies hygiene. After all, this is something worn nightly, that you're breathing into, possibly coughing, drooling, or sneezing into. Clients often wonder why their equipment was growing mold or why their humidifier chamber had calcium and other mineral deposits. Others asked why they were getting sinus infections or couldn’t shake a cough since starting pap therapy.

Why is it important to clean your pap device and your supplies?

Just as you would clean any other medical device, it is very important to take care of your pap and supplies to avoid cross-contamination and to keep your therapy healthy and beneficial.

Heated Humidifier - Most pap devices are equipped with a heated humidifier. This can be the biggest source of bacteria and mold that may harbor in the system. Water can easily grow various things such as “serratia,” which is a bacterium that grows in moist environments. If inhaled, depending on the overall health of the patient, it can lead to coughing, pneumonia, or even hospitalization. It is a serious illness that can easily be avoided by proper pap hygiene and routine daily cleaning.

Stachybotrys, commonly called black mold, can grow in a moist environment. Molds need water to grow and spread, the heated humidifier (as well as the tubing), if not cleaned daily, can grow mold(s). I have heard every excuse you can think of as to why a patient is not cleaning the heated humidifier on their pap device!

Most are concerned about “wasting” distilled water or think daily cleaning is “overkill” or takes too much time. PAP filters are very important to clean and replace routinely. The recommendation is to check your disposable filter weekly and to change it when it turns dark in color. This darkness is all of the dust, dirt, smoke, etc. that the filter has collected while the machine is running.

The higher the particulate matter in the air in the client's environment, the faster the filter may need to be changed. Most newer pap units have only disposable filters, meaning that they cannot be cleaned, but must be routinely thrown away. Most clients change their filters monthly just as a good measure. Filters are inexpensive and come in multi-packs to purchase. If the filter is not changed routinely, the unit may not start, overheat or if the dust, etc. gets into the machine itself, it may nullify the warranty or result in out-of-pocket costs to have it repaired. Most manufacturers’ warranties do not cover the cost of smoke damage, excessive dust, vermin contamination, or any damage due to misuse.

Mask or interface - This refers to the apparatus the client uses to administer pap therapy. Masks, nasal pillows, full face masks, etc., are on the face nightly and must be cleaned daily. If the interface is left uncleaned, it will collect body oils, dirt, and debris from the skin causing breakouts, infections, skin breakdown, or ill-fitting masks.

The interior of the mask can collect sputum, nasal discharge, or saliva, which, if not cleaned thoroughly every day, can grow a variety of things that can make the client ill.

So, what can a pap client do to keep their device and supplies clean without having to spend the morning cleaning by hand? I always recommend the SoClean, Zoey, or the Lumin pap cleaning devices. It may be a bit more out of pocket to purchase one of these units, but in the long run, it will save a lot of money. These units use ozone or UV light to clean and sanitize the equipment and everything that needs to be cleaned by hand dailies such as the heated humidifier, tubing and mask, and headgear.

Some of the units, like the SoClean, also aerate and clean the distilled water with activated oxygen (ozone) so it does not have to be changed daily.


Recommended maintenance of the pap device includes monthly filter changes and a wipe down of the surface of the pap unit with a damp cloth. Your pap unit is made to last approximately five years, but may last longer with proper care.

If not using a cleaning device, you will need to change the heated humidifier water daily. It is recommended to replace the humidifier tub quarterly. The interface (mask) should be cleaned daily.

It is recommended to change your entire mask seal monthly and the frame of the mask quarterly. The changing of supplies in these time frames should occur whether or not the client is utilizing a cleaning machine. Ill-fitting or lack of supplies can adversely affect the quality of pap therapy.

Be sure to visit Shop Nebulizer for all of your pap needs, as well as a variety of pap cleaning units.  


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