Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) devices are the most common and effective form of treatment for those suffering from mild to severe sleep apnea. The machine itself is about the size of a tissue box, and a flexible tube connects with a mask (or other interface device) that is worn over the nose and/or mouth.
If you are using—or considering purchasing—a PAP machine to treat your sleep apnea, it is important to know that your device must be regularly cleaned. This should be taken seriously because whatever is in your sleep apnea machine will be breathed in through your mouth or nose. Fortunately, cleaning a PAP machine is an easy process.
Not all PAP machines are exactly alike. There are several PAP machine manufacturers and providers that offer different types of machines with different features. Some examples of “extra” parts are carrying cases, heated humidifiers, and direct current operations. For the purpose of this article, we will discuss only the parts of the device that are standard for most machines.
Of course, your machine should come with a manual, and your doctor might also give you instructions on how to clean it. If those instructions differ from these, you should follow the instructions given to you by your doctor or equipment provider.
Sleep Apnea Machine Parts
Here is a list of the standard “cleanable” parts of a PAP machine:
- mask (or other interface device)
- tubing and “connectors”
- PAP machine
You should have all of these parts identified and ready before you start cleaning.
Sleep Apnea Machine Supplies Needed for Cleaning
You won’t need much in the way of supplies in order to clean your PAP machine. Here’s what you do need before you get started:
- small sink, tub, or basin
- soft cloth
- warm water
- mild dish soap (preferably with no scent)
How to Clean Your Sleep Apnea (PAP) Machine
Now that you have all of your supplies ready, it’s time to clean your PAP machine. Just follow this step by step process.
- Unplug your PAP machine. Failure to do this could result in electrical shock.
- Detach the mask or other interface device from the tubing. If the mask includes headgear, detach this as well.
- Remove the PAP tubing from any connectors that attach it to the machine. If it directly connects to the machine, detach it from the machine.
- Remove the humidifier unit from the PAP machine and separate its pieces (provided that they are easily reassembled).
- Take your soft cloth and wet it with warm water. Gently wipe down the external surface of the machine itself.
- Fill the small sink, tub, or basin with warm water, and add a small amount of mild dish soap.
- Place the mask, headgear, tubing, and connectors in warm soapy water of the basin. Make sure the parts are all submerged and allow them to soak for about 30 minutes. Then, allow all the parts to air dry on a towel.
- Next, you will clean the humidifier with hot water and mild soap. You can wipe the parts of the humidifier clean with the soft cloth. Allow the humidifier to air dry on a towel.
- If your PAP machine has a filter, it is best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for upkeep. Some filters are cleaned, but others need to be replaced.
- After everything has been allowed to air dry thoroughly, reassemble the parts. Re-connect the headgear to the mask, hook the mask back onto the tubing, and reattach the tube and/or connectors to the machine (or in some cases, the humidifier).
- Turn the machine on briefly and listen for any air leaks that you weren’t previously aware of. If you aren’t sure if your machine is working correctly, bring it to your equipment provider to have it checked out.
Tips for Cleaning Your Sleep Apnea Machine
- Your PAP device should be cleaned often. The tubing, mask, headgear and connectors should ideally be cleaned everyday. Humidifiers should be cleaned every week.
- If you have recently been sick, it is even more important that you clean your machine often.
- Never use any perfumes, heavily perfumed soaps, or cleaning solutions other than gentle soap on your equipment. These could irritate your lungs and cause you to get sick.
- Remember that the humidifier must only contain distilled water when it is in use.