CPAP Machine FAQs
How does a CPAP machine work?CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines are actually quite simplistic machines to help solve some serious health issues.
A CPAP machine simply takes room air, filters it and provides it to you at a pressure prescribed for you to reduce or eliminate your symptoms.
For Daily Maintenance - What can I use to clean my mask?Anything you can use on a newborn, such as baby shampoo or Ivory liquid soap. NEVER use cleansers with a degreaser in them (ex. Dawn) as this will cause the silicone to deteriorate faster and may cause skin irritation. You can also use a non-scented hypo-allergenic baby wipe to wipe off the mask cushion or pillows daily. This should be done when you first wake up so it can air dry throughout the day. Also, make sure to wash and dry your face before and after each use. This will keep your skin clear and reduce the oils that can break down the silicone on the cushion or pillows.
For Weekly Maintenance - What can I use to clean and dry my tubing? What about my water chamber?What to use when cleaning tubing:
Anything you can use on a newborn, such as baby shampoo or Ivory liquid soap. NEVER use cleansers with a degreaser in them (ex. Dawn). If you use regular tubing (both ends are the same), you can submerge the tubing in water for at least 5 minutes, then rinse it thoroughly with clean water. This should be done weekly.
If you are using heated tubing (ends are different), the end that connects to your machine can be submerged in water briefly. Then rinse with clean water. This should be done weekly.
To dry your tubing You can hang your tubing to dry, but this is not the “best” way. You can place a common hair dryer on the COOL setting and blow cool air through the tubing for at least 2 minutes. This will more thoroughly dry the tubing and it will be ready to put back on your machine.
What to use when cleaning your water chamber: Anything you can use on a newborn, such as baby shampoo or Ivory liquid soap. NEVER use cleansers with a degreaser in them (ex. Dawn).
For Monthly Maintenance – What can I use to clean my Machine? What about my Water Chamber?
- The outside of your equipment can be dusted off with a damp cloth, but make sure not to submerge the equipment in water.
- It will not harm the machine if it is left on during trips to the washroom, but do not leave the machine on (blowing) during regular periods of non-use, such as during the day.
The filters should be changed or cleaned more frequently under the following circumstances:
- In the summer months when the windows are open.
- When the machine is placed low to the ground.
- When pets are in the home.
- If you are prone to sinus problems.
Never block the air inlet vent where the filter is located, this is where the machine takes in air.
- Empty unused water daily.
- Wash in mild soapy water and rinse well.
- Soak for 30 minutes in solution of 1 parts white vinegar and 3 parts water (for example, 1/4 cup vinegar and 3/4 cup water) once a month, then rinse well in warm water.
Nearly all current CPAP machines now come stocked with a heated humidification system that helps cut down on morning dry mouth as well as keeping your nasal turbinates from drying out and becoming irritated and inflamed. However, the humidification chamber needs to be cleaned out daily to prevent bacteria build-up as well as calcification. Here's how:
- Remove chamber from humidifier carefully so water doesn't enter your CPAP machine.
- Open chamber and wash with warm, soapy water.
- Rinse well with water and allow to dry on a clean cloth or paper towel out of direct sunlight.
- Fill with distilled or sterile water. Do not use tap water as it may contain minerals and chemicals that can damage components of the machine. It is also not recommended to use filtered water (i.e. through a Brita filter) for the same reasons.
- Once a week the humidifier chamber should be soaked in a solution of 1 part white vinegar 3 parts water for approximately 15-20 minutes before rinsing thoroughly with distilled water.
- Some humidifier chambers are dishwasher safe, but make sure to check your CPAP machine's manual before cleaning in a dishwasher.
- Humidifier chambers should be replaced every 6 months or as needed.
For Monthly Maintenance – What can I use to clean my reusable filters?A few machines and a couple of masks contain non-disposable or reusable filters. They are typically gray or black in color. Any you can use baby shampoo or Ivory liquid soap. NEVER use cleansers with a degreaser on them (ex. Dawn). Dip the filter in soapy water and rinse with clean water, squeeze out sponge filter and rinse again. The mask filters can be air dried to use the COOL setting on a common hair dryer to dry them faster. Do NOT place a filter back into your machine until it is dry, otherwise, moisture can get into your CPAP machine and cause a shock or short. (water and electricity do not mix). Using excessively dirty filters without changing or cleaning them regularly may cause the machine to overheat, run at the wrong pressure or break.
For Monthly Maintenance - What can I use to clean my disposable filters?These filters, whether on a machine or a mask, cannot be cleaned. They should be replaced when dirty or at least every 4 to 6 weeks. Using excessively dirty filters without changing or cleaning them regularly may cause the machine to overheat, run at the wrong pressure or break.
What can I do if I have a dry nose or mouth?If you have a heated humidifier, increase the heat level. If you do not have a heated humidifier, see about adding one to your CPAP machine. Check for mask leaks. Increased air flow may be the cause of the dryness. Or you can try using a saline nasal spray or gel.
What can I do if my mask is uncomfortable?Check to make your mask is not too tight, readjust your headgear. Give yourself 1-2 weeks to adjust to your new mask. If you are experiencing irritation at the bridge of your nose, Hydrocortisone 1% cream may help. This product is available over the counter without a prescription. If the mask discomfort persists, please contact your Durable Medical Equipment (DME) provider to try a different mask.
Why am I sneezing and/or have a runny nose?This can occur when you are new to CPAP and usually subsides with continued use.
What can I do when I have nasal congestion?Adding or increasing humidification may help. Also, using saline drops without any scents or medications, as well as, a nasal steroid inhaler.
What can I do if I feel chest discomfort?This may be due to increased air in your lungs, which can stretch out the muscles between your ribs. You should continue to use your CPAP, as this typically subsides in about a week. Consult your doctor if the discomfort continues or becomes worse.
What can I do if I feel bloated or gassy?This may be caused by swallowing too much air. You should consult your doctor if the discomfort continues or becomes worse to adjust your pressure, it may be too high.
What if I get irritation on the bridge of my nose?Use hydrocortisone crème and a buffer (such as a band aid or cotton round). Notify your doctor if problems persist.
What if I get irritation inside of my nose?Use a saline nose spray or Ayrgel. These can be found at any local pharmacy and do not need a prescription. Notify your doctor if problems persist.
Why do I sometimes feel light headed or dizzy?CPAP use may reduce blood pressure. If you feel dizzy upon awakening, rise slowly. Notify your doctor if problems persist.
Why is my water gone or almost gone every morning?This can be caused by placing your CPAP machine too close to a window or air vent, or if your mask is not fitting properly and air is leaking. Check the position of your machine. Replace your mask cushion or pillows.
Why is water coming through my mask and tubing or making a gurgling sound?Turn down your humidity setting and/or increase you tubing temperature. These procedures can be found in your user’s manual.
What if my new mask will not fit into my tubing?Every mask has a “quick disconnect” piece that is inserted into the tubing. This piece is designed to stay in the tubing once you connect your mask for the first time. Check the inside of the tubing for a plastic piece. The easiest way to remove this piece is to reconnect your mask to your tubing, place one hand on the mask and one hand on the tubing so your index fingers and thumbs touch. Then in a quick motion, snap your wrists together. You may need to try this more than once. This will provide you leverage to remove the quick disconnect piece from inside the tubing, it should be back on your mask.