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Keeping your CPAP machine clean and what mould REALLY means

If you've been using your CPAP machine for a long time then this article is for you. Here you can learn more about how mould affects your sleep apnea therapy and ways to prevent it.

If you are a long-time user of a CPAP machine to treat your sleep apnea, chances are that you have been told of the necessity of cleaning the machine. However, if CPAP therapy is a relatively new addition to your household, fret not; we will cover cleaning instructions, prevention strategies, what mould means for your machine, and if it's preventable. Your CPAP machine will, over time, accumulate dead skin cells, mould, bacteria, and dust, which can negatively impact your treatment effectiveness and your health if not regularly cleaned out. 

What is mould?

Mould is a microbial organism. It grows in places with high oxygen and moisture levels – both outside and inside. Outside moulds break down nonliving organic matter, but indoor moulds pose a health risk. Indoor mould growth is generally caused by excessive moisture. Microspores are released by moulds that float through the air and settle on other surfaces – causing the spread. In some cases, mould is referred to as mildew.

What does mould mean for your health?

Mould exposure can cause several health symptoms, such as a runny nose and sinus congestion, eye irritation, blurred vision, sore throat, skin rash, sneezing and coughing, red eyes, dizziness, headaches, and lung irritation. Some people also have a mould allergy, which means their immune system overreacts when mould spores are inhaled. 

Why are CPAP machines prone to mould?

To prevent your airways from becoming too dry, your CPAP machine has a humidifier that adds moisture to the dry air. This creates an environment high in oxygen and moisture, the ideal setting for mould. Therefore CPAP machines that aren't cleaned regularly are likely to develop mould inside them. If mould grows anywhere on your device, it can spread throughout. Even without a humidifier, the moisture that escapes when you exhale can contribute to mould growing inside your CPAP machine over time.

How to tell if your CPAP machine has been affected by mould?

If mould has begun to grow on your CPAP machine, you will likely notice one of two things, the first being a smell and the second being a discolouration or visible build-up. The most likely place for mould to grow is within the humidifier. Another thing to look out for is the symptoms of mould exposure mentioned earlier.

What to do if your machine has been affected by mould

To remove mould from CPAP machines, you will need to clean all of the components thoroughly. The first step to cleaning your CPAP machine is to thoroughly wash it by hand with a soap and water solution. Using small brushes to get to the more difficult-to-reach areas of the machine is also advised. For the second clean, using vinegar is an effective way to help get rid of mould. The tubing and mask should be soaked in a solution of one part white vinegar and one part water for at least 30 minutes.

CPAP Machine being cleaned in a skin full of soapy water

Prevention and cleaning

When it comes to preventing mould outbreaks in the future, the most important thing is forming a regular cleaning routine that somewhat inhibits mould growth.

Note: Double-check that your CPAP machine is unplugged from any power source before disassembling or cleaning any part of it. 

How Often Should You Clean Your CPAP?

The best answer is, of course, daily. In an ideal world, it would be great if your machine could at least have a quick wash on a daily basis. However, many users instead opt for a weekly deep clean if daily cleaning isn't possible for them.

Mask - The mask parts should be washed separately with mild soap. You should ensure that the cushion and headgear are oil-free before moving on since these oils can degrade the material and attract microbes.

Tube - You can clean the tubing by simply washing it in warm, soapy water. Be sure to submerge the tubing in soapy water long enough to fill the inside with soapy water also. 

Humidifier - It is possible to sanitise humidifier tanks by filling them with white vinegar mixed with warm water in equal parts. Allow the tank to soak while you clean the rest of your CPAP components.

Machine - For the machine itself, you can wipe the surface to ensure there is no dust or build-up.

Purchasing a new machine

Due to the microscopic size of mould particles and the maintenance needed to keep mould at bay once your machine has been exposed, sometimes the best solution is simply to replace the machine. 

Generally speaking, CPAP equipment has a lifespan of around five years. Sometimes, when a device is experiencing mould growth, it's also time the machine is replaced for effectiveness. Therefore, CPAP users should regularly replace their machines. As the CPAP treatment is lifelong, keeping it up to date is essential to maintain efficacy and look after your health.

After years of use, the pressure of the CPAP machine begins to lose its accuracy. The display of the setting will stay the same but the reality is the machine is delivering a much lower pressure due to the machine's age. If your device has been around for years before developing a mould problem, it might be time for a replacement.

Of course, the other benefit of updating your machine every five years or so is updating to a newer, more advanced version that is likely quieter, offers lower pressures, better humidification and provides more up-to-date sleep data. 

If the time has come to replace your machine, get in touch today, and we can help you find the machine that will be the best fit for you.
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