I have to clean it, too!?
Maintaining the Lifeline
Once you get your BiPAP, CPAP, or OPAP at home, it's easy enough to figure out which outlet to plug it into, where to place the unit. The fun part is yet to come: figuring out the best way -- for you -- to situate the tubing.
Using the equipment, for the most part, is fairly intuitive. Cleaning and maintaining it, however, can be a problem for many, including those who long for the expensive masks, hoses, and headgear to last. It isn't so much that cleaning is hard, just often ill-described or ill-defined.
Directions for cleaning the various pieces of equipment often come packaged with the item, such as the various masks, machines, hoses, and other items. The only problem with those directions, however, is they often tell you to use cleaning materials that aren't found in the typical home -- or corner store.
My original equipment was a Respironics BiPAP S/T-D 30, two 6-foot hoses, a Fisher & Paykel HC100-series heated humidifier with two HC350 humidification chambers, and a Respironics Profile Lite mask.
Originally, following my home healthcare dealer's suggestion, I could do a weekly cleaning of the mask, hoses, and the humidifier chamber using a vinegar/water mixture. The mixture is one (1) part vinegar to five (5) parts water, meaning you use one ounce of vinegar for every five ounces of water. For example, I would use 20 ounces of vinegar and just under one gallon of water to mix the solution, which should be disposed after each use. To make the solution, I would pour out 28 ounces of water from the jug of water, but would save it to use in either the humidification chamber at night, or use it for rinsing the equipment after soaking it.
I was diagnosed with apnea while in a bed in an ICU room. I had a severe bout of pneumonia that almost killed me. The doctors I've seen since then told me that because of the compromise of my respiratory tract with many lung infiltrates at that point, as well as a couple of other respiratory ailments resulting from the apnea, I'm a likely candidate for repeated bout of pneumonia. To help prevent future bouts, I was told that disinfecting and cleaning my BiPAP equipment would be an essential step, as it is for any CPAP and BiPAP user.
Since January 2000 when I first got my BiPAP machine, I've cleaned all the equipment (the humidification chamber, the mask, the hoses) with a vinegar and water solution (1 part vinegar to 5 parts water). My home health care provider told me to use vinegar and water solution, as it was the most effective method "of killing germs and cleaning the equipment."
While reading through a magazine for respiratory professionals, I came across an article about disinfecting respiratory equipment used by one person (I wish I grabbed the magazine from the doctor's office as I left), particularly CPAP and BiPAP machines.
Well, I got thinking about the info in the article and recently did a lot of calling to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), since it is the agency that approves germicides and similar solutions. Then I called on the CDC, as it is the agency that track illnesses. I then called on local hospitals and labs, the local water department, and a few other state and federal agencies. I came up with a list of about 25 microorganisms that could possibly grow in the PAP environment. There are many more, but these are the most common.
All that being said, I checked with each of the agencies I called about the use of the vinegar/water solution the home health care company suggested. They all laughed and told me the solution is ineffective for disinfecting. Sure, the acidic base could kill some of the germs, but the solution would basically aid with cleaning, as well as any scaling in the humidification chamber. Nothing more than that.
I called on a company, Maril Products, in Tustin, California. They manufacture Control 3, an EPA-approved germicidal used by many hospitals, etc. The stuff works great. It comes with test strips to ensure the solution is up-to-strength, it's concentrated, very cost-effective, and you know what? The big kick came when I cleaned the humidification chamber and the Simplicity mask with the Control 3 the first time. The chamber began crystal clear -- almost new looking, in fact. The Simplicity mask started getting a tint to it from the vinegar solution, but completely disappeared after one 10-minute soaking in the Control 3.
I've been using Control 3 for almost two years now, and I am half way through the second 8 oz. bottle of the solution. Because it is so concentrated, it seems to last forever. I was nervous, at first, that it would lose its effectiveness over time, so a quick check with the company revealed that Control 3 has a five year shelf-life. The total cost, over the past two years, for the Control 3, is under $30. Vinegar isn't that cheap, not does it do the job that Control 3 does for me. In my book, Control 3 is the answer!
Awake In Philly is a community education group for individuals who have been diagnosed with at least one of the recognized sleep disorders, as well as anyone else impacted by those with sleep disorders. The information contained in this site is intended to provide support, guidance, and encouragement to others contending with the many challenges of sleep disorders. The goals of Awake In Philly are to support, educate, and inform those who feel the impact of sleep disorders, as well as the general public, and is not intended to replace medical advice, nor is any information to be misinterpreted as an attempt to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
If you have questions about any of the medical conditions mentioned on this website, especially if you suspect that you (or someone you know) has sleep apnea, please contact a qualified medical professional immediately. Medical advice should only come from qualified, licensed, and trained healthcare professionals.