CPAP mask maintenance is an important part of CPAP therapy. A big part of that involves regularly cleaning and replacing your CPAP equipment. This is vital for two primary reasons:
- Providing good hygiene.
- Ensuring your equipment functions optimally so you’ll get the most from your CPAP therapy.
CPAP Mask Wear
While the manufacturer’s warranty (which is typically between two to five years) can give you a good idea of your machine’s lifespan, it’s only one indicator. In fact, a properly cleaned and maintained machine could even last for seven years or longer.
No matter how well you maintain and clean your mask, you will still experience CPAP mask wear, There are certain signs you can look for to see if it’s time for a replacement.
Signs of CPAP mask wear include:
- If you hear grinding sounds while the machine is running.
- If you see warning lights that flash regularly.
- If you have facial redness, sores and discomfort.
These could be signs of worn seals or you have an old mask with brittle cushions or headgear. Any undue lights or sounds are typically an indication your machine is getting ready to stop working, so you’ll want to begin thinking about replacing it quickly. And, although CPAP mask liners can help with some of these issues, sometimes is much more than that — it could be a sign of CPAP mask wear and you need a replacement.
You really shouldn’t wait to until your machine reaches the last few months of its life to replace it, because you risk a lapse in compliance if there’s a miscalculation.
There have been a lot of advancements and improvements over the years in CPAP machines and masks. A machine that looks “old” might appear this way because it doesn’t have the latest comfort advancements, like a heated humidifier and improved user interface.
CPAP Mask Leaks
CPAP mask leaks are unfortunately a problem that can occur and can cause problems for sleep apnea patients. There are three primary reasons why a mask leak is a problem:
- Air escaping from your mask can cause noise that can disturb your or your partner’s sleep.
- The escaping air can irritate your eyes causing them to become swollen, bloodshot and dry.
- Excessive mask leaking can compromise your CPAP compliance because you lose the proper pressure you need to keep your airway open when air leaks from the mask. This can cause snoring at night and increased tiredness during the day.
Causes of CPAP Mask Leaks
An air leak can be due to an incorrectly fitted mask due to the headgear being adjusted incorrectly (too loose, over-tightened). When you change sleeping positions during the night, it can lead to your mask shifting position and causing a leak.
If you don’t clean your mask cushion sufficiently, it can retain facial oils, causing the mask to lift off your face as the pressure rises. The masks age also can affect the seal, cause the cushion to wear and cause the headgear to lose its complete elasticity.
Excessive mask leaking and not being able to obtain a good seal is often a first indication you need to replace the cushion.
Importance of CPAP Mask Cleaning
Proper CPAP mask cleaning is essential. Remember, you’re breathing in the air that circulates through your machine and into the mask. The air is filtered and humidified, but you still need to keep your mask as clean as possible.
When a mask isn’t cleaned thoroughly, it can put you at risk of potential problems and dangers such as:
- Mold exposure
- Bacteria exposure
- Foul or musty odor
- Allergy symptoms
- Voiding the device warranty
- Mineralization within the equipment
- A potential risk of pneumonia or sinus infections
- Premature equipment breakdown
Keep in mind, if you don’t clean your mask properly, it can shorten the cushions’ lifespan. If you notice you have to pull the headgear tighter to compensate for the cushions’ wear, you not only need to replace the cushions, but you’re also shortening the headband’s life.
To obtain the optimal lifespan from your CPAP mask:
- Ensure you wash your face every night before you put your mask on.
- Avoid using face cream right before bedtime.
- Wipe the cushion with a warm damp flannel cloth every morning to get rid of any facial oils.
- Wash your mask thoroughly once a week. Use original washing up liquid.
When cleaning your mask, don’t use any moisturizers, perfumes, bleaches or antibacterial agents. Use fresh water to rinse off and don’t dry your cushions and mask on a radiator or direct sunlight.
Replacing your CPAP Mask and Equipment
It might seem wasteful to replace a mask or other equipment when it appears to be perfectly fine, but new equipment will help keep your machine clean and functioning optimally.
So, how often do you replace CPAP mask and equipment? While your insurance company may determine this, there are some general guidelines you can follow.
It’s recommended you replace your mask and equipment as often as your insurance will pay for them. Many insurance providers will only pay for a new CPAP mask every three to six months. However, you can also pay with cash so you’re not tied to this restriction.
It’s wise to get an understanding of the anticipated lifespan and how often you should replace your equipment.
Here’s a general timeframe of when you need to replace each part:
- CPAP mask: Should be replaced every three months.
- CPAP mask cushion: Should replace your cushion or nasal pillows once or twice a month. Over time, dirt and oils from your skin can soften the cushion, making it so it doesn’t hold a tight seal anymore with your face. It also affects hygiene. This creates air leaks that can affect how effective your CPAP therapy is.
- CPAP mask headgear and chinstraps: Should be replaced every six months.
- CPAP tube: Replace your CPAP tube once every three months like you do with your mask. A CPAP tube can develop cracks and tears with frequent use that result in air leaks. You won’t receive proper treatment if air is escaping. Plus, the tube can harbor bacteria, particularly if there’s condensation inside.
- CPAP humidifier water chamber: Replace this every six months.
Signs it’s Time to Replace your Mask and Equipment
If seal deterioration causes leaks in your mask, it’s time to replace it. Over time, facial oils deteriorate the cushions’ sealing effect, even if you practice good hygiene. When you feel leaks, don’t tighten the headgear. This can cause pressure points and discomfort, leading to additional leaks.
If your mask isn’t fitting properly anymore, this could be a sign it’s time to replace it. An ill-fitting mask can make it so you will need to readjust the mask or over-tighten the headgear continually, reducing how long it can effectively work. Instead, have your provider re-fit it for you.
Cleaning your mask and equipment improperly can cause damage. Only use mild, soapy water. Do not use soaps that contain perfumes or moisturizers.
If your mask has signs of damage or aging, the cushions or components become torn or cracked or the cushions lose their shape causing leakage issues, it’s time for a replacement.
Remember, CPAP mask and equipment replacement is only one part of the entire CPAP maintenance. Be sure you get into the habit of cleaning your mask and equipment frequently in between replacements. This helps limit pathogens exposure and ensures proper CPAP compliance.
Purchase Your Replacement CPAP Mask and Equipment at CPAP.com
Here at CPAP.com, we have an extensive inventory of CPAP masks, machines, supplies, and accessories. We invite you to browse through our products. You can search for a replacement mask by customer popularity, rating, price, size needs and more.
David Repasky has been using CPAP treatment since 2017 and has first-hand experience with what it’s like to live with Sleep Apnea. He brings the patient’s perspective to the CPAP.com blog and has received formal training in CPAP machines, masks, and equipment.