Should I Use Tap or Distilled Water for My CPAP Humidifier?

People who live with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) often find that a CPAP machine with humidification is the key to more comfortable sleep therapy. Moisturized air soothes your airways and prevents dryness and irritation. But it’s important to remember to only use distilled water in the humidifier water chamber. Even though tap water straight from the sink is more convenient for many CPAP users to access, CPAP manufacturers and clinicians recommend that patients only use distilled water in their humidifier chambers - and for good reason!

Tap water contains mineral deposits, microbes, and germs that you don’t want to risk breathing in. Overtime, these contaminants can also build up on your supplies and damage your CPAP tubing and motor. Distilled water should be the only water placed in the water chamber for use. In short, distilled water is better both for your health and the longevity of your CPAP equipment.

Why Use a CPAP Humidifier?

Humidification can user comfort by adding moisture to the air that passes through your CPAP machine to reduce irritation of the nose, mouth, and throat. For those who find the airflow too cold, or notice that condensation builds up (also called rainout), heated CPAP tubing can help.

Both heated humidifiers and water chambers help relieve dryness caused by CPAP therapy and may prevent your throat from becoming sore. The moisture can also help break up nasal congestion and obstructions caused by allergies and colds.

Why You Shouldn't Use Tap Water in Your CPAP Humidifier

While tap water is purified for public consumption in most countries, it sill may contain trace contaminants, including mineral deposits, microbes, and pollutants that you don’t want to risk breathing in. Different states in the U.S. have different regulations, as do different countries in the world. Overtime, these contaminants can also build up on your supplies and damage your CPAP tubing and motor. Distilled water should be the only water placed in the water chamber for use. In short, distilled water is better both for your health and the longevity of your CPAP equipment than purified water.

When it comes to filling your humidifier chamber remember that even boiling your tap water won’t completely eliminate minerals or chemical contaminants, even though it will kill microbes. The water will still remain hard, meaning it contains minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and more.

Filtered water, or bottled water, may not contain as many minerals, but won’t be totally free of harsh chemicals or microbes.

Distilled water is the best option to keep your machine running at optimum performance. Pro tip: if you have been using tap water for your CPAP humidification previously, try soaking the water tub in white vinegar to remove any build up and rinsing thoroughly before using it again. And remember, only distilled water from here on out!

Distilled Water Benefits

Distilled water will keep your CPAP machine running smoothly and ensure you’re getting the most out of your CPAP therapy. It will moisturize and soften your airway pressure and prevent bacteria from making its way into your sinuses and lungs.

If you’re in a pinch, bottled water is safer than tap water, though it’s not as safe to use as distilled water. Carefully read the labels in grocery stores to find water that’s safe to use. Also, if you can’t find distilled water it should be fine to go without using your humidifier until you return home.

Your lungs will be exposed to the water in your humidifier, which is why using plain distilled water is crucial for your health. Water softeners, soaps, essential oils, and more may expose you to harsh chemical fumes such as bleach, chlorine, and alcohol.

What Water Should I Use When Traveling?

If water seems unsafe to drink then it’s probably not safe to inhale. Do not use tap water when you’re traveling, it could be contaminated, exposing you to harmful chemicals such as bleach, ammonia, and chlorine.

Cleaning Your CPAP Humidifier

Speaking of colds, it’s important for your health to keep your CPAP supplies clean to avoid the build-up of germs, pathogens, allergens, mold, bacteria, and more.

To keep your humidifier clean:

  • Change CPAP water daily to prevent bacteria from collecting in stagnant water.
  • Clean your humidifier once a week by carefully removing it from the machine to wash with warm, soapy water. Allow it to fully air dry before putting it back.
  • Soak your humidifier in a solution of 1 part vinegar and 3 parts for about 20 minutes then thoroughly rinse it with distilled water once a week.
  • Or speed up the process by using a CPAP cleaner like the Lumin to instantly eliminate 99% of harmful pathogens without the use of water.
  • Some CPAP humidifiers are dishwasher safe; refer to your product manual to be sure.
  • Replace your humidifier on a regular basis according to your supply schedule. Generally, they should be replaced every six months.

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