Distilled Water vs. Tap Water

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Distilled Water vs. Tap Water

Postby kim2girls » Wed Jun 07, 2006 3:09 pm

I ran out of distilled water and keep forgetting to get some when I go to the store. So I have been using Tap water in my CPAP unit. Do you notice any difference when you use tap water instead of distilled.

Thanks.
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Postby sleepyjean » Wed Jun 07, 2006 3:47 pm

Hi Kim,

You probably won't notice any difference, but your machine will! The mineral deposits from tap water are not good for the machine. Once in a while doesn't matter, but if tap water is used regularly, over time the deposits will build up and mess up the machine. And, make it yucky :-)

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Postby BrstIn2Flames » Wed Jun 07, 2006 4:50 pm

What if you use tap water and clean out the unit every morning and let it dry? Will it still get "yucky"? :-D
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Postby BARBCCRN » Wed Jun 07, 2006 6:37 pm

Personally,the tap water here in Vegas is soooo bad;no one who lives here drinks it. I have used tap at the most 2 nights in a row. I have noticed the morning after using tap water the metal at the bottom of the humidifier does feel "slimy". Vegas water does have a ton of gunk in it. I was told from day 1 to use distilled water and have followed that suggestion
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Postby sleepyjean » Wed Jun 07, 2006 6:38 pm

What if you use tap water and clean out the unit every morning and let it dry? Will it still get "yucky"?



Yup, can't possibly wash all the "yuckies" out. ;-)

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Postby morcheller » Wed Jun 07, 2006 9:04 pm

And don't forget about the mineral buildup you get from using tap water. In your hoses, your masks and in your lungs!
For me, I'll stick to distilled. All the time.
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Postby Ridge Runner » Wed Jun 07, 2006 9:14 pm

It seems to be really important to use distilled water with a heated humidifier, which most of us use. I understand that even a couple of nights with tap water can result in a lot of mineral buildup in the humidifier.

It's much less important with a passover humidifier. However, a passover humidifier is less effective. It's a real tradeoff.

I have both types. I use the heated one at home, but travel with the passover one, as it's lighter and I'm less concerned about finding distilled water in a strange city, especially in another country.

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Postby Frances » Wed Jun 07, 2006 10:27 pm

Distilled water contains no dissolved minerals so when it dries it leaves no residue behind. That's why it is recommended for the humidifier.

If you use tap water that contains dissolved minerals, so-called "hard" water, then the minerals will be left behind in the humidifier reservoir after the air has taken up the water vapour and sent it into the hose. The minerals are not in the air, so it does not go into the hose or your lungs.

There is nothing poisonous about this residue, but it does build up and makes the reservoir look dirty. If there is only a little buildup, it can be easily removed by washing with detergent and water and then dried. If there is a lot, then it can be dissolved using white vinegar, followed by a good wash and rinse.

Many years go when I was using a vaporizer for my small daughter's colds, the minerals would build up on the electrode so from time to time I would soak it in vinegar to dissolve the minerals. And, being thrifty, I used the same vinegar over and over until the end of the cold season.

It is much easier to use distilled water but ordinary tap water will do if you don't have any distilled water. And where your tap water is "soft", it may not be a problem anyway.
However, tap water may have another problem, namely an unpleasant smell, which might come from the chlorine used to disinfect it or from some other problem, and you would certainly not want to have to breathe in this smell when using a CPAP machine.
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Postby kim2girls » Wed Jun 07, 2006 10:53 pm

Thanks everyone! I just really need to remember to get it at the store next time I am there! Of course every night when I go to fill my machine I remember!

Thank you!
Kim Graham
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Postby DJDaddyK » Thu Jun 08, 2006 4:23 am

sleepyjean wrote:
What if you use tap water and clean out the unit every morning and let it dry? Will it still get "yucky"?

Yup, can't possibly wash all the "yuckies" out. ;-) sleepyjean

Hmm. So do you guys use distilled water to wash the humidifier chamber? Cause, if not, wouldn't the tap water dry and leave minerals each time you wash it?

Steve

PS - to be clear, I use distilled water for treatment and tap to clean, so I am just wondering...
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Postby Gonzo » Thu Jun 08, 2006 4:46 pm

I posted this on Cpaptalk.com recently. Sorry for the repeat for some of you. C.

My wife is the supervisor of a medical laboratory with many sensitive analysis machines that require constant cleaning, rinsing, etc. There are miles of fine tubing, little pots, and chambers... some heat up, some retain fluids, and so on. (Can you tell I have little idea what she does or how she does it? That's OK, she doesn't know much about CPAP so we're even.)

Her advice is similar to that listed above: "purified water" is a relative term depending on its market -- for drinking it means it shouldn't have many "growies" but could include chlorine and background salts and minerals that are fine for consumption by humans (maybe not some plants or fish) but its way too "dirty" for lab machinery (a little chlorine in a sensitive test might affect results in addition to mineral buildup clogging tubing or valves).

Likewise, "distilled water" is relative. That sold off of grocery or drug store shelves may be fine for humidifiers, swamp coolers, irons, etc. but it may still carry small amounts of stuff that is inappropriate for medical machinery. Some vapor stills can produce pretty pure water but generally not in mass market quantities.

Ro water also comes in a variety of quality levels depending on expected use but is generally a little "purer" than most vapor distilled water in terms of minerals. It’s also tougher to find and can be more expensive.

Her advice on CPAP humidifiers is that given that is just a container of heated water and that vapor is the only portion being consumed (your own distiller), the concern is mainly reducing mineral buildup. So, distilled (vapor or Ro) water off the shelf is probably fine with periodic checking and cleaning with a mild acid (vinegar - diluted if the plastic is soft to prevent scoring the tank walls or removing galvanizing or coating on the metal bottom). If the water is cloudy at the bottom of the tank or you see scaling, clean it. If that happens in a week, change sources or brands.

Because of the volume that goes though the unit (at least in my case) she said she would stay away from tap or bottled drinking water. She also feels (with no evidence) that avoiding breathing minute quantities freed chlorine vapor each night for years is a good idea.

Sorry for the length of this post.
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What is the best water source?

Postby birdshell » Sun Jun 25, 2006 11:50 am

Length with worthy content should never be regretted, IMHO.

THANK YOU! This clears up quite a bit and answers some of my questions, based on past knowledge. I could not see how washing and using a vinegar/water soak (I use 1:10 ratio but have seen almost everything up to 1:2) would fail to make the humidifier 'clean enough' for human use. Or, as my statistics professor used to say, "Good enough for government work." #-o

One more question: Why is breathing the chlorine worse than drinking it? (I live in an area that does use quite a bit of chlorine in the tap water.)

We used to let the water sit (uncovered) for 12 hours or so to remove chlorine for our fish tank. Alternately, we would use hot water and let it cool if in a rush. The fish lived....

While I almost always use distilled (off the shelf) water in my heated humidifier, occasionally I may use tap water. ResMed e-mailed me and told me that the distilled water was OK in the humidifier for 2-3 days before washing. Further, ResMed said, when using the tap water, it needed to be emptied and the chamber washed daily. Because of the chlorine, this seemed a bit counterintuitive to me.

This whole cleaning thing is a really confusing question for xPAP newbies. There does not seem to be an industry consensus. Now we add in the water source question, and it is really becoming frustrating. I am just doing the cleaning regime my DME provider's RT recommended, but I always want to know WHY I am doing so!

Please thank your wife for her expertise and advice. \:D/ We need folks in the know.
My machine: ResMed Compact S8 with Humidaire 3i

My mask/interface: ComfortLite 2

A full night's sleep: Priceless!
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Postby Frances » Sun Jun 25, 2006 10:10 pm

I doubt that the mist from a heated humidifier would contain much if any chlorine vapour but if your water contains very much chlorine I think that the smell would waft its way from the reservoir to your nose anyway. And having that smell forced into your nose all night long would be unpleasant although we usually get used to a smell after a while so maybe it wouldn't matter. That's why I think it is worse to breath it that drink it. But drinking over-chlorinated water is no joy either.

The point of using distilled water is to avoid mineral buildup in the humidifier reservoir. If your tap water is soft then I can't see why distilled water is necessary. If you do use hard tap water then you will have to use a vinegar soak frequently to remove it. If the water is clean enough to drink it should be clean enough for a breathable vapour.

I'm sure that all the companies go overboard in their recommendations to avoid being sued by someone who complained "You never told me!"
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Postby WindFlyer » Mon Jun 26, 2006 11:57 am

My personal take on this is that I spent too much money on my machine and related gear and I'm not going to spend another $150 per year on distilled water. I've used tap water in my res-med humid aire for over a year now and I've NEVER had any mineral buildup or related issues. I do clean the water pan and cover daily so I'm sure this helps but the fact of the matter is (in my opinion, now- no flames for this, please) tap water works fine and it's nothing to be afraid of.
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Postby Gonzo » Mon Jun 26, 2006 3:58 pm

Windflyer, No flame, like most CPAP stuff, if it works for you, great. Part of the point I was trying to make is that there is mineral content in any water and there can be a trade off between cleaning and the type of water used; and, for some of us, equipment lifetime. If I use filtered tap water in the clothes iron, it will spit white stuff after a few sessions. Additionally, I may not as fastidious about cleaning CPAP equipment as I could be. So, I'll continue using distilled from the store (should be less than $1 per gallon) or Ro refills from my wife's lab when she remembers.

Birdshell, You probably can't over clean. At our house, we're probably a little overly sensitive about chlorine for a variety of health reasons regarding one of my sons - unrelated to anything you may encounter with CPAP. Beyond that, I just choose not to breathe extra stuff all night, every night if I have that choice. Call it paranoia or my own personal quirk. Don't include it in your own analysis of distilled vs. tap. I probably shouldn't have included it in the post.
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