Making Your Nasal Cannula and Rubber Tubing Last Longer

A nasal cannula, the two soft rubber prongs that fit into your nose, and the rubber tubing they attach to, are two very simple but essential accessories you need for oxygen therapy. A standard cannula comes with each of our oxygen concentrators and is pretty cheap when you need to replace it, no more than $6.00 for a regular rubber tube with nasal prongs. These are cheap, but why not make sure it lasts as long as it can?

It's also a good idea to order one longer before you know you will need to replace the one that you're using now. It's just quicker and more convenient to be able to switch it out, without having to order it and wait for it to come in the mail.

How often does the tubing need replaced when well taken care of?

This largely depends on how often you are using your oxygen concentrator. If you clean your tubing and cannula properly and you are using it all day every day, you can expect to need to replace it once a month. If you are using it for half the day, such as during the night, it will need to be replaced every 2 months. In these cases, the best thing to do would be to stock up on them, so you only need to place an order for your cannula supply once a year, or every 6 months.

How should I clean the rubber tubing?

There is one thing you absolutely have to do, or you risk getting sick from bacteria build-up in the nasal prongs – you have to wipe them down with an alcohol swab directly after each use. You shouldn't use any other type of cleanser that is milder than alcohol since not many things kill bacteria as sufficiently as rubbing alcohol. Getting sick can be very dangerous for people with chronic lung conditions, so you have to be mindful of this.

You can clean the tubing and the nasal prongs by soaking them in warm water with a minimal amount of dish soap and regular white vinegar. Be sure to rinse it out thoroughly with hanging it to dry before using it again. White vinegar is great at killing bacteria, and it won't slowly eat away at the rubber the way many types of chemical detergents will.

Don't try to cut corners on replacing the rubber tubing, especially if you've been sick. You will need to replace them, or you risk the bacteria left over from your illness getting worse and getting you sick all over again. It's always better safe than sorry when it comes to your health. The cost of a new nasal cannula is worth keeping you healthy.

Page last updated: November 26, 2018

About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

23 thoughts on “Making Your Nasal Cannula and Rubber Tubing Last Longer”

  • Jim Green

    I'm a dialysis patient, just finally figured out that I'm not getting enough oxygen. My primary physician is setting up oxygen approved supplier from my insurance . How many parts of tubes are there? And can bothe or how ever many there are can they all be cleaned? How many does a typical patient keep on hand? Do the tubes work on any machine? Interchangeable? Thanks

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason
      Danielle Jason May 22, 2017 at 2:58 am

      Thank you for your comment, Jim. A nasal cannula will work with any oxygen concentrator by attaching to the machine and resting gently in your nasal passages. Cannulas can easily be cleaned and are recommended to be swapped out every 2-6 months depending on your usage and medical condition. We generally suggest patients to have 3 months, or 3 cannulas, worth of supply on hand. They are fairly inexpensive and we are always here should you wish to buy one at a time or 10!

      Reply
  • Jim Green

    Is the mask better than nasal cannula?

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason
      Danielle Jason May 22, 2017 at 3:00 am

      Great question, Jim. This all depends on your specific medical conditions and oxygen flow requirements. Feel free to give our Oxygen Specialists a call to determine if a mask or nasal cannula is right for you: 877-774-9271.

      Reply
  • Melvin Williams

    the comments. I learned something from all of the statements. Thanks ev1

    Reply
  • Joann lyons

    How can I keep my soft tubing from getting hard?

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      If your tubing is getting hard, it needs to be replaced. Tubing should be replaced often, especially if you've suffered from any ailments, such as the common cold. Feel free to give us a call at 877-774-9271 if you'd like to purchase additional tubing.

      Reply
  • JAY

    will a mask work better if a cannula does not create enough vacuum to operate the concentrator

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your inquiry, Jay. What is currently the issue with your oxygen delivery? Do you feel you are not receiving enough oxygen? Changing from a cannula to a mask will provide you with the same amount of oxygen delivery.

      Reply
  • Ray Deller

    Depends on type of concentrator. Large ones are positive pressure.

    Reply
  • carole jordan

    what causes my cannula to get hard? it hurts my nose after a few weeks. also is hard all the way to the chin. and the dealie which slides up to secure it gets very loose and so i have to constantly be rearranging it, even at night.
    i am a retired respiratory therapist, so you'd think i would know the answers but i don't. amazing how different things are when you are on the receiving end!!!!!
    thanks,
    carole

    Reply
    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman November 26, 2018 at 9:43 am

      It is recommended that you replace your cannula every couple of weeks. If you are using it 24/7 then it is just normal wear and tear. It could also be the type of cannula you are using as well as the climate that you live in.

      Reply
  • Marie

    The area of my cannula where I slide the thing up under my chin is turning bright yellow. I have used 2 new ones, and same thing happens. Have you ever heard of this? I can’t figure out what is causing this. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman February 28, 2019 at 5:00 am

      This could be a reaction with perfume, lotion, makeup or something that you are wearing. As long as it is working, I would not be concerned.

      Reply
  • Edie Gilmore

    What is the best way to clean/sanitize the very long green tubing? This hooks up with the cannula /tubing set. This thicker tubing attaches directly to the floor concentrator. Would soaking this green tubing in a very mild bleach soln work as long as it is completely rinsed and air dried?

    Reply
    • Sanket Jain

      As mentioned in the article, using any mild liquid dish detergent to clean tubing should work well. Be sure to let the tubing dry completely before using it back again. We do not recommend using cleaning agents such as bleach solutions, strong or scented detergents, or lotion soaps.

      Reply
  • Tina Marie

    I ordered two cases of cannulas (a good sale) along with a quantity of tubing. Is it ok to store them
    in a plastic tote? Does it hurt to store in the basement? WhT’s the best wY to store? Since I bought alot, I will have a supply for awhile and want the product to stay safe to use.

    Reply
    • Sanket Jain

      Hi Tina, it's fine to store your cannulas in a plastic tote in a basement. Just make sure that the cannulas remain is clean and dry, it's best if they are in air-tight packaging. A piece of personal advice, keep your cannulas in two different places (or plastic totes) - don't put all your eggs in one basket. Stuff happens.

      Reply
  • Rona Terburg

    For the too loose slider on the cannula, we take a small but not too thin rubber band and while the cannula is unhooked, loop it over the slider and pull the cannula thru the other loop of the rubber band then pulling it straight. If you’re still getting the full amount of oxygen then you did it right. It took me a couple of times. If there is a way to send a photo, I will do that. I hope this helps.
    My cannula also get stiff which bugs me a lot and I really wish they would stay soft for longer!

    Reply

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