For a couple of months I’ve been using Lansinoh HPA Lanolin to reduce leaks around the mask silicone seal. It’s been very effective, especially since I have beard that would otherwise lead to increased leaks.
My experience with replacing the gear this time was a little bit different. Instead of improving my stats they actually decreased a bit. It seems that I was actually doing well with the older seal and headgear when combined with the Lansinoh. The headgear probably isn’t as much of a factor – I suspect the biggest difference is caused by using a new seal.
A new seal is much firmer than an older one. The longer a seal has been used the softer it becomes. Without Lansinoh (or a similar oil) an older mask seal would tend to leak more. However, the firmness of the new seal actually seems to create a less efficient seal. This isn’t what I expected and though it’s an inconvenience now I’ve learned something valuable – I can probably use an older seal with the oil indefinitely.
Is it less expensive to use Lansinoh with an older mask? Yes, if it works for you. A new seal for my mask costs about $55. If I use one tube of Lansinoh each month then it will cost me about $12 per month. In addition, using the Lansinoh seems to extend the usable life of the seal. I’m not sure how long a seal can be used with Lansinoh but I suspect it can easily last a year.
How effective this trick is will vary from person to person. If you’re interested in trying this then I suggest that you just buy one tube before stocking up. I also don’t recommend trying this for the first time with a new mask seal. The Lansinoh probably can’t be cleaned from the seal completely so start with an older mask seal.
Updated 06/20/2012: I haven’t figured out the perfect amount of Lansinoh to use each night but I have made progress on cleaning the oil off older mask seals. The oil really sticks and can even stain so avoid getting it on any clothing that you plan to wear in public again. I’ve previously tried dropping older mask seals into boiling water for a few minutes. It did get some of the oil off the masks but it also coated the pot that I used, which required a lot of scrubbing to clean out.
This weekend I tried a different approach. I gathered up a couple of masks (the same ones I had tried to clean with hot water) and dumped them into a mix of bleach and hot water in a plastic bowl and let them sit for a while. That seemed to do a good job of removing the oil from the masks and also breaking it down so the container wasn’t coated with residue. I’ve only done this once so I don’t know if it will be a good idea in the long term but the masks that I had used were old ones that I would have thrown away anyway. In this case, I’ll probably try reusing them. So far, the bleach didn’t seem to harm the mask seals.