Like most people prescribed CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy, you were probably overloaded with information when you had your first appointment with the respiratory therapist to get your CPAP device.
Likely, you walked away from that appointment, not knowing how often you should clean your CPAP equipment.
This article will directly address your questions and provide a step-by-step guide on how to clean and maintain your CPAP machine and its accompanying parts on a regular basis.
Full transparency: This article has affiliate links. I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
What happens if I don’t clean my CPAP?
You are directly breathing in air routed through the machine for several hours.
If you do not clean and maintain your CPAP device consistently and appropriately, bacteria, viruses, and mold can be drawn into it from the surrounding air, where they will seed and grow. You will be breathing in these contaminants and pathogens.
From a health standpoint, you could develop allergy symptoms, sinus infections, Pneumonitis (non-infectious inflammation of your lungs), Pneumonia (infection of your lungs), or skin irritation, infection, and acne due to accumulated facial oils, dead skin cells (eww!), and sweat!
Additionally, mineral deposits and foul odors can also form.
This could lead to the voiding of your CPAP’s manufacturer warranty or premature breakdown of the machine.
How to clean your CPAP machine at home?
You should clean your CPAP equipment at least once weekly for optimal hygiene.
If you have an upper respiratory infection, you will need to clean more often…and DO NOT share your CPAP with another individual for obvious reasons!
Supplies needed to clean your CPAP:
- CPAP mask, CPAP mask cushion, CPAP headgear, tubing, humidifier water chamber), and the CPAP unit
- Soft, clean cloth
- Warm, clean tap water
- Mild soap, baby shampoo, or mild dish detergent such as Dawn dish soap (preferably antibacterial, but not required, avoid harsh cleaning products)
- Bathroom sink, Basin, or tub to wash equipment in
- White vinegar
- Clean towel or paper towel
Clean your CPAP machine
- ALWAYS unplug your unit from its power source first!
- Wipe down the exterior surface of your machine with a clean, damp towel to remove any dust/dirt
- Dry it immediately with a clean, dry towel
- Before you plug it back in, ensure it is completely dry!
Clean your CPAP Filters
If you are using disposable filters, discard them and replace with clean, new ones.
If you are using reusable filters, wash them at least once a week to remove dirt, dust, pollen, dander, and other allergens:
- Wash the filters in warm water (not soapy), squeeze to remove the excess water
- Blot-dry the filters as much as possible and leave them to air dry on a clean, dry towel
- Place the filters back into your CPAP machine when they are COMPLETELY dry
You will know your CPAP filter needs to be replaced when it turns dark or discolored (clean filters are usually white or grey).
Clean your CPAP Mask
You should clean your CPAP mask at least once weekly, regardless of whether it is a face mask or nasal pillow:
- Disconnect the mask from its tubing
- You can remove the headgear or keep it together with the mask, depending on what you want to do
- Wash your mask in warm, soapy water by soaking it for at least 5 minutes, then swirling it around to agitate and remove loosened dirt and oils
- Rinse everything completely in clean water and allow to air dry completely on a clean, dry towel
- Reassemble all parts and re-connect them to your CPAP unit
Clean your CPAP humidifier chamber
It is recommended that you clean your water chamber once every two weeks:
- Remove residual water from your humidity chamber
- Mix a solution of 1 part vinegar to 5 parts water in a separate clean container, and pour it into your chamber to the desired height (above the water line you usually fill the chamber to), soak for at least 30 minutes
- Pour out the vinegar solution and thoroughly rinse out the chamber with clean water
- Allow to air dry on a clean, dry towel completely
Note: You should always use ONLY distilled water when using your humidifier
Big DONT’S when cleaning your CPAP:
- NEVER use bleach to clean your CPAP equipment – the fumes and residual bleach can harm your lungs and skin
- DON’T Use hydrogen peroxide to clean your CPAP – it is caustic and incorrect concentrations can burn your skin!
Is a CPAP cleaner like Lumin or SoClean necessary?
It depends! Not all CPAP sanitizers are safe!
Let me explain. There are currently two types of CPAP sanitizers – UV light-based and ozone gas-based.
Ozone gas-based CPAP sanitizers
Ozone gas-based sanitizers use ozone to kill harmful bacteria. While this is true in theory, I don’t think it is practical from a health standpoint.
This is because, for the sanitizer to kill bacteria effectively, ozone needs to be present at a concentration far more significant than what is considered safe for people.
These devices are machines, and machines do break down; leaks can appear in tubing and critical areas that can ultimately seep out into an enclosed space or living room.
The individual breathing the gas can become sick.
Just imagine a frail older adult with COPD or asthma living by herself, breathing in this dangerous gas, needing emergency care, and being unable to call for help.
You can imagine the potentially disastrous consequences.
Also, there will be ozone gas inside the CPAP tubing after cleaning. If the CPAP is not turned on to expel any residual ozone in the tubing, the individual would be inhaling the ozone directly into their airways, resulting in a potentially dangerous situation for the CPAP user.
I would not recommend using ozone-based devices due to the potential for developing adverse health effects from ozone exposure, including nose and throat irritation, shortness of breath, chest pain, and cough. These respiratory problems can quickly exacerbate individuals with pre-existing asthma or COPD.
The FDA cites public complaints from 2017 to 2019 detailing respiratory problems, very likely triggered by exposure to residual ozone in the equipment after cleaning.
Ironically, the machine that is supposed to help you breathe better is turned into a device that causes breathing problems!
So, my recommendation: Please do not use ozone gas-based CPAP sanitizers. They are not worth the risk.
UV light-based CPAP sanitizers
What about UV light-based sanitizers? Compared to ozone gas-based devices, these seem to be a better alternative if you are set on getting a CPAP sanitizer.
The sanitizer pictured below is a great option:
Liviliti Paptizer UVC radiation LED Smart CPAP Sanitizer – Ozone Free! Click the image to learn more and purchase
According to the manufacturer, this device uses several medical-grade UVC LEDs to kill bacteria and viruses (including the virus that causes COVID-19!) by destroying their DNA and RNA structure. The sanitizer also breaks down and eliminates undesirable odors.
Warning: UV light can cause burns and eye damage if used inappropriately. So, please read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and follow all directions to enjoy the sanitizing benefits of this CPAP sanitizer.
How often should CPAP supplies be replaced?
Replacement Schedule for CPAP Supplies
|Disposable Filters||2 per month|
|Cushions and Pillows||2 per month|
|Oral, Nasal, Nasal Pillow and Full Face Masks||Every 3 Months|
|Tubing||Every 3 Months|
|Headgear and Chinstraps||Every 6 Months|
|Non-Disposable Filters||Every 6 Months|
|Humidifier Chamber||Every 6 Months|
|CPAP Machine||Every 5 Years|
Some inexpensive products to make cleaning your CPAP easier and faster (click on the links):
- Cleaning your CPAP machine and equipment is a must – not doing so can lead to skin irritation and respiratory health problems
- Cleaning your CPAP equipment can easily be done with soap and water
- Ozone gas-based CPAP sanitizers are unsafe and should not be used
- UV light-based CPAP sanitizers are safer alternatives, but you have to be careful to avoid burns
- CPAP equipment must be replaced regularly