Regularly cleaning your CPAP equipment can help keep you healthy and prevent the spread of germs.
From illnesses such as colds, infections, the flu, and COVID-19, proper CPAP cleaning techniques can help reduce the likelihood of you getting sick while ensuring you breathe cleaner air. Keeping your CPAP machine, mask, and supplies clean is an essential part of your health, wellness, and the longevity of your CPAP equipment.
Let’s dive into how to keep it all clean to deliver the best quality air for your well-being.
Benefits of CPAP Cleaning
Cleaning your CPAP equipment is crucial in fending off unwanted germs and bacteria. But, did you know that proper sanitation after suffering from a pesky cold could also prevent you from getting sick again? Or that properly cleaning your CPAP equipment could help avoid the spread of germs in the first place? Cleaning your CPAP equipment is not only the key to staying healthy but also one of the best ways to get the most out of your CPAP therapy.
Decreased Risk for Catching Colds and Infections
Your CPAP mask’s proximity to your mouth and nose makes it a breeding ground for germs. What doesn’t get you sick today could quickly make you ill tomorrow if you don’t clean your mask regularly. By implementing a cleaning regimen, you’ll be eliminating the germs that can get you sick. Your equipment will smell better, look better, and most importantly, will make you feel better if cleaned regularly.
Reduced Risk of Getting Sick Again
We understand—nothing’s worse than being sick. But if you don’t clean your CPAP mask and accessories effectively, you’ll run the risk of re-infection.
For nasal pillow mask wearers, the problem is especially difficult. Nasal pillows seal around your nostrils, which harbor bacteria from your sinuses during a cold. Due to the nasal pillows’ proximity to your nose, the germs from your mask have a direct path to making you feel sick again. Without proper CPAP cleaning, you breathe in germs while wearing your mask, which makes good hygiene especially important during cold and flu season.
Clean air is critical to your CPAP success. Since your lungs process the air that comes from your machine, you don’t want germs, dust, bacteria, or allergens entering your therapy air. There are two surefire ways to ensure you’re limiting the number of harmful irritants in your therapy air:
- Change your filter regularly.
- Clean your CPAP mask, hose, and humidifier chamber correctly, which we detail below.
How Often to Clean Your CPAP Equipment
Let’s take a look at when to clean the most critical parts of your CPAP therapy equipment.
|CPAP Equipment||Amount of Necessary Cleaning|
|CPAP Mask Cushion or Pillows||Daily|
|Humidifier Chamber||Weekly; Empty and Dry Daily|
|CPAP Reusable Filters||Weekly|
|CPAP Hose||Weekly; Hang to Dry Daily|
The CPAP Cleaning Supplies You Need
There are a few CPAP cleaning supplies you’ll need to clean your CPAP equipment. We’ll go over what works and the best practices for cleaning that can help make your CPAP cleaning even easier.
One important thing to always keep in mind is to avoid using harsh chemicals. Cleaning your CPAP equipment with abrasive cleansers or chemicals like household or bathroom cleaning products can not only damage your equipment but can also leave behind residue that can be toxic if inhaled. Instead, use products that are designed for your CPAP equipment or that won’t damage your machine.
|CPAP Mask & CPAP Mask Cushion||CPAP Humidifier Chamber||CPAP Reusable Filters||CPAP Hose|
Mild Soap and Warm Water
Not all soaps are created equal. Most soaps available at your local supermarket aren’t considered true soaps, which are a simple mixture of lye and natural fats. Instead, most of those soaps are synthetic and have a higher pH factor than your own skin, which can create problems such as irritation and breakouts.
Mild soap, on the other hand, is non-toxic, meaning it won’t leave any color residue on your equipment, and since it’s odorless, you won’t be breathing in any scented lemon or vanilla while you sleep. This combination of mild soap and water will also ensure you won’t damage the silicone on your mask.
Washing your CPAP hose, reusable filters, humidifier, and mask in warm, soapy water helps to sanitize and actively disinfect.
Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and can kill germs and bacteria on contact. Vinegar is also helpful for cleaning the calcified deposits at the bottom of your CPAP humidifier chamber quickly and easily. This readily available CPAP cleaning must-have is also helpful to maintain the inside of your CPAP hose.
In order to clean away pesky deposits, you’ll need something to gently scrub your equipment. A lint-free towel works best in order to avoid any lint from adhering to your mask or tubing and tickling your nose in the middle of the night, but many CPAP wearers also use CPAP mask wipes to disinfect further.
How to Clean Your CPAP Equipment
Before we get started on how to clean your CPAP machine, here are a few important reminders:
- Make sure you provide adequate time for drying before your next use. Damp equipment can be a breeding ground for mold.
- Never use bleach or harsh chemicals on your CPAP equipment.
- Never boil your mask cushion.
- Be sure to double-check your user’s manual for any product-specific warnings that may impact your cleaning process before you start cleaning.
- Never clean your CPAP equipment while it’s still plugged in.
Cleaning, Disinfecting, and Sanitizing—What’s the Difference?
Like germs themselves, the differences between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing are microscopic, but when magnified for the CPAP universe, there are some big differences. Their common denominator is that they are all processes designed to remove or lower the number of germs on surfaces and objects, but the difference between them is how each one achieves that.
Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects, such as the outside of your CPAP machine, the external part of your hose, and your mask. Cleaning works by using soap and water to physically remove germs from surfaces, but it does not kill germs. However, by removing them, it lowers their numbers and associated risks.
Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level but does not completely eliminate them either.
Disinfecting also removes germs. Except it kills them on contact through the use of chemicals. We normally don’t talk about disinfecting your equipment because we don’t use chemicals on our CPAP gear (remember?). However, disinfecting external surfaces of your equipment with CPAP mask wipes or a disinfectant concentrate diluted in water (i.e. the Control III Disinfectant CPAP Solution) is fine.
CPAP Sanitizing Machine: The Lumin CPAP Cleaner
If you don’t have the time to keep a strict cleaning regimen for your CPAP equipment, then the Lumin CPAP Cleaner and the Lumin Bullet may be right for you although they are not a replacement for a cleaning regimen. They sanitize your equipment, so they are helpful if you are pressed for time. Since it’s not a water and soap cleaning method, we still suggest you wash your equipment before running it through the Lumin.
The Lumin uses UV light to sanitize your CPAP mask and humidifier water chamber by killing 99% of bacteria. It will disinfect thoroughly in a quick five-minute cycle while allowing you to use your equipment right away after sanitation is complete. The Lumin Bullet is a companion to the Lumin CPAP Cleaner that works using the same type of UV light technology to sanitize your CPAP hose in under two minutes, and your hose will be safe to use immediately after sanitation.
If those two sound like it could save you some time, we suggest you look into the Lumin CPAP Cleaner and Bullet bundle.
Cleaning Your CPAP Machine
Cleaning the body of your CPAP machine is simple and easy:
- Use a damp cloth to gently wipe the outside of your machine to remove any dust or debris that may have collected on the outside casing.
- Gently dry with a paper towel or lint-free towel.
Cleaning Your CPAP Mask
When cleaning your CPAP mask, it’s a good idea to disassemble the mask before starting the cleaning process. Disassembling your mask can make cleaning mask parts such as the cushion and elbow much easier.
Follow these easy steps to clean your mask daily:
- Remove the headgear from the mask.
- Gently wash the headgear with mild soap and water.
- Allow the headgear to air dry.
- Use mild soap and water or mask wipes to clean the inside of the cushion, making sure to remove any debris or film.
- Wipe down the surfaces of the mask with mask wipes.
- Allow to air dry.
Alternatively, implement similar steps to the above when using the Control III Disinfectant – CPAP Cleaning Solution, which is a hospital-grade disinfectant. The Control III Disinfectant is added to water for a 99.9% effective cleaning solution.
- Wash your mask following the steps above.
- Mix one ounce of Control III Disinfectant per gallon of water and place the mixture in a spray bottle.
- Spray the mixture over all surfaces of the mask cushion, frame, and elbow.
- Use a towel or mask wipe to remove any debris or residue.
- Allow to air dry.
When using the Lumin, follow the directions above for cleaning your mask with mild soap and water first.
- When dry, put the mask components in the Lumin.
- Close the door completely before starting.
- Turn on and allow your mask to run for five minutes.
- When finished, your items will be sanitized and ready to use immediately.
Lastly, CPAP mask wipes provide a clean that’s less harsh than the Control III. The wipes are able to remove debris and deposits while at the same time disinfecting.
Cleaning Your CPAP Hose (Tubing)
Cleaning your CPAP hose is simple and easy although it’s a slightly different process due to its length, and the fact that you need to ensure the hose is thoroughly dried before using it again. Some supplies and processes that can make that easier include:
- Cleaning Solution Concentrate. The Control III Disinfectant – CPAP Cleaning Solution is one such example. You’ll need to dilute it in a gallon of water as it’s a hospital-grade disinfectant.
- The Lumin Bullet. The Bullet is designed specifically for this using the same UV technology of the Lumin CPAP Cleaner:
- Insert the sanitizing probe into your CPAP hose and collapse the Bullet casing around the probe. The magnets in the Bullet will pick up the sanitizing probe.
- Guide it through the Bullet and in under two minutes the inside of your hose will be sanitized and ready for use immediately.
Otherwise, cleaning your CPAP hose is not much different than the rest of your equipment:
- Create a solution made up of vinegar and water or a solution of mild soap and water.
- Run this solution through the length of the hose, making sure that the water rinses back and forth several times. Do this by holding the hose so that both ends of the hose point straight up. Gently swish the hose back and forth.
- Empty the solution out of the hose.
- If you have a tube brush, you may use it to clean the inside of the hose and remove any debris or deposits that may be trapped inside your hose. Slide the length of the tube brush back and forth along the sidewalls of the hose.
- Hang on a towel rack to dry.
Cleaning Your CPAP Humidifier Water Chamber
Sanitizing and cleaning your humidifier water chamber is also a must. The biggest concern with letting it go without cleaning is that if water or water residue sits there for too long, it may grow mold or mineral deposits if you don’t use distilled water.
The Lumin can also be used to disinfect your water chamber, but otherwise, it’s pretty straightforward to clean:
- Remove the humidifier chamber from the humidifier.
- Empty out the water.
- Use mild soap and water or a mixture of vinegar and water to scrub all surfaces on the inside of the chamber, removing any film that may have collected at the bottom.
- Continue scrubbing until all the residue has been removed.
- Carefully refill the humidifier chamber using distilled water. Distilled water prevents the buildup of mineral deposits at the bottom of the humidifier chamber, making it easier to clean. Empty and dry the chamber daily to make sure fresh water is being used.
- Carefully place the water chamber back into the humidifier.
Changing and Cleaning Your CPAP Reusable Filters
Your CPAP filters work just like the air filters in your car and home. They remove dust, pollen, and dirt while giving you cleaner air that’s better for your lungs.
Inspect your reusable CPAP filter to make sure there isn’t any dirt or debris present. Reusable filters can be reused for up to six months, and rinsing them once weekly with warm water and mild soap can help to extend the life of the filters. Allow them to dry completely before use.
Changing your filters on time as set by the manufacturer is an important piece in improving the air you breathe.
Frequently Asked CPAP Cleaning Questions
We receive our fair share of questions about cleaning your CPAP equipment and their different parts. While we can’t cover every single one of them here, some of the more popular questions we receive include the following. If yours isn’t covered here you can either visit our more comprehensive CPAP FAQ or ask one of our support team members via online chat on our website.
Can I get sick if I don’t clean my CPAP equipment?
Yes, there are certain risks associated with not keeping up with your machine’s cleaning regimen. The most common way to get sick from your CPAP machine is a dirty mask. The mask sits on your face all night and is in contact with your skin and its organisms. Over time, the bacteria and oils from the mask may give you a skin rash or infection. Another way that people report feeling sick from their CPAP is by using dirty water in their humidifier chamber. If you don’t clean the reservoir frequently or replace it with distilled water daily, it may grow mold or small bugs that you can breathe in. This, in turn, can increase the possibility of respiratory-related issues such as asthma.
Are CPAP cleaners worth the money or necessary?
Yes! CPAP cleaners are designed specifically for use with your CPAP equipment to ensure it remains in working order while also helping to keep you from getting sick.
What are the symptoms of a dirty CPAP machine?
Common symptoms associated with a dirty CPAP machine include nasal congestion and irritation at first. If you experience those symptoms from components that were contaminated, it may become a more serious issue that could include symptoms such as congestion, irritation, dryness, nosebleeds, burning, and a pesky runny nose.
Can I use baby wipes to clean CPAP mask?
Yes, but only if they are unscented. Scented wipes typically have chemicals that may leave residue and may damage your machine if used improperly or in areas that should not be treated with chemicals. However, we recommend the use of CPAP mask wipes as they are specifically created to be used with your CPAP equipment.
Can I use Dawn dish soap to clean my CPAP?
Absolutely! Dawn is actually one of the soaps considered to be mild when we talk about mild soaps and cleaning your CPAP equipment.
Can I use alcohol wipes to clean my CPAP mask?
No. If using wipes, it’s best to use wipes that do not contain alcohol to prevent you from accidentally inhaling alcohol fumes. Some popular CPAP cleaning wipes for cleaning your CPAP mask includes the Contour Lavender Mask Wipes, the Purdoux CPAP Mask Wipes, the Purdoux Travel CPAP Mask Wipes, and the unscented CPAP Mask Wipes.
How long does vinegar take to disinfect?
Modern medicine has concluded that 30 minutes is enough time for your equipment to be disinfected with vinegar. If your humidifier chamber has been empty for a while, you may want to soak it in the water and vinegar mixture for longer than 30 minutes but no more than 60.
How often should CPAP supplies be replaced?
First, consult with your respective parts’ manuals to ensure you are following the right upkeep regimen, but typically, you should clean your CPAP mask, mask cushions, or pillows daily. Your humidifier chamber, reusable filters, and hose should be cleaned weekly, but do make sure you empty and dry your humidifier chamber daily and refill it only with distilled water before going to sleep.
If you wash your CPAP hose daily, you should also let it hang dry before using it again, so do allow enough time for it to dry before going to sleep.
CPAP cleaning is an essential part of your CPAP maintenance routine. With such a wide range of cleaning options, keeping your equipment sanitized doesn’t have to be a chore. Once you establish a regular cleaning schedule as part of your nighttime routine, you’ll find you’ll feel healthier overall. You’re then one step closer to keeping sickness away while having a greater experience with your CPAP equipment.
Cleaning your CPAP isn’t difficult, but just like how sticking with your CPAP therapy is key to managing your sleep apnea, sticking with a cleaning regimen will also lengthen the life of not only your CPAP machine but also its parts.
David Repasky has been using CPAP treatment since 2017 and has first-hand experience with what it’s like to live with Sleep Apnea. He brings the patient’s perspective to the CPAP.com blog and has received formal training in CPAP machines, masks, and equipment.