When you first begin to use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)for sleep apnea, there is often a degree of information overload. After learning about the diagnosis, you are usually sent to a private company or provider of durable medical equipment to get a CPAP machine and other associated items.
At this time, instructions should be given on how to clean this equipment. In case you missed it, here are some simple step-by-step instructions on how to clean CPAP to maintain your device and health without needing an expensive sanitizer device, and why you shouldn't neglect cleaning your CPAP.
How CPAP Works for Sleep Apnea
Why to Clean Your CPAP
First, take a moment to consider the importance of keeping the CPAP equipment clean. You're directlybreathing the air that's circulated through the machine. The air is humidified and filtered, but it should be kept as clean as possible.
Cleaning can help to avoid potential dangers and problems, including the following:
- Allergy symptoms
- Possible increased risk for sinus infections or pneumonia
- Musty or foul odor
- Mineralization within the equipment
- Premature equipment breakdown
- Voiding the device warranty
If cleaning is so important, how should it be done? Fortunately, it can be accomplished relatively easily at little expense.
How Often to Clean Your CPAP
Your equipment provider or sleep medicine physician may recommend routine cleaning of your equipment. Daily cleaning of the mask, tubing, and water chamber is often suggested by durable medical equipment suppliers and manufacturers. This may seem excessive. Fortunately, the risk of any sort of infection or mold exposure is extraordinarily low.
For optimal hygiene, it's recommended that the equipment be cleaned at least on a weekly basis.
If you are sick with an upper respiratory infection, you may want to clean up the equipment at this time. It is further recommended that you not share the equipment with others as this may cause an infection to be shared.
What SuppliesYou Need
Assemble your gear:
- CPAP equipment (mask, headgear, tubing, humidifier water chamber, CPAP machine)
- Soft cloth
- Warm water
- Dish soap (mild antibacterial is preferable)
- Small sink, tub, or basin
CPAP Cleaning Steps
Follow these steps for a cleaner CPAP machine. These items should ideally be cleaned every day, but make an effort to do it at least weekly.
Disassemble the CPAP:
- Unplug your CPAP machine from its power source, as there may be a danger of electrical shock if you do not.
- Disconnect yourmaskfrom the CPAP tubing.
- If your mask has a headgear, remove or detach it.
- If there are other pieces that are easily reattached, these also can be separated.
- Remove the CPAP tubing from any connectors, the humidifier output, or from the CPAP machine itself, if it connects directly.
- If you have one, remove the water chamber from the humidifier unit of the CPAP machine, and separate it into its pieces if these are present (and if this is easily done). Most modern water chambers open but may not separate into different parts.
Wipe the external surface:
- Take a soft cloth and wet it with warm water.
- Gently wipe down the external surface of the CPAP machine to remove dust. (Again, make certain it is unplugged while cleaning.)
Soak the parts:
- Fill a small sink, tub, or basin with warm water.
- Add a small amount of gentle dish soap. Some will even use a little vinegar in the water (diluted to a ratio of 1:1 with water), but this is optional.
- Submerge the mask, headgear, tubing, and any connectors in the warm soapy water.
- Allow it to soak for a short period of time (about 30 minutes). Alternatively, wipe out the mask with a soft cloth and warm water, and swish soapy water through the tubing.
- Allow everything to air dry on a towel or by hanging (such as over the shower curtain rod in the bathroom).
- After everything has been allowed to air dry, reassemble the various parts.
- Apply the headgear to your mask, hook the mask back onto the tubing and any connectors, and connect the tubing back to the humidifier or directly to the CPAP machine.
- Turn the machine on briefly and listen for any air leaks that weren’t there previously.
Clean the humidifier weekly:
- The humidifier's water chambershould be cleaned with hot water and mild soap.
- It should also be allowed to air dry.
- The humidifier should ideally be cleaned weekly.
Remember to only put distilled water in the humidifier. If you don't, there's an increased risk of illness as well as the probability that hard minerals will build up on your equipment.
Some CPAP machines have filters in place. It will be important to review your manufacturer’s instructions or ask your equipment provider about how these should be maintained.
Some can be rinsed but others must be replaced, and the timing of this will vary depending on the environment you use the machine in. The replacement of disposable filters should generally be done at least monthly and perhaps as frequently as every two weeks.
Tips and Precautions
It is important to keep your equipment clean. Remember that you are breathing whatever might be growing inside there. Follow these tips:
- If you have been sick recently, clean your equipment more often.
- Remember to always follow the advice of your medical and equipment providers as well as the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning your CPAP.
- Never use any perfumes or cleaning solutions other than gentle soap on your equipment. These can irritate your lungs and make you sick. The humidifier must only contain distilled waterto avoid the accumulation of minerals in the water chamber.
- It is not advisable to clean your equipment in a dishwasher or washing machine as it could become damaged.
If you find that your sleep apnea symptoms have returned or you feel like your machine isn’t working right, bring it into your equipment provider or sleep specialistand have things checked out.
Do I Need to Use a CPAP Cleaner?
Though heavily advertised, it's not necessary to use a CPAP cleaner or SoCleansanitizer device to keep your CPAP equipment clean. These sanitizingunits reportedly use ozone, or in the case of Lumin, ultraviolet light, to clean the equipment.
Theyare typically sold for hundreds of dollars and add little additional safety or cleanliness beyond the instructions provided here. There is virtually no risk of infection from using CPAP equipment.
The CPAP cleaners and sanitizers are not covered by insurance.After more than 35 years of CPAP use, it seems odd that there is suddenly a medically justified need for an expensive cleaning device.
CPAP Cleaners and Sanitizers
A Word FromVerywell
The risks associated with CPAP therapy are minimal, but keeping your equipment clean with these instructions may help to ensure your long-term health and benefit from the therapy. Don't waste your money on a highly advertised cleaner or sanitizer that adds little to the safety or cleanliness of CPAP use.
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
American Sleep Association. How to clean your CPAP.
Schnirman R, Nur N, Bonitati A, Carino G. A case of legionella pneumonia caused by home use of continuous positive airway pressure.SAGE Open Med Case Rep. 2017;5:2050313X17744981. doi:10.1177/2050313X17744981
Fung CH, Martin JL, Hays RD, et al. Development of the usability of sleep apnea equipment-positive airway pressure (USE-PAP) questionnaire.Sleep Med. 2015;16(5):645–651. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2015.01.019
By Brandon Peters, MD
Brandon Peters, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist.
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- Replace your CPAP mask every 6-12 months.
- Replace cushions every 3 months.
- Replace your headgear twice a year.
- Replace CPAP filters per the manufacturer's instructions.
- Replace tubing every 90 days.
Do not use moisturizing soaps, bleach, scented oils, chlorine, or alcohol-based solutions to clean your supplies. These solutions may cause irritation to your skin and lungs and may reduce the life of your products. Dawn Dish soap or Comparable works best for daily cleaning.How often do I really need to clean my CPAP? ›
CPAP equipment manufacturers recommend regular cleanings. They advise washing out the mask, tubing and CPAP humidifier chamber at least once a week. Rinsing the mask and hose daily is also a good practice that helps keep them clean in the interim. Experts also recommend washing the parts out daily if you are sick.How do you dry a CPAP hose after cleaning? ›
Get rid of any leftover excess water in the CPAP tubing so that you are starting with a dry tube for the next night. You can do this by running the CPAP without any water in the water reservoir for a few minutes until it is dry. Or take the CPAP Tube off and hang it over a doorway until it is completely dry.Do I need to change the water in my CPAP daily? ›
You must refill your humidification chamber daily. Distilled water is the only kind of water you should use in your humidifier, whether it's for humidifying or for cleaning. Also, never reuse the water, as it can breed microorganisms that could make you sick.Do CPAP machines need maintenance? ›
Replace filters at least every 6 months. Replace mask and headgear every 6-12 months. Replace tubing every 1-2 years. Replace humidifier chamber as necessary, usually within 1-3 years.What kind of vinegar do you use to clean a CPAP machine? ›
Cleaning Your CPAP Humidifier
Pour a solution of 1 part white vinegar and 5 parts water inside of it and soak for 30 minutes. Thoroughly rinse it with plain water, and give it time to fully dry.
Are there any products I should avoid? You should always follow the cleaning instructions in your mask user guide and use mild soap. We recommend using ordinary washing up liquid or baby shampoo to wash your mask and headgear. You can also use CPAP Mask Cleansing Wipes.Does ResMed recommend SoClean? ›
What has ResMed said about SoClean? It has been made fairly clear by most manufacturers that they do not recommend using integrated ozone CPAP cleaners on their CPAPs. SoClean is an integrated CPAP cleaner and falls into that category of not recommended.What kind of vinegar do you use to clean a CPAP machine? ›
Disinfect weekly by soaking in a solution of 2 parts white vinegar to 3 parts water (for example, 1 cup white vinegar to 1½ cups water), then rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry. Discard the vinegar/water solution after each use.
Use distilled water with a mild, fragrance-free soap or mild liquid detergent, and do not use bleach. Keep track of your replacement schedule. Learn more about when to replace your supplies. Clean CPAP supplies and mask on a regular schedule, and leave enough time before bed for the parts to properly dry.Why was SoClean discontinued? ›
According to the lawsuits, SoClean's product was not safe because it omits harmful levels of ozone gas which exceeded the maximum safe limits set by the FDA.