"How do I clean my CPAP?"

Once you start your CPAP therapy to treat your sleep apnea, you may wonder how hard it is to keep your system clean, and how frequently you need to keep it clean. 

Here are some handy tips for making sure your CPAP machine and accessories are clean and well maintained.

Keeping your CPAP delivery system clean

There are some general Dos and Don'ts when it comes to cleaning your machine, mask, and accessories.

Use distilled water. Filtered or tap water should not be used on any part which has direct contact with your therapy; it can introduce microorganisms into your humidified pressurized air that could make you sick. 

Avoid sunlight. Always make sure the machine and parts are kept out of direct sunlight, whether it's being cleaned or just hanging around on your nightstand. Direct sunlight can degrade different parts of the machine and its warmth and light can contribute to bacterial growth. 

Keep your sleeping space spic and span. Dust and vacuum regularly, especially if you have pets, live where pollen is a concern, or have allergies . Also, wash your bedding frequently to cut down on the growth of dust mites.

Granted, any particulate matter will be filtered by your machine's dual filter system, but you will end up replacing your filters more frequently if you don't keep your space clean, and your machine will have to work harder to do this.

Also, the presence of more microorganisms (from dirty clothes, rooms with little air circulation, dirty coffee cups, etc.) just increases the risk for pathogens, pollutants, or tiny pests that can enter the machine and wreak havoc by way of the humidifier or the mask.

Go mild. None of the parts of your system require harsh cleaners. In fact, harsh cleaners will greatly reduce the lifespan of your equipment and increase your risk for illness. Mild, fragrance-free dish detergent should take care of most tasks. A vinegar-water solution (1:3) is safe for disinfecting.

Remember, use distilled water for the parts that come into contact with your therapy (the humidification chamber, interior filter, tubing, and mask cushion).

Here are some specific tips for keeping your entire PAP system clean: 

Cleaning: CPAP machine

It's pretty simple, really, as these machines are more or less self-contained.  Use mild detergent and a damp cloth to wipe the surface of the machine, then dry it thoroughly with a lint-free towel.

Never submerge the machine in water. It encases an electrical motor which can be damaged if it comes into contact with water; these can nullify your warranty. None of the parts inside the machine actually come into contact with the parts that deliver air pressure to you directly, so there's no need to worry about cleaning the inside. 

Cleaning: CPAP mask

This component must be cleaned daily. A mask that is cleaned improperly or irregularly will break down faster, which can lead to leaks, the biggest threat to therapy success.

In addition, a leaking mask can irritate your skin or your eyes as well as breed bacteria.

Wash your face

Makeup and lotions can break down the integrity of the silicone products used in the manufacture of these masks.

To get the longest wear out of your mask, wash and dry your face before use and do not apply anything to your skin.

CPAP headgear and chin supports

These should be washed once a week in warm water and mild detergent, rinsed in warm water, then air dried in a space that is as free of dust and other particulate matter as you can find.  Hanging them somewhere helps. Never put headgear or chin supports in a washing machine or dryer.

Mask interface and frame

The interface (or cushion) is the part of the mask that actually touches your face. It should be washed daily in mild, fragrance-free soap and warm water, then rinsed well in warm water and air dried. Be careful handling the cushion, as it can tear if you stretch it. A weekly soak in 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water for 20 minutes, followed by a rinse in distilled water, disinfects it nicely.

The frame of the mask (the sturdy plastic or soft fabric part) should be cleaned weekly in warm soapy water.

Cleaning: CPAP tubing

As with all the other parts, using mild soap and warm water to clean out the tubing should do the trick. You don't have to wash your tubing daily, but a couple of times a week is recommended. Hang it to dry for best results.

If you have concerns about bacteria growth, a basic vinegar-water solution will kill any pathogens and does not leave a scent. 

Avoid using scented products or bleach. Tubing material breaks down rapidly and these products can introduce unhealthy vapors into your pressurized air. Be prepared to replace your tubing annually (this is called replenishment) as it can become leaky due to normal wear and tear, usually due to microscopic holes that can develop. 

If you have children or pets, please keep your tubing out of their reach, as they can unintentionally damage the hose materials while playing with it, or introduce bacteria that you could inhale later. 

Cleaning: CPAP humidifier

If you can remove your humidifier, it's recommended that you do so when you go to fill it up to avoid spilling into the machine itself. If you can't remove the humidifier, pour your distilled water into the humidifier facing the bottle away from the machine so that any spillage will run to the outside. 

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.

Since you're washing your mask cushion daily anyway, you may as well wash your humidification chamber, using mild soap and warm water and air drying it after rinsing it clean. 

A weekly 20-minute soak in a vinegar-water solution (1 part vinegar: 3 parts water) can help cut down on any residues that might build up inside the chamber; these can come for particles that evaded the filtration system.  

Cleaning: CPAP filters

You have two filters in your machine. One is built inside the actual machine, and it's usually a charcoal color. The other is a replaceable white filter. 

The permanent filter is made up of a spongy foam material that can be removed to be washed. Cleaning it once weekly can greatly extend the life of your machine. As with all the other parts, a mild soap solution in warm water, a warm rinse, and air drying takes care of it. 

The disposable white filters aren't meant to be cleaned, but replaced every couple of months. You'll know it's time to swap a dirty one out for a clean one when it is no longer bright white.  

SoClean_2-3-logo-web-clock 

CPAP cleaning convenience

Though all of these directions are easy for most people to manage, sometimes life gets busy and schedules fill up. There are a few products that can help you keep your CPAP system clean, disinfected, and maintained more conveniently: 

So Clean CPAP Cleaner & Sanitizer

This gadget automatically cleans and sanitizes your mask, hose, and humidification chamber without need to disassemble your setup. It doesn't require water or chemicals, but uses activated oxygen (O3) to sanitize your equipment.

CPAP mask wipes

These disposable towelettes can be used to wipe down masks, tubing, and other components of your system. They are no substitute for daily cleaning and disinfecting, but they can help save time in the morning if you are traveling or otherwise away from home.  

CPAP belongs to the world of durable medical equipment (DME), and it is meant to be used in a way that is effective and safe. Keeping your CPAP machine, mask, and accessories clean is the easiest way to extend the life of all the parts in your system, saving you money and greatly reducing your risk for problems with bacteria or leaks.

If you have concerns about cleaning or maintaining your CPAP, never hesitate to call your sleep center for advice and tips. Sometimes a sleep specialist can even set up automatic email reminders for you to help keep you on track.

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