Few things are as satisfying as finally getting a good night's sleep after suffering from sleep apnea. And few things are as frustrating as having that sleep soured with dirty CPAP equipment.
As game-changing as a CPAP--continuous positive airway pressure--machine can be for sleep apnea, it's still not a magical solution. You need to take care of it as much as it takes care of you.
The average CPAP machine has many interconnected parts, and each requires its own special treatment when it comes to cleaning.
By reading this guide, you'll become an expert on CPAP cleaning and maintenance, so take a look.
General Care Before You Start Your CPAP Cleaning
Your CPAP is a piece of medical equipment. You know the respect it deserves, but your children may not. And your pets certainly don't.
Make sure your CPAP is out of the reach of both children and animals. If you have it in a prominent location while you sleep, place it out of the way when you wake up.
Better yet, find a nice secure nook for it that's close enough to your bed that you don't even have to think about moving it in the morning.
Once it is time to clean a part of your machine, make sure it is unplugged before you begin. Most CPAP machines are without a bunch of protruding wires, but it's still better to be safe when cleaning a piece of electrical equipment.
What CPAP Cleaning Solutions Should You Use?
Speaking of safety, let's start our discussion of cleaning solutions with a list of cleaners and chemicals that should never go near your CPAP machine.
Here is your "Steer Clear" list.
- Harsh soaps: These can damage your equipment and leave behind dangerous residue.
- Chlorine bleach: Remember, this machine regulates your breathing while you sleep. You don't want bleach anywhere near your mouth, no matter how hard you rinse.
- Antibacterial solutions and alcohol-based solutions: These are often combined. You don't want to clean with alcohol-based solutions for the same reason you don't want to clean with bleach. It's harmful to your health.
- Aromatic solutions and scented oils: While less immediately dangerous to your health, scented soaps and oils can make breathing during the night more difficult and unpleasant.
And here is the list of approved cleaning solutions to use in various combinations, depending on the equipment you're cleaning.
- Mild soap: There are a few applications where a gentle soap can aid the cleaning process.
- Warm water: Some elements of your CPAP can be cleaned warm tap water. However, most require water with fewer contaminants.
- Distilled or sterile water: This is the gold standard solution to use when cleaning your CPAP. You likely fill your humidifier cartridge with distilled water anyway, so you should have some left over for periodic cleanings.
- White vinegar: Used in combination with water, vinegar can make an effective cleaner for some CPAP parts.
- CPAP-specific wipes and detergents: Obviously, these are made for exactly this purpose.
Now that you know what to use and what to avoid, we can dive into how to apply this knowledge.
The Sum of Your CPAP's Parts
Here's how to approach the cleaning of each part of your CPAP, including how often, which solutions to use, and the specific steps required for each piece.
How Often: Daily, Weekly
Solutions: Warm water; mild, non-fragrant soap; CPAP wipes or detergents; white vinegar; distilled water
1. Use your wipes or combination of soap and water to wash mask thoroughly. It's important to do this daily because the silicone most masks are made of, while gentle on the face, can break down easily due to the oils on our faces.
2. Rinse your mask thoroughly with water.
3. Allow your mask to air dry on a clean cloth or towel. Make sure it stays out of direct sunlight.
4. Avoid applying facial moisturizers before bed. These can aid in the breaking down of the silicone in your mask.
5. Once a week, soak your mask in a solution made of one part white vinegar and three parts distilled water. Rinse with distilled water, and allow your mask to air dry.
How Often: Weekly
Solutions: Warm water; mild, non-fragrant soap
1. Fill a sink or large container with a mixture of water and liquid soap.
2. Lay your tubing in the mixture to allow it to reach the entire surface area of your tubing.
3. If you wish, you may use a small baby bottle brush to clean the inside of your tubing, but be gentle. Take care not to poke or cut holes in the material.
4. Rinse tubing thoroughly in water.
5. Hang and air dry tubing out of direct sunlight.
How Often: Weekly, Monthly
Solutions: Water, dishwashing soap
1. Clean the non-disposable, usually dark-colored filter on your machine weekly by using dishwashing soap to clean it by hand.
2. Rinse the filter with water.
3. Allow the filter to air dry.
4. Replace the disposable, usually white filters when visibly dirty. This should be about every month or two.
How Often: Daily, Weekly
Solutions: Warm water, mild soap, distilled or sterile water
1. Remove the humidifier chamber from your CPAP machine carefully so as not to spill water into the machine itself.
2. Open the chamber, and pour any leftover water down the drain.
3. Rinse the chamber with a mixture of warm water and soap.
4. Allow the chamber to dry on a clean cloth or towel.
5. Refill the chamber with distilled or sterile water only. Tap and even filtered water may contain contaminants that can damage your CPAP machine.
6. Once a week, soak your humidifier in the same vinegar-and-water you use for your mask (in the same proportions). Allow it to sit for 15-20 minutes before removing it.
7. Rinse your humidifier with distilled water after removing it from the vinegar-and-water mixture.
Some humidifiers are dishwasher safe, but you should check your machine's manual before pursuing this alternative cleaning method.
Finally, when it comes to your machine itself, there's much less regular care needed. All you need to do is wipe it down with a damp cloth occasionally. That should keep it dust-free!
Proper and consistent care of your CPAP machine can keep it operating at peak efficiency for years. CPAP cleaning can look like a time-consuming process when laid out in such detailed steps, but when you build it into your routine, it takes almost no time.
Cleanliness is next to sleepiness, and following these steps can keep you there.
You can find many of these supplies, solutions, and pieces of equipment in the CPAP section of our site.
On to you
What questions do you have? Let us know in the comments below and we'll be happy to help!
CEO, Save Rite Medical
Created with a vision of helping customers in anyway possible, Save Rite Medical CEO, Marc Kaplan, created the company and has grown it to become the leading internet provider of medical supplies. Through valuable products to educational information, Save Rite Medical is your #1 resource for medical supplies.