Cleaning and Caring for your CPAP Machine By Dawnell McIntosh DNP-ARNP

Updated: Mar 9

Keeping your CPAP machine and equipment clean will help to maintain the life and performance of your CPAP machine as well as keep you healthier. It is essential that time is set aside to properly care for your CPAP machine to reduce the risk of bacteria or mold growth. When cleaning a CPAP machine, there are several tasks that need to be performed daily as well as weekly as CPAP supplies can degrade over time, cushions can lose their seal with repeated use, dirty filters can damage your CPAP machine, and bacteria and mold can grow in the CPAP unit and throughout the parts and equipment.

Daily CPAP Machine Cleaning Tasks

There are several tasks you should perform on your CPAP machine daily. Be sure you set up a daily routine where you can spend a few minutes each day to care for your machine.

Ø Wipe down your mask after you are done using it. Make sure you reach every area that comes into contact with your skin. You can use a damp towel with a gentle detergent (Ivory dish soap, or Johnson’s Baby Shampoo) and some warm water. Then rinse the mask with a clean towel and allow to completely air-dry. This will ensure that you’ve removed all oils, sweat and dead skin cells.

Ø If you would prefer not to use the damp towel method, you can purchase some pre-moistened towels designed to clean your CPAP mask cushion, or you can purchase unscented baby wipes for daily cleaning of your mask and cushion. While it is easier to do the cleaning this way, it will be more expensive for you in the long run.

Ø If your CPAP machine contains a humidifier, you’ll want to empty all the leftover water in the morning. Never allow this to sit in the unit all day. At night, before you are ready to use your machine again, simply refill with clean, distilled water. If you have reverse osmosis water in your home this is safe to use as well. Never use bottled or tap water on a routine basis as mineral deposits will build up and damage your CPAP machine over time, and it is impossible to remove the mineral deposits from the humidity container. Most insurance companies will only pay for a new humidity container every six months, so take the time to care for you humidity container properly.

Ø It is even more important to clean your CPAP machine when you have been sick. Wash the mask, tubing, filter, and humidifier each day during your illness. This will help you stay clear of unnecessary germs and prevent upper respiratory infections or reoccurring respiratory infections.

Weekly CPAP Machine Cleaning Tasks

Make sure you set aside a designated time each week when you can properly care for your CPAP machine. You’ll want to give the unit a complete cleaning to keep it free from any germs, bacteria, and dust.

Ø Start by cleaning the CPAP tubing, humidity container, headgear, and nasal mask. You can accomplish this in your kitchen sink with some warm water and several drops of a mild dish detergent that is ammonia-free (Ivory dish soap, or Johnson’s Baby Shampoo). Let your equipment soak in the soapy water for 20-30 minutes then rinse the equipment well with warm water and allow the equipment to air dry all day. You can choose to hang the tubing over your shower rod, shower head or on a towel rack. This will help to ensure that all the water has thoroughly dripped out of the tubing. Ensure that all equipment is thoroughly dry before connecting back to your CPAP machine.

Ø Be sure to pay careful attention to the CPAP machine’s filter. This is where the dust and debris will settle. You can remove it and rinse it down with some warm tap water. Squeeze it gently to ensure that all the dust has been removed. Then, dry the filter by blotting it carefully with a towel.

Ø If your machine has a white filter, you will not want to wash this—they are disposable and should be replaced once a month. If you find that it has become dirty before the month is over, you should always replace it sooner.

Ø If you prefer, you can clean/soak your CPAP equipment in a solution of 1-part vinegar to 5 parts of water. Soak for at least 30 minutes then rinse the equipment thoroughly and allow to air dry.

CPAP Machine Cleaning Devices

There are several new CPAP cleaning devices on the market, and without a doubt, the easiest way to clean and sanitize your CPAP equipment. However, it is not recommended that a cleaning device be purchased to clean your CPAP machine but rather your personal preference as to whether you wish to invest in a CPAP cleaning device, such as So-Clean, Lumen or other devices on the market. Currently, no insurance company covers any portion of the CPAP cleaning device cost and the devices can cost up to $350 out of pocket. There is an additional cost for the cartridge filter kit that needs to be replaced every 6 months at a cost of about $30. If you have a Flex Spend Account (FSA) or Health Spend Account (HSA), you can pay the full amount up front and be reimbursed through your FSA or HRA, financing is also available.

Here is a bit of information about the most used CPAP machine cleaning devices on the market:

SoClean

Ø The SoClean device uses activated oxygen to sanitize your CPAP equipment. When this device generates activated oxygen, it pumps the activated oxygen through your equipment. Activated oxygen is known to kill germs and bacteria it encounters.

Ø Ozone is a form of oxygen. Regular oxygen consists of two oxygen atoms bonded to each other. Ozone is an unstable from consisting of three oxygen atoms bonded together. Ozone is toxic if you breathe it directly or expose mucus membranes directly. In this situation, a low concentration of ozone is circulated through the CPAP and equipment. Ozone breaks down bacteria and fungi into benign chemical compounds, often including normal oxygen. Any remainder of the ozone atoms dissipates into the air and is diluted to a harmless concentration.

Ø SoClean cleaning cycle time is 2 hours and you can pre-set the timer on the SoClean to clean your CPAP at a specific time every day or you can simply do a manual start up.

Ø You can use SoClean every day or 2-3 times a week.

Ø What sets the SoClean apart from other cleaners is the ease of use. To use, you simply place your equipment inside the SoClean device, close the lid, and it will start cleaning and sanitizing automatically.

Ø SoClean easily connects to most devices, and if it is not compatible, SoClean offers an adapter that you can add onto your purchase, with no extra charge

Ø You can purchase the SoClean device directly from the SoClean website or you can purchase a SoClean at your CPAP supply company.

Lumin

Ø The Lumin is a CPAP cleaner that uses ultraviolet light to effectively kill 99 percent of fungi, bacteria, and other germs. This is the same form of sanitation used in hospital operating rooms.

Ø The cleaning cycle lasts only 5 minutes.

Ø It’s environmentally friendly and does not use harsh chemicals to clean.

Ø It leaves no residue on your equipment.

Ø No replacement parts are required.

Ø The UV-C bulb runs for about 9,000 hours and should outlast the life of your machine. If for some reason your bulb becomes damaged or stops working, replacement bulbs are available.

Ø The cost is currently $250 with free shipping.

Ø A 30-day free trial is currently offered.

Ø Lumin is easy to use, just plug it in, open the drawer, put in your equipment, and hit the button to run the 5-minute cycle.

Ø Not only is the Lumin CPAP cleaner easy to use to clean your CPAP equipment, but it can also sanitize anything that fits in the cleaning drawer, such as oral appliances, toothbrushes, hearing aids, jewelry, etc.

Lumin Bullet

Ø The Lumin Bullet is an additional part for purchase and is used for cleaning the CPAP hose; the additional cost is $100.

Ø Lumin Bullet cleans the inside of the hose within one minute and uses UV light to deactivate bacteria and other pathogens just like the Lumin CPAP cleaning device.

Ø Lumin can be purchase directly from the Lumin website.

VirtuClean CPAP Cleaner

Ø uses activated oxygen and has been shown to be 99.99% effective in killing germs and bacteria in CPAP’s.

Ø What sets the VirtuClean apart from other machines seems to be its portability and size. The machine is run on a battery so there’s no cord, and it comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. VirtuClean is small and weighs only half a pound.

Ø This CPAP cleaner is easy to use. Simply plug your CPAP device into the VirtuClean and turn it on. Cleaning time is 30 minutes.

Ø The cost is $299.99 and comes with an 18-month warranty.

Ø If you have heated tubing, an adapter may be needed to fit the machine. These can typically be purchased at a medical supply store or online.

Ø No add-on accessories or maintenance is needed, so you probably won’t face any “hidden charges” after purchasing.

Ø The battery has a 10-year life.

Ø Charging the battery takes 2 hours and can be charged with a USB port or AC outlet.

Respify CPAP Cleaner

Ø Uses Active Air (O3) to neutralize bacteria and odor.

Ø Sanitize in a few simple steps:

1. Quick wipe mask or pillows, simply to remove any residue from skin.

2. Place Mask, Tubing & Humidifier in the sanitizing bag, activate and seal.

3. Go about your day, while Respify safely and effectively eliminates bacteria, mildew and odor.

Ø Safely eliminates up to 99.8% bacteria and odor

Ø No messy liquids or soaps.

Ø Universal compatibility with ALL PAP Types, Masks and Tubing

Ø Includes everything required, without recurring costs

Ø Cost is $100 and can be purchased on-line.

**If you are using a CPAP cleaning device it is still recommended that you break down your CPAP mask and equipment and hand wash with soap and water at least once every two weeks**

**Not to be a buzz kill but consumers of CPAP cleaning devices beware**

FDA Recommendation and Findings on CPAP cleaning devices

**CPAP cleaning devices have not been approved by the FDA**

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recently posted a safety communication and consumer update article released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to inform patients and healthcare providers about the concerns related to CPAP cleaning devices that use ozone or ultraviolet light. The FDA reported that devices claiming to clean, disinfect or sanitize CPAP devices or accessories (such as masks, tubing, headgear) using ozone gas or UV light are not legally marketed for this use by the FDA in the U.S. According to the FDA, it is unknown if these CPAP cleaners are safe and effective. To ensure the safe and effective cleaning of CPAP devices and accessories, the FDA recommends that consumers and health care providers follow the cleaning instructions provided by the CPAP manufacturer. These directions normally include regular cleaning with soap and water.

CPAP Cleaning Device Concerns

The FDA indicated in a press release that the FDA received 11 reports from 2017-2019 from patients experiencing cough, difficult breathing, nasal irritation, headaches, asthma attacks and other breathing complaints when ozone gas-based products were used to clean, sanitize or disinfect CPAP devices and accessories. The FDA has not received any adverse event reports for UV light products claiming to clean, disinfect or sanitize CPAP devices and accessories.

Exposure to high levels of ozone gas may worsen a patients’ existing chronic respiratory diseases or increase the chance of a respiratory infection. UV light-based products could cause burns, eye damage or increase the risk of skin cancer due to over exposure. The FDA has contacted manufacturers of products making these claims and asked them to submit data demonstrating their safety and effectiveness.”

FDA Tests CPAP Cleaners

The FDA conducted its own preliminary lab testing on several illegally marketed products. The testing demonstrated that devices using ozone disinfection generated ambient levels of ozone above limits considered safe for human exposure. Ozone levels were also high in CPAP machines and tubing even after waiting the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer after a cleaning cycle.

The FDA’s studies also found that the power of the UV light, and the time during which CPAP masks and accessories were exposed to this light, varied considerably among UV cleaners. According to the FDA, if CPAP components are exposed to insufficient UV light or processed for an insufficient amount of time, the CPAP components could be inadequately disinfected, leading to safety and performance problems. The FDA encourages individuals to report adverse events related to the use of CPAP cleaning devices.

Cleaning your CPAP machine on a regular basis is an important aspect to keeping you healthy and comfortable. It will also increase the lifespan of your CPAP machine and enable it to remain in top-notch working order. With a little bit of your time both daily and weekly, you will be able to prolong the life of your unit. Be sure to take the time now to maintain and clean your machine so you can remain healthy and enjoy quality sleep for many years to come.

References:

A Complete Review of the Lumin CPAP Mask Cleaner, February 12, 2020. https://www.cpap.com/blog/lumin-cpap-mask-cleaner-review/

American Academy of Sleep Medicine - https://aasm.org/fda-safety-cpap-cleaning-devices-ozone-ultraviolet-light/

American Sleep Association.org – How to Clean Your CPAP Machine. https://www.sleepassociation.org/?s=how+to+clean+your+cpap+machine

American Sleep Association - SoClean Cleaner Reviews. https://www.sleepassociation.org/sleep-treatments/cpap-machines-masks/cpap-cleaner/soclean/

American Sleep Association – VirtueClean CPAP Cleaner. https://www.sleepassociation.org/sleep-treatments/cpap-machines-masks/cpap-cleaner/virtuclean-cpap-cleaner/

Respify Universal CPAP Cleaner and Sanitizer, https://respify.com/products/respify-universal-cpap-cleaner-and-sanitizer

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