How to Clean and Sanitize Your CPAP Machine

To keep harmful bacteria, mold, and germs at bay — those who use a CPAP machine need to know how to clean their device properly. Items that are constantly exposed to moisture are a massive target for unwanted bacteria — and your CPAP machine is no exception. To avoid getting sick, you’ll need to learn how to sanitize and keep your CPAP machine safe. No matter how clean or hygienic of a person you are — your body is and the environment around it is constantly battling with bacteria. So, what may happen if you don’t clean your CPAP equipment? Well, it may be a recipe for:
  • Dust
  • Mold
  • Bacteria
  • Germs
Over time, these four horsemen of the CPAP machine will collect inside of your equipment and cause you to become ill more often. Whether it’s a small cold, infection, or worsening current symptoms by compromising your immune system — dust, mold, bacteria, and germs are nothing to scoff at. Also, dust and mold are allergens, which means adverse reactions can occur that lead to more severe issues. After all, CPAP equipment is used for treatment, so why derail progress by ignoring the cleaning process? There is a difference between cleaning and disinfecting. While it’s recommended that you should clean your equipment at least once a week — we understand that many CPAP users fall far behind on this schedule. It’s always great to have a routine, so pick a day of the week and stick to it. If you’re suffering from an upper respiratory infection or allergies — clean your equipment prior to each use, at least until your symptoms or illness clears up. A solid cleaning should be enough to get rid of the majority of potential hazards that may build up in your equipment. Vinegar is a sound DIY cleaner that can get rid of mold and fungus. Another great option is a designated CPAP cleaner that is made specifically for this type of machinery. Now that we’ve gotten some of the basics out of the way, let’s explore the various products, cleaning, sanitation practices, along with some words of warning regarding unsuccessful cleaning methods.

At-Home Cleaning Solutions

Now, if your designated CPAP cleaner runs out or you’re scrambling for a way to clean your equipment with items you have in your home, here’s what you’ll need.
  • Clean, warm water
  • A mild soap or dish detergent (fragrance-free if possible)
  • Clean, dry towels
  • Vinegar
  • An area for your equipment to dry

Your CPAP Hoses and Tubes

Start by cleaning the heated hose or CPAP tubes. Once your warm water is prepped, put a few drops of mild detergent and mix. Place the tubes or hoses inside, making sure they fill up and submerge. Let them sit for a few moments and then run water through, ridding the interior of any left behind detergent. Lay them out to dry or hang them up on a towel rack.

Your CPAP Mask

CPAP masks also follow the once per week cleaning rule. It’s no surprise that a device that touches your face needs to be cleaned, as dead skin, bacteria, and debris can cause all sorts of problems if left unattended.
  1. Disconnect your mask from the tubing and disassemble any removable parts.
  2. If your CPAP mask has headgear, remove it and set it aside.
  3. Place your CPAP masks in warm soapy water, moving it around for roughly five minutes or so.
  4. Rinse each piece and allow them to air dry before putting back together.
Note: Change out your water! Do not use the same soapy water from your tubing to wash your CPAP mask.

Your CPAP Filters

Depending on the type of CPAP filters you have, you’ll need to either replace or clean them — as laid out in their replacement or cleaning schedule. Various manufacturers will provide some guidance in their manuals to help with this process. Disposable filters will need to be thrown out, while reusable filters will need to be washed once per week.
  • Rinse your filters under warm water and squeeze out any leftover moisture.
  • Use a clean, dry towel to blot them dry, but leave them out to mostly air dry with the rest of your CPAP equipment.
  • If your reusable filters become discolored, it’s time to replace them with another reusable filter.

Your CPAP Humidifier

Your CPAP humidifier has a slightly different cleaning schedule, which is every other week.
  • Empty any remaining water
  • Use a solution of one part vinegar and five parts water
  • Let it soak for at least 30 minutes
  • Thoroughly rinse out the solution and give it time to dry
  • Replace with distilled water
Note: Some CPAP humidifiers can be put in the dishwasher. However, we recommend checking in the manual or with the manufacturer to be certain. In addition, only fill with distilled water to avoid mineral buildup and potential damage.

Your CPAP Machine

You may also want to clean your actual CPAP machine as well. Unplug the machine and wipe it down with a damp, clean cloth to get rid of any dust or debris. Make sure that it is completely dry before plugging it back in.

Some Words of Caution

There’s a lot of misinformation on the internet, so be careful what you read when it comes to cleaning your CPAP equipment. There are certainly alternative methods for successful cleaning and disinfection, but there are also wrong turns that can lead to severe problems. Vinegar works well for disinfecting, but it doesn’t do a great job of removing buildup. You’ll still need good old soapy water for that. Hydrogen Peroxide may be used for sterilization purposes in healthcare settings, but that is under a watchful eye and extremely strict compliance standards. Too little, and it’s ineffective. Too much, and you risk burning your skin. We would not recommend hydrogen peroxide for cleaning your CPAP machine. Bleach is an absolute no. There is no situation where bleach should be used to clean your CPAP equipment. Fumes can irritate your lungs and even hang around longer than intended. Bleach can also burn skin and is overall a toxin to your health. Do not use bleach.

Stick to a Schedule

As we mentioned, once per week is the industry standard schedule for cleaning your CPAP equipment. We know that everyone forgets once in a while, but there’s no better time to start a routine than today. Try to make a schedule. We’re not suggesting anything complicated; simply one day per week can be designated to cleaning your CPAP machine, mask, equipment, and accessories.