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Sleep Apnea General

How to clean a CPAP Machine? Best Tips and a Secret Easy Way


how to clean a cpap machine

CPAP machines are a lifesaver for those of us with sleep apnea. But they are also expensive and do require care to keep them working well and to help keep us healthy. The idea of “cleaning” CPAP doesn’t usually mean cleaning the CPAP itself, but cleaning and replacing the accessories that go along with it like the mask, hose, filters, etc. After some use these parts can start looking a bit worse for wear, and cleaning them should be a top priority, but how do you do that?

You need to clean some parts of the CPAP machine daily.  Your water in the humidifier should be replaced each day. The headgear should be cleaned weekly, by disassembling each part and either cleaning with soap or letting them soak for a few hours. CPAP machines themselves should be cleaned using the manufacturer’s suggested schedule, cleaning the outside with a towel, and ensuring it is dry before turning on.

As easy as it may seem to clean the CPAP machine, it is not the same as disinfecting the machine and all the components that you are using. Understanding what tools, you will need will also make the task easier and quicker as well, with many people preferring to have it all done after they have woken up for the day. Getting the machine ready for the night long before the energy for the day has left them.

What Is The Easiest Way To Clean CPAP Mask, hose, and Supplies? The secret EASY way

The answer: Mask Bright.. Mask bright is a very affordable spray that makes it crazy easy to clean your CPAP Supplies. Mask bright is really the best kept secret in cleaning a CPAP.  It is a product created by Jason Sazama. Jason is a sleep technologist and has a popular CPAP YouTube Channel.

To clean your CPAP supplies with Mask Bright, you just spray it on your CPAP supplies, you rinse them, then you just let them air dry. It works super well and it really is just that easy.

How long one bottle last really depends on how much you use it and what you use it on. I mostly use Mask Bright on my mask, but it can also be used to clean your hose as well. Since I mainly just use it for my mask, a bottle last me usually 10-12 weeks. If you use it on other accessories, it will obviously go down a lot faster. You can purchase Mask Bright on Amazon at these links here.

If you want to see mask bright in action and see how it compares to other cleaning methods, Jason has a great video below breaking it all down

I wrote an in depth review about mask bright where I talk about how much I love it.

Can I use dishwashing soap on a CPAP machine?

Yes, you can and should be using normal dishwashing soap to clean the plastic parts of the CPAP machine. This is something most people will have in their house, so it is an easy thing to use at home if you do not have mask bright

This is the best way to degrease many of the components in the CPAP machine. Further, the machine itself can be cleaned with a damp cloth that has some dishwashing soap on it. Dishwashing soap is a great way to clean anything that is plastic, and the same can be said for CPAP machines and their many parts.

However, you should not clean the fabric or the filters with dishwashing soap, instead of using detergent to clean the face straps while using clear water to clean the filters. However, it should be noted that water and soap should be used to clean everything initially, every part should be disinfected with a mixture of white vinegar and water. This ensures that the soapy water does not cause problems and that everything is truly clean.

Something to note about these parts is that they should not be cleaned with a towel, not even a paper towel, as this can damage them and leave flakes of dust on them. Every part needs to be left to air dry, which means you need to plan when you are cleaning the parts. Air drying some parts can be as quick as a few minutes, while large and intricate parts can take several hours before they are entirely clean.

What is the best soap to clean a CPAP with?

Almost any dishwashing soap would be good, particularly one that can degrease. Dawn is the popular choice among most CPAP users. I would recommend avoiding any soap that has a powerful or unusual smell since something like that can disturb your sleep. Sometimes what smells good on clean dishes might not be pleasant on your face at night when you sleep.

Dawn is fantastic to use. to clean the supplies, you would want to wash them in soapy water in standing water. After washing them, rinse them under running water and letting them air dry.

What equipment do you need to clean a CPAP machine?

Even though Mask Bright is the only thing you need, here is some tips on items you can use if you don’t have Mask Bright.

While you can easily understand what you need to have to clean your CPAP machine, making sure that everything is indeed ready before starting the process will greatly speed everything up. Many times, some people make simple mistakes, either forgetting to check on their supplies, or not washing the CPAP machine in the morning.

This can cause an issue as suddenly cleaning the CPAP machine becomes a larger task than simply rinsing everything out. No one wants to be caught without white vinegar just before the shops are closing on a Sunday afternoon. Keeping the CPAP machine going can make a huge difference in the overall quality of life, as well as the quality of your sleep.

  • Warm Water: The first step to cleaning your CPAP machine will be to have some mildly warm water to use, not boilingly hot though. Warm water dissolves soap much easier and easily kills most harmful bacteria and molds. Having your sink filled with some hot water will be a great start to perfectly cleaning your machine.
  • Mild Soap or detergent: You might be tempted to grab the strongest detergent that you can get, sometimes even considering using bleach. However, this will damage the soft plastics of the CPAP machine and leave a lasting smell of the chemicals used to clean. Using just a normal mild soap detergent that you would use to wash anything else in your home should be more than enough.
  • Soft Cloth: You will need to wash the parts with a cloth when doing the soapy wash, and a nice soft cloth to wash everything. While you may be able to do a decent job with just your hands, a cloth will work wonders in getting into hard-to-reach places and scrubbing away anything on the parts. Be sure to only use a soft cloth as the plastics of a CPAP machine can be extremely soft.
  • White Vinegar: Much less damaging than alcohol or many other disinfectants, white vinegar is an easy way to completely disinfect something and neutralize most smells that are one something. Plastics can be extremely prone to absorbing smells and getting the plastic to dispel the smell, which is why you need to clean the machine with white vinegar now and then. This is the easiest and safest way of eliminating the smells that plastics may have absorbed.
  • Cleaning rack: The last and possibly most important part is to have a separate cleaning and drying rack for the parts. This will ensure that everything can air dry properly, but also that none of the parts are lost in amongst the other dishes that have been done. This is something you learn to appreciate fast when some small pin or clip has been swallowed into the abyss of the Tupperware cupboard.

How do you disinfect the CPAP machine?

Cleaning your CPAP machine will be perfectly fine for when you are using it every day without being sick, as you won’t have to worry about the sickness growing. However, when you have even just a slight infection of the nasal passages not disinfecting the machine, pipes, mask, or humidifier can become extremely damaging. As a normal cleaning can usually kill most bugs and germs, when you are sick these bugs can tend to be a bit stronger.

Each part of the CPAP machine has to be cleaned in its unique ways and requires that you do not take shortcuts. Many people have chosen to ignore the required work of using a CPAP machine when they are sick only to find themselves becoming gravely sick as their infection spreads. Being sure that your machine is not only ready but safe to use is an important part of owning it.

The Mask

Normally you will need to disinfect the mask at least once a week while washing it with soapy water every single day. However, to disinfect the mask you will need to disassemble it and then place it into a mixture of 2 parts white vinegar and 3 parts water. This is roughly 1 cup of vinegar and 1 and a half cups of water, using the solution to rinse out each part thoroughly, then leaving it to air dry.

The water and vinegar should be discarded after each use, and while you are on antibiotics you should not use the CPAP machine at all for a few nights, especially if you have yellowish drainage. The mask and all of its components should never be cleaned with any type of alcohol and should never be cleaned using the dishwasher.

Headgear Disinfection

The headgear is usually made from cloth or straps that are placed around your head and do not come into contact with any parts of the air intake or your nasal passages. As such you do not need to disinfect them to keep them clean, nor do you need to worry about daily cleaning when you do get sick.

To clean the headgear all you have to do is wash it with some detergent, not placing the headgear in the washing machine. The parts of the CPAP machine need to be washed by hand, even the headgear, to ensure that you are not damaging anything.

Soaking the tubing

It is recommended that daily you just push through some water and leave the tubing of the machine to air dry, ensuring that there is no moisture stuck in the tubes before use. This will work to clean the tubes enough for daily use however the tubes must be disinfected weekly to ensure that they are entirely clean.

If you shower in the morning, an easy pro tip is to run it through the shower and hang it where you hang your towels to air dry.

Now if you want to go all in on cleaning and disinfecting it, it is recommended to soak the tubing for at least 30 minutes in a mixture of 2 parts white vinegar and 3 parts water, which would be 1 cup of vinegar and 1 and a half cups of water. Making sure that the solution does enter the tubing and thoroughly rinses it out, you should then leave the tubing to be air-dried.

Soaking in water and vinegar is a little over kill to me, but doing that once a month seems more reasonable. And rinsing out for

Humidifier Daily Clean

After emptying the humidifier chamber each day of the unused water from the previous night, you need to wash it out with soapy water, and then rinsing it out with clean water. This ensures that no soap will be humidified into your lung, leaving the chamber somewhere to hang so that it may air dry.

To disinfect the humidifier chamber, you will need to soak it in the same 2 parts vinegar and 3 parts water solution for 30 minutes. Usually only doing this once a month, but much more often if you are currently sick. After disinfecting with the mixture, you need to rinse out the chamber to ensure that the mixture does not get mixed in with the water used to humidify.

Rinsing Washable Filters

Washable filters are the gray filters that you can use with your CPAP machine, which are not like the white disposable ones you may be used to. These are filters that need to be rinsed once a week when you are not sick, simply using clean and clear water and leaving to air dry before you use them.

White, disposable filters must be replaced once a week, long before there are any visual changes to the amount of dirt that you can see on the filters. If the filters that you are washing are either clearly filthy or visibly dirty then you will have to clean out the compartment where the filters are placed as well.

Can I use the dishwasher to clean my CPAP supplies?

For almost all the supplies, it is not recommended to use the dishwasher. The mask especially should not go in the dishwasher because it will easily get damaged during the wash. Tubing/hose should also not go into the dishwasher

One piece that can go in the dishwasher is the water tank that goes in the humidifier. You will want to follow the manufacture’s recommendations because they do have special guidelines in their official user manuals. I will outlines this for 2 of the biggest manufactures below

From the Philips Respironics Dreamstation manual regarding the water tank, “Hand washing can be performed daily. Dishwashing can be performed once a week.” So although it is ok to put the water tank in the dishwasher, you wouldn’t want to do it more than once a week in this case

Now for the Resmed Airsense line, this is what the manufacture says about using a dishwasher for the water tank: “The humidifier may be washed in a dishwasher on the delicate or glassware cycle (top shelf only). It should not be washed at temperatures higher than 65ºC.”

A lot of people will recommend against using the dishwasher, but if you follow the guidelines stated by your CPAP’s manufacture like the ones above, you should be fine with putting the water tank in the dishwasher. As for mask and tubing, do not put those in the dishwasher.

​Do I Need to Use a CPAP Cleaner?

We all see these infomercials for the famous SoClean that is meant to make cleaning a CPAP easier. But are they even worth it? The answer is no. These expensive machines offer very little benefit for what they cost.

These over priced machines, despite their name, do not actually clean CPAP supplies. They do however disinfect them. They do this using UV rays to kill germs. This is really no different than laying them out in the sun and having the sun kill the germs. Once the CPAP “cleaner” is done using its UV rays, you will still have to manually clean the supplies since the machines don’t actually clean.

To get a better idea on what this means, picture a mask that has your face oils, dirt, or gunk from your nose. You don’t clean it, but you throw it into a SoClean type machine. The germs may be dead, but you will still see that oils, dirt, and gunk still there. That is gross.

In SoClean’s instruction manual, it even says that you need to preclean the supplies BEFORE you put them into the SoClean. Sounds silly, right? You have to clean the supplies BEFORE you put them in the CPAP cleaning machine? If you are going to do that, why not just clean them?

So it is not necessary to use a CPAP cleaner or SoClean sanitizer device to keep your CPAP equipment clean. They can cost hundreds of dollars, are not covered by insurance, and don’t even do what their name implies. You will get much better results with just Dawn and water. Or my favorite, Mask Bright.

What is the best cleaner for a CPAP machine?

Even though myself and many others don’t recommend CPAP cleaners, people decide they want to buy them anyway. So if you do want to buy one, which would be the best? Personally I would avoid the Soclean or Soclean 2, since they are typically hundreds of dollars. There are lower cost options that do essentially the same thing.

A more affordable option for a CPAP cleaner would be Clean-Z CPAP Sanitizer by Motif. It usually is about $150 and can be bought on cheapcpapsupplies.com. A lot of people like and LankyLeft (popular CPAP YouTuber) thinks this is a better option compared to the SoClean.

But again, it is not a necessary purchase. Just use Dawn and warm water (and maybe some white vinegar). Once again, Jason has a great video I have placed below giving a break down about the Motif sanatizer.

When to replace parts of a CPAP machine?

Replaceable filters should be changed out for new ones every 6 months, depending on how dirty they have gotten and how much dust is in the air in your room. The mask and headgear should be replaced every 6 to 12 months, while the tubing only needs to be replaced every 1 to 2 years. Further, the last part that should be replaced is the Humidifier chamber, which should be done every 1 to 3 years.

You must replace these parts because the natural wear and tear of using them will damage their ability to work properly as they age. With some parts becoming almost entirely unusable as they become more and more worn. Further, while you can always disinfect the parts and they will stay perfectly clean while you are using them, with age the ability to fully clean them begins to fade.

This leads to some stronger germs, bacteria, and even mold sticking to the system, negating the purifying effect from the system, in some cases leading to the machine beginning to make you sick. Having a system that is old and decrepit will not only be worse for your health but be unpleasant to use. Nothing feels so good as a CPAP machine that is using all new filters, masks, and tubing.

When do you need to clean the CPAP machine?

CPAP machines need to be cleaned daily as the nightly moisture and breath that you breathe out will start to accumulate. While these won’t cause issues while the machine is in use, while the machine is not being used it can quickly cause a large number of germs and bacterial growth. Every time the CPAP machine has been used for either giving a boost in oxygen or throughout the night you must clean it.

Many times, CPAP machines are used in older people that may have some failing lungs or weakened lungs, causing them to need the CPAP machine to breathe easily. In these instances, it is better to have two CPAP machines in the home, one to be used while the other one is being cleaned ad dried. This ensures that there aren’t any long stretches of the person having to struggle breathing while their machine is being cleaned.

It should be noted that a CPAP machine forces air into the airways and greatly increases the ease through which you can breathe. It is not a replacement for oxygen machines, which are built specifically to be used with oxygen tanks and thus requires a completely different set of cleaning and scheduling to be done. CPAP machines only share some similarities and need to be cleaned as often as possible.

Why do you have to clean your CPAP machine?

The question you may be facing after the first week of dutifully cleaning your CPAP machine every morning is why you are even cleaning it. Humans are quite resistant to building new routines and if we start believing there is no benefit to doing something we are much more likely to not do so. This leads to people taking on unhealthy habits, like not cleaning the CPAP machine each morning.

However, the negative effects of using a dirty CPAP machine can and will be felt quite quickly, usually starting quite small. It may be a sudden sore throat or some nasally drip that you wake up within the morning. However, if you continue to ignore these early signs it can become a big problem, and you will need medical attention to successfully fight the problems that arise.

Bacteria

Bacterial growth is the most ever-present danger that we face in our everyday lives, and it is, fortunately, something our bodies are capable of resisting from a young age. However, some bacteria are nothing like what we know and our bodies will not be able to resist these. Because bacteria are adaptable, the bacteria that grows on your uncleaned CPAP machine may be entirely new to the world.

Just a simple wash each day in soapy water will wash away the worst of the bacteria, either through the soap or the hot water. This allows you to comfortably enjoy using your CPAP machine and enjoying a night’s rest. The bacteria won’t be able to grow on surfaces that are too clean or have constantly moving air, usually growing on a standing machine, and then being blown into your lungs when used.

Mold

The most dangerous thing that can naturally enter your lungs, apart from fluids, is mold. Molds can cause many problems for your respiratory tract, usually by actually growing inside your lungs, as mold prefers hot, humid locations. This is why you need to be entirely sure that no part of your CPAP machine has mold growing on or in it.

A quick wipe with a wet cloth can stop mold spores from spreading, and as you are cleaning the CPAP machine you will be killing almost all the mold that has grown. Further, if you feel that there might be some mold still growing somewhere, if you leave something in the sun the mold will dry out and die. A few rinses in water and vinegar will then quickly eliminate any mold that might have grown.

Irritation

As the CPAP machine stays dirty and bacteria starts growing ever faster you will quickly find that your skin becomes irritated, from the moisture, the bacteria, and the mucus that may have dried on the mask. This irritation can be extremely damaging to your skin and in some cases even causes you to get a rash as you continually scratch the area that is irritated.

Further, the irritation can be spread to your nasal passages as you are breathing in the new germs, bacteria, molds, and older dried spittle that will be on the CPAP equipment. By the point that you are getting skin and internal irritation by the CPAP equipment being dirty you should already replace several parts of the machine, starting with the filters, and ending with the tubes and mask.

Infection

This is the worst thing that can happen with your CPAP machine not being clean and is most likely to happen because you are currently sick. The infection can be anywhere from your mouth, nasal passages, or even in your lungs. Because you are rebreathing the same dirty air and using the same equipment that is not cleaned whatever is causing an infection gets rebreathed.

This is the biggest reason why you should disinfect the CPAP machine when you are sick, with the machine going entirely unused when you are placed on antibiotics. Having a nasal drip that will cause crustiness or the infection to be placed onto your CPAP machine can be damaging to your long-term health. Especially as a large amount of your infection is expelled as you breathe when you are sick.

How many hours per night should a CPAP be used?

The recommended amount of using a CPAP machine each night is only 7 and half hours, while the average person only seems to be using the machine for 4 to 5 hours. It may be that the sound is hard to ignore when they are sleeping, or it may be because people are not sleeping enough. However, to get the best-desired effect from your CPAP machine you must use it for 7 hours or more.

This is because the machine is functionally pushing air into your lungs and making it easier for you to breathe, helping to stop sleep apnea, reducing snoring, and helping you sleep comfortably throughout the night. It is this intense amount of usage, while connected to a generally liquid area of your body that means the CPAP machine should be cleaned as often as possible.

Many times, people forget this and assume that the machine has been made to be used without being washed as often. This is a false assumption and should never be believed, despite what some may claim, a CPAP machine must be cleaned each day and the longer you use it the more it needs to be cleaned when you are no longer using it.

Conclusion

There are many things about CPAP machines that people tend to forget about and usually, you can find that these are the people that are not enjoying their machines. Mask Bright is my go to cleaning solution. But cleaning your CPAP machine with just some soapy water and rinsing it out with white vinegar works just fine as well.

Whatever you are doing, please don’t use a machine with dirty supplies. With all the problems you can have, you don’t want a dirty machine give you an infection or a bad sleep.

Dan

Dan was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2017 when he was only 32 years old. He has been using a BIPAP machine for his treatment. He hopes to provide a patient's perspective on the sleep apnea experience. Dan lives in Tampa with his girlfriend and 2 dogs.

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