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How To Clean a CPAP Machine

Regularly cleaning your CPAP machine keeps it running smoothly and reduces your risk of diseases and infections.
Sep 08, 2023
Written by:
Medical Reviewer:
Reviewed by: MA, Senior Editor, NCOA
Fact Checked

Key Takeaways

  • Regularly cleaning your CPAP machine boosts its lifespan and protects you from certain types of infections.
  • Most CPAP machine components and accessories can be cleaned with mild soap and water or a diluted vinegar solution.
  • Consult your manufacturer’s guide for cleaning tips specific to your CPAP device components.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines help those with breathing disorders such as sleep apnea keep their airways open while they sleep, delivering enough oxygen for a good night’s sleep. [1] American Medical Association. What Doctors Wish Patients Knew about Sleep Apnea. Found on the internet at https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/what-doctors-wish-patients-knew-about-sleep-apnea Regularly cleaning your CPAP machine keeps it running smoothly, boosts its lifespan, and reduces your risk of illness from certain types of infections.

A dirty CPAP machine can make you sick. [2] Harvard Health Publishing. Can Your CPAP Make You Sick? Found on the internet at https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-your-cpap-make-you-sick-2019100818005 Keeping it clean reduces your risk of rashes and allergies, along with bacterial, fungal, and respiratory infections.

Our Reviews Team walks you through how and how often to clean each CPAP machine component and accessory. We’ll also share common mistakes to avoid while cleaning and tips for equipment drying and storage.

Best cleaning solution for CPAP machines and accessories

For a cleanser, you can use diluted white vinegar or mild liquid soap. For diluted white vinegar, dilute by three to four parts water. Cleaning your CPAP components and accessories with vinegar helps disinfect them and remove odors. [3] U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. You May Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Found on the internet at https://www.healthquality.va.gov/guidelines/CD/insomnia/OSACPAPTherapyBookletFinal508c6Nov2020.pdf

If you choose to use a mild liquid soap, avoid cleaning your CPAP with soaps that have added fragrance, moisturizers, or antibacterial properties. [4] Penn Medicine Sleep Centers. CPAP Device Care and Cleaning Instructions. Found on the internet at https://www.pennmedicine.org/-/media/documents%20and%20audio/patient%20guides%20and%20instructions/sleep%20medicine/cpap_care.ashx Weill Cornell Medicine recommends Dove, Ivory, or baby shampoo instead. [5] Weill Cornell Medicine. CPAP Equipment Cleaning and Disinfecting Instructions. Found on the internet at https://weillcornell.org/sites/default/files/cpap_cleaning.pdf

Ready to start your cleaning routine? Here are the CPAP cleaning supplies you’ll need:

  • Sink or tub (for accessories)
  • Clean towel
  • Warm water
  • CPAP tube cleaning brush
  • Distilled water for cleaning humidifier basins [4] Penn Medicine Sleep Centers. CPAP Device Care and Cleaning Instructions. Found on the internet at https://www.pennmedicine.org/-/media/documents%20and%20audio/patient%20guides%20and%20instructions/sleep%20medicine/cpap_care.ashx
  • Mild liquid soap or vinegar

How to clean a CPAP machine

To clean your CPAP machine, start by consulting your CPAP machine’s manual for cleaning and disassembly instructions specific to your device. Check to see if your manual cautions against any cleaning methods that could void your warranty.

Many manufacturers recommend similar cleaning approaches for CPAP devices. You can hand-wash your CPAP components with mild soap and water or a diluted vinegar solution. [3] U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. You May Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Found on the internet at https://www.healthquality.va.gov/guidelines/CD/insomnia/OSACPAPTherapyBookletFinal508c6Nov2020.pdf Air-drying your equipment is also a best practice.

Before cleaning, be sure the CPAP machine is disconnected from its power source, and carefully disassemble each component.

How to clean a CPAP unit

While a CPAP machine’s accessories (mask, tubing, humidifier, and filter) need regular cleaning, the CPAP machine itself (the unit with an electrical cord), can be cleaned on an as-needed basis.

Cleaning frequency:

  • As needed

Cleaning steps:

  • Wipe any accumulated dust or debris with a damp cloth.
  • Don’t spray any cleaners directly onto the machine, and never submerge a device with an electrical cord in water. [4] Penn Medicine Sleep Centers. CPAP Device Care and Cleaning Instructions. Found on the internet at https://www.pennmedicine.org/-/media/documents%20and%20audio/patient%20guides%20and%20instructions/sleep%20medicine/cpap_care.ashx

How to clean a CPAP mask

Ideally, you should clean your CPAP mask daily, as this accessory is closest to your face, nose, and mouth. Cleaning your CPAP mask removes dead skin cells, dust, mold, and other contaminants.

If you don’t clean your CPAP mask regularly, bacteria can build inside your equipment and make you sick. [2] Harvard Health Publishing. Can Your CPAP Make You Sick? Found on the internet at https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-your-cpap-make-you-sick-2019100818005 Consistent cleaning also protects mask components, such as the seal, from breaking down prematurely.

Cleaning frequency:

  • Daily

Cleaning steps:

  • Unplug the CPAP machine from its power source
  • Disconnect the mask from your CPAP tubing
  • Disassemble the mask’s headgear, frame, and cushion
  • Submerge each piece in warm, soapy water or a diluted vinegar solution (one part vinegar and three to four parts water).
  • Hand-wash the components
  • Rinse with clean water
  • Pat each piece with a clean cloth, air-dry out of direct sunlight

How to clean CPAP tubing

You should clean your CPAP tubing, also called a hose, at least once weekly. Cleaning your CPAP hose helps sanitize the pathway for air entering your lungs. Consider investing in a CPAP tube cleaning brush to remove any buildup in the tubing.

Cleaning frequency:

  • Weekly

Cleaning steps:

  • Unplug the CPAP machine from its power source
  • Disconnect the tubing from your CPAP unit and mask
  • Submerge in warm, soapy water or a diluted vinegar solution (one part vinegar and three to four parts water).
  • Hand-wash the outside
  • Scrub the inside with a CPAP tube cleaning brush and cleanser from the third step [3] U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. You May Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Found on the internet at https://www.healthquality.va.gov/guidelines/CD/insomnia/OSACPAPTherapyBookletFinal508c6Nov2020.pdf
  • Rinse the inside and outside of the tubing with clean water
  • Hang over a shower rod, wall hook, or CPAP hose hanger to drain excess water
  • Air-dry out of direct sunlight

How to clean a CPAP humidifier

You’ll want to replace the water in your humidifier’s water chamber daily to prevent bacterial growth. Plan on a weekly deep clean.

Note that many CPAP manufacturers advise using only distilled water in your humidifier’s water chamber. Unsterile water, like tap water, can cause mineral buildup and corrosion in your humidifier’s water chamber. [4] Penn Medicine Sleep Centers. CPAP Device Care and Cleaning Instructions. Found on the internet at https://www.pennmedicine.org/-/media/documents%20and%20audio/patient%20guides%20and%20instructions/sleep%20medicine/cpap_care.ashx

Distilled water also offers health benefits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends distilled water in medical devices to reduce your exposure to waterborne pathogens. [6] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Mis)perception and Use of Unsterile Water in Home Medical Devices, PN View 360+ Survey. Found on the internet at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/29/2/22-1205_article This makes distilled water ideal for both CPAP humidifier usage and cleaning.

Cleaning frequency:

  • Daily water replacement
  • Weekly deep clean

Daily cleaning steps:

  • Unplug the CPAP machine from its power source
  • Disconnect the humidifier’s water chamber from your CPAP machine
  • Empty all remaining water
  • Pat dry with a clean cloth, air-dry out of direct sunlight
  • Replace with fresh distilled water

Weekly cleaning steps:

  • Unplug the CPAP machine from its power source
  • Disconnect the water chamber from your CPAP machine
  • Empty all remaining water
  • Hand-wash using warm, soapy water or a diluted vinegar solution (one part vinegar and three to four parts water)
  • Rinse with clean water
  • Pat dry with a clean cloth, air-dry out of direct sunlight

How to clean CPAP filters

Disposable CPAP filters are usually made of fiber or paper and trap small particles, such as tobacco smoke or dust. Reusable CPAP filters are usually made of foam and protect you from inhaling contaminants like dust, pollen, and pet dander.

While you should never clean or reuse disposable filters, you should clean reusable filters weekly to help them last longer. Before cleaning, check your CPAP machine’s manual for any instructions specific to your filter.

Disposable CPAP filters

Cleaning frequency:

  • Never; do not wash disposable CPAP filters. These should be replaced monthly, or sooner if it appears discolored or dirty.

Reusable CPAP filters

Cleaning frequency:

  • Weekly

Cleaning steps:

  • Unplug the CPAP machine from its power source
  • Remove the reusable filter from your CPAP machine
  • Submerge in warm, soapy water; do not use diluted vinegar to clean CPAP filters [3] U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. You May Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Found on the internet at https://www.healthquality.va.gov/guidelines/CD/insomnia/OSACPAPTherapyBookletFinal508c6Nov2020.pdf
  • Hand wash
  • Rinse with clean water
  • Allow to air-dry out of direct sunlight
  • Allow to dry completely before reinstalling

How often to clean a CPAP machine and accessories

While opinions vary on the cleaning frequency for your CPAP machine’s components and accessories, most should be cleaned daily or weekly. Check your user manual for tips. The table below shares common manufacturer recommendations.

Table 1, Common manufacturer recommendations for cleaning CPAP machine components and accessories

CPAP machine component

Cleaning frequency

CPAP machine (unit with electrical cord)

As needed

Mask

Daily

Tubing

Weekly

Humidifier

Daily water replacement, weekly deep clean

Filter

Weekly

CPAP cleaning tips

While it’s important to know how to clean your CPAP machine and accessories, it’s also important to be aware of CPAP machine cleaning precautions and proper drying and storage techniques.

CPAP machine cleaning precautions

Some cleaners can corrode CPAP equipment and leave toxic residues that are dangerous to inhale through sleep-therapy equipment. [4] Penn Medicine Sleep Centers. CPAP Device Care and Cleaning Instructions. Found on the internet at https://www.pennmedicine.org/-/media/documents%20and%20audio/patient%20guides%20and%20instructions/sleep%20medicine/cpap_care.ashx

CPAP cleaning ingredients to avoid:

  • Bleach
  • Alcohol
  • Chlorine
  • Scented oils
  • Scented soap
  • Boiling water
  • Household cleaners with harsh chemicals
  • Soap with moisturizing or antibacterial properties

Remember not to use diluted vinegar to clean reusable CPAP filters. [3] U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. You May Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Found on the internet at https://www.healthquality.va.gov/guidelines/CD/insomnia/OSACPAPTherapyBookletFinal508c6Nov2020.pdf

CPAP cleaning precautions:

  • Don’t boil CPAP components and accessories.
  • Don’t wash or reuse disposable CPAP filters.
  • Don’t put CPAP components and accessories in the dishwasher.
  • Don’t use leftover water in your CPAP humidifier’s water chamber. Change water daily.
  • Always unplug your CPAP unit from its power source before disassembling or cleaning CPAP components.
  • If you’ve been sick, clean your CPAP components and accessories often to avoid reinfection. Opt for diluted vinegar to kill germs. [4] Penn Medicine Sleep Centers. CPAP Device Care and Cleaning Instructions. Found on the internet at https://www.pennmedicine.org/-/media/documents%20and%20audio/patient%20guides%20and%20instructions/sleep%20medicine/cpap_care.ashx
  • Steer clear of sanitizing systems that claim to clean CPAPs with ozone gas or UV light. [7] U.S. Food & Drug Administration. CPAP Machine Cleaning: Ozone, UV Light Products Are Not FDA Approved. Found on the internet at https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/cpap-machine-cleaning-ozone-uv-light-products-are-not-fda-approved These are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some users have reported asthma attacks, headaches, and trouble breathing after using machines claiming to use ozone gas to keep the CPAP clean.

CPAP machine drying and storage

Here’s how to dry common CPAP machine components and accessories:

  • CPAP mask: After cleaning, pat dry with a clean towel. Place on a flat, clean surface and allow it to air-dry out of direct sunlight.
  • CPAP tubing (hose): After cleaning, pat dry with a clean towel. Hang over a shower rod or wall hook to drain any remaining water from the hose.
  • CPAP humidifier: After cleaning, pat dry with a clean towel. Place on a flat, clean surface and allow it to air-dry out of direct sunlight.
  • CPAP reusable filters: After cleaning, place it on a flat, clean surface and allow it to air-dry out of direct sunlight.

Bedroom nightstands are ideal for daily CPAP machine storage. Opt for a moisture-resistant or waterproof surface. Make sure you have ample space for all CPAP components and easy access to electrical outlets. Always store CPAP machines and accessories out of direct sunlight, which can degrade equipment. [4] Penn Medicine Sleep Centers. CPAP Device Care and Cleaning Instructions. Found on the internet at https://www.pennmedicine.org/-/media/documents%20and%20audio/patient%20guides%20and%20instructions/sleep%20medicine/cpap_care.ashx

When traveling, empty your humidifier’s water chamber and ensure all accessories are dry. The Transportation Security Administration’s CPAP travel guidelines state “A CPAP, BiPAP and APAP must be removed from its carrying case and undergo X-ray screening. Facemasks and tubing may remain in the case. You may provide a clear plastic bag to place the device through the X-ray.” [8] Transportation Security Administration. Am I Allowed to Carry My CPAP Machine Onboard the Plane, Do I Have to Remove It from My Carry-On? Found on the internet at https://www.tsa.gov/travel/frequently-asked-questions/am-i-allowed-carry-my-cpap-machine-onboard-plane-do-i-have-remove

Bottom line

Regularly cleaning your CPAP machine is crucial for its longevity and your sleep health. Your CPAP cleaning routine can remove unwanted bacteria, reducing your risk for different types of infections. Plus, cleaning your CPAP machine is simple with items like soap, distilled water, and vinegar you may already have on hand.

Remember to check your manufacturer’s guide for cleaning best practices and a CPAP parts replacement schedule. Your health care provider or CPAP device’s manufacturer can help with additional cleaning questions.

Frequently asked questions

Have questions about this review? Email us at reviewsteam@ncoa.org.

Sources

  1. American Medical Association. What Doctors Wish Patients Knew about Sleep Apnea. April 1, 2022. Found on the internet at https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/what-doctors-wish-patients-knew-about-sleep-apnea
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. Can Your CPAP Make You Sick? Oct. 8, 2019. Found on the internet at https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-your-cpap-make-you-sick-2019100818005
  3. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. You May Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. November 2020. Found on the internet at https://www.healthquality.va.gov/guidelines/CD/insomnia/OSACPAPTherapyBookletFinal508c6Nov2020.pdf
  4. Penn Medicine Sleep Centers. CPAP Device Care and Cleaning Instructions. Found on the internet at https://www.pennmedicine.org/-/media/documents%20and%20audio/patient%20guides%20and%20instructions/sleep%20medicine/cpap_care.ashx
  5. Weill Cornell Medicine. CPAP Equipment Cleaning and Disinfecting Instructions. Found on the internet at https://weillcornell.org/sites/default/files/cpap_cleaning.pdf
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Mis)perception and Use of Unsterile Water in Home Medical Devices, PN View 360+ Survey. Emerging Infectious Diseases. Found on the internet at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/29/2/22-1205_article
  7. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. CPAP Machine Cleaning: Ozone, UV Light Products Are Not FDA Approved. Found on the internet at https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/cpap-machine-cleaning-ozone-uv-light-products-are-not-fda-approved
  8. Transportation Security Administration. Am I Allowed to Carry My CPAP Machine Onboard the Plane, Do I Have to Remove It from My Carry-On? Found on the internet at https://www.tsa.gov/travel/frequently-asked-questions/am-i-allowed-carry-my-cpap-machine-onboard-plane-do-i-have-remove
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