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How To Clean CPAP

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Updated May 27, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

How To Clean CPAP
Robert Anthony Provost/Creative Commons/Flickr
Learning how to clean CPAP is an important part of your therapy for sleep apnea. The standard treatment for sleep apnea is a CPAP machine. When one first begins to use CPAP, there is often a degree of information overload. After learning about the diagnosis, one is usually sent to a private company or provider of durable medical equipment to get a CPAP machine and other associated items. At this time, instructions should be given on how to clean this equipment.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 45 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Unplug your CPAP machine from its power source, as there may be a danger of electrical shock if you do not.
  2. Although there are many types of masks that can be used with CPAP machines, these generally deliver air through the nose or mouth. Rather than providing separate instructions for each type, all of these shall be generically called a “mask.” Disconnect your mask from the CPAP tubing. If your mask has a headgear, detach it. If there are other pieces that are easily reattached, these also can be separated.
  3. Remove the CPAP tubing from any connectors, the humidifier, or from the CPAP machine itself, if it connects directly.
  4. If you have one, remove the humidifier unit from the CPAP machine, and separate it into its pieces (if this is easily done).
  5. Take a soft cloth and wet it with warm water. Gently wipe down the external surface of the CPAP machine. (Again, make certain it is unplugged while cleaning.)
  6. Fill a small sink, tub, or basin with warm water. Add a small amount of gentle dish soap.
  7. Submerge the mask, headgear, tubing, and connectors in the warm soapy water. Allow it to soak for a short period of time (about 30 minutes). Alternatively, wipe out the mask with a soft cloth and warm water, and swish soapy water through the tubing. Allow everything to air dry on a towel. These items should ideally be cleaned every day.
  8. The humidifier should be cleaned with hot water and mild soap. It should also be allowed to air dry. Remember to only put distilled water in the humidifier. If you do not, there is an increased risk of illness as well as the probability that hard minerals will build up on your equipment. The humidifier should ideally be cleaned weekly.
  9. Some CPAP machines have filters in place. It will be important to review your manufacturer’s instructions or ask your equipment provider about how these should be maintained. Some can be rinsed but others must be replaced, and the timing of this will vary depending on the environment you use the machine in.
  10. Finally, after everything has been allowed to air dry, reassemble the various parts. Apply the headgear to your mask, hook the mask back onto the tubing and any connectors, and connect the tubing back to the humidifier or directly to the CPAP machine. Turn the machine on briefly and listen for any air leaks that weren’t there previously.
  11. If you find that your sleep apnea symptoms have returned or you feel like your machine isn’t working right, bring it in to your equipment provider and have things checked out.

Tips:

  1. It is important to keep your equipment clean. Remember that you are breathing whatever might be growing inside there.
  2. If you have been sick recently, clean your equipment more often.
  3. Remember to always follow the advice of your medical and equipment providers as well as the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning your CPAP.
  4. Never use any perfumes or cleaning solutions other than gentle soap on your equipment. These can irritate your lungs and make you sick. The humidifier must only contain distilled water.
  5. It is likely not advisable to clean your equipment in a dishwasher or washing machine.

What You Need

  • CPAP equipment (mask, headgear, tubing, humidifier, CPAP machine)
  • Soft cloth
  • Warm water
  • Dish soap (mild antibacterial is preferable)
  • Small sink, tub, or basin
  • Towel
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Sleep
  4. Treating Sleep Disorders
  5. How to Clean a CPAP - Step-By-Step Maintenance

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