Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are small devices that help sleep apnea patients breathe properly while sleeping. Obstructive sleep apnea1 is the most common form of the disorder, which occurs when the throat muscles relax too much while sleeping, resulting in a blocked airway. CPAP machines deliver pressurized air that helps keep the airway open, via a tube and mask.
It’s important to keep this equipment clean to prevent bacterial or fungal growth, which can cause skin irritation, or illness2 – there was even a case of a patient contracting legionella pneumonia as a result of not cleaning her CPAP machine3. So, it’s vital that you keep your equipment hygienic to prevent the risk of infection and keep it working efficiently.
There’s lots of conflicting advice online, so we’ll demystify how to clean your CPAP, how often you should clean it, and when to replace the components.
CPAP Cleaning Instructions
What You’ll Need
Make sure you have the following items4 before you begin cleaning your CPAP machine.
- Warm water
- CPAP tube cleaning brush (optional)
- Distilled water (to refill the humidifier)
- Mild, unscented soap for regular cleaning
- Diluted vinegar solution (one part vinegar to three or four parts water) for deep cleaning
- Clean towel or soft cloth
How to Clean Your CPAP Mask
It’s recommended that you clean your mask daily5, as it’s susceptible to bacteria buildup, and oils from your face can cause the cushion to break down, preventing it from sealing properly.
The following steps6 are recommended.
- Ensure your CPAP machine is disconnected from the power source.
- Disconnect the mask from the machine’s hose.
- Remove any strapping, headgear, frame, or cushioning from the mask.
- Hand-wash each piece of the mask in warm, soapy water, or vinegar solution if you’re deep-cleaning.
- Rinse each component with clean water.
- Air-dry your mask and accessories, away from direct sunlight.
Discover our picks for the Best CPAP Masks
How to Clean Your CPAP Hose
You should clean your CPAP hose once a week, with the following steps.6
- Disconnect your CPAP device from the power outlet.
- Remove the hose from the CPAP machine and mask.
- Fill a clean sink with warm, soapy water and wash the hose, using a CPAP hose brush, if desired.
- Soak the tubing for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Rinse well with clean water and hang to dry, out of direct sunlight.
How to Clean a CPAP Humidifier
You should empty the water in your humidifier each morning, and refill it with distilled water right before bedtime.7 A weekly clean is recommended for the humidifier chamber.
- Disconnect your CPAP machine from its power source.
- Remove the humidifier chamber.
- Fill a sink or tub with warm, soapy water.
- Wash the chamber and let it soak for 15 minutes, swirling the water occasionally.
- Rinse the chamber in clean water and air-dry on a clean, dry towel.
It’s also advised that you disinfect the humidifier chamber every other week, with a vinegar solution. Leave the solution to sit in the chamber for 30 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. After that, soak it in a tub or sink of warm, soapy water for five minutes before rinsing again and air-drying on a clean towel.
Other CPAP Cleaning Tips
- Make a regular cleaning schedule – Clean your mask and cushioning daily to remove dust, bacteria, and dead skin cells, and prevent the build-up of mold.5 The tubing should be cleaned at least once a week, to ensure sanitary air is entering your airways, and strapping or headgear should also be washed weekly. Humidifier water should be replaced daily, and the water chamber cleaned every week and disinfected every two weeks.6 If your device has reusable filters, these should be cleaned weekly. You can wipe down the device itself with a damp cloth as needed.
- Replace parts regularly – If your equipment was provided by an insurance company, they will determine when you need new supplies. However, government guidelines8 recommend replacing the mask every three months, mask cushioning and disposable filters twice a month, tubing every three months, and the headgear, chinstrap, humidifier chamber, and reusable filter every six months.
- Only use recommended cleaning solutions – Harsh cleaning agents like bleach, abrasives, alcohol, oils, and scented/antibacterial/moisturizing soaps can damage your equipment.6 Mild liquid soap or a diluted vinegar solution is advised.
- Check your device after cleaning – Cleveland Clinic9 recommends reassembling your CPAP machine after everything has dried and then turning it on temporarily to make sure everything is working as it should.
- Don’t waste money on expensive cleaning equipment – There are machines on the market that claim to clean your CPAP with either UV light or ozone gas. This might seem a lot more appealing than handwashing, but these devices are not FDA-approved.2
Why Is It Important to Regularly Clean Your CPAP Equipment?
Along with making you sick, unclean CPAP equipment can affect how the machine runs, causing it to not work efficiently.6 A dirty mask or hose can turn into a breeding ground for mold, dust, and other allergens, which will then transfer onto your skin or into your airways, causing irritation or illness. The germs you breathe out can collect on your mask, adding to this issue. This is why it’s imperative you clean your mask daily.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best thing to clean your CPAP with?
Good old-fashioned hand-washing using mild liquid soap or a diluted vinegar solution is recommended for cleaning CPAP equipment unless your user manual specifies otherwise.4
Can I use Dawn dish soap to clean my CPAP?
While Dawn is considered a mild soap, there are conflicting opinions over its use to clean CPAP equipment. There’s no scientific evidence for or against it, and some sleep centers10 recommend it for CPAP cleaning. However, there has been anecdotal evidence11 that it might cause silicone in the mask to break down.
It’s worth noting that it’s advised to use unscented mild soap to clean your CPAP, and Dawn doesn’t manufacture a truly fragrance-free product. While Dawn’s Free & Clear Dishwashing Liquid may not contain synthetic fragrance, it does contain essential oils. Weill Cornell recommends using Dove, Ivory, or baby shampoo.6
Are CPAP cleaners worth it?
CPAP cleaners might sound a lot easier than hand-washing. However, there’s no legitimate, scientific evidence to show that these devices are safe or effective, and they’re not FDA-approved.2 Some users of CPAP cleaning machines that use ozone gas have complained of experiencing asthma attacks, headaches, and breathlessness. The FDA is also yet to receive evidence that UV light cleaners are effective and that they do not damage CPAP equipment.2
How often should a CPAP machine be cleaned?
You should wipe your CPAP unit frequently with a damp cloth to remove dust or dirt. Each day, you should wash your mask and cushioning, as well as empty and refill the distilled water in the humidifier.5
Lisa is a content writer for Sleep Advisor, which combines two of her greatest passions – writing and sleeping. She can also be found writing about fitness, sustainability and vegan food.
- 1. “Obstructive Sleep Apnea”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified July 14, 2024. –
- 2. “CPAP Machine Cleaning: Ozone, UV Light Products Are Not FDA Approved”. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Last modified October 6, 2024. –
- 3. Scnirman, Ruby., et al. “A case of legionella pneumonia caused by home use of continuous positive airway pressure”. SAGE Open Medical Case Reports. 2017. –
- 4. “Obstructive Sleep Apnea CPAP Therapy Booklet”. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. 2020. –
- 5. Godman, Heidi. “Can your CPAP make you sick?”. Harvard Health Publishing. 2019. –
- 6. “CPAP Equipment Cleaning and Disinfecting Instructions”. Weill Cornell. Webpage accessed November 1, 2024. –
- 7. “Keeping Your CPAP Clean”. UCDH Sleep Disorders Center. Webpage accessed November 1, 2024. –
- 8. “Replacement Schedules for Medicare Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Supplies”. Department of Health and Human Services. 2013. –
- 9. “CPAP Machine”. Cleveland Clinic. Last modified November 9, 2021. –
- 10. “Keeping it Clean: CPAP Hygiene”. Comprehensive Sleep Care Center. Webpage accessed November 2, 2024. –
- 11. Devore, Nate. “Best Soap To Clean CPAP Mask, Hose, and Equipment”. CPAP.com. 2024. –