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How To Clean A CPAP Machine

Sleep apnea is one of the most potentially dangerous sleep disorders, and one of the most treatable. Sleep apnea refers to a pause in breathing, and affects more than 18 million adults in the United States.

The primary treatment for sleep apnea is a CPAP machine, or continuous positive airway pressure device. A CPAP applies gentle air pressure into the airway, allowing oxygen to enter the lungs. CPAP machines require regular at-home maintenance to work properly and prevent contamination with bacteria. Adequate cleaning of your CPAP machine is an important part of your sleep apnea treatment routine, and can help keep the device free of microorganisms and other impurities.

There are numerous CPAP cleaners available on the market. So how do you choose the one that’s best for you? To help you select the right CPAP cleaner, I’ve tested several models for performance, price, and durability. Check out my four top picks below, as well as my complete CPAP cleaner buyer’s guide.

How to Clean Your CPAP

Your CPAP machine can help treat sleep apnea and prevent or mitigate its effects. The three most common types of CPAP masks are:

  • The full-face CPAP mask – This type of mask covers both the nose and mouth and is typically used for more severe sleep apnea
  • The nasal pillow – The nasal pillow fits around the nose and forces air into the nostrils
  • The nasal CPAP mask – The nasal CPAP mask does not fit around the entire nose, but distributes air at the base of the nose

During inhalation and exhalation, microbes from the nose and mouth can enter components of the CPAP machine including the hoses, mask, and nasal pieces. Cleaning and disinfecting the device is essential to prevent the build-up of bacteria, mold, and other germs and viruses that can lead to upper respiratory and lung infections.

Hand-washing your CPAP device is an option, but can be ineffective and difficult to do properly. A CPAP cleaner is specially designed to sterilize your CPAP machine quickly and efficiently, and can be used daily or as often as necessary.

CPAP Cleaner Basics

CPAP cleaners utilize one of two methods to disinfect your device and keep it microbe-free. These methods are:

  • Ozone – Ozone is a reactive gas made from oxygen atoms, and is also referred to as activated oxygen. When used as a CPAP cleaner, ozone is a highly effective disinfectant that can kill almost 100% 99.99% of bacteria and other microorganisms
  • UV Light – UV light is a high-frequency light wave that damages the DNA of pathogens such as viruses and bacteria. UV light is commonly used in medical settings such as hospitals and ambulances to disinfect surfaces

Though washing a CPAP machine by hand may seem like the simplest method, it typically takes more time and is less thorough than a device designed for that purpose. Washing all areas of the machine, particularly inside hoses and masks, can be particularly difficult.

CPAP cleaner run-times vary. UV light devices generally take about 5 minutes, while ozone machines take up to 30 minutes. Ozone cleaners often require a period of time after the disinfection process for the ozone to dissipate safely.

Compatibility

Most CPAP cleaners are compatible with popular CPAP machines and are simple to use. Before purchasing a CPAP cleaner, check the instructions and list of compatible devices. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer of the cleaner or CPAP machine, or ask your prescriber for advice on a suitable cleaner. Many manufacturers of CPAP cleaners list information for consumers on their websites, including compatible brands and models.

Adapters may also be available for older or incompatible CPAP machines. Some cleaner adapters need to be ordered separately.

Size and Weight

Like CPAP machines, CPAP cleaners are available in various weights and sizes. Smaller cleaners that are compatible with travel-size CPAP machines can help keep hoses, masks, and nasal components in good operating condition when you’re away from home. Many travel-size CPAP cleaners utilize a USB charger or batteries to keep them light and portable. Portable ozone cleaners forgo the larger cleaning chamber of the home-use device and provide a bag and hose instead.

Trial Period

If you’re not sure if a CPAP cleaner is right for you, consider purchasing from a company with a trial period that lets you test the cleaning device and return or exchange it if necessary. A trial period allows you to see how the device operates under real-world conditions without commiting to a purchase. You may find you prefer a quieter or lighter device, or need one that is simpler to operate. Some folks prefer ozone to UV light cleaners or vice versa.

Many cleaner manufacturers offer a risk-free trial period of 30 to 45 days, but may charge return shipping. Check the company return policy before buying any CPAP cleaner, and be sure to follow the conditions of the trial period to avoid invalidating a potential refund.

Cost

A CPAP cleaner can be a significant financial investment. These devices often use advanced cleaning technology that requires significant development and research by the companies that manufacture them. Travel size cleaners may be less expensive but are typically less durable, and aren’t designed for regular use.

Because the cost of their products may be out of reach for some CPAP users, many cleaner companies make financing available. Payments plans are typically 6-12 months long and may require a credit check. Interest rates vary, and may be more or less than credit card interest rates. Before committing to a payment plan for a CPAP cleaner, know the terms and interest rates, as well as fees and penalties in case of a late payment.

Warranty

All CPAP cleaners come with a warranty, which usually covers such issues as manufacturing defects and damage during the shipping process. Some may come with an additional warranty that covers breakage or mechanical problems 1-5 years after purchase of your CPAP cleaner. Make sure you understand the warranty’s terms and conditions before you buy.

Sleepopolis Tips

Still not sure which CPAP cleaner is right for you? Keep these tips in mind:

  • Consider how you’ll use it. Do you travel a lot or will your new cleaner stay in one place most of the time? A travel cleaner can be a nice option for folks who go away often, but may not be durable enough for consistent cleaning over the long term
  • Watch your budget. Some cleaners are easier on the wallet than others, particularly more compact models and those that utilize ozone instead of UV light
  • If you have questions about which CPAP cleaner is best, check with the medical professional who prescribed your CPAP machine. They may be able to point you toward a compatible cleaner that will help keep your CPAP device sterilized and in good condition

FAQs

Can using a CPAP cleaner void the warranty of my CPAP machine?

Potentially, particularly if you use an adapter to operate the cleaner with your CPAP device. If in doubt, check with the manufacturer of your CPAP device to make sure use of a particular cleaner won’t affect your warranty.

How often should I use my CPAP cleaner?

Many folks with sleep apnea prefer to clean their CPAP components every day. At minimum, the mask should be cleaned daily, while the hose and other parts of the device should be cleaned weekly.

How often should I change the filters and other replaceable parts of my cleaner?

Filters and valves usually need to be changed every six months. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure you keep your device properly maintained.

Last Word From Sleepopolis

A CPAP machine is an important part of treatment for sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder that can negatively impact the body and overall health. A CPAP cleaner can help to maintain and disinfect the CPAP machine, reducing impurities in the airflow and decreasing the risk of respiratory infection. Together, a CPAP machine and cleaner can mitigate the effects of sleep apnea, promoting better slumber and improved quality of life.

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Rose is the Chief Research Officer at Sleepopolis, which allows her to indulge her twin passions for dense scientific studies and writing about health and wellness. An incurable night owl, she loves discovering the latest information about sleep and how to get (lots) more of it. She is a published novelist who has written everything from an article about cheese factories to clock-in instructions for assembly line workers in Belgium. One of her favorite parts of her job is connecting with the best sleep experts in the industry and utilizing their wealth of knowledge in the pieces she writes. She enjoys creating engaging articles that make a difference in people’s lives. Her writing has been reviewed by The Boston Globe, Cosmopolitan, and the Associated Press, and received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. When she isn’t musing about sleep, she’s usually at the gym, eating extremely spicy food, or wishing she were snowboarding in her native Colorado. Active though she is, she considers staying in bed until noon on Sundays to be important research.
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