All the current manufacturers of CPAP equipment recommend a daily/weekly regimen of soaking and cleaning the CPAP supplies with hot soapy water with an additional astringent soak. This includes cleaning of the mask frame, cushion and headgear, tubing, water chamber and reusable filter. The water chamber and cushion are recommended to be cleaned daily with the other items receiving weekly cleanings. They further recommend using a white vinegar soak weekly with a dilution of 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water. The vinegar provides a bacterial astringent as well as solution to dissolve the build up of water residue in the tubing and water chamber. This technique is the only one that will be mentioned in this section that actually does clean the CPAP supplies. By “clean” we mean the removal of the buildup of skin oils and sweat, facial and hair products and nasal and oral discharge into the mask cushion. The other products that will be discussed next do NOT perform this important task! Their marketing material does not mention this but their technical and service/support material does – essentially telling you to follow the manufacturer recommendation for cleaning.
The problem is that people are generally lazy when it comes to keeping their CPAP supplies clean and dry. We mentioned “dry” here because most people also do not empty the water reservoir daily allowing it to dry completely. Instead they leave the water in the chamber all day long. This practice allows the evaporating water to enter into the CPAP machine during the day creating a warm, dark, damp environment throughout the entire CPAP circuit. And, as we ask our patients, “What grows in warm, dark, damp environments? Bad things.” The simple solution is simply to empty the water chamber and let it dry out during the day, only filling it again at bedtime.
The benefit of following the manufacturer recommendations is that it is a simple and very inexpensive method of keeping your CPAP supplies clean. The problem is that it is also messy and time consuming and smelly if you do use the vinegar soak.
There are two newer methods of sanitizing CPAP equipment that have developed in recent years. Ozone technology uses activated oxygen to sanitize, while Ultraviolet (UV-C) light technology uses light to perform the sanitizing cycle.