Do You Need a CPAP Cleaner Like SoClean or Lumin?

A CPAP Sanitizer May Not Reduce the Risk of Infection

CPAP

Somsak Bumroongwong / EyeEm/Getty Images

 

Though heavily advertised, is there any evidence that you need a CPAP cleaner or sanitizer like SoClean or Lumin to reduce your risk of infections when using CPAP therapy to treat sleep apnea? Review the purposes of CPAP cleaners, the costs, potential benefits, and possible risks.

Keeping CPAP Equipment Clean

Manufacturers, suppliers, and sleep physicians all recommend regular cleaning of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) equipment.

The mask, tubing, and water chamber should be cleaned on a daily (or at least weekly) basis with liquid dish soap and hot water. In addition, the device’s filter should be replaced every 2 to 4 weeks. Distilled water is meant to be used in the water chamber to reduce risk.

This cleaning standard may be an ideal that not everyone lives up to. Some patients never clean their equipment. This may lead to significant problems.

  • Minerals may accumulate within the water chamber.
  • Mucus may collect in the mask.
  • Germs may be found in the tubing.
  • Mold may grow in moist environments.
  • There may be unpleasant smells.
  • The equipment may appear unhygienic.

The potential risks with unclean equipment could also be direct exposure to bacteria, viruses, and molds. This may raise the possibility of nasty colds, sinus infections, and even pneumonia. But do these infections actually occur more often among CPAP users? Can CPAP really make you sick?

Research Suggests Minimal Risks

CPAP has been around for more than 35 years. Millions of people use the therapy nightly. The risk of contracting an infection from CPAP equipment seems vanishingly small. There are very few research studies into the relationship. A few important findings include:

  • In a 2017 study of 137 patients, there were no differences found between CPAP users and non-CPAP users in regards to upper respiratory infections and pneumonia. The use of CPAP, choice of mask, or use of humidifier had no impact on the prevalence of infections or the type of micro-organisms isolated based on nasal, mask, and humidifier swabs.
  • In an earlier study from 2012, CPAP treatment was found to decrease inflammation and mucus production within the nose, potentially reducing congestion and the risk for infection.
  • An older study from 2001 suggested an increase in self-reported upper respiratory infections, but weaknesses of this study design included that it was retrospective (requiring patients to recall prior infections) and the fact that only 17 percent used a heated humidifier, an accessory that is now the current standard of care. Regular cleaning seemed to be an important way to reduce the potential risk of infections.

Options to Clean and Sanitize CPAP

Most professionals recommend cleaning CPAP equipment with liquid dish soap and hot water. In some cases, diluted vinegar with water is used instead. This has been adequate to prevent widespread respiratory infections associated with CPAP use for decades. Nevertheless, companies in the last few years have exploited fears and have developed a niche market of cleaners and sanitizers. What are the costs, benefits, and risks of these devices?

SoClean and SoClean 2

  • Cost: $299
  • Annual replacement parts: $30 (cartridge filter kit)
  • Benefits:

Based on controlled laboratory testing, the device reportedly kills 99.9 percent of bacteria found in CPAP masks, tubing, and water reservoirs.

It does this by delivering ozone into a sealed container and, from the mask via the tubing, into the CPAP device's internal chambers. The mask does not have to be disassembled: it is placed directly in the container with the tubing poking through a side hole. There is also a smaller travel version, the So Clean 2 Go, that operates on 8 AA batteries.

  • Risks:

The residual smell of ozone may be unpleasant and risky. Ozone exposure is potentially dangerous among those with respiratory conditions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration describes it as a “toxic gas with no known useful medical application.” The Environmental Protection Agency says that relatively low amounts of ozone can cause shortness of breath and worsen chronic respiratory disease.

In fact, ironically, exposure to it may compromise the body’s ability to fight respiratory infections.

Lumin

  • Cost: $249
  • Annual replacement parts: None
  • Benefits:

Promising to kill 99 percent of bacteria with UV light, the device has a sliding drawer in which the mask or water chamber can be placed to be cleaned. It works quickly, delivering a dose of sanitizing light in just 5 minutes. It can also be used to clean dentures, hearing aids, and toothbrushes.

  • Risks:

Use of the device may also create an unpleasant smell within the equipment, but this may not be harmful. There is no direct exposure to the UV light so the risks associated with this (such as skin cancer or eye damage) are irrelevant. Unfortunately, it only cleans the surfaces directly exposed to the light.

Opaque materials may interfere with the efficacy of the cleaning. It is not meant to be used for cleaning CPAP tubing, and a separate device is planned to be released for this cleaning task. It is theoretically possible that the UV light may accelerate the normal aging of the plastics of the CPAP equipment.

Should I Buy a CPAP Sanitizer?

Ultimately, the available CPAP cleaners and sanitizers seem unlikely to provide additional cleaning capacity beyond standard methods of cleaning with soap and water. There is no evidence that these devices reduce the risk of infection.

These companies also have no financial interest in investigating this possibility. The devices sell well without any such study. This may reveal much about the motivation behind the recent push in direct-to-consumer marketing of the product, beyond the science supporting its use.

A Word From Verywell

Further research may be helpful to determine if these devices have any role in routine CPAP therapy. The risk of infection is so small, and the evidence for benefit so weak, that these devices are not currently recommended. Save your money and buy a lifetime supply of liquid dish soap instead!

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by CPAP.com. For more information, please see our Editorial Policy.

Was this page helpful?
View Article Sources