Using the CPAP Cleaners Soclean or Lumin

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is a treatment for sleep apneathat uses a constant flow of air to keep the airway open while a person sleeps. To keep machines clean, doctors recommend that users clean their devices regularly with soap and water.

In addition, some advertisers claim that CPAP cleaners or sanitizers like SoClean or Lumin can reduce CPAP users' risk of infections.

But is there any evidence to support those claims? This article explains the purposes, costs, potential benefits, and possible risks of CPAP cleaners.

Man Wearing CPAP Mask On Bed

Andrey Popov / Getty Images

Keeping CPAP Equipment Clean

CPAP manufacturers, suppliers, and sleep physicians all recommend cleaning CPAP equipment regularly. Basic cleaning instructions include:

This cleaning standard can be hard to maintain. Therefore, some people never clean their equipment. But, dirty equipment can lead to significant problems, including:

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

Recap

Dirty equipment could lead to direct exposure to bacteria, viruses, and molds. This exposure may raise the possibility of infections and even pneumonia.

Infection 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 relatively small. However, there are very few research studies into the relationship between unsanitary equipment and infection.

In a 2017 study of 137 people, there were no differences found between CPAP users and non-CPAP users regarding upper respiratory infections and pneumonia. CPAP use, mask choice, or humidifier use had no impact on the prevalence of infections. In addition, it also did not affect the type of micro-organisms that were isolated based on nasal, mask, and humidifier swabs.

In an earlier study from 2012, researchers found CPAP treatment decreased 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. However, weaknesses of this study design included:

  • It was retrospective (requiring participants to recall prior infections).
  • Only 17% used a heated humidifier, an accessory that is now the current standard of care.

Recap

Studies on the topic are limited, so there is no conclusive evidence that unsanitized CPAP machines lead to infections. However, regular cleaning is an easy way to reduce the potential risk of infections.

Sanitizing Options

Most professionals recommend cleaning CPAP equipment with liquid dish soap and hot water or diluted vinegar and water. For decades, these cleaning standards have proven adequate in preventing widespread respiratory infections associated with CPAP use.

Nevertheless, companies have developed a niche market of CPAP cleaners and sanitizers. So what are the costs, benefits, and risks of these devices?

SoClean 2

SoClean 2 is an automatic CPAP cleaner that allows users to clean their CPAP machine daily without taking the machine apart. Instead, it cleans by delivering ozone into a sealed container and the CPAP device's internal chambers from the mask via the tubing.

Benefits

The device reportedly kills 99.9% of bacteria found in CPAP masks, tubing, and water reservoirs based on controlled laboratory testing.

In addition, you don't have to disassemble the mask —it is placed directly in the container with the tubing poking through a side hole.

A smaller travel version, the So Clean 2 Go, operates on 8 AA batteries.

Risks

Since ozone exposure is potentially dangerous for those with respiratory conditions, the residual smell of ozone may be unpleasant and risky. Federal law describes it as a "toxic gas with no known useful medical application."

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that relatively low amounts of ozone can cause shortness of breath and worsen chronic respiratory disease. Ironically, exposure to it may compromise the body's ability to fight respiratory infections.

As of February 1, 2020, ResMed has indicated that ozone damage will void the CPAP manufacturer's warranty. Therefore, they recommend that SoClean not be used with ResMed CPAP machines.

Cost: $398. Annual replacement parts: $30 (cartridge filter kit).

Lumin

Lumin uses UVB light to clean and sanitize CPAP machines. To use, place the mask or water chamber in the sliding drawer to clean. Since there is no direct exposure to UV light, the risks associated with this (such as skin cancer or eye damage) are irrelevant.

Benefits

This device promises to kill 99% of bacteria with UV light.

In addition, it works quickly, delivering a dose of sanitizing light in just 5 minutes.

You can also use it to clean dentures, hearing aids, and toothbrushes.

Risks

The device may create an unpleasant smell within the equipment, but this may not be harmful.

Unfortunately, it only cleans the surfaces directly exposed to the light.

Opaque materials may interfere with the efficacy of the cleaning. Therefore, you can not use it to clean CPAP tubing (you would need to use a separate device to clean the tubing).

It is theoretically possible that the UV light may deteriorate the plastics of the CPAP equipment.

Cost: $249. Annual replacement parts: None

Summary

CPAP sanitizing machines can be used to disinfect CPAP devices. However, there is no evidence that sanitizing devices reduce the risk of infection. Ultimately, regularly cleaning your CPAP with soap and water is probably sufficient.

These companies also have no financial interest in investigating this possibility. The devices sell well without any such study, which may be why manufacturers rely on direct-to-consumer marketing of the product, beyond the science supporting its use.

A Word From Verywell

Further research is needed to determine if these devices have any beneficial role in routine CPAP cleaning. However, the risk of infection is so tiny, and the evidence for the benefit is so weak that these devices are not currently recommended. Instead, soap and water do the trick.

Disclosure: Product samples were provided by CPAP.com for review purposes.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What CPAP cleaner works best?

    To clean the CPAP, you can soak the face mask, detachable hoses, and connectors in a sink with soapy water. You can then hang up the parts to air dry. Next, clean the humidifier's water chamber as directed in the owner's manual. For the filters, check the manufacturer's instructions on whether you should replace them or if you can rinse them.

  • What are the steps to clean CPAP equipment?

    To clean the CPAP, you can soak the face mask, detachable hoses, and connectors in a sink with soapy water. You can then hang up the parts to air dry. Next, clean the humidifier's water chamber as directed in the owner's manual. For the filters, check the manufacturer's instructions on whether you should replace them or if you can rinse them.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ortolano GA, et al. “Filters reduce the risk of bacterial transmission from contaminated heated humidifiers used with CPAP for obstructive sleep apnea.” J Clin Sleep Med. 2007 Dec 15;3(7):700-5.

  2. Mercieca L, et al. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure: Is it a route for infection in those with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea?. Sleep Sci. 2017 Jan-Mar;10(1):28-34. doi: 10.5935/1984-0063.20170005.

  3. Gelardi M, et al. Regular CPAP utilization reduces nasal inflammation assessed by nasal cytology in obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Sleep Med. 2012 Aug;13(7):859-63. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2012.04.004. 

  4. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. CPAP machine cleaning: Ozone, UV light products are not FDA approved.