There are few products patients ask more about than the SoClean CPAP sanitizer. This is probably due to a lot of well-targeted television ads. An estimated 22 million people in the U.S. suffer from sleep apnea. Since continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP, also: BiPAP, VPAP, ASV, AutoSV, etc.) is the most safe and effective treatment for sleep apnea, millions of Americans are now regularly using CPAP to treat sleep apnea. The airflow of CPAP is generated in a CPAP machine. That air passes through a humidifier, through a tube where it ends in a mask over the nose or nose + mouth. A strap around the head holds the mask in place. CPAP machines have become smaller and quieter. Humidifiers are better at conditioning the air. Masks are lower profile and more comfortable than ever. In our practice approximately 85% of people who start CPAP continue to use it regularly. This is great step forward for successfully treating sleep apnea.
With all of these people regularly using CPAP for hours every night, CPAP machines and their components are accumulating many hundreds and even thousands of hours of use. Like any item used on a person’s body for many hours, skin cells and oils, sweat, and mucus can collect. The warm, humid environment inside the CPAP components can support the growth of bacterial and fungal microorganisms.
When a patient receives a CPAP machine they are giving specific instructions about cleaning and maintaining their CPAP machine and its components as well as when they are supposed to replace the disposable components. When speaking to patients, I explain that it is like owning a car: it requires maintenance. Items must be discarded and replaced and all of the items have their own schedules. For example, you change the engine oil in your car every 3000-7500 miles and you replace the tires every 40,000-60,000 miles. Replacing items regularly will reduce the buildup of microorganisms.
Between replacement of these disposable items, CPAP components need to be kept clean. Many people have no trouble washing their mask, tube, and humidifier canister regularly. Some people, however, find that keeping up with regular washing and cleaning is a chore that they prefer to avoid. SoClean is perfect for them.
What is SoClean?
SoClean is an attractive white and blue box that sits next to a CPAP machine and is not used while CPAP is in use. In the morning after taking off the CPAP mask, a wipe is used to remove skin oils from the mask. Without detaching or disconnecting anything, the CPAP mask is dropped into the top of the SoClean and the lid is closed.
You do not even have to turn it on. SoClean is programmed to turn on automatically at 10 AM. This feature not only removes a step, but it prevents you from hearing noise when the machine cycles on.
SoClean works by generating “activated oxygen” which is a fancy way of saying ozone or O3. After generating ozone, it circulates it around the mask and headgear, through the tube, and through the humidifier canister and any remaining water. Ozone reacts with microorganisms and kills them by oxidizing components of the cell wall and killing them. The amount of ozone is relatively small and is not likely to have a significant impact when vented into the room.
After SoClean cycles through the CPAP components it leaves no residual disinfectant, because ozone simply breaks down to atmospheric oxygen or O2. Some people have reported a smell to their CPAP when they first turn it on. I recommend that they turn on their CPAP for a couple of seconds before putting it on at night to vent the tube before use.
Setting up SoClean
Before using SoClean for the first time you will have to make a minor configuration change to your CPAP. SoClean requires that a different humidifier lid be installed so that ozone can circulate through the humidifier. It is a fairly easy process and it only needs to be done once.
If you travel with your CPAP you will need to replace the SoClean humidifier lid with the regular CPAP lid, so you can use your CPAP without your SoClean when you are away.
Do I NEED a SoClean?
The short answer is: no.
If you wash and clean your CPAP components as recommended when you first got your CPAP machine, and you replace all of your disposable components on time so that microorganism biofilms do not accumulate, you probably do not need to buy a SoClean.
However, many people do not always keep up with the maintenance and replacement schedules for their CPAP. Those people might have fungal and bacterial growth inside their humidifier, tube, and/or mask. These people may benefit from purchasing and using a SoClean. SoClean does not eliminate the need for CPAP care and maintenance, but it does reduce microorganism growth in CPAP components.
SoClean is often discussed in sleep medicine clinic when discussing CPAP. I often recommend it for my patients. (As of this writing it is on sale.)