Sanitization - Cleaning Nebulizers



Cleaning Nebulizers




The purpose of this procedure is to sanitize nebulizers. Nebulizers consist of a small, powered air compressor unit with tubing connecting to a face mask or mouthpiece to deliver aerosolized medication to the respiratory system.


Because the nebulizer is a respiratory device, routine cleaning and disinfection are critical to its safe usage. If the equipment and accessories are not cleaned and dried properly, bacteria build up can lead to infections in the airways. Different components of the system require cleaning or disinfection with varying frequencies. However, for reutilization purposes, only the base unit will be passed on to a new user. The face mask or mouthpiece and tubing should be discarded. These must be replaced with new components to minimize risk of infection.


Recommendations from healthcare authorities differ on cleaning and disinfection frequency and method for users. The manufacturers are not always in agreement and practices within hospital settings are inconsistent. This has been the subject of research and discussion. If possible, the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions should be followed. If unavailable, the methods here are generally accepted for users with common respiratory illnesses and asthma.





Mild dishwashing liquid Distilled or sterile water Distilled white vinegar or Manufacturer-recommended anti-bacterial solution Paper towels/ clean towels

The parts that can be immersed in water (NOT the compressor unit) should be cleaned with a mild, non-lotion detergent. Soap and strong dishwashing detergents should be avoided, as should detergents that use strong scents or dyes. Mild dishwashing detergents or anti-bacterial soaps are recommended.


For disinfecting, two methods are acceptable. Users may purchase a disinfectant solution recommended by the manufacturer. Or, they may make a solution using ½ cup distilled white vinegar mixed with 1 ½ cups distilled or sterile water. Bleach and caustic cleaning aids should never be used on any component of the nebulizer system.



The cleaning area should be located away from open windows and should be free of smoke and dust. The cleaning area can be sanitized by washing all surfaces with clean, soapy water and rinsing well.




Hands should be washed thoroughly before handling nebulizer equipment. The compressor unit should be disconnected from power, and the face mask or mouthpiece and the tubing discarded.

  The outside cabinet of the compressor unit may be wiped with a damp cloth dipped in soapy water, rinsed by using a cloth dipped only in clean water, and then wiped with a dry cloth and allow to air dry.


Filters should be cleaned or replaced based on the manufacturer’s recommendations.




Filters on the nebulizer should be cleaned and changed as recommended by the manufacturer.



All equipment should be allowed to dry thoroughly, and then place in a plastic, zippered bag.




“How to Clean a Nebulizer Machine,” Medical Supplies and Equipment Co., Houston, Texas. Retrieved from


“Prevention of Transmission of Microorganisms, A. Sterilization or Disinfection and Maintenance of Equipment and Devices,” Centers for Disease Control. Retrieved Dec. 24, 2007, from





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This work is supported under a five-year cooperative agreement # H235V060016 awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and is administered by the Pass It On Center of the Georgia Department of Labor – Tools for Life.  However, the contents of this publication do not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the Department of Education, or the Georgia Department of Labor, and you should not assume endorsements of this document by the Federal government or the Georgia Department of Labor.











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Title: Sanitization - Cleaning Nebulizers
Module: Program Operations
Author: Trish Redmon
Audience: Implementer
Sub Title:
Organization Source: Pass It On Center
Last Reviewed: 10-25-2009 6:19 PM