Would you share your lip balm with a stranger at a bar? No. Would you eat food that you dropped on the bathroom floor? I hope not. But you’ve probably let a new friend try your vape. And I’m betting you didn’t throw your JUUL pod away after dropping it in the bathroom, either. So why is this different? Is vaping sanitary?
For whatever reason, the sanitary issues posed by vaping have gone largely ignored in medical research and discussion. The effects of this extend beyond leaving vapers in the dark about how to practice good vaping hygeine.
If you follow the news, you know that exploring the health effects of vaping is a hot topic in medical research. And the results of those studies often inform agencies like the FDA in their regulatory proposals. Yet the actual usage of vaping devices is seldom, if ever, done in a completely controlled, sanitary environment.
This is particularly concerning when they compare vaping to combustible cigarette usage. Cigarettes are disposable. You touch the filter once, bring it to your lips, puff on it a few times, and toss it away when you’re done. Any study evaluating illness in vapers vs. smokers needs to consider this distinction. But they don’t.
So How Do We Know If Vaping Is Sanitary?
Well, we can reach a conclusion by considering these two simple facts about vape devices:
1.We repeatedly put them to our lips.
2.We touch them all the time.
It’s not hard to imagine that constantly putting something in or near your mouth can increase your likelihood of getting sick. And most people I know don’t treat their vaping devices like something they put in their mouth. They throw it in their pocket or purse, let it roll around in their car, lay it on a dirty table or counter.
In essence, they treat it like a cell phone. But as demonstrated in by two studies in 2012 and 2017… cell phones are gross.
So, if you treat something like a cell phone– taking it everywhere you go, constantly touching and using it– you could safely assume that the item would have just as much bacteria… more than a toilet seat.
Worse yet is the fact that you repeatedly bring your e-cigarette to your lips. This transfers bacteria from your mouth to the device, as well as food and drink particles. This can create an environment that encourages bacteria to grow and multiply.
Your vape is nasty, okay
But What About Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerine?
Some vapers insist that their devices are “naturally” disinfected by propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerine (VG), two components of e-liquid. It is often stated that these two substances are anti-bacterial. Some even claim that nicotine has anti-bacterial properties. However, the extent to which they prevent microbial growth is not yet known.The most cited study showcasing PG’s anti-bacterial effects was performed all the way back in 1965. And it was based on the topical application of the substance, which may have different effects than it does when ingested as vapor.
A 2015 study explored the effectiveness of PG and VG against four different strains of bacteria. The researchers found that VG can kill some strains of bacteria, but only at 100% concentration. PG, on the other hand, can be effective at partial concentrations, as seen below:
However, e-liquids are not mixed with this in mind. They contain flavorings and nicotine, and they may even be diluted with water or alcohol. So these findings cannot be applied directly to e-liquid.
Time.com reports that e-cigarette vapor may even cause bacteria to become more resistant to antibiotics. This includes antibiotic peptides that are naturally produced by your immune system. Dr. Laura Crotty Alexander, who conducted the study, blames the effect on nicotine.
The effectiveness of PG, VG, and nicotine as anti-microbial agents has not been thoroughly researched and reviewed. Seriously, do a Google search and tell me if you can find conclusive evidence. People make these claims all the time, but there’s simply no real proof.
Therefore, it is not safe to assume that your device will sanitize itself. Instead, be proactive and diligent about cleaning your vape and all its components. And make a strong effort to minimize its exposure to bacteria in the first place.
How to Sanitize Your Vape
In a previous article, I described how to clean your vape tank. However, this alone isn’t enough to keep your device clean, nor is it practical to do very often.
The most important part of your vape to keep clean is your drip tip, or mouthpiece, since it makes frequent contact with your mouth.
Sanitizing Your Drip Tips
I recommend cleaning your drip tip at least once a day. Your drip tip collects bacteria, dead skin, and food particles from your mouth. This, as I mentioned before, makes it a great environment for bacteria. Fortunately, cleaning your drip tip is super easy.
First, here are some effective cleaning agents for cleaning your drip tip:
·Apple Cider Vinegar (1/2 cup)
·Baking Soda (2 tablespoons) and Water (1/2 cup)
·Dish Soap (a tiny squeeze) and Water (1/2 cup)
·Table Salt (1 teaspoon) and Water (1/2 cup)
·*FOR METAL DRIP TIPS ONLY* High-Proof Grain Alcohol (1/2 cup)
Now, this is how you clean your drip tips, step-by-step:
1.Pour your preferred solution into a small bowl.
2.Unscrew your drip tip from your tank, and drop it into the solution. Allow it to soak for 3 minutes. You may also use a cotton swab to remove any visible residue.
3.After you’ve allowed your drip tip to soak, thoroughly rinse it under warm running water. Close your sink drain so you don’t lose the drip tip. Rinse until the scent of your cleaning solution is gone.
4.Wipe the drip tip dry with a clean paper towel, and you’re done!
Also, consider carrying extra drip tips with you when you’re out and about. You can wash them in bulk and keep them in small plastic baggies. That way, you can swap drip tips after meals or when sharing your vape with a friend. This also allows you to just clean a bunch at once and have a new one to swap to daily, or whenever you want.
Sanitizing Your Mod
If you’re like me, you probably don’t lick your box mod very often, so it might seem like keeping it sanitary isn’t very important. But remember when I compared vapes to cell phones?
Your device itself is a host to many dangerous strains of bacteria. If you touch your face or eat after vaping, you can then introduce those germs into your body. For this reason, I recommend cleaning your mod at least once a day.
Because your mod is an electronic device, you unfortunately can’t just soak it in a cleaning solution. You have to be very careful not to create moisture in the internal components. Also, if you use a cloth or solution that is too abrasive, you could damage the surface of your mod.
Here is how to safely and effectively sanitize your mod:
1.In a bowl or spray bottle, combine 70% isopropyl alcohol and distilled water at a 1:1 ratio.
2.If your mod uses external batteries, remove them from the chamber and store them safely.
3.Ensure that your device is powered off.
4.Get a clean, lint-free microfiber towel. If your cleaning solution is in a spray bottle, lightly spray it onto the towel. If it’s in a bowl, dip the towel into the bowl and wring it out until it’s slightly damp.
5.Gently wipe your mod with the damp towel, avoiding the battery vents. Pay extra attention to any buttons on the mod, but be careful to not let excess liquid seep into the cracks.
6.If there is gunk built up in any crevices or holes, carefully use a cotton swab or toothpick to remove.
Alternatively, you can use disinfectant wipes designed specifically for electronics. These are especially handy for sanitary vaping on the go.
Vaping Hygiene: Best Practices
Now, beyond cleaning your vape, there is another thing to be aware of– proper vape hygiene.
Unless you have some unique talents, you use your mouth to vape. As such, try to treat your device with the same care as you would an eating utensil. Obviously, you can’t put your vape in the dishwasher. But would you throw your fork in your purse or let someone else use it? Practicing good vape hygiene ensures that your device stays as clean as possible throughout the day.
Without further ado…
Here are some of my best tips for keeping your vaping device sanitary between cleanings:
Wash your hands before and after vaping. I know that many of us vape while doing other things or just chillaxing, so it’s not practical to get up and wash your hands every minute. But if you’re heading out for or returning from a vape break at work, for example, wash your hands.
Do not share your vape with others. Seriously, that’s just asking to get sick. I have no idea why people do this, especially with strangers. However, if you must be generous, use spare drip tips, pods, or disposable mouthpiece covers.
Be mindful of where you put your device. Don’t set it on a dirty bartop or public toilet paper dispenser. If you put it in your purse or pants pocket, make sure that you regularly clean those items. Better yet, store it in a plastic bag or washable vape case when not in use.
Don’t bring your vape to a hospital or doctor’s office. You can’t vape in these places, so why expose your device to a building full of sick people?
If you drop your vape on the floor, clean it immediately. If you’re out in public, don’t fret. A wipe-down with a damp paper towel isn’t the best solution, but it will mitigate the issue a bit. If you carry wipes or extra drip tips/pods, you’re in even better shape. Worst case scenario? Buy a crappy disposable e-cig from a gas station to hold you over.
Sanitize other things you come into contact with regularly. Think about what you touch before and after using your vape– your steering wheel, keyboard, game controller, cell phone, etc. Even if you make an effort to keep your vape clean, you could get cross-contamination from these sources.
In Conclusion… Vaping Can Be Sanitary!
If you do it right, that is. I hope this guide opened your eyes to some of the sanitary concerns related to vaping. And if you follow the practices and procedures I’ve outlined, you will reduce the risk of ingesting harmful bacteria from your vape.
You don’t have to live in a plastic bubble. But especially during flu season, you should always be aware of your hygiene habits. And that certainly does extend to vaping.