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Caring for Your Metered-Dose Inhaler

Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine that you breathe in using a metered-dose inhaler. It's important to keep it clean. Always check the product insert for information that is specific to your device. In general, you should clean your inhaler at least once a week. This is very important if you are using a steroid inhaler. Inhaled corticosteroids can cause a fungal infection called thrush.

Check the expiration date on your medicine canister to make sure it's not expired. You should also keep track of how much medicine is left in the canister so you’ll never run out.

Hand holding inhaler mouthpiece under running water. Spacer lying on towel on counter.

Keeping your inhaler clean

  • Wash your hands before and after cleaning your inhaler.

  • Take off the canister, the part with the medicine, and cap from the mouthpiece.

  • Set the canister aside. Don't wash the canister or put it in water.

  • Run warm water through the mouthpiece and the cap for about 1 minute.

  • Shake off the water and let it air-dry.

  • If you need to use your inhaler before it's dry, shake off any water and replace the canister. Test spray it away from you at least 2 times to make sure it works.

  • If you use a spacer, clean it with warm water and a small amount of mild dish soap. Do this once every 1 or 2 weeks. Air-dry the spacer before you use it again.

  • Check the package insert for special instructions. The insert is the information that comes with the medicine. It may tell you how to take care of and clean your spacer.

When to replace your inhaler

Check the expiration date on the canister to make sure the medicine isn't expired.

Each inhaler is good for only a certain number of puffs of medicine. After those puffs are used up, any puffs left will not give you the amount of medicine you need. To be sure you’ll get enough medicine when you need it, keep track of how many puffs you use. Here’s an easy way to keep track of the medicine in your inhaler:

  1. Find the number on the mouthpiece that tells you how many puffs it contains. Some inhalers have the counter on the mouthpiece instead of the canister. Keep the canister and mouthpiece together so you can keep track of how many puffs are left.

  2. Divide this number by how many puffs you're told to use in 1 day. This gives you the number of days your medicine should last.

  3. Use your calendar to find out what date your medicine will run out. Mark it on the canister and on your calendar.

Be sure to get a refill of your medicines before they expire or you run out. Some inhalers have dose counters to track the amount of medicine used.

For example, if your new canister holds 200 puffs and you’ve been told to use 4 puffs a day:

200 ÷ 4 = 50 days

Sample for you to fill in:


Number of puffs in new canister



Number of puffs you use each day



Number of days medicine will last

Note: Remember that your medicine won't last as long if you use your inhaler more often than planned.

Online Medical Reviewer: Chris Southard RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Rajadurai Samnishanth Researcher
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2024
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.