How to Clean Humidifiers

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Don’t turn on your humidifier until you’ve learned how to deep clean and maintain it properly.

A stream of vapor from a portable humidifier shows the importance of knowing how to clean your humidifier and disinfect it

When temperatures drop, so does the humidity level in most homes. Once you turn on your heater or start using your fireplace, your home’s air gets even drier. When the air gets too dry, your family will experience nose bleeds, itchy skin, too much dust, and other problems related to improper home humidity.

That’s when many people turn to humidifiers to add moisture back into their home’s air. But if that humidifier isn’t clean or maintained properly, it can add more to your air than you bargained for. Due to their nature, humidifiers remain wet all the time, providing the perfect environment for mold, mildew, and bacteria to thrive.

Following the steps below will deep clean your humidifier to eliminate those problems and help keep your home’s air healthy and clean.

Steps to Clean Your Humidifier

Every humidifier is different, so the exact steps may differ slightly from one model to the next. But the method below is a good starting point that will get most home humidifiers thoroughly clean.

You’ll need:

  • White vinegar
  • A bucket or sink
  • Soft scrub brush
  • Cleaning rags or microfiber cloths
  • Towels

STEP 1: Remove the filter and rinse it. Unplug the unit, then remove the filter if there is one. Rinse reusable filters under a strong spray of water to loosen debris.

STEP 2: Take out other removable pieces. Take out the humidifier tank and any other removable parts. (See your manual for disassembly instructions.) Empty the tank.

STEP 3: Soak and scrub the pieces. Fill the tank with equal parts warm water and white vinegar until it’s full. Let this soak for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the other parts in a bucket or sink that’s also filled with equal parts of warm water and vinegar. After soaking, use a soft-bristled scrub brush or old toothbrush to clean any crevices and dislodge mineral buildup. Then rinse each part and the tank under clean, running water.

STEP 4: Wipe the rest of the unit. Use a damp cloth and soapy water to wipe the exterior of the unit and remove grime. After that, you can use a disinfecting cloth on it if you like.

STEP 5: Reassemble after everything is dry. Place the clean, rinsed pieces and filter on an absorbent towel and let them air dry. If you’re in a hurry, hand-dry the pieces with a soft, lint-free cloth. It’s important to completely dry the filter, so use a hairdryer on low heat to speed up the process if needed. Wait until all pieces are completely dry before you reassemble and restart your humidifier.

Tips to Keep Your Humidifier Clean

Using a dirty humidifier can make allergy and asthma issues worse. If it’s adding a lot of mold or bacteria spores to your home’s air, you’ll have more problems with both of those, too.

Add Fresh Water Daily

Your home’s air needs consistent moisture levels, not sudden bursts of improved humidity followed by periods of dryness. That kind of cycle causes soft surfaces like wood to expand and contract too much, leading to wear and damage. To keep your humidifier running continuously, be sure to fill its tank at least once a day. Smaller humidifiers may require more frequent refills. Using distilled water can reduce mineral buildup but isn’t necessary — filtered tap water works just as well.

Clean it on Schedule

Follow these steps to deep clean your humidifier weekly and more often if someone in your home has respiratory or immune issues or severe allergies. For humidifiers with wick-style filters that cannot be washed, replace them at least every 8 weeks or monthly if you have problems with hard water deposits on them.

Disinfect Your Humidifier if Needed

If you forget to clean your humidifier regularly or want to give it added disinfection, soak the tank and removable pieces in 1 gallon of water with 1 teaspoon of bleach. Rinse them well and let them air dry. Do not use bleach on the filter.

Set the Proper Home Humidity Range

Your home’s humidity level should remain between 30 and 50 percent. If it gets much higher, your nose will feel stuffy, and you’ll see condensation inside your windows which can lead to mold and mildew. If it’s too dry, you’ll feel those nosebleeds and dry skin I mentioned. If your home’s thermostat does not tell you the humidity level, look for an inexpensive hygrometer. Use it to check every room and add additional humidifiers as needed to keep your home comfortable.

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