Saturday, October 20, 2012

How To Clean Your Humidifier

It’s that time of year again! I don’t know about you, but we’ve already had to start using our furnace at night and instead of having the windows open every night…now we’re lucky to have them open even a few minutes each day. I can almost hear my poor hair, skin and nails starting to dry and crack!  It’s going to be a looooooooong winter!!

Luckily we have an ally in the fight against dryness at our house….our trusty humidifier! 

  • A humidifier helps relieve cold, cough, the flu, allergy, sinusitis, nose bleeding, and hay fever symptoms.
  • It relieves and prevents dry, scratchy skin and lips.
  • It reduces static electricity.
  • It improves the air quality at home, which is beneficial for asthma sufferers.
  • A humidifier helps keep air hydrated which promotes a feeling of comfort in the home.
  • And last….but certainly not least… helps babies sleep peacefully. (And that’s worth a LOT!)

But as beneficial as a humidifier can be in your home….if it’s not properly cleaned and cared for, it can actually be detrimental to your health and well-being. Bacteria and mold can grow in the tanks and then get into the air through the mist, so cleaning your humidifier is extremely important.


I’ve received several requests recently from people wondering how to best CLEAN the “gunk” out of their here are some general tips to help keep your home’s humidifier in healthy, working order:

Always refer to the cleaning instructions for any appliance that are provided by the manufacturer.

  • Empty and refill the humidifier with clean distilled water every day. This will keep mineral deposits (ie. “gunk”) from building up in the machine, and will also keep minerals from being spread in the air.
  • Clean and disinfect your humidifier at least once a week.


  • Unplug your humidifier. Remove the filter and rinse with cool water underneath the faucet. You never want to use any kind of cleaning solutions on humidifier filters because chemicals can cause permanent damage. Set the clean filter on a towel and let any excess water drip off.
  • Remove the water tank. Pour a generous amount of undiluted white vinegar in to the base of your humidifier and let sit for 30 minutes. Swish the solution around the container making sure that it coats the entire base. Then remove any residue or build-up by gently scrubbing with the soft bristle brush. Repeat the scrubbing process a second time on areas that need it. Rinse THOROUGHLY.


  • Once you have cleaned the humidifier, you should disinfect it by filling the water tank with clean water and adding one teaspoon of bleach to every gallon of water. Or, if you prefer, you can use 3% hydrogen peroxide instead. Gently swish the solution to coat the tank evenly, and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes. Rinse THOROUGHLY.
  • Put the humidifier back together, fill the tank with cool water and resume regular use.


FYI…indoor humidity levels should ideally be between 30 and 50 percent. Most homes heated to 73 degrees can have a relative humidity of just 15%!  In comparison, the typical humidity in the Sahara Desert is 25%!

So get that trusty home humidifier out….give it a good cleaning….and start using it!

Your home and your health will thank you!


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43 thoughts on “How To Clean Your Humidifier

  1. Rachel Loveridge

    Good to know! I’d never heard of using bleach, though. The instructions for my humidifier did also say to clean it with vinegar. Can you smell the bleach?

  2. Karen

    Also, vinegar itself has antibacterial/antimicrobial properties and can help inhibit mold growth. That’s awesome considering I have a severe allergy to almost all molds, so I only use vinegar for both the cleaning & disinfecting as well.

  3. Jen K.

    I just pulled mine out and wanted to try this, but I got down off the closet shelf and I saw that the filter was never taken out from the last time we used it. I know, ewww gross. But anyways, the filter has some mold on it and there is some on the inside of the humidifier itself. Does anyone think it would be worth saving by trying this? Part of me wants to just buy a new one… Any thoughts?

    1. Karen

      I actually did take one out of the closet that had gotten nasty & I cleaned it right up, that was 2 years ago & it’s still working great! I’m glad I didn’t toss it out to buy a new one.

    2. Karen

      One thing I forgot to mention is I did use bleach to kill the mold after it had sit untouched for SO long. But I always use the vinegar for maintaining it now.

  4. Sherri McNeeley

    We live in good ol’ humid East Tennessee, so we don’t use a humidifier. But my husband’s c-pap machine’s reservoir gets a once a week top-rack dishwasher bath and vinegar rinses throughout the week. Gotta love vinegar!

  5. Marianne

    I do the vinegar-in-the-base and the bleach-solution-in-the-tank once a week. But I’ve noticed that the part that houses the fan and the electronics is getting black gunky dust on it. Any thoughts on how to clean that? It’s housed inside the base and as far as I can tell you can’t easily get to it.

  6. Jennifer

    I have been known to run it for a bit with vinegar in the tank, then run 1-2 tanks of just water through until it doesn’t smell like vinegar anymore. I usually stick it in the kitchen while it’s running.

    I also put a few drops of eucalyptus eo in the tank when my kids are congested and coughing and it does wonders.

  7. S

    Just got these out for the kiddos! Will be doing this today to clean them. We have had the Crane animal humidifiers for 7 or 8 years, and they still work great! I purchase one for every baby shower. I will now include your directions of how to clean them! Thanks so much!

  8. Olivia Lane

    I have always lived in apartments in old brownstones and tenement buildings where we had radiators. I would sometimes set a baking pan or pot full of water on them to create steam. Hanging laundry to dry is another great way to add some humidity indoors. Recently, we moved to a house and have no radiator. Looks like I should add a humidifier to my Winter shopping list. Thanks for these tips on how to clean it! PS I just discovered your blog last week and am totally in LOVE! <3

    1. Amber

      I believe the black flakes are from the heating element if your using a warm mist one, I had one of those and I encountered the same thing. I used the same method as listed for cleaning the tank on those.

  9. Sarah @ Raising Isabella

    I have always hated “heater air”, but everyone thinks I’m crazy. Nice to know that I’m not the only one who notices that it’s drier than the sahara! We pulled our humidifier out last week when the kiddoes got sick, but I was just refilling and wondering how I’m supposed to clean the thing. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Angela

    This might be a silly question, but when you say that you can use a teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water or hydrogen peroxide, do you mean that you can use the same ratio as bleach to water or do you use pure hydrogen peroxide or a different ratio?

  11. Ana

    Ive alway use a little bit of bleach n run it all the time, it keeps the filter from getting moldy n the air smells clean just dont put too much or you’ll smell the bleach, yes I do pour it every time I refill the little container

    1. Heather

      Ana I would say not to put bleach in while the humidifier is running. Bleach is an acid and it says on the container not to breathe the vapors. Can cause asthma, etc. Just bleach it once a week and you should be good!

  12. Ann

    I’ve tried routinely cleaning mine but within a day or two it smells a bit musty again. I finally figured out that if I fill the water reservoir and give a quick spritz of vinegar water (I use 1/2 vinegar, 1/2 water to clean everything) it keeps the tank from growing any guests. I also found that since I’m only doing a spritz or two or diluted vinegar, the humidifier air does not smell of vinegar but has a nice deodorizing effect. I live in Japan and noticed the locals doing the same things with small amounts of eucalyptus oil to keep things running cleanly and smelling nicely. I probably wouldn’t test that with a nice fancy humidifier but with my $19 tried and true, it may be worth a shot.

  13. Melody Martinez

    I know this is kind of off track, but I’m curious about humidifiers too. We just moved to Alaska and it is dry as a bone here. We are both from Florida so this is brand new to us. We bought a humidifier that has an open bottom that you fill with water, upright filter that fits in a slot, and a hood with a built in fan that sits on top. Has anyone used this type of humidifier before and are they any good? Thanks!!

    1. Jamie

      I just got one like that. I’m planning on cleaning it as directed on here and adding a spritz or 2 of the vinegar water to help with deodorizing and our hard water. I will buy some distilled next time I’m at the store.

    1. Bell

      I agree about using bleach every time you fill your tank, over time it will break down the rubber gasket. My problem with humidifiers is the gunk build up. We have well water. I know it is better to use distilled water but as often as I have to fill it, it is too costly.

  14. Danielle

    I have been following your blog for a while now. I love it, and so do my family members. I just cleaned a humidifier using these directions. They were very helpful and I was surprised how yucky mine was when I went to clean it! I now have cleaning the humidifier on my weekly cleaning schedule. Thanks!

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  16. Gale

    I had a humidifier whose instructions said to run the humidifier with the bleach water, but to stuff the outlet with a cloth so the vapor doesn’t go out in the mist. However the cloth will get wet, so I did this on the counter in the kitchen with a towel under it. You don’t have to do it all day, just for a few minutes to get the solution through the system and spray parts.

  17. Sunny Smalley

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  18. Janet Baker

    I can’t believe no one said anything about the directive to use distilled water in one’s humidifier. My heavens, my warm-mist humidifier uses several full tanks a day and distilled water is so expensive!!! I use tap water. I have used filtered water, but the mineral build up is the same, so why burn through the filters, then. I have to use a humidifier all winter due to dry eyes, and have no mold or bacteria build-up in my Vicks, cleaning it only with vinegar, which also makes the mineral deposits soft and easier to scrub off. I initially used some cute cool-mist systems, but have found that they deposit a very fine white dust all over your entire house, which you’ll notice first on your tv and monitor screens but which you can figure will end up inside your computer, and even inside your lungs! The warm mist does get minerals on the heating element, but at least it’s localized!


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