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 humidifiers…so 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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  1. says

    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

  2. S says

    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!

  3. Jennifer says

    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.

  4. Marianne says

    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.

    • james says

      I use a toothbrush to clean the squirrel cage with my vacuum hose and crevice tool next to the vents.

  5. Sherri McNeeley says

    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!

  6. Jen K. says

    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?

    • Karen says

      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.

    • Karen says

      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.

  7. Karen says

    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.

  8. Lisa H says

    Thanks for this info! I’ve used Vinegar before but not letting it sit for 30 min – lack of patience. I will now though.

  9. Rachel Loveridge says

    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?

    • Karen says

      Nope, in the past I’ve used bleach in ours and we never notice a bleach smell. Just make sure to rinse it out well =)

    • Gladys says

      Peroxide will be better; stay away of bleach but, if you do use bleach make sure that you have plenty of ventilation or even better do it outdoors.