It’s that time of year again! We’ve already had to start turning our furnace on at night because it’s getting so cold. Now we’re lucky if there are a couple of hours in the afternoon where it’s warm enough to open the windows! I can almost hear my poor hair, skin, and nails starting to dry and crack! I fear it’s going to be another long winter. But luckily for my hair, skin, and nails, we have an ally in the fight against winter dryness – my trusty humidifier!
Humidifiers produce water vapor, which increases the overall humidity levels in the air in your home. Using one can be especially helpful during the winter, because it helps offset the dry heated air coming from your furnace. A humidifier can help keep your skin and lips from drying out, and help reduce symptoms of cold, cough, allergies, and other common wintertime conditions.
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But as beneficial as these little machines can be, they can actually harm your health if not kept clean. The warm, moist conditions created by your humidifier can cause bacteria and mold to form. If the water tank isn’t cleaned, your humidifier can spread that bacteria and mold around your home! So in order for your humidifier to be a help rather than a hindrance, it’s important to keep it clean and sanitized.
Since I’ll be dragging my own humidifier out of the closet this week, I thought it would be a good time to share some general tips for keeping it in healthy, working order. (While these guidelines work well for me, it’s always a good idea to refer to the cleaning instructions provided by the appliance manufacturer.)
General Guidelines For Humidifiers
- Empty and refill the tank every day. Always fill it with clean, filtered water to keep mineral deposits from forming in the machine.
- Clean and disinfect your humidifier at least once a week.
Cleaning Your Humidifier
Unplug your humidifier. Remove the filter (if your machine has one) and rinse with cool water. Some chemicals can cause permanent damage to filters, so it’s best to just refrain from using any cleaning products on it. Set the clean filter on a towel and let any excess water drip off.
Remove the water tank. Inspect the base of your humidifier for any mineral deposits, or areas with mold or mildew. To clean these areas, use scrub brush or an old toothbrush dipped in white vinegar. Repeat the scrubbing process a second time if necessary, then rinse the areas thoroughly.
Disinfecting Your Humidifier
Once you have cleaned the humidifier, you can disinfect it with the help of bleach (or hydrogen peroxide, if you prefer). Fill the water tank with water, and add one teaspoon of bleach or hydrogen peroxide per each gallon of water. Gently swish the solution to coat the tank evenly, and allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with clean water. Put the humidifier back together, fill the tank with cool water and resume regular use.
Just as an interesting “FYI,” I recently read that indoor humidity levels should ideally be between 30-50%. Most homes heated to 73 degrees have a relative humidity closer to 15%, which is 10% lower than the typical humidity of the Sahara Desert! So get that trusty home humidifier out, give it a good cleaning, and use it well this winter!
Your home and your health will thank you!