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How To Clean a Humidifier and Why It’s So Important

humidifier

The ideal range for relative humidity indoors is around 30-50%, but did you know that most homes that are heated to 73 degrees have a relative humidity of just 15%? That’s 10% lower than the typical humidity of the Sahara Desert!

When air is that dry, it can lead to issues like dry skin, chapped lips, and staticky hair. Dry air can also dry up the natural moisture in your nasal passages, worsening snoring and causing nosebleeds. Dry air even creates a more favorable environment for the transmission of viruses like the flu!

But dry air doesn’t just impact your body and health—it can harm your stuff too! Dry air in your home can sap your houseplants of much needed moisture and cause wood furniture to crack or warp over time.

So what’s the answer to the problems posed by dry indoor air? A humidifier! Humidifiers produce water vapor that increases the humidity in the air, offsetting the effects of dry air to keep you (and your possessions) more comfortable.

humidifier

Why It’s Important To Keep Your Humidifier Clean

As beneficial as using a humidifier can be, it can actually be harmful to your health if isn’t cleaned often. Regardless of whether your humidifier produces a warm or cool mist, the moist conditions inside can make it a breeding ground for bacteria and mold, and it may end up spreading that bacteria and mold in to the air around your home!

So in order for your humidifier to be a help rather than a hindrance, it’s highly 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 tips and tricks to help clean your humidifier and keep it safe and sanitary!

humidifier

General Guidelines For Using A Humidifier

  • Read the owner’s manual. If you don’t have it anymore, you can probably look it up online. While most humidifiers can be cleaned the same way, some parts may differ, so it’s good to know about any instructions the manufacturer has provided.
  • Always empty the water tank and water reservoir when not in use. Bacteria can grow in as little as one to two days, and you don’t want to give it that chance!
  • Fill the tank with fresh water every day. Fill your humidifier’s water tank with fresh filtered water or distilled water daily. You can use unfiltered tap water, but hard water has minerals that can leave mineral deposits inside of your machine. Minerals in the water can also cause your humidifier to leave behind a (harmless) white dust on surrounding surfaces. For that reason, I recommend filtered or distilled water.
  • Clean and disinfect your humidifier at least once a week. Use the steps outlined below to deep clean and disinfect your humidifier (in that order) once a week.
humidifier

How To Clean A Humidifier

You’ll need:

  • Small scrub brush (or toothbrush)
  • Distilled white vinegar

Directions:

  1. Start by unplugging your humidifier, then remove the filter (if your machine has one) and rinse it with cool water. Some chemicals can cause permanent damage to humidifier filters, so it’s best to clean it with water only. Set the clean filter on a towel and let it air dry, then replace it.
  2. Next, pour 1-2 cups of undiluted white vinegar into the water tank and swirl it around to wet the entire interior of the tank. Then replace the tank into the humidifier base, allowing vinegar to flow into the reservoir, and let your humidifier sit undisturbed for 15-20 minutes to break up any mineral buildup inside the machine.
  3. When the wait is up, pour the vinegar into a separate container (but don’t get rid of it just yet.) Use a small scrub brush or an old toothbrush to scrub cracks, crevices, and any stuck-on mineral deposits.
  4. And finally, dip a cloth or sponge into the vinegar and use it to clean the small parts like the tank cap and the spout where the water vapor comes out. Make sure to rinse the tank and reservoir thoroughly, then proceed with the disinfecting process!
humidifier

How To Disinfect A Humidifier

You’ll need:

  • Bleach or hydrogen peroxide

Directions:

  1. You can disinfect your humidifier tank and reservoir with the help of bleach or hydrogen peroxide. To use bleach, fill your humidifier’s tank with water, then add 1 teaspoon per gallon of water. To use hydrogen peroxide, pour 1-2 cups of standard 3% hydrogen peroxide into the tank.
  2. Swirl the bleach solution or peroxide around the tank to coat the inside evenly, then place the tank back into the base and allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Make sure to rinse the tank thoroughly afterward with clean water, and it’ll be ready to use again!

Related: 30 Uses For Hydrogen Peroxide You’ll Want To Know About

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!

Do you use a humidifier during the winter?

humidifier

Clean & Disinfect a Humidifier

Jill Nystul
Humidifiers can be really helpful in dry climates – especially during the winter – but a humidifier can actually harm your health if not kept clean! Here are a few general tips for keeping your humidifier in healthy, working order.
Active Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Cost $5
Yield 1 clean humidifier

Equipment

  • Scrub Brush
  • Toothbrush

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups White Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Bleach
  • 2 cups Hydrogen Peroxide

Instructions
 

Cleaning the Tank

  • Unplug your humidifier, then remove the filter (if your machine has one) and rinse it with cool water. Some chemicals can cause permanent damage to humidifier filters, so it’s best to clean it with water only. Set the clean filter on a towel and let it air dry, then replace it.
    Pour 1-2 cups of undiluted white vinegar into the water tank and swirl it around to wet the entire interior of the tank. Then replace the tank into the humidifier base, allowing vinegar to flow into the reservoir, and let your humidifier sit undisturbed for 15-20 minutes to break up any mineral buildup inside the machine.
    Pour the vinegar into a separate container (but don’t get rid of it just yet.) Use a small scrub brush or an old toothbrush to scrub cracks, crevices, and any stuck-on mineral deposits.
    Dip a cloth or sponge into the vinegar and use it to clean the small parts like the tank cap and the spout where the water vapor comes out. Make sure to rinse the tank and reservoir thoroughly, then proceed with the disinfecting process!
    humidifier

Disinfecting The Humidifier

  • Fill your humidifier’s tank with water, then add 1 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water. If you prefer not to use bleach, pour 1-2 cups of standard 3% hydrogen peroxide into the tank.
    Swirl the bleach solution or peroxide around the tank to coat the inside evenly, then place the tank back into the base and allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes.
    Make sure to rinse the tank thoroughly afterward with clean water, and it’ll be ready to use again!
    humidifier

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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  • I already do these. My problem is the heating element. It gets crusty and doesn’t come off. I’ve soaked it, scrubbed it, let it sit for a couple of days. Using distilled water can get expensive and we have pretty good tap water (yes, we do drink it right from the tap). I add humidifier treatment every time I fill it. It’s a Vicks warm mist humidifier, easy to pull apart and soak but the heating element just won’t clean!

  • Hi Jillee I have a humidifier very similar to the Honeywell one above and can seem to get the Calc build up off from where the water vapors exit it’s built up in the corner of the squared spot where it looks like a keyhole. Do you have any solution that may help this? I tried scrubbing it with vinegar and a tooth brush but it just didn’t work

  • Lisa J–
    Have you ever tried using Distilled water? I remember my mom used that in the iron when I was little, and I learned back then that it prevented the white crystal-ly crud on clothes. I think distilled water went into the vaporizers/humidifiers also when I was younger (my youngest sister had asthma plus various allergies [what we now call environmental allergies], and in her own oxygen tank’s “bubbler” when her COPD was bad, to prevent getting nosebleeds from too-dry air going through.

    • I second this idea!
      I grew up in the middle of no where(corn fields and cows) and my Dad would buy bottles of distilled for the humidifier every winter. I think he’d run some vinegar through once a month to kill any developing gookus and otherwise we had the same units running fine for over 15 years while I was growing up.

  • I use white vinegar. My humidifier does not have fillers so the deposits coat the whole thing. I just pour it in a large bowl and put the detachable pieces and soak till the deposits are gone. As for the unit I also pour enough vinegar to the top. It will bubble up. Let sit till deposits are gone. About an hour or so.

  • I just can’t seem to skip a day without reading your blog. Everything in it just fascinates me, specially that you are able to send the message across very well. Thanks again Jillee!

  • Thank you for this tutorial on cleaning your humidifier and why it is important. I am forwarding this on to my daughter as my granddaughter has asthma and allergies and I know she is not cleaning their unit often enough.

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