How to Clean a Humidifier

Humidifiers must be cleaned once a week, and if you are using them daily, every three days is optimal. Dirty humidifiers can spread mold and bacteria in the air contaminating the air. Stagnant water breeds bacteria and mold. So if you’re not cleaning your humidifier regularly, you are pumping that back into the air. Using a dirty humidifier can negate the health benefits of using one. Over time, using a dirty humidifier can lead to various health issues, including chronic coughs, lung inflammation, high fevers, loss of appetite, anxiety, asthma attacks, and difficulty breathing.

Dirty humidifiers will reverse the decision

What is a Humidifier?

Humidifiers release steam or water vapor into the air, creating more humidity in the room. There are a few different types of humidifiers, including:

  • Central humidifiers. These are a part of the central heating and cooling systems in many homes.
  • Ultrasonic humidifiers. Use ultrasonic vibration to create a cool mist.
  • Impeller humidifiers. These work by rotating a disk that creates cool, moist air.
  • Evaporators. Evaporators have a type of fan that blows air through a wet filter.
  • Steam vaporizers. Steam vaporizers create steam that then cools before releasing it into the environment.

Most humidifiers use a hygrometer to measure the humidity in the air to adjust to the environment. The ideal humidity in the home should be between 30% and 50%.

Why Use a Humidifier?

Humidifiers can help people with dry skin and cracked lips. They are beneficial in the dry winter months when cold and flu season is at its worst. Humidifiers can keep the air moist, which can help relieve symptoms of a cold, sinus infection, bronchitis, or other upper respiratory illnesses. In addition, they can increase the air quality, which positively affects anyone suffering from asthma.

How to Clean a Humidifier

Before you start, you need to check with the instruction manual for any specific instructions for your model and type of humidifier. Humidifiers all have the same basic parts. However, every type and model is different, so it’s best to consult the owner’s manual before you begin.

The next step is to gather your cleaning supplies. You don’t need any special products, just use:

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Bleach 
  • A soft-bristle brush like a toothbrush
  • Water
  • Towels
  • Gloves and goggles

Now you are ready to begin cleaning your humidifier. 

Step 1: Make sure to unplug the machine and dump out any water. 

Step 2: Pour 1-2 cups of undiluted vinegar into the tank and swish it around. Then place the vinegar filled tank on the base of the humidifier and let the vinegar slowly drain into the reservoir to clean any mineral build up. Let sit for 25-30 minutes.

Step 3: Pour out the vinegar and use a small scrub brush or toothbrush to clean mineral deposits and other buildup.

Step 4: Clean any smaller parts like the cap with a clean washcloth dipped in vinegar.

Step 5: Rinse all the parts with clean water. Be careful not to get the motor wet. Let air dry. Reassemble. 

It is best to clean your humidifier regularly with vinegar as it is a great all-purpose cleaner. But since it is not a disinfectant, you will need to use bleach once a month to do a deep clean and properly disinfect it. Always read the instruction manual as some humidifiers advise against using bleach. 

For safety, when using bleach, always use goggles and gloves to protect your hands and eyes. And, never mix vinegar and bleach as it can cause a dangerous chemical reaction.

Tips for Maintaining and Replacing a Humidifier

  • Clean once a week.
  • Change the water in the basin before each use and add fresh water.
  • Use distilled water in the humidifier.
  • Before storing, drain and completely dry the humidifier. Keeping the humidifier filled with water creates a bacteria breeding ground in as little as two days.
  • If the humidifier has a filter, change it according to the owner’s manual.
  • Consult a professional if the humidifier is part of the central heating and cooling system.
  • If using an evaporative humidifier, you will want to remove the filter and rinse it thoroughly every time you wash the humidifier by moving it around in cold water for around 20 minutes to dislodge any particles. Never use bleach or chemicals to clean the filter.
  • For evaporative humidifiers, if turning off for the day, remove the filter so it can dry out between uses.

Should you clean the humidifier wick?

The wick is a delicate piece, and trying to clean it can cause damage. If it is dirty, it is best to replace it.

Can I use apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar?

Yes, apple cider vinegar is also a cleaning agent, and many people prefer the smell to white vinegar. Make a solution of half water and half apple cider vinegar and follow the same cleaning instructions.

Should I use a demineralization cartridge?

If your humidifier has a lot of white powder and dust, you can consider using a demineralization cartridge designed for your specific machine to help maintain and stop excessive mineral build up. In addition, using only distilled water can help keep mineral buildup at bay.

Can I use hydrogen peroxide instead of bleach?

Yes, hydrogen peroxide is a disinfectant like bleach and is fine to substitute. Never mix the two. Use one or the other but never both as this can lead to a dangerous chemical reaction.

Can I put bleach in the humidifier and run it?

You can run a bleach solution through the humidifier to disinfect it, but you MUST do it outdoors. And only use it for a few minutes. Then, run water through it until the bleach smell is gone.

Can I put lemon juice in the humidifier?

Yes, adding lemon juice to a humidifier can give off a pleasant smell, but it won’t disinfect or clean it.

Can I put essential oils in my humidifier?

No, the oils can damage the humidifier. There are special essential oil humidifiers you can buy to diffuse essential oils.

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