Humidifiers are great appliances if you live in a dry climate or suffer from health conditions such as dry skin, sore throat, coughs and colds. However in order to keep your humidifier running well, and protect yourself and your family from harmful bacteria, you need to clean your humidifier regularly. Our Pros know all about keeping appliances clean, and here share their tips for cleaning and maintaining humidifiers.
Why clean a humidifier
There are several reasons why you need to clean your humidifier as part of your regular routine. Firstly, most Americans live in hard water areas. This water contains minerals that can build up over time and damage the machine, making it less effective. Distilled water can extend the life of your humidifier because it contains fewer minerals.
Humidifiers are also perfect breeding grounds for bacteria and other pathogens. If you don’t get rid of them with regular cleaning, you’ll be breathing in a whole host of nasty microbes that can trigger asthma and allergy attacks, and cause respiratory infections. Long term exposure can even result in lung disease or scarring.
The good news is, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to keep your humidifier clean and your air quality high.
How often to clean a humidifier
You should empty the water tank and wipe down your humidifier every day, and clean your humidifier at least once a week. Always ensure you unplug the humidifier before cleaning, and thoroughly dry all the parts before reassembling.
What can I clean my humidifier with?
Check the manufacturer’s instructions for recommended cleaning products. In general, avoid using any harsh chemicals. Remember the residue will be humidified and circulated around your home! If you do use chemical cleaners, flush the tank with fresh water several times and dry it completely before turning it back on.
Many common products make effective cleaning solutions for your humidifier. White vinegar can break down mineral build ups, and hydrogen peroxide will tackle any lurking bacteria.
How to clean a humidifier
Your humidifier consists of several parts, all of which need to be cleaned regularly to ensure it continues to work properly and doesn’t harbor any bacteria. Here’s how to do it:
How to clean humidifier tank
- Unplug your humidifier and move it away from any outlets
- Empty the tank and rinse it with fresh water
- Make a 50/50 mix of hot water and vinegar and submerge the tank, let sit for 15-20 minutes
- Use a soft-bristled brush dipped in white vinegar to scrub the interior of the humidifier and remove mineral buildup
- Use a clean microfiber cloth dipped in hot water to wipe inside the humidifier and remove vinegar traces
- Use a fresh cloth to dry inside the unit
- Rinse the tank under hot, clean water and dry thoroughly
- Reassemble the humidifier
How to clean a humidifier filter
As well as a water tank, your humidifier likely also includes a filter. This is designed to remove contaminants from the water, but they will have to be periodically cleaned away. Here’s how to clean it:
- Remove the filter from the humidifier and soak in a 50/50 mixture of water and white vinegar for 15-20 minutes
- Rinse the filter with hot, clean water
- Allow the filter to air dry before reinserting into the humidifier
If your humidifier filter is soft, you can gently squeeze it during rinsing to speed up the process. However you should never twist or wring out the filter, as you may damage it. Don’t twist or squeeze hard or rigid filters.
How to clean humidifier nozzle
If your humidifier has a nozzle or spout to dispense steam, it should also be regularly cleaned. Detach the nozzle and let it soak in a vinegar and water solution, then rinse thoroughly with hot water.
Pro Tip: Now that your humidifier is clean, do the rest of your small appliances! Learn how to clean an iron now!
How to disinfect a humidifier
Simple cleaning isn’t enough to keep your humidifier safe. You should also make a point to disinfect your humidifier regularly — at least once a month — to avoid any bacteria buildup that could become harmful. White vinegar makes a great all-purpose cleaner, but it isn’t a disinfectant. For that, you need something stronger.
Check the care instructions for your unit and always stick with recommended products wherever possible. Many models say to avoid bleach, and our Pros agree. Bleach can leave an unpleasant or even dangerous residue behind, and combining bleach with white vinegar can create chlorine gas. For that reason, we suggest using 3% hydrogen peroxide to disinfect your humidifier. Just remember not to combine hydrogen peroxide and vinegar together in the same container, as that also produces an unwanted chemical reaction.
- Make a solution of 4 parts water to 1 part hydrogen peroxide
- Fill the humidifier tank with the solution and leave at least 30 minutes
- Empty the tank and rinse thoroughly with clean water
- Allow the tank to air dry before reassembling
How to clean different types of humidifiers
There are many models of humidifier on the market, and some need more specialist cleaning than others. However all humidifiers will fall into the following categories:
- Warm mist humidifiers
- Cool mist humidifiers
- Evaporative humidifiers
- Vaporizer humidifiers
- Ultrasonic humidifiers
How to clean evaporative humidifiers
Evaporative humidifiers are the most common type available on the market. They work simply and effectively. These humidifiers can be cleaned following the instructions listed above. Just take care around the wick, which is the part of the humidifier that absorbs water from the tank. The wick is usually treated with an antimicrobial solution, so you shouldn’t use any detergents or cleaners on it at all. Instead, just soak it for 15-20 minutes in clean water to help remove any mineral buildup.
How to clean a cool mist humidifier
Cool mist humidifiers are considered superior models because they reduce the risk of accidental burns and cool air is easier to inhale. They also have the advantage of being a less favorable environment for bacteria to grow. However they still need regular cleaning! Follow the tips above to keep your cool mist humidifier in top condition.
How to clean ultrasonic humidifier
Ultrasonic humidifiers are a type of cool mist humidifier that uses a rapid vibration to create water droplets. This type of humidifier is very quiet and energy-efficient. Although the technology inside them might be more advanced, the parts are largely the same, and you can use the methods outlined above to clean your ultrasonic humidifier.
Pro Tip: Keep cleaning! Read all about how to clean a microwave
DIY Humidifier cleaning solutions
While you can purchase all kinds of solutions and treatment tablets for your humidifier, you can get the same results with home remedies that cut out the harsh chemicals and unknown ingredients. Here are some of the best:
How to clean a humidifier with apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar makes a great alternative to plain white vinegar. It’s just as effective at cleaning, and has a more pleasant aroma that some people prefer. Just make a 50/50 solution of apple cider vinegar and water and use it to soak the removable components of your humidifier. Rinse thoroughly after soaking to remove any residue.
How to clean a humidifier with hydrogen peroxide
If you want to clean your humidifier without vinegar, hydrogen peroxide will clean as well as disinfect it. To save time you can skip the vinegar and treat everything with a 4-1 solution of water and 3% hydrogen peroxide. Simply soak the tank, nozzle, and other removable parts for 20-30 minutes and then rinse well with fresh water.
How to clean a humidifier with bleach
If your humidifier is safe to bleach, you can use a dilute solution to ensure any bacteria has been eradicated. Make a mixture of 1 teaspoon bleach to 1 gallon water and fill the tank. Leave it to sit for 30-45 minutes and then flush well with several rounds of clean water. Take care not to leave the bleach in the tank for longer than an hour, as it can damage the machine. Ideally, run the humidifier outside, or in a well ventilated area, to ensure no bleach remains — you’ll soon smell it if you missed a bit!
How to clean a humidifier with mold
If you notice mold in your humidifier, you’ll need to take extra care with cleaning to ensure you kill all the spores. Both hydrogen peroxide and bleach can kill mold, so follow one of those methods as outlined above.
Caution: Do not mix hydrogen peroxide with bleach. Use one solution or the other, never both.
To clean out the rest of the humidifier and kill any remaining mold, dampen a microfiber cloth with your bleach or peroxide solution and wipe down the inside. Use cotton swabs to get into hard to reach places. Allow the unit to air dry before reassembling.
|CLEANING PRODUCTS THAT SHOULD NEVER BE MIXED|
|Vinegar and bleach||Chlorine gas|
|Rubbing alcohol and bleach||Chloroform and hydrochloric acid|
|Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide||Peracetic acid|
Humidifier maintenance tips
Humidifiers don’t have to be high-maintenance. Just follow these simple steps:
- Each day, empty and rinse the water tank, and dry the humidifier and surrounding area
- Each week, clean the water tank and nozzle
- Each month, disinfect the humidifier and clean the filter
Keeping your humidifier clean will ensure your home environment always smells fresh, and reduces the risk of bacteria that can trigger illnesses and allergy attacks. A clean home is a healthy home, and it’s simple when you know how!