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How to Clean a Humidifier

Updated on March 29, 2022 by Joseph D. Nielson

Table of Contents

How to Clean a Humidifier

Humidifiers are a staple in most homes throughout the winter for keeping moisture in the air. By releasing water vapour into the air, these devices can increase moisture levels in your home, making for a much more comfortable living environment. But, because they use water to function, they can start to grow mould and bacteria if not cleaned properly. 

Like with any appliance you regularly use around your home, you will have to regularly clean and maintain your humidifier to keep it working in good condition. Luckily, cleaning your humidifier isn’t too tricky and can be done using household cleaning products you probably already have on hand. 

Here’s everything you should know to keep your humidifier clean and working its best. 

Why Use a Humidifier?

If you don’t already have a humidifier, let us help to convince you why you need one. Especially in the colder months of the year, the air inside your home can get extremely dry. The humidity in your home should ideally be between 30% and 50%. Anything above or below that range can cause a variety of health problems.

If you’ve ever woken up with cracked lips and a dry mouth, you know how uncomfortable it can be. By adding moisture into the air, you will find getting through the winter much more comfortable. The added moisture from a humidifier can also help relieve common cold and allergy symptoms such as congestion, dry coughs, headaches, and difficulty breathing.

Not only does dry air cause dry skin and difficulty breathing, but it can also damage your furniture. When leather and wood get too dry, they can start to crack. This means leather sofas, wood tables, and even your instruments are all at risk if there is insufficient moisture in your home. 

Some humidifiers release a warm mist which can help to decrease the risk of germs and bacteria in your home. This can help you avoid the common winter cold and allergy flare-ups.   

Even a small humidifier can significantly improve the air quality in your home and help both you and your furniture. Check out our list of the best humidifiers for small rooms to get you started.

How Often Should You Clean Your Humidifier? 

Suppose mould and bacteria start growing in your humidifier. In that case, the device will start to push out those toxic particles into your air, meaning you and your family will be breathing in those harmful particles. To avoid the buildup of mould and bacteria, you should clean your house’s humidifier at least once a week if you are using the device on a regular basis.

Cleaning your humidifier is even more important if anyone in your household has respiratory problems, as infected air can be highly damaging for them. If this is the case for your household, you should be cleaning your humidifier even more frequently. Consider giving it a quick clean every day and deep cleaning it once a week. 

What You’ll Need

Cleaning a humidifier is relatively easy and can be done with everyday household cleaning products that you probably already have lying around. You should avoid using any chemical detergents and hard bristle brushes, as these can be damaging to your device. Make sure you check your manual for any instructions or products to avoid using when cleaning your specific device.

To clean your humidifier, you will need: 

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Liquid chlorine bleach
  • A soft bristle brush, like a toothbrush 
  • Water
  • A microfiber towel
  • A large Tupperware container

How to Clean Your Humidifier

It’s always best to follow the maintenance instructions for your specific humidifier to ensure you aren’t doing anything that could damage the device. However, it is safe to follow these general steps for the most part.

1. Disassemble the Device

Always make sure your device is unplugged before you start disassembling it. Disassemble your device entirely and lay out all the pieces. Empty any remaining water in your tank before you start cleaning it. 

2. Wash the Base and Tank

Depending on the size of your device, pour one to two cups of distilled white vinegar into the water tank of your device. Move the water around to ensure the entire tank is covered with vinegar. Allow the vinegar to drain through your device; however, do not run it through. Vinegar vapour in the air can cause irritation to your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. 

Once the vinegar has sat in your humidifier for at least 30 minutes, empty it and use your soft bristle brush to remove any mineral buildup. Rinse your device thoroughly with water. 

Now that your base and tank are clean, use a mixture of water and liquid chlorine bleach to disinfect it. Mix one gallon of water with one teaspoon of bleach and repeat the same steps you did with the vinegar. Continue to rinse your device with warm water until the smell of bleach has gone away. For this step, make sure you wear gloves to protect your hands from the bleach.  

3. Clean the Small Parts

Small pieces may be able to go directly into the dishwasher. Always check your device’s manual before putting any parts in the dishwasher.

Fill a Tupperware container with vinegar and submerge the small pieces in the liquid for at least 30 minutes for the pieces that cannot go into the dishwasher. Use your soft bristle brush to remove any residue that may still be stuck on. Finally, rinse each piece thoroughly with water until the pieces no longer smell like vinegar. 

For a deeper clean, use a mixture of water and liquid chlorine bleach instead of vinegar. 

4. Clean the Filter

If your device has a reusable filter, you will also need to know how to clean a humidifier filter. Simply run the filter under cool water and leave it to air dry. Filters are quite delicate, so be cautious as you clean them. If your filter is not reusable, assess the filter each time you clean your device to determine whether it needs to be replaced. 

5. Dry Everything

Allow all parts of your humidifier to air dry completely before you reassemble the device. Final bits of moisture can be gently wiped dry with a microfiber towel. If you don’t allow your humidifier to fully dry, that pesky mould and bacteria you just worked so hard to clear away is more likely to come right back.  

Choosing the Right Humidifier

If this is your first-time hearing about humidifiers or you’re looking to replace the one you already have, here are a few things to consider when choosing a humidifier for your home. 

Room Size

When choosing a humidifier, you’ll want to consider the size of the room you want the device to cover. Small humidifiers can cover up to around 300 square feet, whereas large humidifiers can work in spaces that are 500 square feet or more. Each device should indicate how many square feet they can cover, so consult the user manual before purchasing a device. 

You’ll also want to consider how much space you have for the humidifier to take up. Large room humidifiers can be quite big and will need to be placed on the floor. Smaller humidifiers, however, can be placed on your countertop or desk. 

Humidifiers can be pretty expensive, especially when you need to buy more than one to put around your home. To solve this problem, get a portable humidifier that you can move around from room to room to save you from having to buy multiple devices. 

Type of Humidifier

There are two main types of humidifiers, those that produce a warm mist and those that produce a cool mist. While both are equally effective, warm-mist humidifiers are generally not recommended for households with young children or pets, as the boiling water these humidifiers create can be a safety hazard. 

Bonus Features

Some humidifiers will come with bonus features such as, for example, air purifiers. If someone in your household has respiratory problems, you may want to consider using an air purifier. Check out our guide to choosing the right air purifier and humidifier combo for our top picks for these types of devices. 

If you aren’t looking for a combination device, you can also buy a separate air purifier. Read up on our HEPA air purifier reviews for more information on these devices. 

Other extra features to look for in a humidifier include automatic shut-off, how long the run-time of the humidifier is, whether there is added germ protection and if the device has both warm and cool mist functions. 

Humidifier Maintenance Tips

Keeping your humidifier in good working condition involves more than just regularly cleaning the device. Here are a few extra maintenance tips you should consider to prolong the life of your device. 

Replace the Filter

Depending on how frequently you use your humidifier, you should be changing the filter every 30-60 days. Check the filter every time you clean your humidifier to see if it’s time for it to be replaced. 

If your device uses a reusable filter, you should wash it every time you wash your device. Washing a disposable filter can damage the material and could render it useless.

Always Empty the Tank

When you are not using your humidifier, you should always empty out the tank, rinse it, and let it air dry. Mould and bacteria can grow in stagnant water in as little as one day. Emptying your water tank after each use is the best way to ensure you always have fresh water running through your humidifier. 

Use Distilled Water

Did you know that minerals are added to tap water? If you use tap water in your humidifier, those minerals can cover your home in dust and can cause bacteria growth in your device. Using distilled water in your humidifier will help your device run optimally and ensure that there is nothing but pure water vapour circulating in your home. 

Clean and Dry Your Humidifier Before Storage

If you are putting your humidifier away at the end of the winter, make sure the device has been thoroughly cleaned and dried before you store it. If there is any dampness left on your device, mould and bacteria will have grown by the time you’re ready to use it again.

Other Winter Tips and Tricks 

The winter months can often be difficult to get through. Less sunlight, colder temperatures, and drier air can all make winter feel dreaded and never-ending. Luckily, there are plenty of devices on the market that can help make those harsh few months a lot more comfortable and manageable. Here are two of our favourite winter devices here at Fresh Home Guide. 

Space Heaters

There’s nothing worse than coming in from the cold only to have the inside of your home feel just as cold as outside it. You shouldn’t have to wear layers inside your house or have your heating on blast just to stay warm in the winter. That’s why space heaters are so great. They allow you to keep whatever your room in nice and toasty without having to spend tons of money to keep your entire home extra warm. 

Check out our post on the 10 best space heaters for large rooms or our reviews of the latest Vornado heaters to help you find a space heater that can work for your home and keep you warm all winter. 

Generators

A power outage isn’t ideal any time of year, but it can be especially difficult to deal with in the winter. If you suddenly lose your power, it won’t be long before your house becomes extremely cold and your pipes start to freeze. Additionally, since the sun sets so early in the winter, you may spend most of your day in the dark if your lights stop working. These are just a few reasons why having a backup generator is essential for the winter. With a generator, you will be able to power your essential items until the power comes back. 

About Joseph D. Nielson

Former journalist and editor for various press groups, I now dedicate my time to reviewing products for the home and family life. When I get time to myself, I enjoy rock climbing, taking my dirt bike for a rip, and most importantly providing my family with the best home possible!