How To Clean Your Humidifier

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General care and cleaning tips to keep your humidifier running like new.

Vicks V3700 Humidifier | Air & WaterWhen the air is too dry in your home, a humidifier can be life-changing. Not only will it help with chapped lips and skin; it can also resolve some respiratory problems, as well as reduce static shocks and sparks (especially during the colder months).

But to be sure you’re getting the most out of your humidifier, you’re going to need to clean it regularly. Because a humidifier holds standing water—often for extended periods of time—it may attract bacteria and other microorganisms that are harmful when projected into the air.

Fortunately, this problem is easily avoided through regular cleaning of your humidifier. While each humidifier, from Honeywell to Luma Comfort, is slightly different from the next, this guide should give you the general knowledge you need to clean most household humidifiers.

What You Need To Clean A Humidifier

To clean your humidifier, you’ll need:

  • Distilled Water
  • Distilled White Vinegar
  • Bleach
  • Replacement Filter (Model Specific)
  • Dry Hand Towels (2-3)
  • Soft Sponge
  • Honeywell HCM-300T Humidifier | Air & Water

You want to use distilled water, because it doesn’t have all of the minerals and impurities you’ll find in spring or tap water. This makes it less likely to leave a residue behind after it dries, which is ideal for cleaning humidifiers and other household appliances (it’s even great for cleaning water coolers). Best of all, distilled water is relatively inexpensive, and you can pick up a gallon or two from your local grocery store.

You’ve probably noticed a lot of household cleaning remedies call for distilled white vinegar. Why? Because it’s affordable, it’s safe, and it actually works! Just be mindful of how much you use and be sure to rinse thoroughly, as it tends to have a strong odor.

Many manufacturers recommend using a small amount of bleach when cleaning your humidifier. Typically, you’ll want to use one gallon of water for every teaspoon (tsp) of bleach.

Steps For Cleaning Your Humidifier

Holmes HM3855L | Air & WaterTo clean your humidifier, just follow these steps:

Step 1
Power off and unplug your humidifier. This should always be the first step before cleaning any electric appliance.

Step 2
Remove the water reservoir (or water tank). If it still contains any water, empty it into your sink or bathtub.

Step 3
Remove the upper enclosure, if your humidifier has one (many do). Depending on the model, it may just lift off.

Step 4
Remove the water filter, if your humidifier has one (again, many do). This too will often just lift off the unit, although some models may require you to slide it out. Some humidifiers don’t have a filter. Vicks, for instance, makes humidifiers that use “Scent Pads.” Regardless of whether your humidifier uses a filter or a Scent Pad, do not get bleach or vinegar on it.

Holmes HM3855L Filter Exposed | Air & WaterStep 5
Wipe down the base of the humidifier using a small towel or sponge and a small amount of the distilled white vinegar. There’s no need to dilute the vinegar for this step.

Step 6
Rinse the base of the unit thoroughly, or wipe it down with a clean, damp towel. Be thorough, otherwise you won’t get rid of all the vinegar. Do not immerse the base in water, as it could contain electrical components that should not be submerged.

Step 7
Mix a solution of bleach and water (one gallon of water for every one tablespoon of bleach) and fill the water tank or reservoir with the solution. Let it sit for five to ten minutes.

Step 8
Empty the solution from the tank/reservoir and rinse it thoroughly.

Step 9
Dry all of your humidifier’s components thoroughly before you put it back together.

Caring For Your Humidifier: A Few Quick Tips

Luma Comfort HC12B by Fireplace | Air & WaterMany manufacturers recommend cleaning your humidifier once a week.

If you’re using tap water or spring water in your humidifier, no matter what brand of humidifier you’re using, make the switch to distilled water. As mentioned, distilled water will leave far less residue and minerals in your humidifier. This should help it last longer.

Don’t leave the same water in your humidifier for an extended period of time. Even if it’s clean, it won’t be long before unwanted microbes start to grow in there, making it much harder to clean if you want to keep using it.

Many humidifiers include a water filter. In some cases, you may be able to wash it, but depending on its age, it may be better to replace it. Your best bet here is to consult the humidifier’s instruction manual, but when in doubt, we’d suggest getting a new filter—it’s likely been in there a long time.

When looking for a replacement filter, make sure you find one that is compatible with your humidifier brand and model. If it’s not compatible, it may not fit. Do your research and check with the seller before you buy if you’re unsure.

Don’t use anything too abrasive, like steel wool, to clean your humidifier. You’ll just end up scratching it. A microfiber towel, the soft side of a kitchen sponge, or even a small hand towel should do the trick. If it’s especially dirty, a scrubbing brush might help loosen up some of the grime.

If you still have the manual, always follow the cleaning instructions provided by the manufacturer. While this guide works for most humidifiers, some may have specific instructions for cleaning that model. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions in the owner’s manual, if available.

If you haven’t cleaned your humidifier in a really long time, a cleaning may not be enough. Fortunately, there are tons of great humidifiers for any room in any home.

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