How To Clean A Humidifier And Why You Should Use One

What Is A Humidifier?


Humidifiers are an all-seasons staple. They work by emitting water vapor into the air to increase humidity levels. They are useful when it gets too dry around your house or office. This is particularly true for my house in the winter.


The recommended relative humidity in most homes is around 30-50%. Humidifiers are able to maintain these levels during the dry months. They have been popular since the 90s and the buzz around them is not about to die down anytime soon.


The Benefits Of Having A Humidifier


Humidifiers are a must-have for many reasons. Humid air is warmer than dry air. This is because when there is more water in the air, sweat evaporates slower, making people feel warmer.


This is helpful because it may help to lower your heating bills that tend to skyrocket during the winter. 


Dry air is also terrible for your furniture. It causes cracks in floor joists and makes wooden doors hard to open and close.


Humidifiers are perfect for dry skin and chapped lips and may be the solution to that dry, stubborn winter cough that never seems to go away. They help reduce nose irritation, headaches, dry throat, bloody noses, and irritated vocal cords and can even reduce snoring! These are the reasons why we have one running in each bedroom all winter long. 


Not to mention that pesky static electricity in the dry months of winter that keep my daughter’s hair on end and shocks us every time we get off the couch. Running a humidifier in the living room helps cut back on this. 


There are different types of humidifiers to choose from depending on your budget, preferences or size of the room; impeller, warm mist, evaporative, steam vaporizer, ultrasonic and the central humidifier.


Here is the cool mist humidifier we use and here is the one I keep in my daughter’s bedroom. 


Humidifiers – Why You Should Keep Them Clean


Humidifiers need to be cleaned regularly especially when they are in use for a long time. The stagnant water in them is a good breeding ground for different types of bacteria. What makes it worse is that the bacteria is then sprayed into the air as the humidifier is working.


This could potentially aggravate your allergies or even spread disease, canceling all the benefits of having a humidifier around.


The good thing is, cleaning your unit is not difficult. You probably have all the supplies on hand. 


The number of times you clean your humidifier is mostly dependent on how often you use it. You should quickly clean it at least once a week or even sooner if you or your loved ones have respiratory issues. Then, deep clean it every couple of months. 


Again, cleaning it is not too much work and can be easily incorporated into your weekend cleaning routine – a small sacrifice for humid, germ-free air. Some humidifiers come with a manual that may include cleaning instructions so be sure to check that out before you do something that could destroy it!


What You Need To Clean Your Humidifier


  • White vinegar 
  • A soft brush (a toothbrush will work great or a soft cloth brush- you don’t want anything too hard that will scratch your unit)
  • Bleach 
  • Water 
  • Gloves
  • Clean towels


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How To Clean A Humidifier Step By Step


Don’t worry, cleaning your humidifier is going to be super easy. It’s even easier than cleaning your oven


Step One – Disassemble and Rinse The Filter


Unplug the humidifier, empty it completely then go ahead and disassemble it. Different models have different assembly parts so make sure you do as your manual instructs.


Detach the removable parts from the base and set them aside for easy assembling when you are done cleaning.


If your humidifier comes with a filter, remove it carefully and wash it under cool running water then air dry it.


Don’t use any chemicals because they may damage it. If yours is a wick filter, don’t try to wash it as that can compromise the antibacterial integrity. Instead, replace it once you feel you’ve used it for a significant amount of time.


Step Two – Soak Parts In Vinegar


Fill the base with the vinegar, ensuring that all the parts that get into contact with water are reached.


Some brands recommend using a diluted water-vinegar mixture. This might be the safer option because it reduces the risk of damage to the humidifier especially if the vinegar is highly concentrated.


Vinegar is a natural cleanser and will remove any particles stuck in the base.



Let the smaller detachable parts sit in the diluted vinegar for about 30 minutes to kill all those germs that have been multiplying through the week.


Afterward, use the toothbrush to clean the residue that might be left on them. If your brand comes with a cleaning brush, use this instead of the toothbrush (but either will get the job done). The smaller the brush, the better; it’ll be able to get into those areas that may be difficult to reach.


Step Three – Rinse Tank With Bleach And Water


For the tank, dilute one teaspoon of bleach (hydrogen peroxide is a good substitute) in about a gallon of water.


Fill the tank about halfway then swirl it around for a minute or so to ensure that all areas come into contact with the bleach. Let this sit for 30 minutes (more time could potentially damage it).


Since cleaning the tank and the removable parts take roughly the same time, you can do steps two and three concurrently.


Step Four – Rinse Everything With Water


Use clean water from your faucet to rinse all the components thoroughly. This step is very important as it helps remove the smell of the cleaning products.


You don’t want your house to have that bleach smell from the humidifier. This may require a couple of washes so be patient!


If that doesn’t work, you can use a few drops of your favorite essential oil to help remove the smell.


Using your humidifier with bleach or vinegar still in it could spoil it permanently. Use a sponge doused in water and vinegar to clean the frame to remove any dust and prevent the growth of mold.


Then, leave the parts to dry. You can use fresh towels to remove any remaining moisture from the surfaces.



Step Five – Put The Humidifier Back Together


Once the parts are dry, reassemble them, replace the filter (if need be) and fill the tank with clean water. Finally, plug the unit back into the outlet and continue enjoying the benefits of your humidifier.


This disinfection is thorough and may not be used weekly, only when the humidifier is in need of a deep clean.


For a regular weekly clean, skip the step with the bleach (step three) and clean it using just the white vinegar as described. The bleach is an extra step to ensure that all the stubborn bacteria are removed.


How To Maintain Your Humidifier


Your humidifier is now clean and ready to keep your air nice and fresh. But how do you ensure that it keeps running smoothly for as long as possible?


Aside from cleaning it, there are various other tips that can be useful in maintaining the longevity and serviceability of your unit:


I. Replace your filter after one or two months. Your filter is fitted with an antibacterial film that helps to prevent the spread of bacteria.


After a few weeks of usage however, its quality decreases because of the coating from minerals in the water you put in the tank. An old filter may have an unpleasant smell or reduce the moisture output from the humidifier. 


II. Replace the water daily. Before using your humidifier in a new day, replace the water from the previous day. Some germs may have spawned in there overnight and you don’t want them in your air.


III. Use mineral-free water to fill your humidifier. It is recommended that you use distilled water instead of tap water as it free of salts such as calcium chloride which are not good for your unit.


Minerals encourage the growth of bacteria since they form chunks that are difficult to cleanout. They also clog your filter, requiring you to replace it more often, making the usage of your humidifier expensive.


If hard water is used in your humidifier, it generates white dust that will settle over your furniture and your computer screen.


IV. To help your filter age evenly, turn it after every refill. This also helps to keep the top from drying out.


V. On a day that you are not using it, keep the humidifier’s tank empty.


VI. Ensure that the area around the humidifier is dry. If the humidifier wets its immediate surroundings, wipe it down to prevent the growth of mold.


VII. Check the humidity levels around your house every other day. High moisture levels can cause your allergies to flare up or trigger an asthmatic episode.


VIII. Before long term storage of your humidifier, ensure you clean it out and dry it thoroughly.


Storing it while wet encourages the growth of mold which may be difficult to remove especially if it has been growing for a long time. Store it in a clean box in a place away from dampness.


IX. Replace your humidifier once it gets old. You may have a sentimental attachment to your humidifier but when it clocks five years old or more, you need to get another one.


Old parts don’t work very well and encourage the growth of bacteria.


Thank You! Need To Clean More Stuff??


Thanks so much for stopping by. If you have more things in your home that you need to clean then you are in the right place. Have a look around the site and sign up for my newsletter! I’ll send you access to my free printables library and you’ll get homemaking tips and challenges each week. 


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