How to Clean a Humidifier

Use this step-by-step guide on how to clean a humidifier for a mold-free and smoother-running device.

Your humidifier works hard to put moisture back in the air, an essential feat during the colder months. But when you go too long between cleanings, your humidifier can grow mold, bacteria, and build up mineral deposits, reducing efficiency.

Why You Need to Clean Your Humidifier

How to Clean a Humidifier: Step by Step

The leading cause of humidifier bacteria and grime is stagnant water. When you leave water sitting in the reservoir, mold has the chance to develop. And in machines without a filter (visible mist humidifiers), mold spores can get released back into the air during use.

In humidifiers with filters, bacteria, mold, and minerals can clog the filter, causing the machine to work in a less efficient manner.

No matter the type of humidifier you have, it’s important to clean it at the start of every season and when you notice a slimy film. From there, clean your humidifier once per week to keep it bacteria-free and sanitized.

Types and Purpose of Humidifiers

The purpose of a humidifier is to put moisture in the air. The added humidity helps with dry skin and respiratory issues. It also brings your house back to ideal humidity levels in the winter, which is important if you have wood floors or windows.

There are several types of humidifiers – large capacity, vaporizers, diffusers, cool mist, and warm mist.

Large-capacity humidifiers hold a lot of water and come with a changeable filter. Vaporizers are smaller devices, common during cold and flu season, and can be warm or cool mist. Diffusers are often tabletop-sized, filling the room with moisture and, sometimes, scent.

How to Clean a Humidifier: Step by Step

You can use the same products to clean any humidifier – just modify the steps depending on the specific parts yours contains.

Supplies to clean a humidifier:

  • White distilled vinegar
  • Water 
  • Spray bottle
  • Scrub brush or sponge

Vinegar is the best humidifier cleaner. The high acidity is ideal for removing limescale and mineral deposits. Plus, vinegar can kill mold spores even better than bleach.

Step 1: Unplug the Device and Empty the Water

Start by unplugging the device. Next, empty the water from the reservoir tank. Be careful when draining the water, so you don’t get any in the device’s motor.

Step 2: Spray  with Vinegar and Water

With an empty reservoir tank, mix a solution of half-white distilled vinegar and half water. Place it in an empty spray bottle. Spray the reservoir tank with the solution, paying attention to spots with extra buildup.

If your humidifier has other removable (non-electric) parts with grime, spray those too. Allow them to sit for 20-30 minutes.

Step 3: Scrub Off the Grime and Mineral Deposits

Use a soft-bristled scrub brush or sponge to scrub away buildup and grime. Then rinse the tank.

Tip: If parts of your humidifier still have grime after scrubbing, soak them in a solution of half water and half vinegar for 1-2 hours and then wash. 

Step 4: Rinse and Dry

After removing grime and limescale, rinse the pieces well. Then, allow them to air dry or dry them with a towel.

How to Keep Your Humidifier from Getting Nasty

Use these tips to prevent your humidifier from building up gunk.

  • Use distilled water. Mineral deposits from hard water can cause a humidifier not to work well and build up white spots in the reservoir tank.
  • Don’t let water sit. If you won’t be using your humidifier for a day or two, empty it and allow the reservoir tank to air dry. 
  • Clean it before it gets slimy. A few minutes each week spent wiping the humidifier will prevent slime and mold growth.
  • Replace your filter every six weeks to three months. If your humidifier has a filter, replace it every six weeks if you use it daily. For less frequent use, replace the filter every three months.