Here's How to Clean Your Humidifier

by Team HomeServe
A pair of human hands is seen lifting the top off of a white tabletop humidifier for the purpose of cleaning it

Whether you live in an arid desert climate or face snowy winter conditions, dry air can make you feel like every drop of moisture has left your body. Thankfully, a humidifier in your house can make your home a healthy oasis. They can help protect your skin, throat and sinuses and keep your houseplants and furniture in good condition.

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That said, proper maintenance is essential. Knowing how to clean a humidifier ensures the mist it pumps out is free of any contaminants, and it helps the humidifier stay in good working condition.

Do You Need to Clean a Humidifier?

Moisture is good for your skin and lungs, but it’s also a favorite of mold and bacteria. This makes humidifiers a potential breeding ground for certain types of microbes. Regular cleaning makes sure they can’t take hold, which keeps you healthier.

How Often Should You Clean a Humidifier?

The Environmental Protection Agency suggests cleaning your tabletop humidifier every three days, but most manufacturers recommend cleaning once a week. You shouldn’t go any longer than seven days between cleans, but if anyone in your household has allergies or lung conditions, you should clean more frequently.

small home humidifier on floor with plants

How to Clean a Humidifier

Fortunately, cleaning a humidifier is quick and easy. The exact method depends on the type of humidifier you have, so always read and follow the instructions. Below are the general steps to clean a tabletop humidifier.

Materials Needed

  • White vinegar
  • Soft, clean towel
  • Small, soft brush, such as a toothbrush

How to Clean the Inside of Your Humidifier

1. Turn off and unplug the humidifier.

2. Empty any leftover water, avoiding electrical components.
3. Disassemble the humidifier.

4. Fill the base with a mix of equal parts of water and vinegar. One cup of water and one cup of vinegar is usually enough.

5. Let this mix sit for 15 to 20 minutes.

6. Pour out the solution.

7. Rinse the base with fresh water until the vinegar smell is removed.

8. Depending on the design, you may need to scrub cracks and crevices with the toothbrush to remove grime.

9. Wipe down with a soft, clean cloth or let the components air dry.

10. Next, clean the water reservoir or tank by filling it with white vinegar. Again, the exact amount depends on the size.

11. Reseal the reservoir and shake it thoroughly.

12. Turn upside down and let the vinegar empty through the nozzle. You may need to press on the nozzle to allow liquid through.

13. Fill with plain water before shaking and emptying the tank again.

How to Clean the Outside of a Humidifier

The outside of most humidifiers can easily be cleaned by wiping down with water and a soft cloth.

How to Clean a Humidifier Filter

Humidifiers use wick filters to help carry water from the tank to the fan. These filters also have antimicrobial coatings that inhibit microbe growth. Using bleach or chemical solutions can damage that coating, so ensure you only use water to wash filters.

To clean a humidifier filter, simply place it in cold water for around 20 minutes. Make sure to swirl it around, as this helps release built-up minerals. Replace the filter every 3 to 6 months, depending on how often you use your humidifier. If someone in the household has allergies or a lung condition, you may want to change it more frequently.

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How Do You Get Mold Out of a Humidifier?

Following the cleaning instructions listed above should get rid of any mold. If you’re particularly concerned, or you can see mold in any cracks, make sure to scrub the surfaces with a soft brush.

You can stop mold from growing by emptying and wiping down your humidifier at the end of each day and not leaving water in it when it’s not in use. Using distilled water is also a good idea because it prevents mineral buildup and makes the appliance easier to clean.

Humidifier filter

Cleaning a Whole-House Humidifier

Whole-house humidifiers are attached to HVAC systems and help keep air throughout your house moist. There are multiple models available, and the way to clean them depends on the type you have. However, most models only need to be cleaned at the end of the season. Then, it should be set for summer use or shut down until it’s needed again.

If you choose to clean your whole-house humidifier, you still need to clean filters, water reservoirs and pipes to get rid of mold and bacteria. Make sure you read the owner’s manual carefully and follow the instructions. If it’s a larger model, you may also need an extra set of hands to lift parts.