Humidifiers are designed to put moisture in the air. Over time, however, mold, mildew and bacteria can collect in humidifiers — which then spew them into the air. Here’s how to clean your humidifier and disinfect it so that it only adds water vapor (no bacteria) to the air in your home.
Some humidifiers are attached directly to your HVAC system ductwork. Some are self-contained portable units.
Maintenance For Your HVAC-Attached Humidifier
If your humidifier is attached directly to your HVAC system ductwork, it only draws water when the blower is on. It has a medium pad over which the water flows. This needs to be changed regularly as it will build up deposits and need replacement. Also check that the drain hose from the humidifier unit still lets water flow, as it can get clogged up over time. Those two simple maintenance tasks are typically done at the start of the heating season.
If your humidifier has a water tank, more significant cleaning needs to be done. Let’s talk about this type.
A Basic Cleaning for Your Portable Humidifier
In many cases, a basic cleaning is all that a humidifier needs. To perform a basic cleaning, you will need a sink, white vinegar, scrub brush, sponge and towel. Begin by unplugging the appliance, and removing the reservoir tank and filter (if it has one) from the base.
You’ll have to check the manufacturer’s instructions to see how to clean the filter.
- On some models, the filter must be replaced periodically.
- On other models, the filter can be cleaned by rinsing it with cold water and then letting it air dry.
Don’t use cleaning agents on any filters, as they can damage filters.
To clean the reservoir, follow these steps:
- Dump any water out of the tank.
- Fill the tank with about 4 cups of white vinegar.
- Close the tank’s top, and swish the vinegar around so it coats all sides.
- Let the tank sit for 1 hour.
- Dump out the vinegar, and rinse the tank with water.
- Fill the tank with fresh water and put it back in place.
- If there’s film or gunk on the bottom of the tank, use a brush to scrub it away and then rinse the gunk out.
Some models don’t have access for a brush, in which case you can try putting a few grains of uncooked rice into the tank and swirling them around. They should help loosen up any debris.
After cleaning out the inside of the humidifier, you can wipe down the exterior with a damp sponge.
A Deep Cleaning for Your Humidifier
A deep cleaning for a humidifier is a lot like a basic cleaning. The only difference is how many times the tank’s rinsed out with a cleaning agent.
To deep clean your humidifier, you will do the basic clean three times using a different cleaning agent each time.
- Repeat Steps 1 – 6 with bleach,
- Repeat Steps 1 – 6 with hydrogen peroxide
- Repeat Steps 1 – 6 with white vinegar.
- Do Step 7
Be sure to thoroughly rinse out the tank after the bleach and hydrogen peroxide cleanings. You may even want to fill the tank and run it outside for a few hours after each cleaning. Why? You want to be sure that neither the bleach nor the hydrogen peroxide leaves residue that could combine with the vinegar, as such combinations can release toxic gases.
Cleaning your humidifier (and disinfecting it) will keep the air you and your family breathe cleaner.
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