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If a dry winter climate causes your humidifier to run at full steam, it is important to clean it thoroughly regularly. All this water makes these devices privileged places for the growth of molds and microbes. Let it go long enough and your machine could pump out bacteria with mist or steam. At least once a week, turn off your humidifier and clean – but you can do it more frequently if you or a family member has breathing problems.
To keep your humidifier in top condition, we consulted Carolyn Forte, director of home appliance and cleaning product laboratories at the Good Housekeeping Institute, for the basic steps you will need to follow depending on your type. “It’s always best to follow your model’s cleaning instructions,” she says. “The key, whatever the type, is to clean and maintain it regularly. Standing water is a magnet for bacteria growth and you don’t want bacteria to spurt out into the air, especially if the family members have asthma or allergies. “
Forte recommends keeping the owner’s manual for specific maintenance instructions (at least until you realize it). If your instruction booklet is long gone, you can contact the manufacturer or check their website, but here are the essentials of what you need to do.
What you will need
You do not need (and should not use) detergents or abrasive brushes to clean a humidifier. Just collect the following:
How to clean your humidifier
Cold and hot steam humidifiers use a similar procedure, but some parts may differ. Some brands may also have parts that are dishwasher safe. Check the owner’s manual to be sure.
- Unplug and empty humidifier and disassemble it completely.
- For the base and the tank, pour one to two cups of undiluted white vinegar into the water tank and turn it to completely wet the inside of the tank. (Some brands recommend a mixture of white vinegar and water.)
- Place the tank filled with vinegar on the base and let the vinegar flow into the tank to loosen the buildup of minerals. Let stand 15-20 minutes.
- Empty the vinegar of the tank and the base and use a small brush to rub the crevices and remove the stuck mineral deposits.
- For small parts like the tank cap, wipe with a clean cloth or sponge dipped in white vinegar at full strength.
- Rinse all parts carefully and air dry, then reassemble.
Note: do not try to wash the wick filter as it can damage paper-like material and potentially remove an antimicrobial coating. It is better to replace the filter with a new one.
How to disinfect your humidifier
If you think your humidifier needs a deep cleaning, you can also use a bleaching solution to help kill persistent bacteria.
- Disassemble and clean your humidifier as shown above.
- Mix 1 gallon of water with 1 teaspoon of liquid bleach. Pour ½ to ¾ of the bleach solution into the water tank and wipe to wet the entire interior. (Some brands may recommend a 3% mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water for this step.) If your humidifier has a second tank, do the same with the remaining solution.
- Place the tank in the base and allow the bleach solution to drain into the water tank. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes.
- Empty the bleach solution of the tank (s) and the base. Rinse with clean water until the smell of bleach disappears.
- Wipe dry and go back up.
Humidifier care tips
Now that your machine is in good working order, follow these steps to ensure it works properly:
- Always empty the tank and the tank when the humidifier is not in use. Bacteria can grow in as little as one to two days.
- To extend the life of your wick filter, turn it over each time you fill the tank to prevent the top from drying out and to help the filter age more evenly.
- Replace the filter every 30 to 60 days depending on the condition and use, especially if it becomes hard and crispy from aqueous minerals, gives off an odor or if the humidity flow rate of the humidifier decreases.
- Remove and discard filter and make sure all parts are clean and dry before placing the humidifier in storage, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.