how to clean a humidifier

How To Clean A Humidifier And Why It Is Important

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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A humidifier is a smart addition to any home, especially if you live in a dry climate region. Humidifiers help bring moisture back into the dry air, making it a preventative measure for people with sinuses or dry skin. In addition, if you are prone to waking up with a sore or scratchy throat, a humidifier may help you alleviate such symptoms.

Cold and dry winters need you to have a humidifier in place. This helps fight airborne viruses, cold-weather ailments and static build-up by managing air quality in your home. However, if you don't keep your humidifier clean, it could steam out air pollutants and bacteria that could be a health hazard.

Regular maintenance and cleaning are important to keep your humidifier working effectively. This article will look at how to clean a humidifier, why it is important, how often you should do it and how to disinfect it.

What Are the Benefits of Having A Humidifier?

Heating systems combined with a cold and dry winter result in the air around your home being parched. Humidifiers help to bring back the natural moisture and improve the air quality. By doing so, it offers benefits like:

  • Prevent sinus infections and nosebleeds
  • Ease breathing if you have a cold or lung-related issue
  • Prevents allergies
  • Helps to deal with dry skin, lips and eyes
  • Prevents sore throat
  • Limit the amount of static electricity

Why Is It Important to Clean Your Humidifier?

Humidifiers offer a perfect breeding ground for bacteria growth and mildew. When not regularly cleaned, these microbes and pathogens stream out of the humidifier along with the water vapor and into the air. In turn, breathing this air could trigger allergies, asthma attacks, lung inflammation, among other respiratory infections.

Another reason why you need to keep your humidifier clean is that hard water contains minerals that build up and get released into the air. Unfortunately, apart from having adverse health effects, these tiny minerals also damage your humidifier and compromise its efficiency.

Fortunately, cleaning and disinfecting your humidifier does not take a lot of effort. In turn, you get quality airflow and your humidifier lasts even longer.

How to Clean A Humidifier

Before cleaning your humidifier, it is recommended to refer to the owner's manual based on your humidifier model. However, the cleaning tips below will work with most models, be it a cool-mist humidifier or warm mist humidifiers.

What You Need

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Liquid chlorine bleach or Hydrogen Peroxide
  • A soft bristle brush, A toothbrush or Q-tip
  • Water
  • A clean towel
  • Goggles and gloves

Step 1: Disassemble the Humidifier

With the humidifier unplugged, take apart each removable piece to clean it thoroughly. Remove and empty the water tank to do away with the stagnant water that supports bacteria growth. Depending on your humidifier model, remove all the visible removable parts. If your humidifier has an air filter, remove it and clean it with only clean water since cleaning solutions can be damaging. In addition, if the humidifier filter has a hard crust or an odd odor, then it's time to replace it.

Step 2: Use White Vinegar to Clean the Humidifier

Pour undiluted white vinegar into the humidifier tank, ensuring that it is enough to cover areas that get into contact with water. Depending on how long it has been since the last cleaning, you can use diluted vinegar for a less concentrated solution. Next, swish the vinegar around and leave it to sit for 20-30 minutes.

In a separate water container, add vinegar and small humidifier parts, such as the tank cap and leave them to soak too. White vinegar breaks down the mineral build-up, kills and prevents mold growth while still disinfecting the humidifier.

After 30 minutes, empty the humidifier and follow up with the soft-bristled brush for thorough cleaning. Target any parts with residue, such as hard-to-reach crevices and corners, greasy spots as well as washable parts.

Step 3: Disinfect the Humidifier

Disinfecting the humidifier helps to kill any lingering bacteria as a result of standing water. To do this, you will need a bleach solution. Mix 1 teaspoon of liquid chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water. Next, add this solution to the humidifier filling it halfway, swish it around, so all parts are coated then let the mixture sit for about 20 minutes. In addition, you could use 3% hydrogen peroxide in place of bleach.

Step 4: Rinse With Water

Place each removable part under running water and rinse until the bleach smell is gone. It will take you several rinses to go through the water tank, base and other components. In addition, ensure to shake the parts while rinsing to dislodge trapped moisture. Then, lay out the parts on the clean towels and leave them to air dry. Leaving the parts to air dry also helps dissipate the smell of bleach.

Step 5: Assemble the Humidifier

Reassemble the parts and don't forget to replace the humidifier's filter if need be. Add fresh water and plug back the humidifier. Enjoy the clean humidifier and the improved indoor air quality.

How to Regularly Maintain A Clean Humidifier

a). Deep Clean Your Humidifier Weekly

Deep cleaning the humidifier every week following our step-by-step instructions will ensure that you and your family are breathing fresh, humid air. This will also help to keep in check the bacteria and mold growth and mineral build-up. In addition, your humidifier will work efficiently and last even longer.

b). Refill With Fresh Water Every Day

Before switching on the humidifier for the day, ensure to switch out the standing water for fresh and clean water. This helps to get rid of any bacteria that ad started to grow. In addition, cool mist provided by your humidifier comes from the water present, so refilling with fresh water daily will ensure you have fresh mist.

c). Opt for Distilled Water

Hard water and tap water have minerals that cause build-up in your humidifier. The effects of using hard water may show up in the form of hard deposits on the heating element or humidifier's filter or white dust on the machine. In addition, mineral build-up aids the growth of bacteria and mold since it is hard to clean. Therefore, it is advised to use distilled water to prevent this. If you have to use hard water, you can get a demineralization cartridge for your specific humidifier.

d). Clean Before Storing It Away

After you are done using the humidifier for the season, it is advised to give it a deep clean beforehand. Use vinegar, bleach or hydrogen peroxide also to disinfect it, then let it air dry. If you store the humidifier with some wet parts, you will notice mold the next time you pull it out.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is it OK to run vinegar through your humidifier?

Although vinegar is used to clean and disinfect your humidifier, it is not advised to run it through the humidifier. This is because vinegar can irritate your nose, eyes, throat and even lungs.

2. How often should you clean a humidifier?

It is best to clean your humidifier every other week to keep it in good shape. Deep cleaning with a soft brush and liquid chlorine bleach kills bacteria and mold, ensuring your indoor air quality is not polluted by microbes.

3. How do you clean a humidifier wick?

It is not advisable to clean the wick filter. This is because it is delicate hence easy to damage. However, if you notice that the wick filter in your humidifier is dirty, go ahead and get a replacement.

5. How do you clean a cool-mist humidifier without vinegar?

If you prefer not to use vinegar to clean your humidifier, you could use 3% hydrogen peroxide instead to achieve the same results.

6. How do you clean a humidifier with baking soda and vinegar?

You could use baking soda after cleaning the humidifier with vinegar. Apply baking soda and a soft-bristle brush to remove any remaining residue, then rinse and dry it.

7. How do you clean a humidifier filter?

A humidifier's filter removes contaminants from the water. In turn, it gets dirty and needs to be cleaned. Here is how to do it:

  • Remove and soak the filter in a 50-50 water and vinegar solution for 30 minutes
  • Use clean hot water to rinse the filter
  • Leave it to dry

Note: The filter should be replaced every 1-2 months. In addition, if you notice a hard crust while cleaning, a foul odor or a decrease in the moisture output, this is a sign that you should replace it.


A humidifier ensures that your home is not parched during cool and dry weather. However, it could make you sick when not regularly cleaned. We hope that these step-by-step instructions on how to clean a humidifier will help you ensure it is clean and in good shape for fresh indoor air quality.

Image Source:

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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