How to Clean a Humidifier Properly

Humidifiers are a great way to transform your indoor space into a healthy ecosystem that combats insomnia, dry skin, viruses, and bacteria, all while improving your respiratory function. 

Air humidifiers are perfect for any room, from nurseries to master bedrooms, shared living spaces, and basements. Especially headed into the winter months, where the drier climate can lead to a wide range of sleep-related issues, humidifiers can be a real solution.

And if your humidifier is running throughout the day and night, it’s very important to deep clean the device with regularity. 

Because humidifiers are a water-based product, the appliances can serve as a breeding ground for unwanted mold and other microbes. 

If you go too long without properly cleaning your humidifying system, the machine could end up working against you by pumping out bacteria along with the healing mist and steam. 

Cleaning your humidifier should be a part of your weekly cleaning regimen. If you or someone in your family has respiratory problems, it might be wise to clean it more frequently. 

In this post, we’re going to talk through the proper way to clean your humidifier, so that you can get all of the machine’s wonderful benefits without any of the drawbacks. 

Let’s get started! 

Should I Use an Air Humidifier?

Do you live in an area where the winters are especially cold and dry

If so, investing in a quality humidifier is one of the best steps you can take to improve the air quality of your home. 

Humidifiers are great tools to have for fighting build-up of static around your home and preventing the onset of common ailments resulting from cold weather like airborne viruses. 

Many people aren’t aware that cranking the heat in your home to combat outdoor temperatures can actually work to dry out your skin. Humidifiers can combat this process. 

Static electricity is most common in times where there is too little moisture in the air. The result of this static electricity is a season-long hassle for maintaining your hair, putting on clothes, and operating basically anything electric or metal. 

In addition to combatting dry skin and static electricity, humidifiers have a plethora of other benefits: 

  • Humidifiers can provide relief from dry or cracking lips. 
  • Humidifiers improve the air quality in your home, making it easier to breathe. For those suffering from asthma or other cardiovascular-related ailments, the machines can be a saving grace.
  • More humidity in the air makes your home naturally feel several degrees warmer in the colder months. This can reduce the need to blast your heater (which can be very expensive) and maintain higher comfort levels. 
  • Moist, clean air will have a positive impact on your overall health. Common winter illnesses are frequently perpetuated by an excess of dryness in the home, making it more difficult for your body’s air passages to fend off colds, sore throats, and other ailments properly.
  • Heating the air in your home actually makes it drier, exacerbating many of these issues. Humidifiers are a proven method of avoiding dust and allergens drummed up through the use of your home’s heating system. Investing in a trustworthy unit can lead to better long-term service with the right kind of care. 


To get the fullest clean of your air humidifier, you’ll want to be sure you have the right materials to get the job done. 

First off, let’s establish what you don’t need: detergents and/or abrasive brushes. These can put harmful chemicals into your humidifier and potentially damage some of its functionality. 

Instead, gather up some of these simple supplies: 

  • Distilled white vinegar 
    • Liquid chlorine bleach 
    • Toothbrush (or a similarly small, soft brush) 

    This is one of the great benefits of humidifiers: they simply don’t require too many extra hard-to-find materials to keep them operating properly. 

    Make sure that you follow manufacturer instructions when cleaning your humidifier, but these tools are a good base. In most cases, you can use the materials listed above for a thorough clean of your machine.  

    Cleaning Your Humidifier

    the humidifier is in the bathroom by the sink

    Every humidifier is different. Most types, however, will use either cool mist or warm steam. 

    While some parts of the process may differ between brands, there are some basic steps you can take that are nearly universal to get your humidifier clean. 

    If you’re worried that some of these steps may not apply to your particular air humidifier, you can always check the owner's manual on your specific unit for further clarification. 

    1. Unplug and empty the humidifier 
    2. Completely disassemble all parts of the unit 
    3. Pour one to two cups of distilled white vinegar into the tank (keeping in mind that some brands may recommend a mixture between both white vinegar and water) 
    4. Swish the vinegar solution around to dampen the interior of the tank completely 
    5. Replace the vinegar-filled tank on the base 
    6. Allow the vinegar to drain through to the reservoir (this will loosen mineral build-up) 
    7. Let sit for 15-20 minutes 
    8. Empty the vinegar from the tank and base 
    9. Use a small brush to scrub crevices and remove any hard-to-remove mineral deposits 
    10. For smaller parts of your unit (such as the cap), wipe with a clean cloth or sponge soaked in distilled white vinegar 
    11. Rinse all parts thoroughly with water 
    12. Let air dry until completely dry 
    13. Reassemble 

    A Step Further With Disinfecting 

    Periodically, it can be beneficial to give your humidifier a deeper clean. 

    This can be done by using a bleach solution to help kill lingering bacteria. So if you’ve got a couple of extra minutes on your hands, disinfecting can never hurt. 

    1. Clean your humidifier per the recommended instructions listed above 
    2. Mix 1 gallon of water with 1 teaspoon of liquid chlorine bleach (don’t over-bleach!) 
    3. Pour half of the solution into the water tank, swishing it around to dampen the inside 
    4. If your humidifier has a second tank, pour the other half of the solution and repeat step 3 
    5. Put the tank in the base to allow the bleach solution to drain into the reservoir 
    6. Let stand for 15-20 minutes 
    7. Empty the bleach solution from the tank and base 
    8. Rinse thoroughly with fresh water until the scent of bleach is totally removed 
    9. Wipe dry and assemble the humidifier 

    Other Helpful Maintenance Tips

    The cleaner you keep your air humidifier, the better it is going to operate. 

    But you can always take some extra steps to make sure that your machine is giving you the maximum benefits. 

    Check out some of these helpful tips: 

    • Prolong the life of your wick filter by turning it over with each fill of the tank. This will help to keep the top from drying out and allow your filter to age more evenly. 
    • Replace your filter every 30-60 days. Depending on the usage and condition of your machine, it may be beneficial to perform this action more frequently. If your unit is experiencing crustiness from water materials, gives off an unpleasant/unfamiliar odor, or is decreasing its moisture output, it may be time to replace your filter. 
    • Empty the tank and reservoir when the humidifier is not in use. Bacteria can grow in as little as one to two days, decreasing the health of your humidifier’s output.
    • Always be aware of your manufacturer’s directions, and never throw away your operation manual. If you are putting your humidifier into storage, remove and discard the filter. You should also clean and dry all the parts before putting it away for the season. 


    a happy family

    Keeping your humidifier working as well as it should for years to come can save you money, ensure healthy operation, and improve the quality of your sleep. 

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, warn that emissions from dirty humidifiers can cause health problems, especially for at-risk individuals like allergy sufferers or asthmatics. 

    Microbes and molds from the humidifier can be released into the air through the mist, making it extremely important that you keep the humidifier as clean as possible through the winter months, especially with high rates of use. 

    You don’t want your humidifier to start working against you by dispersing potentially hazardous mold or bacteria into the air that you are attempting to make healthy. 

    However, if you keep your humidifier as clean as possible, the benefits can be unmatched. You and your family will love all of the health benefits and experience better health as well as a more comfortable home throughout the winter months. 

    By following the cleaning, disinfecting, and maintenance tips listed in this article, you can ensure a healthy and comfortable sleep throughout the winter, no matter the climate outdoors. 

    So keep your humidifier clean, and enjoy a moist winter in your home for a clean, healthy air system!


    Leave a comment

    Comments must be approved before appearing