Can I Put Vinegar in My Humidifier?

For those who regularly use a humidifier, you’ve likely heard all the health benefits. You may have even experienced them yourself! Humidifiers can help relieve dry skin, sinus congestion, dry throat, cracked lips, and more. The science behind these devices is no secret—they add moisture to the air, which helps ease the symptoms of conditions that occur due to dry air. 

Humidifiers may even help prevent influenza.

As humidifiers directly impact the air one breathes, and subsequently one’s health, they have to be cared for, and you need to keep your humidifier clean.

Humidifiers cannot be used for months on end without cleaning them. They require maintenance, just like any other household item that’s used regularly. You wouldn’t use a water filter without changing the filter as recommended, would you? Even though you're using clean water, humidifiers experience mineral buildup in the water tank, which can contribute to the growth of bacteria. If left unchecked, this can lead to health problems.

Depending on the humidifier you own, it should be cleaned every three days to one week. This may also depend on the type of humidifier and how often it is used. It’s best to refer to the instructions that came with your humidifier to determine how often your device should be cleaned.

While you may try to clean your humidifier like kitchen or bathroom appliances, you might need to use different products and cleaning methods. One thing is for sure, using vinegar as a cleaning agent in your humidifier will help.

Vinegar Benefits

Vinegar is an extremely versatile product that has countless uses, although there are several types that account for these different uses. Some types of vinegar are used for cooking, digestive health, skin health, and, of course, cleaning

For those who want to clean with vinegar, white vinegar is the best option due to its lack of color and the inability to stain. Plus, it’s affordable and available in nearly every grocery store.

Vinegar is a solution that’s made up of water and acetic acid, which typically composes roughly 4 to 8% of the solution. This acid is what gives vinegar its cleaning abilities, the smell, and taste it’s famous for. Acetic acid also happens to be a regular component of many household cleaning products, hence the use of vinegar.  

As vinegar is highly acidic, it can kill bacteria, dissolve mineral deposits, remove grease, grime, dirt, and more. For these reasons, vinegar has become a staple in seemingly every home. Plus, the product is inexpensive and extremely versatile in its cleaning uses.

Rather than buy several cleaning products for various parts of one’s home, many households use vinegar as their primary natural cleanser. It can clean glass, countertops, faucets, sinks, bathtubs, toilets, floors, and countless kitchen appliances. 

Additionally, it can be used to clean devices like humidifiers and other similar products.  

While many people complain about the strong smell of vinegar, it’s just a small price to pay for the powerful cleaning abilities. However, if it’s too bothersome, try putting some lavender essential oil, lemon oil, or similar products into your vinegar to ease the pungent odor.

How To Clean Your Humidifier

As seen above, vinegar is a handy, powerful cleaner that has seemingly countless uses. Luckily, cleaning your humidifier with vinegar is an easy and straightforward process for both cool mist humidifiers and warm mist ones. It takes very little effort and even less hands-on time.

What’s more, the more you clean your humidifier, the easier the process is going forward. Whenever you want to clean your humidifier with vinegar, you should follow these general steps.

First, ensure your humidifier is unplugged. Disassemble your device and take out the filter, rinse it off with fresh water to ensure there are no impurities stuck to it. While it doesn’t need to be cleaned with vinegar, it also doesn’t hurt. If you want to be extra careful with the filter, you can dip it into a bowl of vinegar, rinse it off again, and set it to the side to dry. This should ensure that you get rid of any minerals that may be leftover from hard water.

Next, you’ll need to clean the water tank. This is the part of the humidifier that needs the most cleaning as bacteria and mold are more likely to grow here than anywhere else. Add vinegar to the tank, and swish it thoroughly around, so the vinegar covers all sides and surfaces.

Let the tank sit with the vinegar inside for 15 to 20 minutes. You can leave it for as long as you’d like, but 15 minutes should be the bare minimum. This step will ensure that any bacterial growth is killed. Furthermore, any mineral deposits or residue from calcium in the humidifier water will be loosened from the vinegar.

After the 15 minutes has passed, if there is residue, scrub it off using a sponge or brush. However, if there is nothing present, you shouldn’t need to do any heavy-duty brushing.

Rinse out the water tank with warm water, and let it sit to air dry.  

If your humidifier uses any other small parts, they need to be cleaned as well. To do so, first, rinse them off with water. Take a cloth, sponge, or paper towel soaked in vinegar and wipe the pieces thoroughly. You may want to scrub small parts with a spare toothbrush dipped in a cleaning solution of a cup of white vinegar and hot water to ensure they get as clean as possible. Rinse them off and set them to the side to dry.  

Once everything is dry, your humidifier is ready for use again!

What Happens If You Don’t Take Care of Your Humidifier

As covered earlier, humidifiers should be cared for just like any other essential appliance in your home. Without caring for it, your humidifier will no longer provide the benefits you purchased it for. What’s more, if you let your humidifier run for months without cleaning it, your humidifier may be harming your health.  

As humidifiers are wet and warm by nature, they’re ideal breeding grounds for bacteria and mold. If you were to let your humidifier sit untouched, there’s a high chance that either mold or bacteria would begin growing inside it. Thus, if you don’t clean your humidifier regularly, you could be breathing in air that’s riddled with bacteria or mold.

Similarly, as many humidifier manufacturers recommend using distilled water, it’s worth noting what happens when you don’t follow the advice.

Distilled water is recommended because it has fewer minerals present in the water compared to tap water. When tap water is used in a humidifier, two things may happen. First, the humidifier could add moisture to the air that has these minerals trapped in it. Thus, you may be breathing in minerals, or the minerals may be deposited on surfaces in the room.

Alternatively, your humidifier will retain these minerals inside the filter or water tanks in the form of deposits. When your humidifier has these mineral deposits present, the moisture added to the air will never be pure.

Without cleaning your humidifier, you will never receive the initially desired and provided benefits. Rather than put off cleaning, take the time to clean your humidifier with vinegar. Furthermore, to get the most out of your humidifier, follow the following tips.  

Other Humidifier Maintenance Tips

As bacteria and mold can quickly grow in your humidifier in as little as one or two days, you need to take steps to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Every few days you should change the water. While this may seem excessive, it will help prevent any deposits from developing inside the tank.  

Whenever you’re not using your humidifier, whether for a couple of days or weeks at a time, make sure the water tank is empty and dry. This will significantly reduce the change of any unwanted growth. Furthermore, you should throw away any used cartridges or filters before storing your humidifier.

Depending on how often you use your humidifier, you should replace your filter every month to two months. This will ensure the moisture in the air is always pure.

If you want to really ensure nothing is growing in your humidifier, use some bleach after cleaning it with vinegar. Try disinfecting your tank with a 10% bleach solution. Afterward, thoroughly rinse it out.

Lastly, always keep the information provided by the manufacturer. Each device may have special instructions for cleaning, storage, and even use.

The Bottom Line

Vinegar and humidifiers are two common household items. However, many people don’t see how they go together.

Humidifiers provide numerous benefits to people, especially when their air is excessively dry. However, you have to be careful about using your humidifier. If you don’t clean your humidifier regularly, you could be harming your health rather than helping it.

Vinegar is an essential cleaning product that will provide you with endless utility. It plays a key role in disinfecting surfaces, getting rid of grime, and even eliminating strong odors. You can even cook with it or use it as a self-care product. Plus, it’s safe to use in commonly used items like coffee makers, teapots, and humidifiers.

Thus, by using vinegar, you can be sure you’re getting benefit from your humidifier. Furthermore, after cleaning with vinegar, you can use another disinfectant like bleach to be sure no bacteria are present. The last step may be overkill, but many people like to play it safe. By following this process, or a similar one, you’ll get the best benefits from your humidifier.

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/health/humidifiers-and-health

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold

https://www.healthline.com/health/cleaning-with-vinegar#benefits

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/vinegar/

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