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How Do You Clean a Humidifier?

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You rely on your humidifier to help take care of you, but are you taking care of it?

If you’re running yours around the clock to help add moisture into the air, it’s time to take a look inside.

Unless you’re sticking to a regular cleaning schedule, you might be surprised at what you find. Does yours look black or light pink on the inside? If so, that’s a surefire sign that it’s time to do a deep clean.

That said, how do you clean a humidifier? There are a few methods to try depending on the model you have.

Today, we’re taking a close look at the tools and techniques to use to keep your machine as sanitary and effective as possible. Read on and try them yourself today!


It’s just water, right? How many contaminants can it contain?

If you’re adopting this mindset, your humidifier could be working against you. Though it’s designed to purify the air around you, it might be doing the very opposite. Imagine breathing in dust, allergens, and bacteria every night while you sleep!

Let’s take a look at a few of the top reasons why it’s smart to keep your humidifier in tip-top shape.

Maintain Functionality

A clean machine simply runs better. If you fail to properly care for your humidifier, it’s bound to conk out much quicker.

The mechanisms and gears inside of your machine should remain free of debris and buildup to do their job effectively. Otherwise, they could become clogged and inefficient.

Keep Bacteria at Bay

The most important reason why you should clean your humidifier is to remove harmful bacteria from within it.

Unless you’re constantly changing your water and cleaning your tank, that water is allowed to stagnate. Then, as water sits in the tank of your humidifier, it could easily harbor dangerous mold and microbes. In fact, these organisms love to thrive in damp, moist environments.

When you turn your unit on, those organisms are released into the air around you. As a result, this bacteria-laden water vapor immediately reduces your indoor air quality.

Then, when you breathe it in, it could also lead to other, more serious effects and consequences, including:

  • Severe, persistent coughing
  • Asthma attacks
  • Lung inflammation
  • Appetite loss
  • High-grade fevers
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Shortness of breath

The bottom line? Cleaning your humidifier isn’t optional.

Any appliance that uses water requires regular cleaning and disinfection to perform at top capacity. Thankfully, the steps involved in cleaning a humidifier are relatively simple and straightforward.

The best part? The more frequently you clean your humidifier, the easier the process becomes! Let’s review how to get started.


It’s always best to consult the cleaning directions in the manufacturer’s instructions that came with your model. These will include any special warnings you should heed or special instructions you should follow.

Have you thrown those directions away, along with the user manual? If so, you might still be able to locate the information on the manufacturer’s website. You can also contact their office directly to learn how to proceed.

While this is the recommended first step to take, there are a few basic methods you can use in the interim. It all starts with having the right resources on hand


When you’re ready to clean your humidifier, begin by gathering all of the tools you’ll need.

You won’t need (and shouldn’t use) any form of detergent or special humidifier cleaner solution to make your machine shine. Rather, it’s best to stick with these common household ingredients:

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Liquid chlorine bleach or hydrogen peroxide
  • A small, soft-bristled brush (e.g. toothbrush, nylon dish brush)
  • Water
  • Clean towels
  • Gloves
  • Safety goggles

Keep in mind that there isn’t a standard humidifier model. Though each one should contain some form of a water tank and operating base, yours might have other pieces, and that’s OK.

You can clean almost every plastic piece that comes with your humidifier using our method described below. To stay on the safe side, remember to steer clear of any electrical component or control panel.


Next, let’s take a look at the five steps required to effectively clean your humidifier. When you follow these steps as closely as possible, you can help extend the lifespan of your machine and ensure that the air your family breathes is clean and sanitary.

Note that while a warm-mist humidifier boils the contaminants out of your water before releasing it as steam, cool-mist humidifiers do not have this same function. As such, it’s especially important to clean them on a regular basis.

humidifier and towels on the table in the bathroom

Ready to get started? Here’s what to do.

Step 1: Unplug and Disassemble Your Humidifier

Before you do anything else, go ahead and unplug your humidifier from the wall. You never want to work on it while it’s still holding an electric charge.

Then, it’s time to disassemble it.

Start by removing and emptying out the water tank into a nearby sink. If your particular model comes equipped with other removable parts attached to the base, you can unlatch or unlock those now, too.

Set all of your components aside and separate them out so you can identify and clean them more easily.

Does your unit come with an air filter? If so, remove it at this time.

You won’t need to follow any special instructions to rid your filter of dust and debris. Simply run it under cool water for a few minutes and let it air dry before putting it back inside your humidifier.

Step 2: Soak Components in Vinegar

Next, fill the base of your humidifier with enough white vinegar to cover all of the areas that water normally touches.

This means if you usually fill up your base up to a certain line, that’s how far you’ll pour in the vinegar. The goal is to completely saturate any water-logged areas to thoroughly clean them.

If you removed any smaller components in Step 1, add them to a bowl of white vinegar and let them soak. Make sure they’re completely submerged to get the full effect.

Let everything soak in the vinegar for at least 30 minutes. This will help break down any mineral deposits and remove general dirt and debris. If there is still stubborn, stuck-on residue that persists after 30 minutes, use your soft-bristled brush to gently remove it.

If possible, keep this brush as small as you can to more easily clean around the hard-to-reach areas of your humidifier. If your unit didn’t include a special cleaning tool, a soft toothbrush is ideal.

Step 3: Disinfect Your Tank

Disinfecting your tank also takes around half an hour. That said, it’s helpful to perform this step at the same time that you’re soaking your base and components in vinegar. This way, everything can be cleaned at the same time!

Create a diluted bleach mixture by mixing one teaspoon of bleach into one gallon of water. Fill your humidifier tank at least halfway with this mixture and gently swirl it around to make sure that all of the sides are covered completely.

If you don’t prefer to use bleach and would like to use a gentler solution, you can also substitute 3% hydrogen peroxide.

Step 4: Rinse Your Base, Tank, and Components

After half an hour has passed, it’s time to rinse the vinegar from your base and the rest of your plastic parts. It’s also time to rinse the bleach or hydrogen peroxide from your tank.

Thankfully, this step only involves tap water! Simply run all of your parts under your sink to remove any residue and clean each surface. As you do, shake each piece gently to remove any last-minute debris and eliminate trapped moisture.

If your components still smell strongly of vinegar or bleach, this process might take a few times. Keep running the parts under cool tap water and the scent should begin to dissipate.

Step 5: Dry and Reassemble Everything

Once you’ve thoroughly rinsed all of your parts, spread clean towels over a flat surface.

Lay everything on the towels and allow all of the components to dry completely. When they’re ready, you can reassemble them back together and start using your machine again!

If you cleaned and dried your unit’s air filter, you can put that back into place, too. When it’s time to run your machine again, fill it back up with clean water (distilled if possible) and enjoy the fruits of your labor!


The above steps are ideal when you want to deep-clean your humidifier. If you use your humidifier regularly, we recommend performing these steps on a weekly basis to keep your unit as sanitary and effective as possible.

This way, you can ensure that the air surrounding you and your family is not filled with harmful bacteria or dangerous mold spores.

That said, how can you keep your humidifier clean on a more regular basis? Let’s take a look at a few steps to follow between deep cleanings to help you get the most out of your unit.

Remember to Rinse Your Basin

Every time you go to use your humidifier, remember to rinse out your water basin first.

If there is any standing water left over from the night before, go ahead and pour it out. Never add new water on top of existing water and turn your humidifier on.

Also, never use the same batch of water multiple times. Even after just a few hours, the water inside the tank could start harboring particulates.

Remember; the longer that water sits in your humidifier, the more contaminants it’s attracting. It only takes a few seconds to pour out the old water and new water back in, but it’s a critical step.

If you have the time and resources to disinfect your water basin every day, that would be ideal. However, most people can stick to the once-a-week routine and be fine. Still, don’t skip this step!

Swap Tap Water for Distilled Water

Instead of filling up your humidifier at the bathroom sink, try swapping out tap water for distilled water instead. Tap water naturally contains minerals that can build up on the inside of your machine, encouraging bacterial growth.

In addition, these minerals are also deposited back into the air around you as the water vapor emits from your machine. If you’ve started to notice fine, white dust around the spot where you sit your humidifier, those are mineral deposits.

Distilled water is devoid of such minerals and is safer and more effective to use in your machine.

Store It the Right Way

When spring and summer come around, many people who relied on their humidifiers all winter long are ready to store theirs for the season. Rather than putting yours up the morning after you used it and heading straight to the attic, take the time to clean it first.

Use our five-step method to give your humidifier one last deep clean. Be sure to let it dry completely, and then box it up for storage. The drying step is critical, as boxing it up with any moisture left inside is a surefire way to see mold and mildew when you open it back up in a few months.


short-haired smiling girl

When you buy a humidifier, you want to make sure the ROI on your investment is as high as possible. That’s why it’s so important to keep yours clean, sanitary and well-maintained.

How do you clean a humidifier? Our process above should be detailed enough to do the trick. While these steps might take some time, they help keep the air inside your home safe for all of your loved ones to breathe.

Looking for the best new humidifier on the market? Check out our full selection of health and wellness products today. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!

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