How To Clean a Humidifier (Vinegar, Cool Mist, Warm Mist)

Almost every household that experiences a long winter season has a personal humidifier. It is easy to setup, affordable and most importantly, it works! But according to a survey, more than 60 percent of them did not maintain their unit in a timely manner. To address this common issue, we compiled the best way to clean a humidifier in the shortest period of time. By following the exact cleaning directions, your cool mist or warm mist humidifier will be in tip-top shape for many years to come.
Short answer
Unplug, wipe, scrub, and vacuum.


Can You Get Sick From a Dirty Humidifier?

You can get really sick from a poorly maintained humidifier. A humidifier is supposed to moisten the air and provide comfort in breathing. However, if the water in the reservoir is left stagnant for many days, it can lead to mold and bacteria growth known as humidifier lung. During the moisture dispersion, the harmful allergens will spew back into the air and we are at risk of inhaling it. Continue exposure can cause skin irritation, sinusitis, chest tightness, breathing difficulty, swollen eyes, and headache. In acute cases, It may lead to hypersensitivity pneumonitis, reduced lung capacity, scarring of lung tissue, and an asthma attack. Infant and children are more vulnerable to humidifier lung but adults are also not spared. Regularly disinfecting and cleaning your humidifier is the only way to go.

What Do You Need

There are two main types of humidifiers in the market namely cool-mist and warm-mist model. From there you will find evaporative, steam vaporizer, ultrasonic, or impeller technology with each having their own unique setup. Regardless of which types you go for, we would not recommend the use of bleach or other harsh chemicals as it can cause allergic reactions to skin and eyes. Overuse of bleach may also saturate and damage the humidifier components. So think twice before applying it.

  • Water (a lot!)
  • White diluted vinegar
  • Soft-bristle brush/ vacuum with brush attachment
  • Mask (optional)
  • Rubber gloves and goggles (optional with bleach)

How Often Should You Clean Humidifier?

You should perform a deep clean every 1-2 weeks depending on how frequently it is been used. This will protect the longevity of the humidifier and your family member’s health from mold or bacteria. If there are growing mold patches in the tank, wall, ceiling or you can feel the air quality is deteriorating, it’s time to give the humidifier a good scrub.

Unplug And Empty The Humidifier

Unplugging the dehumidifier is the most important and often neglected step in every cleaning guide. Doing so will mitigate the risk of electric shock during the disassembling. Remember to empty the water tank to avoid any spillage.

Soak in Vinegar Plus Water

Here’s how to clean a humidifier with vinegar. Fill the tank with freshwater. Then mix 1-2 cups of undiluted white vinegar and start swishing it around. Wait 10-20 minutes for the vinegar to sink in and extricate the mineral deposits. Empty the mixed water and start scrubbing in a circular motion on the mineral residues. It should come right off easily. For smaller parts like tank cap, pipe, you can use a rag or cloth to wipe out any mineral buildup.

Soak in Hydrogen Peroxide Plus Water

A poorer alternative solution to vinegar is hydrogen peroxide. First, fill the tank with water, then mix 2-4 cups of peroxide depending on the concentration level. Swish it around and wait around 1 hour for the mineral buildup to be unstuck. Pour out the water and start scrubbing out the mineral deposits. Rinse with water once you’re done.

Clean Or Replace The Filter

Most humidifier’s filter e.g. wick filter is not washable. That means it requires replacing once the filter is clogged or worn out. Washing it with soap or vinegar can damage the filter density and its material. The liquid may also remove the antimicrobial coating protection that comes with it. Instead, use a dry cloth or vacuum cleaner with brush and gently remove the dust and dirt trapped on the filter. Check the owner’s manual for clearer instruction.

Clean The Exterior

Now left the easy part. Use a damp cloth or sponge and start wiping down on the dust particularly near the ventilation. This will reduce any dust or particulate matter from clogging on the output area. Avoid using bleach or any unknown cleaning solvents as it can damage the exterior and causes a chemical reaction.

Rinse And Dry

Use tap water and star rinsing the reservoir, base, and component thoroughly. Continue rinsing until the vinegar smell slowly dissipate. Once you are happy with the outcome, start drying the parts individually with a fresh towel. Then leave it to air dry at room temperature for around 1-3 hours to clear away any lingering odors.

Reassemble And Replug

Once everything is dry and clean, you can start to reassemble every part back in the exact order. Make a mental note on the last cleaned date to check back on the condition. As always, monitor the humidifier and repeat the cleaning steps if there is mold or mildew spots growing in it.

Any appliances that deal with water will be a prime spot for the growth of mold and germs. That's how microbes thrive. So before going through the step by step humidifier cleaning guide, read the product's manual at least once or until you get the hang of it. This is because a specific model might have its own unique setup that requires special attention. If you have lost the owner's manual, try to download a copy online or from the helpdesk.


Max Fernandez

A humidifier distributor with more than 11 years of experience in the field, Max Fernandez is no stranger to the moisture-capturing machine. You can catch him here reviewing humidifiers and preaching on the importance of perfect humidity.