How to Clean Humidifier & Its Filter

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This week we got a question from Carl on how to clean humidifier. Carl wrote in and said: “I have been using my humidifier for a few months, and it looks dirty. I have been doing regular light dusting to keep it clean but the filter and has accumulated some dirt. Lime has built up on the filter, and I don’t know what to do. Can you tell me how I can clean the humidifier and the filters without having to buy a replacement filter?”

How to Clean humidifier and filter

A humidifier adds moisture to the dry air inside a room. It helps in fighting flu and cold symptoms, prevents skin from drying, and helps babies sleep well. It is important to clean your humidifier on a regular basis to prevent bacteria from being pumped out into the room. This guide teaches you how to clean the humidifier the right way to prevent bacteria build up and avoid having to buy a replacement filter.

Method 1: How to Clean Humidifier and Humidifier Filter

Some humidifiers come with filters that need to be replaced periodically. If your manufacturer suggests that you replace the filter after a period of time, then the best thing to do is to replace the filter.

If you filter is made of a washable material such as plastic or fabric, then you can clean it using the method in this guide.

Note: Some people have suggested that it is possible to clean paper filters. Add half a cup of vinegar to about a gallon of water and soak the paper filter in the solution for 10 to 24 hours. Remove the filter, rinse under water and let it dry. If this works for you then great but if it doesn’t then you’ll have to replace the paper filter.

Required Items

  • Vinegar (optional)
  • Bleach (optional)
  • A bucket or large bowl
  • Rubber gloves (optional)
  • Soft Cloths

How to clean the humidifier filter

Step 1: Unplug the humidifier and remove the tank and empty it. Then remove the filter for cleaning.

Step 2: Inspect your filter for mold, damages or mineral build up. If the filter is free of mold and mineral deposits, then all you need to clean it is cold water.

Step 3: Hold the filter under running water to remove any impurities and clean it. Wipe it with a clean, soft cloth and set it aside to dry.

  • Do not clean the filter with cleaning products that have chemicals in them. The chemicals can damage the filter and render it unusable.
  • If your filter manufacturer requires that you replace the filter periodically, then follow the instructions in the manual to buy a replacement filter. Some manufacturers will list the parts numbers in the manual.

Step 4: If your humidifier filter has mold on it, then you need to clean it with bleach. Make a cleaning solution consisting of 6 parts water to 1 part bleach in a bucket or a bowl.

Step 5: Put the filter in the solution and let it soak for about 10 minutes

Step 6: Take the filter out of the solution and rinse it thoroughly under running water. Wipe it with a clean, soft cloth and set it aside to dry.

Step 7: If you notice mineral deposits on the filter, then you need to clean it with vinegar. Make a cleaning solution of one part vinegar and two parts water.

Step 8: Place the filter in the solution and let it soak for about 30 minutes.

Step 9: Remove the filter and rinse it thoroughly under running water. Wipe it with a clean, soft cloth and set it aside to dry.

How to clean the other parts of the humidifier

Step 10: Empty the tank into a sink.

Step 11: Fill the tank with about 4 cups of vinegar and swish it around to ensure that the vinegar covers the bottom and sides of the tank.

  • Alternatively, you can pour in enough vinegar to fill the tank.

Step 12: Leave the vinegar in the humidifier tank for about an hour for it to clean and loosen any buildup in the tank. Empty the tank after about an hour.

Step 13: Rinse the tank thoroughly under running water

  • If there is grime buildup in the tank, then use a brush to scrub the tank to remove the grime.
  • You can also wash the tank with mild dishwashing soap and sponge. Make sure to rinse thoroughly with cold water to get all of the dishwashing soap out of the tank before using it again. You don’t want to be pumping chemicals into the room whiles using the humidifier.
  • If your humidifier tank is such that you cannot scrub it with a brush or wash it with a sponge, then add a few spoonfuls of rice to the tank, add vinegar and cold water and close the tank. Shake the tank vigorously to let the rice scrub out the grime. Rinse thoroughly with cold water.

Step 14: Wet a sponge or a soft cloth with vinegar and use it to wipe the surface of the other parts of the humidifier to clean them. The vinegar prevents the growth of bacteria and mold.

The cleaning method above works for all humidifier brands including Vicks, Crane, and Safety First humidifiers.

After you clean your humidifier, we recommend that you disinfect it to ensure that the moisture it pumps into the atmosphere is clean.

Method 2: How to disinfect your humidifier

With Bleach: Fill the humidifier tank with a gallon of water and then add a teaspoon of bleach to the water. Leave the water and bleach mixture in the tank for about one hour to disinfect the tank. Empty the tank and rinse thoroughly with cold water.

  • Make sure you rinse the tank several times before using it again
  • Do not operate the humidifier with bleach in the tank. The bleach could damage the machine and render it unusable

With Peroxide: Pour a few cups of hydrogen peroxide to the humidifier tank and swish it around to ensure that the peroxide covers the sides and bottom of the tank. If you have enough peroxide, you can just fill the tank with it to completely cover the insides. Leave the peroxide in the tank for about one hour, empty the tank and rinse thoroughly with cold water before using the tank again.

With Vinegar: Use vinegar to deep-clean the humidifier.

  • Add about a gallon of water to the humidifier tank and then add about one cup of vinegar to the water in the tank.
  • Take the humidifier outdoors, plug it in and let it run for about one hour. If you run it indoors with vinegar in the tank, your room will smell of vinegar. You can get the vinegar smell out by opening windows and letting fresh air in.
  • Don’t replace the vinegar with bleach or any other cleaning solution for this process. The bleach or cleaning chemicals could damage your humidifier.

Tips to keep your humidifier clean and prevent the growth of bacteria

  • Change the water in the tank regularly. When you leave water in the tank for an extended period of time without changing it, minerals can deposit on the walls of the tank. You’ll essentially be pumping unclean moisture into your room, so it is important to change the water frequently. We recommend that you change the water daily.
  • Clean the humidifier frequently. Clean your humidifier with vinegar or peroxide every three days if you use it on a regular basis. Then deep clean it every two weeks.
  • Replace your humidifier. The longer you use a humidifier, the more likely it is that the parts won’t work efficiently anymore. We recommend that you replace humidifiers that have been used regularly for over five years. Old humidifiers can harbor bacteria that you can’t see.

    The best selling humidifier on is the “Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier” by Pure Enrichment and costs $39 at the time of writing.

  • Ensure that the area around the humidifier is dry. Dampness on the machine encourages the growth of bacteria.
  • Store the machine properly. When you no longer needs the machine, clean it thoroughly and ensure that it completely dries before putting it away. Store it in a cool, dry place. When it’s time to use the humidifier again, clean it before using it.
  • Use distilled water instead of regular tap water. Distilled water does not contain minerals and will, therefore, not leave grime and mineral deposits on the walls of your tank.

Did the above method work for you or do you have tips on how to clean a humidifier? Please share with your fellow readers by leaving a comment below.

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