How Often You Need to Clean Your Humidifier (It’s a Lot)

How Often You Need to Clean Your Humidifier (It’s a Lot)

In the dry months of winter, a humidifier is a godsend, infusing the air with moisture and doing its part to keep your skin and sinuses from getting parched. Since you’re probably constantly adding fresh water to it, you may not think you need to clean it that often. But you do—and more often than you think. In addition to helping it run better, cleaning your humidifier stops the machine from dispersing microorganisms and minerals into the air along with that hydrating mist.

Practice proper humidifier maintenance

Before we get into how to clean your humidifier, you should know that there are better, healthier ways to use it. The Mayo Clinic recommends using distilled or demineralized water instead of tap water, as the latter can contain minerals that could hasten bacteria growth. (The minerals can also cause what looks like white dust to collect on furniture near the humidifier.) It’s better not to be breathing those minerals in or allowing them to build up in the humidifier itself, and switching to distilled water will take care of that problem. 

When the humidifier is not in use, don’t let water sit in it. If you run it overnight, dump out anything that wasn’t vaporized in the morning; you don’t want to be breathing in aerosolized stagnant water. Empty the water reservoir out, dry the inside with a cloth, and refill it again only when you’re ready to use it. 

How (and how often) to clean your humidifier

Here’s the horrifying truth: The Mayo Clinic also recommends you clean your humidifier every three days to keep it from spraying bacteria and fungi into the air. Are you on a three-day schedule with yours? Is anyone? Apparently we all should be. The Environmental Protection Agency advises cleaning yours by unplugging the machine and scrubbing it out with a brush to remove any scale, deposits, or film you can see on the sides or interior of the tank. 

For the next step, consult your manual to determine the products the manufacturer recommends you use to clean your machine. Most likely, it’ll be one of these: 

Some humidifiers can be cleaned with bleach, but not all, so make sure to follow the directions for your specific model. Whatever you use, you won’t be running these cleaning products through the machine, but rather allowing them to sit in the water tank for 10 to 20 minutes before dumping it out and scrubbing it again. Rinse it several times, then dry it with a cloth. Now you can breathe freely (and moistly) again. 

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