How to clean a humidifier to help you breathe easy

Humidifier on table in family living room
Humidifier on table in family living room (Image credit: Shutterstock)

For those living in cold or dry environments, humidifiers are a great way of improving air quality by adding moisture to the air. In addition, a good humidifier is beneficial for health issues such as asthma, sinus problems, various allergens, dry skin and can even fight off colds. 

However, to keep it running in top condition, you'll need to know how to clean a humidifier properly. More importantly, knowing how to clean a humidifier will kill or prevent bacteria or spores going back into the air. That's because humidifiers work by vaporizing water, so without a regular cleaning, it could become a breeding ground for bacteria and microbes.  

While it may seem like a chore, cleaning a humidifier is a very quick and easy process. We'll show you how to do it in just three simple steps.  

How to clean a humidifier

Humidifier being taken apart to clean

Humidifier being taken apart to clean (Image credit: Shutterstock)

1. Unplug and remove humidifier's water tank 

First, unplug the humidifier, then remove and drain its water tank. Also try to expel any other water droplets from the humidifier.

Woman cleaning humidifier

Woman cleaning humidifier (Image credit: Shutterstock)

2. Pour distilled white vinegar into water tank

Next, pour 1-2 cups of distilled white vinegar into the base and water tank. Swish the vinegar around so that it can properly get to work on the reservoir to loosen build-up of mineral deposits. If your humidifier has a second tank, do the same process. Then, let stand for up to 20 minutes. 

3. Scrub interior surfaces

Empty the vinegar out from the base before using a small brush to get into the crevices and give it a clean. You can also use a clean cloth or sponge dipped in white vinegar to wipe the tank cap, any small parts and outside of the humidifier.  

Water running in sink

Water running in sink (Image credit: Shutterstock)

4. Rinse completely and dry

Finally, rinse all the parts with water thoroughly, and leave to air dry on a clean towel or dishcloth before putting parts back together.  

TIP: If you don’t have white vinegar at hand, you can also do the above steps by mixing ½ water to ¾ of bleach.

How often should you clean a humidifier?

Cleaning a humidifier

Cleaning a humidifier (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Generally, it’s recommended to clean your humidifier at least once a week. However, if there are members of your family suffering from respiratory issues, you should clean it more frequently.   

Other tips for maintaining your humidifier

— Always empty out water when not in use to prevent bacteria or mold spores forming inside the humidifier. Bacteria can grow in as little as one to two days.  

— Depending on how often you use your humidifier, it’s recommended to change its filter every 30-60 days. This will improve the performance and hygiene. 

— Turn over your wick filter each time you fill the tank to keep the top from drying out. The wick filter sits in the base of the humidifier and absorbs water before the fan then draws it out into the air. 

Looking for more cleaning tips? Check out our guide on how to clean everything in your house. If you have allergies, you’ll need to know how to get rid of dust mites quickly And, while you can use vinegar to clean your humidifier, here are 7 things you should never clean with vinegar.

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!