Step-By-Step Guide on How to Clean a Humidifier

Hello there, dear homeowners! As a fellow dweller and self-professed home maintenance enthusiast, I can’t begin to tell you how important it is to have a fully functioning, clean humidifier in our homes. I’ve been in the thick of it – wrestling with scales, grime, and the occasional mystery gunk that seem to have a life of its own. Oh yes, cleaning a humidifier might not be as glamorous as, let’s say, creating the perfect backyard, but it sure is crucial!

In our quest to keep our homes, especially for us folks in the USA and Canada, comfortable during those dry, winter months, a humidifier works like a charm. But here’s the catch – the charm wears off if we don’t show these wonderful devices the love and care they deserve! Trust me, I’ve been down that road, and let’s just say, it involved a lot of sneezing and regret!

Today, I’m going to share all my knowledge, tips, tricks, and some funny (in retrospect) stories on how to clean a humidifier. Not just clean, but an in-depth, efficient cleaning process that will help your humidifier work at its absolute best. It’s like a spa day for your humidifier, and I can’t wait to guide you through it!

So, let’s dive right into this journey and learn how to show your humidifier the love it deserves!

Why is it Important to Clean Your Humidifier Regularly?

Humidifiers, those trusty devices we rely on for comfortable, moist air, especially during dry winter months, need a bit of TLC to keep doing their job well. If you’re anything like me, you might’ve thought, “Why bother? It’s just water in there!” Well, as it turns out, that’s not the whole story.

First and foremost, health. Here’s a little something I learned the hard way: a dirty humidifier can become a breeding ground for all sorts of nasties, including mold, mildew, and bacteria. As your humidifier pumps out that lovely, moist air, it could also be spraying these microorganisms right into your living space!

Yuck! Imagine sitting down for your favorite TV show, only to be breathing in mold spores with each breath. Sounds unpleasant, right? And more than just being gross, these airborne irritants can trigger a range of health problems, from minor irritations like allergies and skin conditions to more serious respiratory issues. Trust me, I’ve had to deal with a stubborn cold and skin allergies I couldn’t shake off for weeks until I finally tracked it down to my poorly maintained humidifier.

But there’s more than just your health at stake. Your humidifier’s performance and longevity are also on the line. Mineral deposits can build up over time, reducing your humidifier’s efficiency and potentially even damaging it. It’s like trying to run a marathon while breathing through a straw—no one wants that!

Plus, a neglected humidifier can end up becoming more of a liability than a boon. You know how frustrating it can be when a trusted appliance suddenly stops working or starts underperforming, right? Well, I can tell you from experience that it’s even more irritating when you realize you could have avoided it all with a bit of regular cleaning!

So, cleaning your humidifier isn’t just about having a chore to tick off your to-do list. It’s about maintaining a healthier, more comfortable living environment, ensuring your appliance runs at peak efficiency, and ultimately, saving you from unnecessary troubles down the line.

Stay tuned as we go step by step into how to effectively clean your humidifier in the upcoming section, because, as I’ve learned (and yes, I’m speaking from experience), a clean humidifier truly does make a world of difference!

Understanding Your Humidifier: The Different Types

Not all humidifiers are created equal! There are several types, and each has its unique cleaning needs. The four primary ones you’ll encounter are Warm mist, Cool mist, Ultrasonic, and Evaporative.

Warm mist humidifiers heat water to create a soothing, warm vapor. Cool mist humidifiers, as the name suggests, emit a cool, refreshing mist into your room. I personally love the cool mist variety – it’s like having a mini waterfall in the room!

Ultrasonic humidifiers use high-frequency vibrations to produce mist, while evaporative humidifiers use a fan to evaporate water into your room. And yes, each of these requires specific care to keep them running smoothly.

How to Clean a Humidifier?

Cleaning a humidifier is a task that requires meticulousness, but I promise you, it’s not as daunting as it seems. Let’s take this step-by-step:

1. Unplugging and emptying the humidifier

The very first thing you need to do is to ensure your safety, so please unplug the humidifier from the power source. Once that is done, empty any remaining water from the tank and base. This is a step you can’t skip – trust me, I’ve been there, and things can get messy real quick!

2. Disassembling the humidifier

Now, this can seem tricky, but it usually isn’t. Start by removing the tank from the base and then proceed to detach any other removable parts such as the top cover or cap, mist chimney, or filters. I’ve sometimes struggled with disassembling certain models, but the user manual or a quick online search can usually get you through it.

3. Cleaning the tank

This is where our trusty friend, vinegar, comes into play. Vinegar is a fantastic natural cleaner that effectively removes scale and kills bacteria. I usually use a ratio of one part vinegar to two parts warm water. Fill the tank with this mixture, close it up, and give it a good shake. I let the vinegar solution do its magic for about 20-30 minutes. Then, I use a soft bristle brush to scrub away any residues. Finally, rinse thoroughly until the smell of vinegar is gone. Here’s a little secret from my cleaning adventures – if the vinegar smell doesn’t seem to go away after a few rinses, a rinse with a baking soda and water solution can help neutralize the smell!

4. Cleaning other parts

I use a toothbrush soaked in vinegar for smaller parts and the base. It works wonders in getting to those hard-to-reach spots. Be gentle, though! Once, in my over-enthusiastic scrubbing, I ended up damaging a part of my humidifier. So, scrub carefully, especially with parts that contain electrical components.

5. Rinsing and drying

Once all the parts are cleaned, rinse them thoroughly to make sure no vinegar residue is left behind. After that, dry each part thoroughly with a clean towel. I usually leave the components to air-dry for a while after towel-drying to ensure complete dryness. Damp parts can lead to mold and mildew, and we don’t want that, do we?

6. Reassembling and testing

After all, the parts are dry, reassemble your humidifier. I always double-check to make sure I’ve assembled everything correctly. Once done, fill it with fresh water and run it for a short while to confirm it’s working as expected. I must admit, the first time I reassembled my humidifier, I was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. But, after doing it a few times, it became second nature.

Troubleshooting Common Humidifier Problems

Oh, the tales I could tell about humidifier woes. But don’t worry, most common problems are easy to fix. Here’s a quick rundown:

  1. No mist: Check if the water tank is empty or if the filter is clogged or too wet. Try replacing the water, drying the filter, or even replacing the filter if necessary. If these don’t work, it could be a mechanical issue, and you may need to consult with a professional.
  1. Weak mist: This could be due to mineral deposits blocking the parts of the humidifier. Regular cleaning should prevent this issue. If your humidifier has a speed setting, check if it’s set to low.
  1. White dust around the humidifier: This happens when minerals in the water are released into the air. Using distilled or demineralized water can help prevent this. Also, certain humidifiers come with demineralization cartridges, so check if yours does!

Maintaining Your Humidifier Post-Cleaning

Now that you’ve cleaned your humidifier, let’s make sure it stays that way. Here are a few tips for maintaining your newly cleaned device:

  • Regular Cleaning: As we’ve discussed, regular cleaning is essential. I clean my humidifier every 1-2 weeks, depending on usage.
  • Water: Always use distilled or demineralized water to reduce mineral deposits. Trust me, it saves a lot of cleaning effort!
  • Dry It Out: If you’re not planning on using your humidifier for a while, empty it out and let it dry to prevent mold and bacteria growth. I learned this one the hard way after leaving mine idle for a while, only to find a science experiment growing inside!


Cleaning your humidifier isn’t just another chore to add to your list—it’s an investment in your health and home comfort. As someone who has suffered the consequences of neglecting this task, I can assure you that regularly cleaning your humidifier can make a world of difference. Keep it clean, keep it running smoothly, and breathe easy!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How often should I clean my humidifier?

I recommend cleaning your humidifier every 1-2 weeks, depending on usage and the type of water you use. If you notice any signs of mold or mildew, clean it immediately.

Q2. Can I use bleach to clean my humidifier?

While bleach is an effective disinfectant, it can be harsh and leave a residue that’s hard to completely remove. I recommend using natural cleaners like vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. But remember, always rinse thoroughly after cleaning!

Q3. Why is there white dust around my humidifier?

The white dust is likely mineral deposits from your water. Using distilled or demineralized water should prevent this issue.

Joxan Williams
Home Maintenance Expert | | Website

I'm a licensed home maintenance contractor with over a decade of experience, dedicated to preserving your home's value. My expertise includes roofing, gutter installation and repair, fencing, pool maintenance, deck and patio construction, plumbing, appliance repair, lawn care, painting, garage doors, windows, sump pumps, and steam heating systems.