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6 Tips for Humidifier Care and Maintenance

Human Hand in Yellow Protective Glow Holding a Bleach Bottle

A clean house is a safe house, so the humidifier shouldn’t be an exception. This device is the one ensuring your comfort by releasing mist or steam into the air and reducing the insufferable symptoms caused by dryness. It helps you through coughs and congestion, relieves your flu symptoms, and helps you deal with allergies, but only if you take good care of it. Otherwise, it can easily turn into a source of air contamination and actually make you sick.

So, are you doing it right? In this article, we will go through some of the clues that can tell you your unit needs maintenance and give you 5 useful tips on how to perform it.

Woman with Stuffy Nose Caused by Mold Allergy

Woman with Stuffy Nose Caused by Air Contamination

How to tell if the air in your house is being contaminated?

Improper care for the humidifier can lead to the development of a disease called ‘humidifier lung’. This illness appears as a consequence of bacteria and mold spores being transmitted through the air when the unit has become a favorable environment for microorganism growth. It is a type of hypersensitive pneumonitis, which can advance and turn into a chronic disease. You can recognize it by the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Dyspnea
  • Coughs
  • Headaches

As these symptoms are very similar to those given by the flu, it is best to check with the doctor. But if they persist already for a long time, you should turn your attention towards the device and check if it is properly cleaned.

Tips to keep your unit in good shape

It doesn’t matter the model, all humidifiers need to be cleaned at some point. Maybe some more often than others. The instruction manual will guide you in this process. However, most of them will function safely if you check the following steps:

1. Replace the water in the reservoir every 24 hours

Some models come with incredibly large water tanks, as they are designed to release mist in large rooms or even humidify a whole house. Even so, if the space is smaller or the device doesn’t run continuously, water may remain in the reservoir, and some users let it stay for days before using it again for another round of air moisturizing. This is truly the worst you can do. The water will become warmer and allow bacteria to multiply. By the time the device is used again, the number of contaminants that will be spread with the mist will increase considerably.

So, take your time at the end of every day or when you find it more suitable and empty the water reservoir. Rinse it well and dry it with a cloth in case you don’t plan on filling it immediately. Repeat this action every 24 hours, and you can rest assured that you and your family will only breathe clean air.

2. Perform a thorough cleaning once a week

Schedule a cleaning session once every seven days. Thus, you will get rid of all the dirt that tends to gather inside the water reservoir and prevent the growth of mold. Here are the steps you should follow:

  • Power off the unit and unplug it - This is essential and yous should perform this step every day when you change the water to avoid accidents. Malfunctions can occur without you noticing them and they can lead to unfortunate accidents.
  • Empty the reservoir and disassemble it completely - You will need to clean every part that has to do with water
  • Fill the tank with vinegar - This natural cleaner will help disolve all the residues. You should let it act for about 20 minutes.
  • Empty the reservoir and use a brush to remove stubborn dirt - The brush shouldn’t be harsh or it may leave scratches on the walls. You can use a toothbrush for the corners to have better access.
  • Rinse - Place the reservoir under running water and make sure to remove all the vinegar that may have remained on the walls.
Human Hand in Yellow Protective Glow Holding a Bleach Bottle

Human Hand in Yellow Protective Glow Holding a Bleach Bottle

3. Disinfect the unit

It is not always necessary to perform this step, as vinegar can act as a disinfectant as well. But if you have just removed mold from the tank, it is recommended to use something stronger to make sure it doesn’t grow back. The steps are similar:

  • Prepare a bleach solution - Combine one gallon of water with one teaspoon of liquid chlorine. It is strong enough to fight bacteria but won’t affect the recipient’s walls.
  • Pour the solution in the reservoir - Let it sit for up to 20 minutes
  • Rinse - Empty the solution and rinse carefully. Insist, as the next time you fill the reservoir, the chlorine remains may contaminate the water
  • Wipe out all the parts - Make sure everything is dry before reassembling and plugging in the device.

4. Keep an eye on the filters

First of all, not all units come with a filter so you will need to check if yours has one. You will find the answer in the instruction manual or on the manufacturer’s website. If it does have one, make sure you replace it according to the instructions. Some may function as a barrier for mineral residues but some can provide antibacterial protection, so it is important that the solutions with which they have been treated to remain active.

The wick filter should be replaced once every 30 to 60 days. If the water is hard, it easily becomes crusty and develops an unpleasant odor. This will immediately show up in the quality of the air in the room. The air will smell bad and minerals will float freely until they settle on the furniture like a fine mist.

If the unit uses a UV bulb to kill the bacteria in the water, it is good to know that most manufacturers recommend replacing it once every 12 months or after 9,000 hours of use. As these units are usually used to increase humidity in large rooms, the UV technology should remain effective to be able to purify the whole quantity of water in the tank.

5. Replace tap water with distilled water

This advice will come handy especially if you live in an area with hard water. If the water contains a high level of minerals, it will be just a question of time until you see them deposited on the recipient’s walls. And this is just what you see? They will build up on the interior of the diffuser and the whole unit will become impossible to use. You can buy a special filter, if the unit allows it, or switch to distilled water, which has been previously cleaned of residues and other contaminants as well.

If you find it too expensive to buy distilled water, find out that you can make your own at home by using one of the most popular methods, namely the glass bowl method. Here’s how it works:

  • Pour tap water into a pot and place it on the stove
  • Place a glass bowl inside the pot. Make sure it doesn’t touch the bottom and water doesn’t enter inside
  • When the water starts boiling, cover the pot with a glass lid. A metal lid will lend its smell to the water
  • Place ice over the lid to increase condensation
  • At the end collect your home-made distilled water

6. Use it according to the manufacturer’s instructions

Some models can run continuously, but some come with recommendations to be shut down after a certain period. Check out the manual if your unit has such restrictions. Also, do not allow the area around it to become moist. If this happens, you are dealing either with hyper-humidification or a malfunction. A cheap hygrometer can help you determine which is the problem you are dealing with. Then, proceed to solve it as soon as possible. Otherwise, mold and mildew will invade your home.

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, it is all about your health. Our tips are not even difficult to follow and, as you have seen, the most difficult one won’t take you more than 20 minutes. The trick is to apply them regularly and always check on the water recipient. If you see some sort of slime on the bottom, you are already late with the cleaning. So, pour the vinegar, let it act, and expect the best results. Also, check humidity to make sure it remains within the optimal limits and pay attention to your symptoms which may indicate the vapors you inhale are contaminated.

Lillian Davies
Lillian is a fresh college graduate who has lived in Tucson for most of her life, battling the torrid heat ever since she was a child. She is quite versed in the topic of thermal comfort and what solutions work to make conditions more bearable when the temperatures go haywire, which makes her knowledgeable in the topics she writes about here. Since she is a perfectionist, Lilian always takes time to polish her articles before release, which makes her an irreplaceable part of the team.
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