Are You Cleaning Your Humidifier Enough?
Your dry skin could use the extra moisture this winter, but if you're not cleaning your humidifier properly, you could be doing more harm than good.
Cooler weather often calls for turning on the heat which while cozy, can also lead to dry air (and raspy morning throat). Luckily, a humidifier can help promote hydrated skin and healthy sinuses—unless, that is, you haven't cleaned it since last winter. To help you avoid dirty vents spewing germs around your home, we turned to the cleaning experts and asked them to share the humidifier care tips you need to know; now, you can breath easier and say so long to dry skin.
Take It Apart
For the deepest clean, you'll want to disassemble your humidifier to ensure all parts are cleaned out thoroughly. "Use the instruction manual it came with for step-by-step instructions, as each machine will differ slightly," says Melissa Maker, YouTube host and author. If you're using your humidifier every day, a deep clean should take place at least once a week; for larger humidifiers (more than five gallons), once every two weeks should suffice.
Use Natural Cleaners
Unless you've got seriously bad build-up, skip any harsh cleaning products, as Maker reminds us, "[This] can damage the material and also absorb into it, so that when you use it again you could be breathing the product in." Instead, she suggests eliminating build-up with a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar: "Add it to the water tank up to the maximum fill line and let sit for 10 minutes. Then scrub and rinse."
You can also create a mixture of tea tree oil (about 10 drops) and a cup of water to scrub the machine with. "But be aware that you may smell tea tree oil when you run your humidifier over the next few uses." (In other words, if this fragrance isn't your happy place, perhaps skip it.)
Keep Mold Away
The water tank is also a magnet for mold and mildew; if you notice either in yours, Maker says to clean it with a bleach-free anti-mold spray, such as Concrobium ($9.98, amazon.com). "Make sure to rinse all the pieces well with fresh water before reassembling." To limit regrowth, Sarah Drake, seasonal humidifiers brand manager at Honeywell Humidifiers, recommends putting in an antimicrobial cleaning ball, like Protec ($15.88 for two, walmart.com), in the tank. "It fits in almost all humidifiers-just drop it in the water tank!" Be sure to replace the ball every 30 days or so.
Check the Filter
Many models use a disposable kind to wick moisture or absorb minerals. "Replace it when it gets hard and crusty, it starts to give off an odor, or moisture output decreases," says Drake.
Empty It Daily
The best maintenance rule of thumb? "Empty humidifiers in the morning and let them dry out before refilling for the night," says Becky Rapinchuk, author of Simply Clean ($13.35, amazon.com) and the cleaning and homekeeping expert behind cleanmama.net. She also recommends using distilled or filtered water to help prevent build-up. In between emptying and refilling, Drake suggests wiping down the humidifier with a clean cloth. "This helps to prevent scale and bacteria from building up."
Our Top Picks
The Honeywell UV Cool Moisture Germ-Free Humidifier ($125.57, amazon.com) is perfect for medium-sized rooms; the 1.1-gallon humidifier has three settings to adjust for moisture output and sound level, and it also feature a wide tank opening for easy cleaning. Choose it in white or black with a three-year warranty included. For a quiet option, opt for Vick's Warm Mist Humidifier ($35.99, amazon.com). Quiet enough to keep in a baby's bedroom and equipped with an automatic feature to shut off when empty, the humidifier is perfect for soothing seasonal congestions or nighttime coughs. A medicine cup feature even allows for the addition of liquid inhalants, like Vicks VapoSteam. Finally, the Levoit LV600HH Hybrid Ultrasonic Humidifier ($89.99, amazon.com) is a great middle-range option. With a 1.5-gallon tank that allows for 20 to 36 hours of continuous use, this humidifier is good for larger rooms. It comes with a remote control for convenient function adjustments, and also boasts a compartment for adding essential oils if you want your space to become a zen one, too.