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Humidifiers can provide relief during dry seasons, such as winter, when air may feel stuffy. To keep a humidifier functioning properly, regular cleaning is necessary to avoid bacteria and mold growth. Breathing in moldy air can be harmful, so it’s important to clean the humidifier regularly to prevent this issue.

While humidifiers come in various sizes and shapes, they all require cleaning to maintain effectiveness. We will focus specifically on portable desktop humidifiers as opposed to whole-house devices, as the cleaning instructions may vary. For example, some humidifier parts are dishwasher safe, while other models may have parts that should not be cleaned, such as Vicks filter pads. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning specific humidifier models.

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How to Clean a Humidifier — Here’s How to Get Ready

person taking apart humidifier for cleaning

There are several types of humidifiers, and each pushes cool or warm air out a bit differently. To be safe, review the owner’s manual before cleaning just in case there’s a special method to use. You’ll want to clean your humidifier after each use to stave off bacteria and mold, but at least once a week will help.

We’ll get to the recommended household cleaner to use to actually clean a humidifier, but here are the basic steps to ready your appliance and space:


1. Unplug your humidifier and discard the water.

Disconnect the appliance, remove the tank from the base, and pour out the water from each. Remove any slimy parts as well.


2. Assemble your cleaning station items.

Gather a large towel, a soft brush (toothbrush or bottle brush), and vinegar. You’ll need fresh water nearby, too.


How to Clean a Humidifier with Vinegar

great value vinegar, toothbrush, and bottle brush
Some websites will tell you that bleach is OK to clean humidifiers, but I’m going to recommend not doing that. In my experience, bleach leaves a lingering smell. Plus, some experts say that bleach can break down some of the seals and plastic. And since it’s a harsh chemical, it could damage the unit.

Here’s how to clean a humidifier with vinegar:

  1. Pour 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of water into the base. Let the mixture sit for 30 – 45 minutes. Use a toothbrush to scrub off the loosened grime. Rinse well with clean water and air dry.
  2. Add 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of water to the reservoir. Replace the cap and let the mixture sit for 20 minutes, shaking periodically to cover the surface. Use a bottle brush to clean the inside. You’ll want to use the same mixture and cleaning method for the lid, too.
  3. Empty the reservoir and rinse several times with clean water. Air dry before reassembling.
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Pickup: Free

Learn How to Clean a Humidifier in Three Easy Steps