Winter brings cold air and that leads to low humidity.  Skin can dry out, eyes can get dry and scratchy, and our clothes get full of static.  Many people turn to humidifiers to relieve the dryness.  For some, they are an essential tool to be comfortable in their home or office. Despite how important they may be, most people do not clean their humidifiers often enough or properly. Without proper maintenance, a humidifier can turn into a breeding ground for mold and bacteria, which would end up in the air you breathe.

Thankfully, maintaining a humidifier is easy and does not take a lot of time.   Most manufacturers recommend a weekly cleaning; some others suggest a cleaning every three days. Here is how to do it:

How much time do you need:

20 – 30 minutes plus drying time

What you need:

Water – for rinsing and to soak some pieces if needed

Distilled white vinegar – to remove build up of lime scale and other minerals

Scrubbing Brush or Sponge – to remove stubborn gunk and grime

Bleach – to periodically disinfect the humidifier

How to do it:

  1. Empty the tank and let it dry.  If you plan to not use the humidifier for the day or longer, empty the tank and let it dry to avoid the water developing a biofilm of bacteria. Fill it back up just before you turn it back on.
  1. Take the whole humidifier apart and rinse all pieces. This is a surface cleaning.
  1. Wipe/Scrub the tank and tray with vinegar. This will remove any lime scale or other minerals from the water.  Two tablespoons per half-gallon of water should work.  Make sure to rise off these pieces well to get rid of any acid from the vinegar.


  1. Soak and stubborn lime scale or other sediment. If you have build up that won’t scrub away, soak it in the vinegar for 20 minutes and scrub it again.
  1. Disinfect with bleach.  The vinegar will not kill any mold or microbes, which means you, will need to periodically disinfect the humidifier. Ideally, this should be done once or twice a month.  If your humidifier starts to smell it is time to disinfect it.   You can either scrub all parts with a water/bleach mixture (do not mix vinegar and bleach) or if it is particularly gross you can soak the plastic parts for 20-30 minutes.  Ensure you rinse everything well before putting it back together.
  1.   If your humidifier has a filter, you can clean the filter by swishing the filter around in cold water for about 20 minutes.  Do not use bleach on the filter. The filter should be replaced every three to six months.