Introduction: Care and Feeding of Fog Machines

Picture of Care and Feeding of Fog Machines

Do you have a Fog machine? Do you use it infrequently? Have you noticed it's output decrease? Here's some simple cleaning tips you can use to keep your fog machine working well.

Step 1: Empty the Fluid Tank

Picture of Empty the Fluid Tank

Most fog machines that are cheap have a built in fluid tank so you will have to empty it. But wait, don't throw away the fluid. If the fluid is still clear (or it's original color) and doesn't have any debris in it, you can use it again. I recommend getting a small Nalgene container to store the fluid in. A 500ml container is usually about the right size and should only cost a couple of dollars at a camping / outdoors store. In Canada we have Mountain Equipment Co-op and Campers Village which are the best places to find a container like this. As a side note, if the fluid is clear but has debris in it, you can pour the fluid through a disposable coffee filter to remove the debris.

Step 2: Clean the Fogger Vaporizing Tube

Picture of Clean the Fogger Vaporizing Tube

Prep: Mix a solution of white vinegar and distilled water (this is the cleaning solution) the ratio is 1 part vinegar to 8 parts water, which is close enough to 2 tablespoons of vinegar in a 1C of distilled water. This should be enough cleaner for 1 machine and still keep the pump happy.

Why distilled water? Well distilled water has it's minerals removed. Minerals are bad for fog machines as they tend to coat the inside of the tube, reducing it's diameter and therfore reducing the fogger's output.

Rinse the Fluid tank out with distilled water.
Pour the cleaning solution into the fluid tank.
Take the fogger outside.
Plug in the fogger and allow it to heat up.

When the fogger is ready, run it until it stops. Try and avoid inhaling the vapor, I'm sure it's bad for you. Repeat until you run out of solution or patience. I would estimate that 10 cycles should be enough.

The output should start off as thick white smoke and slowly become a very thin haze over the many cycles.

Unplug the fogger and rinse the fluid tank out with distilled water.
Refill the tank with distilled water. About a half cup if you're going to use the fogger for fogging soon or about a half tank if you plan on storing the unit.

Take the fogger outside again (If you're not already there).
Plug the fogger in and allow it to heat up.

When the fogger is ready, run it until it stops. Try and avoid inhaling the vapor , I'm sure it's bad for you. Repeat at least 5 times. You should do more cycles if it still smells like vinegar. You have to get all the vinegar out of the fogger.

Step 3: Use or Store, You Decide

Picture of Use or Store, You Decide

If you are planning to store the fogger, leave the distilled water in the tank. This will help keep the pump from siezing and keep the gaskets from shrinking. Please note, you have to store the fogger in it's normal operating position or the fluid may leak out. Most machines have a small hole in the cap to allow air to enter during normal operation. When you are ready to use see below:

If you are planning to use it soon (in the next couple of weeks). Empty any remaining water from the fluid tank and refill with fog fluid.

Step 4: Other Tips and Tricks.

Picture of Other Tips and Tricks.

The best time to clean a fogger if you plan to store it is after you use it (it doesn't have to be immediatly after you use it, but within a day or so.)

If you use your fogger on a regular basis, I have found that monthly cleanings will greatly increase it's life. I maintain an attraction where 2 small foggers are used constantly and if I do regular maintenance I can get over a year out of a fogger, whereas if I don't we've replaced them in less than 8 months.

You can shoot fog through a hose to get fog into tight places you can't get the machine into. A Dryer vent hose works best, it is about 4" in diameter and cheap. You don't need the fancy metal ones, the basic white plastic ones work and you can spray paint them to match the surrounding area. The one big thing to remember is not to seal the hose to the machine. When Fog exits the machine it needs to mix with air otherwise it quickly becomes liquid again and will drip out of the hose. Leave at least a 1" air gap between the hose and machine. I have left up to a 4" gap and still managed to get the fog to all go through the tube.

Want low lying fog (like for a grave yard scene at Halloween?). It's pretty easy. Google "Fog Chiller" and you will find lots of projects on line. I will post an instructable when I get mine finished


Rollinsgi (author)2015-11-13

The reservoir of my fog machine has mildew in it. How do I clean this?

BrianA38 (author)2015-10-04

I don't know what's wrong with my fog machine cause when I press power I don't hear any humm sound and I've waited for like 20 mins and it didn't heat up. I don't know wether it's clogged or the thermo is broken or the pump. I'm really new to fog machines btw

kat.johnson.3705 (author)2015-03-29

I bought a fog machine at Halloween Spirit store this past halloween. I used it quite frequently n everything is fine. However one at it just stopped working. It doesn't eat up which wand it won't work. I have plenty of Luis n the remote but it still doesn't work. Plez help because I really blot it n its great fur parties. Now it just its there lonely. Thank you, kat johnson

fantacmet (author)2008-10-28

About a month ago I picked up a 700+ watt Fog Machine from the local thrift store for 5 bucks without a remote. It even had a jug of fog juice. ifigured for 5 bcks can't beat that. Local department store had fog machines of the samemanufacturer(smaller ones), and they were half off so I picked one up for 15 bucks. So I used the remote on the big one and it works. Being a bit of an electronics guru I opened the remote, and it's so simple. Soon, I will be making an instructable on making your own remote. I have a different instructable I need to make first to make a piece of equipment needed to make the remote. Stay tuned and remember my name. I promise the equipment and a remote within 2 weeks.

TimberWolf22 (author)fantacmet2014-10-03

i have a cheap fogger that I bought from walmart and it has a remote. the machine works fine but ive dropped the remote twice and now the remote doesnt work. I cant seem to find a replacement remote anywhere. i took the remote apart and tested it with some of my test gear and it still doesnt work. any advice?

_soapy_ (author)fantacmet2012-05-25

Are you still planning the fogger instructable?

goliwa (author)2012-11-05

One discovery I have made is that some foggers come with a metal screen filter on the end of the tank hose. Over time, this metal filter deteriorates and bits of metal get sucked into the pump killing it. Now, the first thing I do when I get a fogger is check for this metal screen filter. If it has one, I remove it and replace it with a paper fuel filter made for small engines (available at Home Depot and such).

MOPARJOE (author)2011-10-24

I have an American DJ F-500 fog machine. It is not working (again), and seems like it may/must be the pump this time (heat unit went bad last time, and was fixed under warranty). The machine is now considered old/obsolete, and parts are not available.

Anyone have one of these machines, and/or know where to buy a (correct) pump for it? When this machine works, it seems to work better than MOST foggers I've seen (sounds like a jet engine when it goes off, and makes LOTS of fog!).

I'm pretty sure stealing a pump from a smaller machine will not provide anywhere near enough juice to supply the machine properly...Any thoughts/help would be really appreciated.
Thanks, Joe

jwoodjr (author)MOPARJOE2012-09-26

I know its a late response, sorry, just saw this post. is a great website for a lot of parts associated with American DJ equipment.

Sadly, the part you need I couldn't find on that website, but on their sister page,, has the pump.

If it uses the same pump as the F300A then this is what you need:

Hope this helps!

shootnchef (author)2011-09-05

Ok what will it take to convert a smoke machine to a hazer? I have many smoke machines, some good quality and some cheap ones that I can fiddle with.

Tiller (author)shootnchef2012-05-27

Not sure exactly but I would guess that there might be a temperature difference in the heaters. Certainly the amount and type of fluid put into the heat exchanger is different. I think you could do it. Take a look at an MDG hazer for some insperation. I have some cheap foggers I pulled the pumps out of and I am going to mod them to use fluid that is pressurized with CO2 instead of the pump. I think a paintball CO2 tank could be used as a pressure vessel to hold the fluid.

goliwa (author)2011-10-24

Perhaps a stupid question but... why do you dilute the vinegar? Wouldn't a straight vinegar solution, being stronger, do a better job with fewer cleaning cycles needed? Yes, it's acidic, but the fogger parts wouldn't be exposed to it for very long and a good rince cycle would certainly clear it out.

Tiller (author)goliwa2012-05-26

Somewhere along the line it was recommended by the manufacturer. I'm not sure but would guess it's for the benefit of the plastic pump parts in the long term.

BlueFusion (author)2007-06-21

Cool. Interesting that you say minerals damage the fogger. This may be what reduces its output over time, as the fog juice is... MINERAL OIL! And the vapour would be mildly acidic, so, yes, avoid inhaling it as you don't want to burn the inside of your lungs.

Tiller (author)BlueFusion2007-06-26

Hi BlueFusion. I know that in Australia they sometimes refer to fog fluid as mineral oil, however, pump propelled fog fluid does not contain mineral oil. It is made up of Glycol and Water. Please feel free to consult ESTA standards for information on how fog machines work. Also as a member of the theatrical community for more than 18 years now, we DO NOT, as a rule, use mineral oil based machines because of the serious health side effects including possible links to cancer.

BlueFusion (author)Tiller2007-06-26

Whoa. You either know what you're talking about or are very good bluffer. I believe you. OK thanks, I'll keep that in mind.

_soapy_ (author)BlueFusion2012-05-25

He's not bluffing. The fog machines generally in use use a water/glycol (aka glycerine) mix that is far safer - non-flammable, and doesn't kill you by inhalation.

lilwheeler21 (author)2011-11-29

I have a Eliminator E-119. Bought it last year after Christmas time, maybe used it a couple times. I had it stored in a box in my closet, got it out filled it up, lights come on!....nothing...what to do?

darkride (author)2011-02-05

If you use vinegar, you MUST get it all out. I've run vinegar and water through a couple foggers that worked fine and found they were dead the next year. The vinegar will swell the rubber parts in the pump and render it useless if the slightest bit of vinegar remains in the lines.

When speaking with a pro that sell foggers and fog fluid, he offered this advise to home haunters- Buy cheap foggers and throw them way every year. He stresses that our foggers weren't designed to be used outdoor in the cold like most of us use them. He also said to leave fog fluid in the units when storing them.

jdiddley (author)2010-10-24

Good tutorial. Just exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!

Smokedogg (author)2010-03-01

Where can I get those small copper pipes that also have that little ball thingy at the end of the tube. I have searched EVERYWHERE. I have found the tubes at I believe it was the American DJ site, but I only got the tube, without the lil ball thingy and the nut to screw it on. So it was pointless and a waste of money. I have several tubes where the fog fluid is pouring/leaking out of. Towards each end of the nut, the copper seems to be striped away about a 1/4 inch up. Thats where its leaking from.
I also have many pumps, that for whatever reason dont do anything except make a buzzing noise that produces no fog. I tried cleaning them and it just seems to make it worse.

Tiller (author)Smokedogg2010-03-08

HI.  Sorry to respond so late.  The tube doesn't come with the ball and nut installed.    The ball is actually part of a compression fitting.  I have only been able to find a compression fitting small enough to work at a company called Gregg Distributors as I am in Canada.  However if you are lucky enough to be in the US, I would try McMaster Carr (sadly we don't have them up here).  If not a place that supplies big rig truck parts might have something.  You should buy a complete fitting as it is impossible to crimp the compression ring (ball) onto the pipe using the pump fitting.  Good luck!

Smokedogg (author)Tiller2010-03-08

Thank for replying...I have tried searcjing McMaster and Grainger and couldnt find them. This place Gregg Dist. carries these? If it is, what page would I have to look at in its Catalog? I just googled Gregg Distributers and clocked on the 1st site which brought me to the catalog.

l8nite (author)2009-11-13

How do you clean the small copper pipe that goes thru the heater element ?
 My son is a died in the wool dumpster rescuer, he came home with 4 fog machines, 2 worked fine but 2 dont. We took the machines apart and removed the copper tube from the pump, the pumps are getting fluid to that point. But how do I unclog/clean the small tube? I thought about compressed air but the tube is way 2 small, blowing thru them has the same problem but they do feel clogged.

 Any ideas ?

 As a side note: Ive used citronella lamp oil in one of my foggers during the summer to help combat misquittos. I was a little leary at first because it IS a FLAMMABLE liquid so I had it set on a concrete pad but after many evenings of use there was never a problem and it had the desired effect on the little winged vampires ..

Tiller (author)l8nite2009-12-06

Sorry about the late response.  The little copper pipe is the failing point of all foggers.  If you can get a little fluid through them then you can clean them as explained in this instructable.  If you can't get fluid through them they are dead and it's been my experience that you can do nothing to save them.  You can remove and save the pump if it works as that is the second most common failing of foggers.  Interesting about the citronella oil.  I would be concerned about the health effects of vapourizing something that was intended to burn as well as what it might do to that little copper pipe.

3614tracy (author)2009-05-05

I have a fog machine that is my son's, it says that I can only use the distributor fog juice. The name of the machine is not on the machine, but the model # is SPEC-80, what should I do?

Tiller (author)3614tracy2009-05-05

Tough one. Fog fluids are made specifically for each manufacturer's heat exchanger design. Some are thicker than others. I have used a generic fog fluid in both my machines with great success. Generally stores that rent DJ or lighting and sound equipment carry a variety of fluids and may be able to suggest something for you. A fluid that works with Antari machines would probably work, although I cannot take any responsibility for what happens to your machine. I would not use a Rosco fluid as they are a thicker fluid that (as I understand) requires a hotter temperature to vapourize and will likely gum up your machine.

mman1506 (author)Tiller2009-11-05

 i have a fog machine and when i used a general brand it worked better!

Robottttt (author)2008-06-16

I recently received a fog machine and tried it out with some new fog juice. When I turned it on there was no noise. After a few minutes there was a little bit of fog that seeped out but then it stopped. The machine heated up but produced no fog. Is my pump shot?

Tiller (author)Robottttt2008-06-16

IF the unit was new or had not been used in some time , you may need to prime the pump before it will work. Plug the machine in and turn it on. It will take between 3 and 10 minutes to heat up. Usually there is a light that turns on when it is hot enough. Once you are hot flip the switch on for a second or two then off for the same time. Repeat this cycle. It may take a few minutes before the fluid gets to the heat exchanger. The pump may or may not make noise during this process. I would guess that after 5-10 minutes if you have not seen any smoke, then your pump is probably shot. You may be able to buy a new pump at a local entertainment lighting company. Try looking for lighting rental companies in the phonebook. I hope this helps. T

Robottttt (author)Tiller2008-06-17

My machine only has one switch on it so I can't heat it up and push another switch to start the fog. When I tried to get it to work I just turned it on and left if for about an hour and nothing, except for the few wisps near the beginning.

Tiller (author)Robottttt2008-06-17

Did you buy the machine new? There should be a remote control with the machine. There is probably a weird shaped connector on the back of the machine near the power cable (Looks like an old monitor power connector from an 80's era computer or an IBM style connector in reverse). Anyway, the switch to make the pump go is usually on a remote, so you don't have to sit on the machine to make it fog. There is always a switch to turn the pump on, it is never just on. What kind of machine is it?

Robottttt (author)Tiller2008-06-18

I received the machine from a friend and there was no remote included with it. The machine is called "The Fog Machine" TM by Zaixing Electronics. Is the switch that I am pressing just turning on the heater? This thing is driving me crazy.

ac1D (author)Robottttt2009-11-05

"the fog machine" is available in grey(silver) and black, sold at walmart for $25
It need a remote(wired)
walmart sell it for $5

it's the same machine I have.

The_pyrogeek (author)Robottttt2008-10-11

Just go and buy a new controller remote. They're out around Halloween, or you can get them online, for anywhere from $10 to $15 dollars. Good luck!

Tiller (author)Robottttt2008-06-18

I am willing to bet that the switch is only the main power switch and essentially just turns the heater on. I am hesitant to suggest a wiring connection for the remote as they seem to differ with each manufacturer. I can tell you that the full AC voltage is sent to the remote and the switch simply send that voltage back to the pump. The trick is that the voltage is only available in the remote when the heater is fully heated. This is the safety mechanism that prevents the heater from being damaged or severly gummed up. If you pump fog fluid through a heat exchanger that is not at correct temperature you will generally gum it up so badly that it can not be cleaned. This can also happen if you do not use the manufacturer recommended fog fluid as manufacturers spec fluid based on their machines heater temperature. If you are handy with a multimeter you should be able to figure out what pin on the remote connector does what. One will be neutral( for the indicator bulb), one will be voltage when the heater is at temperature and one is voltage back to the pump. Simply connecting a switch between the two voltage pins would allow you to turn the pump on, however please do so at your own risk. I can not be held responsible for your testing methods or how you connect your switch. I hope this helps.

guymark (author)Robottttt2008-10-31

It sounds as though the pump has seized - it happens usually when people store the machine empty (always store it with PLENTY of fluid in the tank) If so, all is not lost if you are prepared to do a bit of careful disassembly. You do not need to know any electronics - just basic disassembly skills. Incidentally, I note you say a little fog came out (stuff left in the pipes) so we know the fuse hasn't gone - as the heater must be working. Assuming the remote isn't damaged (broken wire), then a seized pump sounds like the problem. Remove case and you will find usually attached to the tank, the motor (in cheaper units, a car washer pump effort). Having emptied the tank (save the fluid), remove the pipe leaving the pump - the one that goes to the heating chamber. You might just possibly need to unsolder the two wires feeding it - but usually they are long enough to let you remove the pump from the machine and get it on your bench. If you DO unsolder the wires, unless you know it is fed with AC and rectified on board (a lot do), then make a note of what wire goes where, a pump motor running backwards is not what you are after. With the pump isolated, you will usually find, with a bit of pulling and wriggling, you can pull the motor part, out of the plastic housing, and in doing so open the pump up. Depending on the model, the impeller will have been left behind - or may still be on the end of the motor. No problem either way as if the impeller came off, it is usually easier than you think to re-align shaft and hole when you put it back together. All you need do at this stage, is turn the motor spindle by hand. If REALLY stiff, use a pair of plier and try to make TINY turns in BOTH directions until you get SOME movement. Once you have some movement, I would suggest you "wash" the area with methylated spirits or other solvent. Although this is NOT usually a good idea as it strips away any lubricant - it is ok here - as the lubricant has already long since failed - hence the seizure. One advantage of removing the wires is that you can connect the motor upto anything from about 4.5v and upwards to get the thing running - while the machine is all in bits. Now drip some decent quality oil in around the shaft end and leave the motor running slowly (not on 12v) for some time (about a minute). This will give the motor a chance to dislodge and more "grot" around the bearings and let it come out the other end as "dirty oil". Better out than in :) If you are NOT wiring the motor upto a battery, just keep on turning the shaft by fingers until you are convinced you have as much "grotty oil" out as you are going to get. Turn motor other way up and do the same to the bearing at the other end. At this stage of the game, you should have a free-running happy motor Carefully re-assemble the motor back into the pump housing - aligning the spindle and impeller is often "automatic" as there is no other place for them to be other than aligned. Re-fit the pipe and then press back / connect back the pump to the tank - in almost all the home user machines, this is a push-fit into the side of the tank through a big rubber grommet. Re-assemble case, fill tank with fluid. If you can - WHILE STILL UNPLUGGED - put your mouth to the fluid tank and blow quite hard - you will force some of the fluid into the pump to help prime it. Not essential usually, but it just saves you getting all anxious waiting to see if it will manage to prime itself. Plug in and test. If it all works well, then leave it plugged in for half an hour or so and fire off a jet of smoke every now and again - and before you switch it off, make sure the machine has had a few good LONG blasts - 30 seconds or so. By now, your pump should be fairly happy to do another few years work, but please remember, ALWAYS leave your machine stored FULL. (If after re-assembling the pump doesn't work (but did if/when you applied voltage directly), than have a word with a friend who likes messing about with electronics and see if he can find why the motor is getting no power). Hope that helps - it is almost faster to do the work than it is to write about it - very simple really, but broke it down into a mini guide to make things easier. Mark

lindadi (author)2009-09-06

I have two foggers bought them both brand new a few years ago. had them in storage for about two years. wanted to use them last year and as i put the fog juice in and ready to use it started leaking out of the bottom. Is there any way to save them?

tbearsangel (author)2008-10-19

i recieved "the fog machine" from a friend. we plugged it in and nothing has happend. it has fluid. and the little green light never comes on. it makes no noise either, is this thing blown ya think or what should I check? I already checked the fuse in the back it's fine. I flushed it with hot water. dried it out and put new solution in. any ideas? does anyone have a manual on this thing?

flybabytina (author)2008-10-02

My Fog Machine thanks you! You have saved it from the grave! We did end up buying a Bubble Fogger this year too, and it sure is cool! It only has 1 switch to turn it on and off and WOW does it pump out the fog constantly! The one I saved has a remote AND the main power switch, you can make fog for about a minute and then it has to heat up for about a minute before you can make fog again. Thanks again for saving my fog machine!!! BTW, my Fog Juice says it is water based.....

zieak (author)2007-11-04

I'll be back reading this when i set aside time to work on my fog machine. Thank you!

woofboy111 (author)2007-10-23

I bought a fog machine last year for Halloween. The instructions that came with it said absolutely nothing about emptying the fog solution out while in storage. I got my fog machine out yesterday getting it ready for Halloween and it won't make any fog. I plug it in, heat it up, and press the button but no fog comes out. The little ready light illuminates, but that's it. I remember last year the machine would make a noise when the button was pressed, but this year nothing. My dianosis is that the pump that brings up the fog juice died... I'm angry.

woofboy111 (author)woofboy1112007-10-27

I took the cover off of my fog machine and found out what the problem with my machine was. The fog intake tube has a hole in it. If I cover up the hole, the suction works and it makes fog!!! I need to go to an aquarium store and get a new tube tomorrow!

Tiller (author)woofboy1112007-10-23

I'm sorry to hear about that. I just learned that to properly prime the pump you should pulse it. I had a similar problem with a machine a while ago that I had neglected. The pump in it died. Most of these machines are made by a company called Antari. A trip to my local Entertainment lighting supplier revealed that a replacement pump could be ordered for about $35 dollars. A trip to Walmart got me a new fog machine for $25. So I bought a new machine and because I liked the old machine more I transplanted the pump into it and away we go.

SNAP (author)2007-10-22

Thanx Tiller:
Nicely done I'm A firm believer that even cheaply made or "disposable" products
can last far longer then intended, if you take the time to do the maintenance needed, ' that is, if you you know what care is needed for any given product well now my little fogger is as happy and ready for use as my other toys. (and tools)
Anyway Thank you for a fine Instructable .

andrew101 (author)2007-06-15

its pretty basic but still good instructable

canida (author)2007-05-13

This looks like the beginnings of a very useful Instructable, but it needs pictures. Please republish it after you've added pictures.

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