Humidifiers are wonderful in the winter.... but they get quite disgusting pretty quick if you don't clean them. I didn't realize this when I ran mine all the time last winter. I now have some very yummy mineral deposits all over the heating plate and the bottom of the humidifier.
And I really need to use it considering it's 20 degrees outside and my heat is running all the time. And I keep shocking the cats when I pick them up and I think they're angry with me. And I have crazy electric hair...
Let the cleaning begin!
Disclaimer - I have a warm mist humidifier without a filter, so yours might be different. This is only a basic cleaning guide for those of us that never keep our instruction manuals. :D
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Step 1: There Are Two Things You'll Want to Watch For.
1 - The Water Tank
This can end up an awful mess if you're not careful. You should be emptying and rinsing this everyday. You can also clean this when the humidifier is off by removing the tank and adding 1 teaspoon of bleach to it when it's full of water. This will kill bacteria as well as keep mold from growing. Yuck!
2 - Mineral Deposits on the Heating Element or Water Resovoir
You can prevent this by using distilled water, but I find that wasteful (so many bottles!) and expensive.
Instead, you can help keep these areas clean using just a toothbrush and white vinegar. This will keep the humidifier in better shape and help reduce the risk of malfunction. :)
Step 2: Cleaning the Water Tank.
- 1 teaspoon bleach
- enough water to fill the tank
- 30 mintues
- hands for sloshing
This is simple enough. Remove the tank from your humidifier and rinse it out. Add 1 tsp. of bleach and water to the fill line. Leave this mixture in the tank for a half hour or so, sloshing the water around every now and then.
After the time is up, dump out the water and rinse until you can no longer smell the bleach. Yay!
It isn't necessary to do this very often unless you're terrible about rinsing the tank out or changing the water frequently. :D
Step 3: Banish Those Evil Mineral Deposits!
- a toothbrush
- 1 cup white vinegar
- gloves, if you're into that
- 30 minutes
For this cleaning, you'll need to take apart the humidifer. Seperate everything from the base of the humidifier for cleaning. I'll enclose pictures of mine to help explain this. You'll need access to the heating element and reservoir to see how bad the deposits are. If other parts of the humidifier are affected, feel free to leave them intact for the vinegar soak.
I brushed mine thoroughly before I poured in the vinegar just to see if I could get any of the deposits off, but without much luck. They're easier to remove from the plastic pieces, though!
In the end, I decided to leave in the internal parts (except the tank, which was enjoying a nice bleach soak in a seperate area of the tub) of the humidifier since everything was covered with deposits. I then poured in 1 cup of the vinegar and added water until it covered all of the parts covered in deposits.
I let this soak for a half hour and then dumped out the vinegar/water mixture and scrubbed my heart out. Just make sure to be gentle and don't try to pry the deposits off with sharp tools - you could damage the heating element!
All of the deposits came off easily enough. Just make sure you rinse very well, until you can't smell the vinegar anymore.
Now reassemble your humidifier and stop shocking your cats! :D
Step 4: Miscellaneous Humidifier Tips...
- Don't run the humidifier constantly! I tend to run mine until the windows become only slightly foggy and then turn it off. If you run it constantly and things become so saturated with water that they look and feel wet, you're setting yourself up for mold growth!
- Invest in a hygrometer if you want to know the exact humidity level. Many humidifiers only have a high and low setting. You'll want to make sure you're keeping the humidity within reasonable levels.
- Rinse the tank every time you refill it. This will break up anything forming on the inside of the tank.
- Don't let water sit in the tank for long amounts of time. If you won't be using the humidifier for a long time, store it properly! Drain & dry all areas before storing and clean it when you get it out again.
- Preventive maintenance is key! Rinse the tank regularly and scrub the heating element with a toothbrush between fillings. This will keep you from spending a long time cleaning it every year. :D