Humidifiers are a great way to moisturize the air in your home as outside temperatures plummet, helping with chapped skin, allergies and cold and flu symptoms in children and adults. But without regular upkeep, humidifiers can breed dangerous mold and bacteria and do more harm than good. We’ve gathered some tips for keeping your humidifier — and your home — clean and bacteria-free.
Dirty humidifier tanks can quickly breed bacteria and mold. This can be a problem for healthy people, but especially problematic for people with asthma and allergies when the contaminated mist or steam is released into the air. Here are some top ways to keep your humidifier humming and prevent unintended bacterial growth.
- Use distilled or demineralized water. Tap water contains mineral-creating deposits inside your humidifier that promote bacterial growth. These minerals often appear as white dust on your furniture. You may also breathe in some of these minerals. Distilled or demineralized water has a much lower mineral content compared with tap water. Instead of distilled water, you can also use demineralization cartridges or filters in your humidifier if they’re recommended by the manufacturer.
- Change the water often. Avoid letting water sit in the tank for long periods of time. This causes mineral deposits to collect on the bottom and sides of the tank. The longer the water sits, the more deposits will collect and the harder they’ll be to remove.
- Keep the area around the humidifier dry. If the area around your humidifier becomes too damp, turn it down. Surrounding the humidifier with dampness can lead to mold and bacterial growth.
- Change the filter in your central air conditioning and heating system regularly. Your humidifier is circulating more water in the existing air in your home. Optimize the cleanliness of your humidifier by ensuring your general air quality is clean.
- Clean the humidifier regularly. When the humidifier is in heavy use during the winter or when a family member has a cold, clean it weekly with a simple vinegar or hydrogen peroxide rinse. Do a deep monthly clean of the tank, base and filter (or per your manufacturer’s instructions).
- Replace the humidifier when necessary. Old humidifiers may start to break down over time. The worn-out parts will be more prone to hosting bacterial growth. If you’ve had your humidifier for five years, you might want to consider replacing it. Humidifiers can build up difficult mineral deposits, which are impossible to remove and encourage bacterial growth.
- Store the humidifier properly. Before putting your humidifier in storage, clean it thoroughly. Throw away any temporary parts (such as used filters or water cartridges) and make sure it is completely dry. Rinse or clean it again before using it the next time. Order any new filters or cartridges you’ll need when you use it again and store them with the humidifier.
With proper maintenance, a humidifier can be an affordable at-home method for fighting colds and flu, and for making indoor winter air more hospitable. If you have a humidifier built into your central heating and cooling system, consult the instruction manual or ask your heating and cooling specialist about proper upkeep.
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