Cleaning a humidifier is not difficult. Below, we will guide you through the steps. But much more important than how you clean your humidifier is that you clean it. If you had to design an ideal device for the growth of microbes, molds, bacteria and amoebae, you will think of something like a humidifier. Abundant water? Take a look. A large air? Take a look. A lot of surface? Take a look. Easy to ignore? Check more.
The impact of microbial growth in humidifiers is so common that it has a name: lung humidifier. The condition is a so-called hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Humidifiers can host microbes and blow them or their excretions into the air, triggering an immune response. In acute (sudden, severe) cases, the humidifier lung may have symptoms similar to an asthmatic or allergic attack, as Tim Barribeau of Wirecutter and his current wife have discovered: "I woke up feeling like dying. where we failed to breathe properly, accompanied by constant coughing and tunnel vision. "In chronic (low-level, long-term, untreated) cases, it can cause permanent lung tissue scarring and reduced lung capacity.
The lung humidifier risk is particularly high for infants and children, which is why we spoke with the American Academy of Pediatrics for-and underline the regular cleanup in our guide to humidifiers for children. But adults, as Tim's case illustrates, are also vulnerable. Although humidifier manufacturers are aware of the risk and take measures to eliminate microbes such as the installation of UV lamps and antimicrobial treatments, they also recommend regular cleaning; The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers says to do it every week on every humidifier. Better to be doubly sure than twice sorry.
In addition, adults are also vulnerable to ignoring the health risks of dirty humidifiers even when they are fully aware of them. I can confirm this: I have been testing our update humidifier for about four months during the winter of 2017-18 and can remember to clean it exactly once. I knew perfectly well that the weekly cleaning was recommended: I am the goldang author of our humidifier guides!
Fortunately, I managed to make it. But do not be like me. Clean your humidifier at least once a week. That's how:
Disassemble and rub
All humidifiers consist of two basic parts: a water tank and a lower housing or tray through which water flows to the humidifying mechanism. Always check the machine manual to be sure, but in general what follows is a good practice.
Once a week, remove your humidifier and add a good stain to the tank and tray and rinse with pure water. To help remove limescale, you can clean the tank and tray with white vinegar. (A gallon of white vinegar only costs a few dollars, buy what is cheaper, usually the generic brand or shop.) If the scale is hard, let the vinegar soak for 20 minutes and then wipe with a sponge or a brush. When finished, rinse both the tank and the tray with fresh water.
Physical washing of trays and tray surfaces is very important for removing microbes, but for thorough disinfection, a light bleach solution (1 tablespoon of bleach in a liter of water) can be used on the tank and tray. Fill both parts with the solution and let them soak for 30 minutes, then remove the solution and rinse everything with fresh water. Do not use bleach or detergents on the wick of an evaporative humidifier: they can destroy any antimicrobial finishes used by the manufacturer. Instead, just immerse the wick for 20 minutes in clean water, shaking it to remove mineral buildup.
Cleaning a humidifier is so easy, even the author of our humidifier guide can (and should) do it.
As for washing, one of the main reasons why we like our first choice, Honeywell HCM-350 and our upgrade pickup, the Levoit LV600HH, is that they have filling holes large enough to allow a large adult to get his whole go through. Many humidifiers have small holes that restrict you to a rinsing and weak shaking routine. (Read our complete guide to humidifiers for details.)
Some humidifiers are at least partially dishwasher safe. The Honeywell, conveniently, allows you to put both the tank and the tray through the dishwasher. You may prefer manual scrub and rinsing anyway, because it's faster and allows you to get back to humidifying the air first. But the dishwasher is a good option.
Finally, keep in mind that most municipal water supplies contain dissolved iron oxide (also known as rust) from the pipes. It's harmless to you and your humidifier, but it leaves stains on this last one. The spots are orange-brown and do not come off. If your humidifier still shows reddish stripes after you've wet and washed it is almost certainly rust, not a biological risk.
Further steps for evaporative humidifiers
In addition to the tank and the tray, the evaporative humidifiers have two additional components: a wick or a filter, made of a fibrous mesh, which absorbs water and helps it to evaporate; and a fan that draws air through the wick. (Ultrasonic humidifiers like the Levoit have neither.)
The large surface area of the wick is a potential breeding ground for microbes, so most manufacturers, including Honeywell, manufacturer of our first choice for infants and adults, the HCM-350, impregnate it with an antimicrobial finish . To clean a wick, Honeywell recommends soaking in clean water for 20 minutes and spinning it to remove mineral buildup. Do not expose the wick to bleach or detergents, which will compromise the antimicrobial finish.
Some people prefer to use two rotating wicks, changing each other for each weekly cleaning and letting the wick previously used between once and then completely dry. It can not hurt: microbes tend to reproduce in humid environments, so drying should control their growth. (You can quickly dry a wick by letting the humidifier dry – no water in the tank or tray – for about one hour – it will not damage the machine at all.)
But it is equally important to recognize that the wicks are "consumables", such as motor oil in a car engine: they are designed to be used and then discarded. The money you save by extending the life of a wick of a few weeks is nothing compared to the cost of a medical crisis. If in doubt, throw the old wick and install a new one. (Here is a link to the Honeywell replacement wicks.) Depending on the hardness of the water and the use of the humidifier, it is necessary to do it every month or two.
The fan of an evaporative humidifier, like any other fan, collects dust and fluff over time. Our best choice, the Honeywell HCM-350, does not allow immediate access to the fan cleaning, but Wirecutter's deputy director, Michael Zhao, owner for a long time, has discovered that it is possible to extract the machine grill with a pair of pliers, wipe down the fan blades with a damp paper towel and reinstall the grill without damaging anything. Just do it.
Finally, before putting away a humidifier for the season, give it a final cleaning, let it all dry completely to the air and then store it in a dry environment. If it has a wick, remove the wick before storing it. If you remove it from memory, clean the drive again before starting the operation. For any further questions this guide does not cover (at least for our choice in the humidifier guide), refer to the Honeywell HCM-350 instruction manual (PDF).