How to Clean a Humidifier (and Keep It Clean)

Updated August 21, 2020
Baby girl with a humidifier

Humidifiers can be a lifesaver. However, when humidifiers get dirty, they can cause problems. Learn how to clean a humidifier to ensure you and your family breathe easy.

How to Clean Your Humidifier With Vinegar

Need a regular cleaner for your humidifier? Vinegar and tea tree oil are a one-two punch. They not only make your machine run better, but they disinfect it at the same time.

What You Need

  • Tea tree oil

  • White vinegar

  • Soft bristle brush (a toothbrush works great)

  • Large container

  • Towel

Vinegar Cleaner Directions

  1. Take the entire machine apart and put the loose pieces in a large container with a 50/50 mixture of water and vinegar. Add a couple of drops of tea tree oil.

  2. Pour a generous amount of vinegar into the base and water tank of the machine. Add 2-3 drops of tea tree oil. Allow the mixture to sit for 20-30 minutes.

  3. After the allotted time, take the brush and gently scrub the residue off the base and in the tank. Pay attention to the corners and edges.

  4. Give everything a good rinse.

  5. Lay all the parts on a towel to dry. You don't want any moisture when you reassemble it back together because this allows mold to grow.

  6. Put everything back together and give it a try.

If you don't have any tea tree oil on hand, don't worry. Vinegar can do the job alone pretty well.

Air humidifier being cleaned

How to Deep Clean a Humidifier With Vinegar & Baking Soda

When you need a deeper clean, vinegar is still the way to go. This is doubly true when you add a bit of scrubbing baking soda to the mix.


  • A large container

  • Vinegar

  • Baking soda

  • Soft bristle brush (a toothbrush works great)

  • Towel

Deep Cleaning Directions

  1. Disassemble the machine. Lay all the removable parts separately, being very careful with the motor.

  2. Fill a large container with a 50/50 vinegar and water mixture. Put the removable parts and the filter in the mixture and allow them to soak for 30 minutes.

  3. Pour a generous amount of white vinegar into the base of the humidifier and the water tank. Allow this to sit for 30 minutes as well.

  4. Drain the vinegar from the water tank and the base of the humidifier.

  5. Visually check the different areas of the humidifier for remaining residue. Wet the toothbrush and dip it into the baking soda. Gently scrub away the residue.

  6. Rinse the entire machine and all the various parts.

  7. Lay out the towel and allow all the parts to completely dry then reassemble the machine.

How to Disinfect a Humidifier After a Deep Clean

To really deep clean your machine, you need to disinfect it too. This means that you use a bacterial killer like peroxide with water to knock out any staph lingering in your machine.

Materials to Grab

Disinfecting Instructions

  1. Fill the tank and add a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide.

  2. Allow this to sit for about 20 minutes.

  3. Remove and dry thoroughly.

Using a Commercial Cleaner to Clean a Humidifier

If you don't want the hassle of having to scrub and disinfect your machine, there are different cleaners on the market.

  • BestAir 3BT helps control the algae and bacteria within humidifiers.

  • Essick Air 1970 also offers a bacteriostatic treatment that cleans and deodorizes the machine.

How to Use

To use a commercial cleaner, you simply follow the directions on the label. These may call for adding the cleaner to the humidifier and running it or letting it sit.

How Often Should I Clean my Humidifier?

Since stagnant water is never good, it's best to clean your humidifier once a week with vinegar to remove grime and germs. When you aren't using it, you'll want to empty out the water and dry it off. These steps stop water from stagnating in the tank. Additionally, rinse out the basin before adding water just to flush out any nasties that have settled.

Regular Maintenance of a Humidifier

In addition to cleaning your humidifier once a week with vinegar, be sure that you use distilled water with a humidifier. Using distilled water keeps the minerals from tap water our of the air. Additionally, before storing your humidifier, be sure to empty and dry it out completely. Dampness can lead to mold and bacteria growth.

Breathing Clearly With a Clean Humidifier

Breathing is important, and for some people, humidifiers are a necessity. However, this useful machine must be cleaned regularly to avoid mold, germs, and bacteria. There are different methods that you can use to clean your machine like vinegar and peroxide.

How to Clean a Humidifier (and Keep It Clean)