Healthy Home Tips: Caring for Your Home Humidifier

During dry winter months homeowners often use home humidifiers to restore their homes to comfortable humidity levels and relieve the drying effects of increased indoor heat use.  Healthy humidifier care is essential to prevent harmful exposure to bacteria and mold or mildew growth.

While using a humidifier, monitor your home’s indoor humidity levels.  Recommended indoor humidity is between 40-50%.   Avoid humidity levels above 50% or at levels that cause water to condense on windows.  These levels can lead to home mold and mildew growth.

Warm or Cool Mist?

Several types and models of humidifiers are available.  The most common types are cool mist, warm mist or ultrasonic.  According to mayoclinic.org, cool mist humidifiers are safer for small children due to burn and scald risk with warm units, however they pose a greater bacterial growth risk if not cleaned properly.  No matter if the mist is warm or cool as it leaves the humidifier, the temperature of circulating air moisture will be the same by the time it is inhaled.  Ultrasonic units, tend to be quieter which is their key benefit.  Standing water in either unit is the culprit in bacterial growth.

Humidifier Care Tips

  1.  If your home has a “hard” water supply, which can add mineral build up to the humidifier unit, consider using bottled water that is distilled or purified.  Otherwise, the use of vinegar, which breaks up these deposits, should be used with cleaning.
  2.  Rinse the water tank daily and use either a vinegar, hydrogen peroxide or bleach based (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) rinse.  DO NOT mix these cleaning agents as toxic chlorine gas or volatile reactions can be created.  Also, be careful when using concentrated bleach as it can damage rubber seals in your unit.
  3.  The entire unit should be cleaned once per week.  Disassemble your unit (see instructions specific to your unit).   Take care when emptying the unit.  Avoid water pouring over switches or electrical parts.  Using your chosen cleaning solution or an antibacterial wipe, clean the entire unit.
  4. If there is a heating element with mineral build up, soak this with vinegar for 30 minutes to break down these deposits.  Gently remove deposits and rinse the area.
  5. Let all parts of the unit dry before reassembling and re-filling the unit.
  6. If your unit has a filter, be sure to change the filter as the manufacturer recommends.
  7. Clean your unit thoroughly before your first seasonal use and before you store it away.

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