Because no one wants a bunch of germy air floating around their home.

By Katie Holdefehr
Updated January 11, 2018
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girl sitting on couch near humidifier
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If cranking up the thermostat to combat the chilly temperatures outside is making the air in your home unbearably dry, now’s the time to invest in a humidifier you’ll use year after year, or pull the one you already own out of storage. Whether you’re buying new or using an older model, you’ll want to clean your humidifier regularly to prevent it from spreading bacteria around your home (that’s the last thing you need during cold and flu season!). To learn the best way to de-gunk and sanitize these machines, we reached out to Sarah Drake, the seasonal humidifiers brand manager for Honeywell Humidifiers. Follow her steps below to starting breathing a little easier.

wooden humidifier and plants
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Do Your Research Before You Buy

It may sound obvious, but the surefire way to make cleaning your humidifier a breeze is simply to buy one that’s easy to clean. “Look for models that have a wide tank opening, like the Honeywell Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier. Make sure you can get your whole hand into the tank so that you can easily empty, wipe, and refill it with fresh, clean water,” says Drake. 

Refresh the Water Daily

“The mist from your humidifier is only as clean as the water in the tank,” says Drake. To make sure only fresh, germ-free air is floating around your room, be sure to refill the tank daily with clean water.

RELATED: Humidifier Buying Guide

Start a Weekly Descaling and Disinfecting Routine

If you’re filling the humidifier tank with tap water, the walls of the machine will collect mineral buildup (or scale) over time. To remove scale, wipe the surface with undiluted white vinegar. “Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s cleaning guidelines, but many humidifiers can be descaled by filling the water tank with white vinegar, letting it sit for 20 minutes on the base, and then rinsing with fresh water,” advises Drake. To get into any tight crevices, use undiluted vinegar and a toothbrush to scrub away scale.

To disinfect the machine, let a solution of water and a small amount of bleach sit in the tank for 20 minutes, then rinse the machine until the smell of bleach is completely gone. Viola—your humidifier is now germ-free.

Replace the Filter

“If your humidifier has a filter, be sure to replace it regularly with antimicrobially treated filters that help prevent the migration of mold, algae, and bacteria on the filter,” recommends Drake. Not only will this ensure that the mist your humidifier produces is clean, but it could also help extend the life of the machine so you get the most use out of it.

Grab This Water-Cleaning Secret Weapon

To keep the tank cleaner for longer, Drake suggests dropping a Protec Cleaning Ball ($10 for 2; into the water. “The ball reduces up to 99 percent of odor-causing bacteria, unsightly mold, and algae growth. It contains no harmful chemicals and keeps cleaning for 30 days."