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“It’s important to know that nobody has ever died from using an unclean humidifier,” says Melissa Maker, cleaning expert and author of Clean My Space: The Secret to Cleaning Better, Faster, and Loving Your Home Every Day. While it’s not the best thing to skip cleanings, it likely won’t cause you any grave bodily harm, Maker reassures me. That doesn’t change the fact that humidifiers are moist contained areas, making them a perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew, Maker says. While not all mold is toxic, it can potentially cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and asthma attacks.
Try one of the quick and easy cleaning solutions below. And moving forward, make it a habit to scrub your machine every few days.
Bleach and water
Many humidifier manufacturers recommend cleaning their devices with a solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Fill the humidifier tank and allow it to soak for about 20 minutes; then use a soft brush to scrub away mineral deposits. Finally, rinse until the smell is gone.
Therapeutic-grade tea tree oil
After unplugging and dismantling your humidifier (step-by-step instructions for doing this will be in your owners manual or on the product website), mix 10 drops of therapeutic-grade tea tree oil with one cup of water, Maker suggests. Then use the mixture and a brush or sponge to scrub the water tank and the base of the machine. (Quick tip: It's best not to use cleaning solutions on humidifier filters.) Rinse the pieces of the unit with plain water before putting them back together and refilling it with fresh water.
Maker is also a fan of cleaning humidifiers with Concrobium, an odorless, mildew- and mold-killing bleach alternative. After unplugging and dismantling your machine, follow Concrobium's instructions for using the product. After the base and tank are clean, rinse each piece with plain water. Then, reassemble the machine and refill the tank with fresh water.
Protec Humidifier Cleaning Fish
Just cleaned your humidifier or have a brand new one? Stop mold and mildew before it grows by placing a Protec Humidifier Cleaning Fish ($4.97, amazon.com) into the tank. The fish is made with Aquastat, a patented antimicrobial that prevents mold and mildew growth for an entire month. Every 30 days you take out the fish and replace it with a new one. Think this sounds too good to be true? It's not—reviewers love the product, and say it prevents stinky-smelling water and slime, and also helps to extend the life of the filter.
After unplugging and dismantling your humidifier, fill a spray bottle with one part vinegar to one part warm water. Spray the solution onto the base and inside tank and allow it to sit for a few minutes before using a brush or sponge to scrub away dirt and buildup. After the base and tank are clean, rinse them both with water, reassemble the humidifier, and then refill the tank with fresh water.