Family · Health · Wellness

Wellness Wednesday – How to clean your Steam Humidifier

I know that there is a lot of “discussion” over the type of humidifier to use and I’ll admit that opinions vary even in our own household.

A cool mist humidifier seems to work best for my husband who has broken his nose so many times and has not had it “reset” correctly so the airways inside his sinus passages are blocked and/or caved in.  Therefore the mucous (gross, I know, at least I didn’t say snot) that our body creates to lubricate our sinuses gets all clogged up in there when he lays down to sleep.  His doctor had a much more technical description for his problem, but that’s the gist of it.  He needs a more humid environment when he sleeps so his sinuses don’t get stopped up with thick gluey mucous (gross, again).  Neither he nor I can sleep in a warm humid environment so we tried a cool mist humidifier first and it seems to be working great, at least until he decides to have his nose surgically repaired.

My daughters seem to breathe easier with a warm steam humidifier when they get head and/or chest congestion from allergies or colds.  That warm “steam room” environment provided by the heated mist really seems to ease their breathing better than a cool mist.

I’m not going to spend my time trying to convince you that one type of humidifier is better than the other when clearly our family can’t even agree.  All I will say is find the type that works best for you and then the most important thing is to:  Keep it CLEAN!!  Because whether it is cold or hot, it is always WET and all sorts of things including mold, bacteria, and fungus thrive in a damp environment.  All humidifiers, if used regularly, should be rinsed out and dried with a soft cloth once a week and they should be majorly cleaned once a month.

Today we’ll concentrate on steam humidifiers as I think they are a little more difficult to keep clean, especially if you have hard water.   Our humidifier requires that you add a pinch of salt with the water each time you refill it.  The salt helps create an electric current which produces the steam, but the current also pulls minerals out of the water and deposits them within the diffuser mechanism as well as in the bottom of the water receptacle.  As you can see from my pictures:

  1. Assemble your supplies:  A large (4 cup) measuring cup that will hold your diffuser mechanism, white vinegar, an old toothbrush, cleaning cloths, a grease-dissolving cleaning spray, magic erasers, and patience (it takes a long time to dissolve “rocks” using only vinegar).
  2. Pour 1/2 cup vinegar into your large measuring cup then fill to 2 cup line with water.  Place diffusing unit in measuring cup and let it soak (you may have to add more water to completely submerge the device, but don’t let it reach above the collar to the motor. Don’t get the motor wet!).
  3. Allow device to soak, checking every 30 minutes to see what minerals have broken free.  This process can take as little as an hour and as long as 8 hours (and several changes of the vinegar solution) depending on how dirty your humidifier is.  You’ll know you’re finished when the device no longer rattles if you give it a little shake.  Here’s a sample of what I got out of mine:IMG_6177
  4. Next use some of that de-greaser spray to clean the top of the humidifier as well as the water receptacle (Be careful not to let any drip into the motor).


  5. Next use your magic eraser to clean the remaining stains off the plastic.
  6. Your finished project should look like this:

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