If you’ve hung around my blog enough, you know that the indoor humidity level you keep really matters when it comes to a healthy house. I am often warning not to let your humidity levels get too high, but honestly, you can’t let those levels dip too low either. This is why we use a humidifier in the winter months at our house. But in using a humidifier, it’s also imperative you know just how to clean a humidifier the right way.
My little guy Cameron, who’s now 4 months old and is still sporting a feeding tube in one nostril came down with a sniffle. You know those baby nasal passages are tiny as it is and anything can irritate them making it impossible to breathe through their nose. We grabbed our humidifier from the linen closet and went to fill it up. Apparently it hadn’t been thoroughly cleaned when put away last winter and it had that yucky mildew scent.
I started cleaning and scrubbing and soaking the tank and basin in vinegar. After spending the better part of an afternoon getting the humidifier in tip top shape we plugged it in and let it work it’s magic in Cam’s nose overnight. This story might play out in your house too — except that after a night or two of use it’s time to clean that humidifier out again.
I’ll admit that sometimes we don’t get it cleaned and we just allow it to dry out in between uses. Even then, the particular humidifier we had was impossible to dry out completely and really difficult to get all the little spots cleaned.
You might agree, but I think one of the biggest complaints about using a humidifier is that there’s no great way to clean them. So why use a humidifier at all if it’s a struggle to know how to clean a humidifier as well?
I’m sharing with you today why use a humidifier for your healthy home and then how to clean a humidifier so it doesn’t sabotage your space. I’m also sharing with you three humidifiers I used and giving you the list of best humidifiers for 2021.
RELATIVE HUMIDITY AT HOME
Humidity at home is measured in what’s called “relative humidity”. Relative humidity is the amount of moisture, or water vapor that is actually present in the air compared to how much the air COULD hold at that temperature. So, if your indoor relative humidity is 50%, this means that the air is holding exactly half of the water vapor it COULD at that temperature.
Relative humidity levels should fall between 35% – 45% in a healthy home. This range is ideal for both the health of your home and the health of your body. This informational overview of indoor air points to the fact that there must be a balance between humid and dry air.
LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY:
When relative humidity is too low, you notice it right away in your nasal passages, skin and hair. But when relative humidity is too low it also affects the health of your indoor spaces.
Low humidity at home will also cause:
- Increased static electricity
- Hardwood separation and warping
- Shrinking wood door and window frames
- Aggravated asthma and allergy symptoms
- Increased susceptibility to cold and respiratory illness
So while I often warn against having a home that is too high in humidity levels, letting the humidity levels dip below 35% is also going to cause issues with your home and your body.
HIGH RELATIVE HUMIDITY:
Most commonly, our homes are humid environments due to our habits and very simply the act of living. Our bodies produce humidity as we breathe and sweat. But we also add to humidity levels through our bathing, cooking and cleaning practices.
High humidity at home can lead to:
- Increased mold and mildew growth
- Increased off gassing of VOCs and higher indoor air pollution
- Window condensation
- Warped wooden floors
- Aggravated asthma and allergy symptoms
- Fatigue and general unwell feeling
One of my favorite tools for a healthy house is a hygrometer, which measures the humidity levels in your home. Assessing your home is an absolute MUST if you’re going to improve the health of your space.
You can get a stand alone hygrometer, or you can get a digital humidity sensor that can connect to your phone. It’s a great way to get started assessing your home, which is the first step to be able to make your home environment a healthier space.
If you’re looking to deep dive into creating the perfect humidity levels at home through a change in habits and products, this post about keeping the perfect humidity level inside is key.
WHY USE A HUMIDIFIER IN YOUR HEALTHY HOME?
If you’re asking yourself, “Why use a humidifier anyways?” There are a number of positive benefits when it comes to raising the relative humidity in your space.
First reason why to use a humidifier in your home is to improve the indoor climate. It can make your space feel more comfortable and help your skin and nasal passages. When your nasal passages are dry or cracked, they’re actually making your body more susceptible to viruses and illness. (STUDY)
But one of the biggest reasons why we use a humidifier is due to contracting a respiratory illness such as a cold or flue. Especially in children, it can be near impossible to get a good night of restful sleep when your nasal passages are dry and stuffy. Using a humidifier can help ease symptoms and lessen the stuffiness, allowing kids and adults to breathe easy through the night. Afterall, the more sleep you get, the quicker your body can knock out the virus.
In fact, this study conducted shows that the airborne survival of the influenza virus is drastically shortened and decreased with an increase in humidity levels.
HOW TO CLEAN A HUMIDIFIER THE RIGHT WAY
Knowing just how to clean a humidifier the right way has been my CONSTANT every time we’ve had a bout where we used the humidifier. When we’re talking about how to clean a humidifier, it’s important to know that there are definitely unsafe and wrong ways to do so.
You must be careful about what you use to clean your humidifier. Remember that ANYTHING you use to clean it will likely end up being vaporized in the air, allowing the product into your airways and body. There have been humidifiers that have expelled disinfectants, negatively affecting children who were in the room, which is just one example of why we want to be extremely careful when using humidifiers. (CASE STUDY)
But even more of an issue when it comes to learning how to clean a humidifier is properly removing mold and mildew that quickly makes its home in your basin and tank. Any mold or mildew growth within the humidifier itself will quickly be turned into a microbial aerosol, allowing your body to inhale these particles of bacteria. (STUDY)
One way you can really do yourself a favor when it comes to your humidifier is using distilled water. Distilled water is different from our tap water, which contains minerals, which can then be expelled into the air. This is especially true if you’re using an ultrasonic vaporizer. This study from University of Alberta also suggests at the very least emptying your humidifier completely before using it again.
While allowing your humidifier to completely dry out in between uses is one of the best ways to clean a humidifier, there are also other tools and habits to get into when learning how to clean a humidifier properly:
- Use a silver infused stick to prevent bacteria growth in the tank of the humidifier
- Clean with a solution of 1 part water and 1 part vinegar. Allow to sit for 1 hour before rinsing.
- Clean using hydrogen peroxide
- Use an essential oil such as tea tree, clove, or lemon to prevent mold in your humidifier.
BEST HUMIDIFIERS 2021
So after using our humidifier and realizing it was near impossible to keep it clean, I jumped into research and started hunting for the EASIEST to clean humidifier. While everyone has their own opinion, I finally settled on three and gave them a test in our own home.
These three humidifiers get my best humidifiers of 2021 award and here’s why:
- Super Quiet: There’s no gurgling, button beeps or noisy fan with this one.
- Doubles as a diffuser if desired: Has an anti-corrosive material that means it won’t be affected by acidic essential oils
- Night Light: While I didn’t use the night light, it has a nice soft glow light if you’d like to use that in a nursery or kids’ room
- Small but powerful: This humidifier is perfect to sit on a night stand, but it is big enough that it will run all night long
- Easy to Clean: The tank is fully removable and has a big enough opening for a hand and towel to dry it out completely.
- Large Tank: With an extra large reservoir, this 1.2 gallon tank can run for a while
- Doubles as a diffuser if desired: compatible with essential oils, but you’ll want to clean it out in between use so it doesn’t stain the tank
- Top Fill: This humidifier doesn’t have a tank to fill, which helps in the cleaning of the reservoir. There are fewer parts to clean around
- Dishwasher Safe: All the parts can be put in the dishwasher to sanitize and clean your unit
- Discrete Buttons: The buttons are discrete and look a little more sleek than some humidifiers. That being said, the buttons do beep, so if that’s not up your alley, I’d avoid this one.
- Medium sized: You could use it on the floor or on a nightstand. It can run for a full 24 hours with a gallon tank.
- Self Cleaning: This humidifier uses an antimicrobial LED light that helps prevent bacteria and mold growth inside the humidifier (if you need a humidifier that has no light on it, this is not for you though – it can’t be turned off and it can be a bit bright in a dark room)
- Quiet: No buttons or noisy fans from this one