It’s hard to imagine surviving winter without a humidifier. Thanks to the added moisture from this handy device, your lips aren’t chapped, your nose doesn’t bleed, and you are able to sleep peacefully without a hacking cough or harrowing cold.
According to an informal survey conducted by Consumer Reports, 59 percent of respondents who use a humidifier said they do not clean it every day and one in four people clean theirs twice a month or less. Not shocking, considering many of us probably don’t want to commit the time to proper maintenance, but experts warn we need to provide the unit with extra TLC—and not just at the end of winter. “There are definitely health issues that can crop up from using a humidifier that has developed mold or mildew or bacterial contamination,” Jessica Krant, MD, a board-certified dermatologist told CNN.com. “Itchy skin rashes and itchy eyes could be a sign of mold or mildew allergy coming from the humidifier.”
In order to avoid the fear of contaminating yourself or child from a dirty humidifier, memorize these basic steps to sanitizing your device.
- Read your owner’s manual. Following the manufacturer’s directions to keeping your humidifier germ-free is critical. If it is recommended to clean your model regularly then schedule this simple task in your daily routine. Also, make yourself aware of any warnings and take effective precautions, like unplugging your machine before disassembling it.
- Use a disinfectant. Most experts suggest using vinegar, bleach, or a hydrogen peroxide solution. The Mayo Clinic suggests unplugging the humidifier and then removing mineral deposits or film from the tank and other parts of the machine. Use a small brush for hard to reach areas. Don’t forget to equip yourself with gloves and goggles when dealing with harsh chemicals.
- Dry all wet areas thoroughly. Keeping the appliance dry will avoid any bacteria from building up. “You don’t want it sitting around for weeks with water, as you can get mold,” Cliff Bassett, MD, medical director of Allergy and Asthma care of New York told CNN.com.
- Toss filters. You should always replace your dirty filters, but once you are done with using your appliance for the season, get rid of any humidifier filters or cartridges before sitting it on a shelf. You will want to start fresh.
- Use your own judgment. Remember your humidifier can be a haven for germs, and if not taken care of properly, it’s strength will weaken and it could even sicken your family. If you heavily use your humidifier, neglect it, or believe it has outlived its lifespan, replacing it might be the best idea.