Why Use a Humidifier & How to Clean a Humidifier

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why use a humidifier

The topic of humidifiers can be albeit confusing.  Not to mention how to clean a humidifier and why use a humidifier in the first place – which are both questions I get when we’re talking about a healthy home. 

Some of us have been told that a humidifier will help prevent getting sick during the winter and keep our littles’ noses from getting plugged if they’re a little congested.  And then some of us have been told to avoid humidifiers as they cause mold and an unhealthy living environment.  Both of these thought processes make sense — and so what it really boils down to is you have to know how to use a humidifier the RIGHT way. 

The goal is to get to that sweet spot of the perfect levels of humidity in your home.  So in the winter, when it’s dry and you need some extra moisture in the air, a humidifier can be the helping tool.

And if someone isn’t feeling the best at home, maybe you do need to increase the humidity levels slightly for a few nights. 

As with all things related to your healthy home, so much depends on your health and your climate.  We can’t all follow the exact same habits and expect to get the exact same results. 

This post will walk you through:

  • How to maintain the perfect relative humidity at home
  • Studies supporting the reasons why you should use a humidifier
  • How to clean a humidifier the right way
  • How to use a humidifier in the healthiest way possible
  • Healthy House picks for a humidifier 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.

why use a humidifier and how to do it in a healthy way


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.


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
why use a humidifier and how to clean your humidifier in a healthy way

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.


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 you should 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.  


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.
how ot use a humidifier in a healthy way



Get a Hygrometer: One of the most important things you can do is to monitor the humidity levels in your home and specifically in the room that you’re using a humidifier in.  A simple hygrometer can be  under $10.00 and is well worth knowing what the room’s humidity levels are.  Anything over 55% is an area of concern when it comes to preventing mold and mildew from growing. 

Use the Lowest Settings: You don’t have to keep your humidifier on full blast.  In fact, it’s best to use the lower settings for a longer period of time rather than adding tons of moisture to your air for a brief period of time.  Often we over-exaggerate just how much extra moisture we think our air could benefit from.  Just increasing your relative humidity by 5% is actually quite a bit in a healthy home.

Fill with Distilled Water: Water that contains any sort of minerals can quickly grow bacteria and increase the amount of mold or mildew that begins growing inside the humidifier.  By using distilled water, you can ensure that the inside of your humidifier will stay clean in between uses. Even using filtered water can help reduce mold and mildew from taking hold and slow the process.

Control When It’s Running: Don’t just let the humidifier run all day long. Use the humidifier only when needed, which is often at night.  In between uses make sure that the humidifier is emptied and has time to dry out completely.  This will also allow the room, textiles and walls to dry out from any excess moisture as well.  Anything that dries out within 48 hours of getting damp is less likely to grow mold in the future.

Keep Away from Walls: Walls are a very porous surface and can quickly become a breeding ground for mold when they’re constantly damp or wet.  Keep the humidifier up off the floor if possible to prevent carpet from getting too wet and then keep the humidifier away from walls and wood furniture if at all possible.  The closer the humidifier is to a wall, the lower the setting is that should be used.

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 2023 award and here’s why:

CarePod Humidifier (Best humidifier 2023 for Kids & Baby Nursery or anywhere)

  • Super Quiet:  There’s no gurgling, button beeps or noisy fan with this one. 
  • Stainless Steel Core: To clean you can simply add boiling water to the core as it doesn’t have little plastic pieces  to potentially grow bacteria.
  • Oscillator: Moves moisture around instead of drenching just one spot as it runs
  • 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
  • No Filters:  No additional filters to purchase EVER. 

Crane Cool Mist Humidifier (Best budget humidifier 2023)

  • 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.

Jack and Rose Stainless Steel Humidifier: (Best for Constant Use with Little Cleaning)

  • Medium sized: You could use it on the floor or on a nightstand. It can run for a full 12 hours with a gallon tank.
  • Easy to Clean:  Simply throw it in the dishwasher or add boiling water to the tank to clean it out.  Stainless steel naturally prevents any sort of bacteria growth.
  • Warm Mist:  This is a good one for illness as it can help alleviate coughs and congestion with the warm mist.

Don’t let winter go by without using a humidifier — just use it the right way, the healthy way, to enhance your health and support your wellness.

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