How to Use a Humidifier

By: Evan Scoboria, Last updated: June 28, 2023

Humidifiers are a fantastic tool to improve the comfort and health of your home, especially in drier climates or during the winter months. They release moisture into the air, increasing the humidity levels in your home and helping to alleviate common issues associated with dry air, such as dry skin, irritated eyes, and a scratchy throat. However, like any appliance, a humidifier must be used correctly and maintained properly to ensure it does its job effectively and safely.

In this guide, we will cover all you need to know about how to use a humidifier. We'll delve into the importance of managing humidity levels, the benefits of using distilled water, how to keep your machine clean, regular filter replacement, and using a humidifier in a child's room. We'll also discuss different types of humidifiers and provide recommendations for the best humidifiers on the market.

So, whether you're a first-time humidifier user or just looking to optimize the use of your existing device, let's dive in and ensure you're getting the most out of your humidifier while maintaining a safe and healthy home environment.

How To Use A Humidifier

Manage Humidity

Managing the level of humidity in your home is crucial not just for your comfort but also for your health. Proper humidity levels can help alleviate symptoms of respiratory conditions, dry skin, and allergies. Too little humidity can dry out your skin and nasal passages, while too much can promote the growth of mold, bacteria, and dust mites. So, how do you strike the right balance? Here are some tips:

  1. Know the Ideal Indoor Humidity Levels: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests indoor humidity levels should be between 30% and 50%. When it's colder outside, aim for the lower end of this range to prevent condensation on windows.

  2. Use a Hygrometer: This device measures the humidity in the air. Some humidifiers come with a built-in hygrometer (also known as a humidistat), but you can buy one separately if yours doesn't. This will allow you to monitor and adjust the humidity levels in your home accurately.

  3. Adjust Your Humidifier: Based on the readings from your hygrometer, you can adjust the settings on your humidifier to increase or decrease the humidity levels. If the air in your home is too dry, run the humidifier for extended periods or set it to higher output. If the humidity levels are too high, run the humidifier less frequently or at a lower output.

  4. Consider Your Home's Ventilation: Good ventilation can help maintain balanced humidity levels. Regular use of exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens can reduce excess humidity, and opening windows can help circulate fresh air.

  5. Pay Attention to Condensation: If you notice condensation on your windows, walls, or other surfaces, this could be a sign that your humidity levels are too high. Adjust your humidifier settings accordingly to reduce humidity.

  6. Use Air Conditioning or a Dehumidifier: Air conditioning can help reduce indoor humidity levels in warmer months. If your home is consistently too humid, consider using a dehumidifier.

Remember, maintaining the proper humidity levels is a balancing act that requires regular monitoring and adjustment. But with these tips, you'll be well-equipped to effectively manage your home's humidity.

Use Distilled Water

Glass of Distilled Water

Using distilled water in your humidifier can significantly affect the overall performance and maintenance of the device and the quality of your indoor air.

Why is this, you might ask? Well, tap water contains minerals that can create deposits inside your humidifier, reducing its efficiency and promoting bacterial growth. When dispersed into the air, these minerals can appear as white dust on your furniture and even be inhaled. Distilled water, however, has had most of its minerals removed. This means less buildup in your humidifier, better air quality, and a less hospitable environment for bacteria.

Benefits of Using Distilled Water

Using distilled water in your humidifier comes with several benefits that contribute to both the efficiency of the device and the quality of your indoor air. Here's why distilled water is often the best choice:

  1. Less Mineral Buildup: Distilled water has had most impurities and minerals removed during the distillation process, making it less likely to leave mineral deposits in your humidifier. Less buildup can help your device function more efficiently and extend its lifespan.

  2. Better Air Quality: The minerals found in non-distilled water can be dispersed as white dust when the humidifier converts the water into mist. This white dust can settle on your furniture and also be inhaled, potentially causing respiratory issues. Distilled water significantly reduces this risk as it contains fewer minerals.

  3. Reduced Bacterial Growth: The lack of minerals in distilled water can also make your humidifier less hospitable to bacteria and other microorganisms. While using distilled water doesn't replace the need for regular cleaning, it can help reduce the likelihood of bacterial growth.

  4. Prolonged Filter Life: The minerals in non-distilled water can clog up the filter over time, requiring more frequent replacement.

In conclusion, while using distilled water in your humidifier isn't always necessary, it can help maintain the device's efficiency, improve indoor air quality, and potentially extend the lifespan of your humidifier and its filter.

How to Choose and Store Distilled Water

Choosing and storing distilled water for your humidifier is a straightforward process that can help you optimize the performance of your device and improve the air quality in your home. Here's how to do it:

Choosing Distilled Water:

  1. Check the Label: Ensure the water is labeled "distilled." Other types of purified water, such as spring water or mineral water, still contain minerals that can leave deposits in your humidifier.

  2. Brand Does Not Matter: All distilled water has gone through a process to remove impurities and minerals, so the brand typically does not matter. Choose a brand that fits your budget.

  3. Consider the Environment: If you're environmentally conscious, look for brands that use recycled plastic for their bottles or consider investing in a home water distiller to reduce plastic waste.

Storing Distilled Water:

  1. Keep It Sealed: Until you're ready to use it, keep the distilled water in its original container with the seal intact. This helps to keep the water pure and free from contaminants.

  2. Store in a Cool, Dry Place: Store your distilled water in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Heat and sunlight can degrade the plastic bottle over time, which may contaminate the water.

  3. Don't Store Open Bottles for Too Long: Once opened, aim to use the distilled water within a few weeks. While the distillation process removes impurities, it's still possible for the water to become contaminated once the bottle is opened.

Remember, using distilled water in your humidifier can help to prevent mineral buildup, maintain better air quality, and extend the life of your device and its filter.

Keep Your Machine Clean

Cleaning Products

Keeping your humidifier clean is essential for maintaining the health of your indoor environment and ensuring the device operates effectively. Over time, if not cleaned regularly, humidifiers can harbor mold, bacteria, and other microorganisms, which can then be dispersed into the air and negatively impact air quality.

Here are some tips to help you keep your machine clean:

  1. Clean Regularly: The most crucial step is to clean your humidifier regularly—at least once a week when it's in use. This frequency should increase if you use hard water, which can lead to quicker mineral buildup.

  2. Use Distilled or Demineralized Water: Tap water often contains minerals that can create deposits inside your humidifier that promote bacterial growth. Distilled or demineralized water contains fewer minerals and will leave fewer deposits.

  3. Empty the Water Tank Daily: Wait to allow water to sit in the tank for days. Empty it, rinse it out, and refill it with fresh water daily.

  4. Dry Before Storing: If you're not planning to use your humidifier for a while, please clean it thoroughly and let all parts dry completely before you get it. This can help prevent the growth of mold and bacteria.

  5. Change Filters Regularly: If your humidifier uses a filter, change it as often as the manufacturer recommends.

Remember, a clean humidifier improves air quality and maintains your home's humidity. It can also help prolong the life of the device. Regular maintenance, including cleaning and filter replacement, can help keep your humidifier working well and your indoor air clean and healthy​​.

Benefits of Regular Cleaning

Regular cleaning of your humidifier is more than just a maintenance task—it's essential for both the effectiveness of your device and the health of your home environment. Here's why it's so important:

  1. Prevents the Growth of Mold and Bacteria: Warm, moist environments are a breeding ground for mold, bacteria, and other microorganisms. If your humidifier isn't cleaned regularly, these harmful organisms can grow in the water tank and then be dispersed into your air.

  2. Maintains Air Quality: A clean humidifier can better ensure that the moisture it disperses is pure. Over time, minerals and other impurities can build up in the water tank, which can then be released into your air when the humidifier runs, and regular cleaning helps prevent this.

  3. Preserves Humidifier Performance: A clean humidifier is a more efficient humidifier. Mineral buildup can impede your humidifier's ability to disperse moisture, while accumulated grime can strain the motor. Regular cleaning can help keep your humidifier working at its best.

  4. Extends the Lifespan of Your Humidifier: Like any other appliance, your humidifier can last longer if well cared for. Regular cleaning can prevent premature wear and tear and extend the life of your device.

  5. Avoids Unpleasant Odors: A dirty humidifier can start to smell foul over time, often due to bacteria or mold growth in the water tank. Regular cleaning can help prevent these unpleasant odors.

In conclusion, regular cleaning of your humidifier is essential for maintaining its performance, ensuring indoor air quality, and preserving the health of your home environment.

How to Clean Your Humidifier

Cleaning your humidifier is a crucial task that ensures the device's optimal functioning and the health of your indoor environment. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to clean a typical humidifier:

Materials You'll Need:

Steps to Clean Your Humidifier:

  1. Unplug the Humidifier: For safety reasons, always unplug your humidifier before cleaning.

  2. Disassemble the Humidifier: Refer to your owner’s manual for specific instructions. Typically, you'll remove the water tank, filter, and other removable parts.

  3. Clean the Water Tank: Empty any remaining water. Fill the tank with a solution of one part white vinegar to one part water. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes to an hour, allowing the vinegar to loosen any mineral deposits. Afterward, scrub the inside of the tank with a soft brush. Rinse thoroughly to ensure all vinegar is removed.

  4. Clean the Base: Add the same vinegar solution to the humidifier's base. Let it sit, then scrub. This area is often the most susceptible to mold and bacteria growth, so pay extra attention. Rinse thoroughly.

  5. Disinfect (Optional): After cleaning with vinegar, you can disinfect the water tank and base by rinsing them with one teaspoon of bleach or hydrogen peroxide per gallon of water. Rinse thoroughly to remove all bleach or peroxide.

  6. Clean the Filter (If Applicable): If your humidifier uses a filter, please look at the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning. Some filters are not meant to be cleaned and should be replaced instead.

  7. Dry All Parts: Ensure all parts are fully dry before reassembling to prevent mold and bacteria growth. This is particularly important if you're not planning to use the humidifier immediately after cleaning.

  8. Reassemble and Store: Put your humidifier back together. If you're not planning to use it immediately, please store it in a cool, dry place.

Remember, cleaning your humidifier at least once a week when it's in use is recommended. Frequent cleaning can help prevent the buildup of mineral deposits and mold and bacteria growth, ensuring your humidifier operates effectively and safely.

Replace Filters Regularly

Humidifier Filters on a Table

Regularly replacing the filters in your humidifier is a vital part of its maintenance and ensures it operates effectively and safely. Filters are crucial in preventing minerals and impurities in the water from being dispersed into your air. Over time, these filters can become clogged or degraded, decreasing your humidifier's performance and potentially impacting indoor air quality.

How often you should replace your filters depends on several factors:

  1. Type of Humidifier: Some humidifiers, like ultrasonic and impeller models, don't usually require filters. However, evaporative humidifiers use filters, also known as wicks, to absorb water and allow it to evaporate into the air.

  2. Water Quality: If the tap water has high mineral content—also known as hard water—your filter will likely need to be replaced more frequently due to mineral buildup.

  3. Frequency of Use: The more you use your humidifier, the more often you need to replace the filter. During peak usage, like the dry winter months, you may need to replace the filter as often as every month.

  4. Filter Type: Some filters are designed to be cleaned and reused, while others are disposable and must be replaced. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for your specific filter type.

When it comes to the process of replacing the filter, it's generally straightforward:

  1. Unplug and disassemble your humidifier according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  2. Remove the old filter. If it's a reusable type, clean it properly. If it's disposable, discard it responsibly.
  3. Insert the new filter. Make sure it fits snugly and correctly.
  4. Reassemble your humidifier.

Remember, filters ensure your humidifier disperses clean, healthy moisture into your air. Regular replacement of these filters is crucial for maintaining your humidifier's performance and the overall air quality in your home​​.

Benefits of Regular Filter Replacement

Regular replacement of your humidifier's filter is not just a maintenance task; it also offers several benefits that enhance the performance of your humidifier and the quality of your indoor air. Here are some of the key benefits:

  1. Improved Air Quality: The filter in your humidifier plays a vital role in ensuring that the moisture it disperses is clean. It traps minerals and impurities in the water, preventing them from being released into the air. A clean filter is more efficient at this task, improving the overall air quality in your home.

  2. Extended Lifespan of Your Humidifier: Regular filter replacement can help extend the life of your humidifier. Over time, mineral deposits can build up on the filter, which can strain the humidifier's motor and potentially lead to premature wear and tear. Replacing the filter regularly can prevent this buildup and keep your humidifier running smoothly for longer.

  3. Increased Humidifier Efficiency: A clogged or dirty filter can reduce the efficiency of your humidifier. It may struggle to disperse the right amount of moisture or run longer than necessary, which can increase your energy usage. Regular filter replacement ensures that your humidifier can operate at peak efficiency.

  4. Prevention of Mold and Bacteria: A humidifier's filter can become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria if not replaced regularly. These can be dispersed into the air when the humidifier runs, potentially leading to health issues. Regularly replacing the filter helps to prevent this problem.

  5. Maintains Optimal Humidity Levels: For a humidifier to maintain the desired humidity level in your home effectively, it needs to function correctly, and a clean filter is a big part of that. Regular filter replacement helps ensure your humidifier can do its job effectively.

In conclusion, regular filter replacement is essential to maintaining your humidifier. It helps improve air quality, extend the life of your device, enhance its performance, and protect your health.

How to Choose and Replace Filters

Choosing and replacing filters for your humidifier is essential to maintaining your device and ensuring it functions properly. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to do it.

Choosing the Right Filter

  1. Please look at the Manufacturer's Instructions: Different humidifiers require different types of filters, so it's crucial to check your device's manual or the manufacturer's website to find out which filter you need. Don't rely on the filter's appearance; ensure you get the correct model number.

  2. Consider a Washable Filter: Some humidifiers come with washable filters, which can be cleaned and reused. This can be a cost-effective option, but remember that even washable filters need to be replaced eventually, as they can wear out over time.

  3. Look at Filter Quality: Not all filters are created equal, and some are better at trapping impurities and preventing mineral buildup than others. Higher-quality filters may cost more but can also last longer and perform better.

Replacing the Filter

  1. Check the Filter Regularly: How often you need to replace your filter depends on how frequently you use your humidifier and the water quality. However, a good rule of thumb is to check your filter every one to two months.

  2. Look for Signs of Wear or Damage: When checking your filter, look for discoloration, mineral deposits, or any signs of wear or damage. If you notice any of these signs, it's time to replace the filter.

  3. Follow the Manufacturer's Instructions: Refer to your humidifier's manual for specific instructions when replacing the filter. Generally, you'll need to turn off and unplug the device, remove the old filter, insert the new one, and reassemble the humidifier.

  4. Dispose of the Old Filter Properly: Don't just toss the old filter in the trash. Depending on the type of filter, it may need to be disposed of in a specific way. Check the filter's packaging or the manufacturer's website for disposal instructions.

Remember, regular filter replacement is critical to maintaining your humidifier's performance and ensuring the air in your home stays clean and healthy.

Use Good Judgment When Using a Humidifier in a Child's Room

Humidifier in Kids Room

As we've just discussed, using a humidifier in a child's room can be beneficial. However, exercising good judgment and caution is crucial when using one. Here's some advice to ensure you use a humidifier safely and effectively in your child's room.

Benefits of Using a Humidifier in a Child's Room

Using a humidifier in a child's room can bring many benefits, particularly during those dry winter months or in dry climates. Here are some of the key advantages:

  1. Alleviates Cold and Flu Symptoms: Dry air can exacerbate cold and flu symptoms such as congestion, coughs, and sore throats. By adding moisture to the air, a humidifier can help soothe these symptoms and provide comfort to your little one.

  2. Prevents Dry Skin: Children's skin is sensitive and prone to dryness, especially in low-humidity environments. A humidifier can help maintain the skin's natural moisture levels, preventing dryness and irritation.

  3. Supports Healthy Sleep: The moisture from a humidifier can soothe dry nasal passages and throats, contributing to a more comfortable and uninterrupted sleep. If your child has been having trouble sleeping due to a stuffy nose or a dry throat, a humidifier might be just what they need.

  4. Helps with Allergies: If your child suffers from allergies, a humidifier may help. Dry air can irritate the nose and throat, worsening allergy symptoms. A humidifier can help keep these areas moist, reducing irritation and making your child more comfortable.

  5. Protects Vocal Cords: Dry air can also affect your child's vocal cords, causing hoarseness and even potentially damaging the vocal cords over time. A humidifier can help keep the vocal cords lubricated and healthy.

  6. Prevents Nosebleeds: If your child is prone to nosebleeds, particularly in the winter months, a humidifier may help. Dry air can dry out the nasal passages, making them more prone to bleeding. By adding moisture to the air, a humidifier can help prevent this.

  7. Creates a Comforting Environment: Some humidifiers come with features like night lights or the ability to diffuse essential oils, which can contribute to creating a soothing and comfortable environment for your child.

Remember, using the humidifier correctly is the key to reaping these benefits. This includes using distilled water, cleaning it regularly, and maintaining the appropriate humidity level in the room. A humidifier with the correct usage can be a great addition to your child's room.

Precautions to Take When Using a Humidifier in a Child's Room

Safety is paramount, especially when using a humidifier in a child's room. Here are some precautions to ensure your little one reaps all the benefits of a humidifier without any risks:

  1. Placement: Keep the humidifier safe from the child's bed or crib, ensuring they cannot reach or pull it down. It's also advisable to place it on a flat, stable surface to prevent it from tipping over.

  2. Type of Humidifier: Opt for a cool-mist humidifier over a warm-mist one for children's rooms. Warm mist humidifiers boil water to create steam, presenting a potential burn risk if your child gets too close.

  3. Humidity Levels: Maintain the correct humidity level in the room, ideally between 30% and 50%. Too much humidity can promote the growth of mold and dust mites, while too little can dry out the air excessively, both of which can harm children's respiratory health. Consider investing in a hygrometer to measure the room's humidity level accurately.

  4. Regular Cleaning: Clean the humidifier regularly to prevent the buildup of mold and bacteria that could be dispersed into the air. Follow the manufacturer's cleaning instructions carefully.

  5. Filtered Water: Use distilled or demineralized water in your humidifier. Tap water contains minerals that can create deposits inside the humidifier and promote bacterial growth.

  6. Quiet Operation: Choose a humidifier that operates quietly not to disturb your child's sleep. Excessive noise could also make children anxious or scared, especially if they're not used to the sound.

  7. Automatic Shut-off Feature: Look for a humidifier with an automatic shut-off feature. This feature will turn off the humidifier once the water tank is empty, preventing it from overheating and posing a potential fire risk.

  8. Night Light Feature: Some humidifiers have a built-in night light, which can comfort children afraid of the dark. However, ensure that this light isn't too bright, as it could disrupt your child's sleep.

Remember, while a humidifier can significantly improve comfort and health in dry conditions, it's just one part of creating a safe and healthy environment for your child. Regular cleaning, maintaining the right temperature and humidity, and supervising its use can make a humidifier a beneficial addition to your child's room.

Types of Humidifiers

Humidifiers are essential devices for maintaining a comfortable and healthy indoor environment. They work by adding moisture to the air, which can alleviate dry skin, soothe symptoms of colds and allergies, and even help with dry eyes. There are three main types of humidifiers: ultrasonic, evaporative, and vaporizer humidifiers.

Ultrasonic humidifiers use a ceramic or metallic diaphragm that vibrates at an ultrasonic frequency to create water vapor. This vapor is then released into the environment as a cool mist. These humidifiers are quiet, energy-efficient, and require minimal maintenance, making them ideal for use in bedrooms and around children or older people. However, they are generally more expensive than other humidifiers and can accumulate dust if improperly maintained​​.

Evaporative humidifiers use a moistened wick filter and a fan to expel and spread water mist throughout the air. These humidifiers are safe for children and pets, easy to clean, portable, and budget-friendly. However, they produce a low, continuous sound and require regular cleaning to prevent germ growth on the filter​.

Vaporizer humidifiers are versatile, functioning as both warm and cool mist humidifiers. They are affordable and less likely to accumulate impurities, but they are not ideal for children due to safety concerns. They also consume more energy and can be challenging to maintain​.

How to Choose the Right Type for Your Needs

Choosing the right humidifier depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Ultrasonic humidifiers might be a good choice if you value quiet operation, energy efficiency, and minimal maintenance and are willing to pay a slightly higher price. Evaporative humidifiers might be a good fit if you're on a budget, need a portable solution, or have children or pets. Vaporizer humidifiers are versatile and affordable but require more energy and maintenance, so they might be best for those who want the option of both warm and cool mist and don't mind the extra upkeep.


Using a humidifier can significantly enhance the comfort and health of your indoor environment. By maintaining ideal humidity levels, humidifiers help alleviate various conditions, such as dry skin, dry eyes, respiratory ailments, and allergy symptoms. They also provide a healthier environment for houseplants and can help to prevent damage to wooden furniture and musical instruments caused by dry air.

Several types of humidifiers are available, each with pros and cons. Ultrasonic humidifiers are very quiet and energy-efficient but can be more expensive. Evaporative humidifiers are budget-friendly and easy to use, but they require regular cleaning and can produce a low continuous sound. Vaporizer humidifiers offer versatile functionality and affordability, but they consume more energy and are not recommended for use around children.

When choosing a humidifier, there are several factors to consider, such as the size of the room, the specific needs of the people (and plants), and the required maintenance. Top-rated brands like Babymoov, Honeywell, and Lasko offer a variety of models to suit different needs and budgets.

Remember to use your humidifier responsibly. Overuse can lead to excessive humidity, which can promote the growth of mold and mildew. To prevent this, use a hygrometer to monitor the humidity level and aim to keep it between 30% and 50%.

In conclusion, the thoughtful use of a humidifier can contribute to a healthier and more comfortable living space. Whether you're looking for relief from dry skin or respiratory symptoms or want to create a more pleasant indoor environment, a humidifier can be a valuable addition to your home.