Infusing Your Air: What Can You Put in a Humidifier to Make it Smell Good?

By: Evan Scoboria, Last updated: June 12, 2023

So, you've got a humidifier, and it's doing wonders for maintaining the humidity level in your space, providing comfort to your skin, and ensuring a good night's sleep. But you wonder: can it do even more? Could it also make your room smell fantastic? It can! With simple tips and tricks, you can use your humidifier to combat dry air and fill your space with a pleasant aroma. But before we plunge into these scent-boosting methods, remember: safety first. Let's explore how you can safely add fragrance to your humidifier and keep it clean for a satisfying, fragrant, and healthy environment.

Lavender Option for Humidifier

What Can You Put in a Humidifier to Make It Smell Good?

A humidifier is essential for many people, particularly in colder months when the air tends to dry. They help maintain a comfortable humidity level in the home, supporting healthy skin and respiratory systems. But did you know you can also use your humidifier to make your home smell great? Adding fragrances to the water in your humidifier can create a calming, refreshing, or invigorating atmosphere, depending on your chosen scent.

When adding scents to your humidifier, it's best to stick with natural methods. Not only are they generally safer, but they also provide a pleasant and lasting fragrance without any chemical undertones. Let's look at some of the most popular natural methods:

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is popular for adding a refreshing, citrusy scent to your living space via your humidifier. But it's not just the smell that's appealing. Lemon juice has many benefits, making it an excellent choice for your humidifier.

Natural and Refreshing: Lemon juice offers a clean, natural fragrance that's not overpowering. It can give your home a fresh smell, just like you've spent the day cleaning, even if you haven't.

Mood Boosting: The scent of lemon is known to be uplifting and mood-boosting. It can help to clear your mind and improve focus, making it a great choice when working or studying.

Antimicrobial Properties: Lemons have antimicrobial properties, which means using lemon juice in your humidifier could help to keep the air in your home cleaner.

Here's how to use lemon juice in your humidifier:

  1. Freshly Squeezed: Start by squeezing the juice from a fresh lemon.

  2. Dilute It: Mix a few tablespoons of the fresh lemon juice into the water you'll use in your humidifier. The exact amount may depend on the size of your humidifier and the strength of the scent you want.

  3. Run Your Humidifier: Add lemon water to your humidifier and run it as usual. The fine mist distributed by your humidifier will carry the lemon scent around your room.

Remember that if you use lemon juice in your humidifier, you should clean your machine more frequently. The citric acid in the juice could build up over time and cause problems if left unchecked. As always, please review your machine's instructions and consult the manufacturer.

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract, a common ingredient found in most kitchens, can be an excellent choice for adding a warm, comforting scent to your home through your humidifier. It's an easy and relatively inexpensive way to freshen up your space.

Here's how to use vanilla extract in your humidifier:

  1. Mix with Water: Fill the humidifier's tank with water as you usually would, and then add a few drops of vanilla extract. You may need to adjust the amount depending on your preference and the room size. Start with a small amount, perhaps five drops for a gallon of water, and then adjust as necessary.

  2. Stir Well: Stir the water to distribute the vanilla extract evenly. This will help ensure the scent is dispersed consistently when the humidifier is in operation.

  3. Run Your Humidifier: Turn on your humidifier as you usually would. As the water evaporates, it will carry the scent of vanilla into the air.

Please note, however, not all humidifiers are designed for use with added substances. Always check the manufacturer's guidelines before adding anything to the water tank. If the humidifier isn't designed to handle it, adding vanilla extract could cause damage or void any warranties.

Also, please remember that using vanilla extract or any other additive in your humidifier will require more frequent cleaning to avoid residue buildup.

Lastly, while vanilla extract is generally considered safe, everyone's senses and preferences differ. If you or anyone in your household are sensitive to scents, start with a drop or two to see how you like it. Vanilla extract can offer a delightful and comforting aroma that transforms your living space into a cozy haven.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts that capture the plant's scent, flavor, or "essence." They are a popular choice for adding natural, therapeutic fragrances to a home, thanks to their wide variety of aromas and potential health benefits. Many people use essential oils in their humidifiers to enjoy these benefits and create a soothing atmosphere.

Here are a few great essential oil options:

  1. Frankincense Oil: This oil has a warm, sweet, and slightly spicy scent. It's often used for calming and comforting properties and is popular in meditation practices.

  2. Tea Tree Oil: Known for its purifying qualities, it has a fresh, invigorating scent. It is commonly used in skincare and for its antimicrobial properties.

  3. Sweet Basil Oil: Sweet basil oil has a warm, spicy, herbal aroma that reduces anxiety and enhances mood.

  4. Patchouli Oil: This oil has a rich, earthy, and woody aroma. It's often used for its relaxing, grounding properties.

  5. Sandalwood Oil: Known for its warm, woody scent, sandalwood oil is often used for its calming effects, making it a favorite for stress relief.

  6. Lemongrass Oil: With its light, citrusy scent, lemongrass oil can invigorate and refresh. It's often used to enhance mood and stimulate awareness.

  7. Marjoram Oil: This oil is known for its warm, herbaceous aroma and is often used to promote relaxation and comfort.

  8. Lavender Oil: Popular for its floral, calming scent, it is often used for relaxation and stress relief. It's one of the most common oils used in sleep aids.

  9. Eucalyptus Oil: Eucalyptus oil has a fresh, minty scent with a touch of honey. It's known for its stimulating effects and is often used in products to relieve congestion.

  10. Rosewood Oil: This oil has a sweet, woody fragrance and is often used for its calming and soothing effects.

  11. Clove Oil: Known for its spicy, warming scent, clove oil is often used to promote a sense of comfort and warmth.

  12. Peppermint Oil: Peppermint oil is recognized for its sharp, refreshing, minty aroma. It's often used for its stimulating properties and to promote focus and energy.

  13. Jasmine Oil: This oil has an exotic, sweet floral scent. It is known for its uplifting and calming effects and is often used to promote relaxation and peace.

  14. Juniper Oil: Juniper oil has a fresh, clean, and slightly woody scent. It's often used for its calming and grounding effects.

  15. Bergamot Oil: This citrus oil is simultaneously uplifting and calming. It's often used to alleviate stress and anxiety.

  16. Pine Oil: Known for its fresh, earthy scent reminiscent of a pine forest, this oil is often used for invigorating and purifying properties.

But remember, while essential oils can provide a pleasing aroma and potential wellness benefits, they should be used responsibly, and they are potent substances and should always be diluted.

Moreover, not all humidifiers are designed to handle essential oils. Please always check the manufacturer's instructions to see if your humidifier is compatible with oils. Using oils in a humidifier not designed for it could cause damage or void the warranty.

Finally, remember that some people and pets may be sensitive or allergic to certain oils. Please always start with a small amount of oil and be aware of any signs of discomfort or allergic reactions.

Safety Precautions While Adding Fragrance to Your Humidifier

It's essential to add fragrance to your humidifier mindfully. A little scent can go a long way, and there are a few safety precautions to keep in mind:

Avoid Overpowering Scents

When adding fragrance to your humidifier, it's crucial to strike a balance. While you may love the scent of lavender, eucalyptus, or vanilla, it's possible to have too much of a good thing. Overpowering scents can become overwhelming, leading to headaches, dizziness, and even nausea for some people. Here are a few tips to avoid creating an overpowering smell in your space:

  1. Start Small: If you're using essential oils or other scented products in your humidifier, start with a smaller amount than you think you'll need. It's easier to add more if you want a more pungent scent than airing out a room that's become too fragrant.

  2. Test Scents First: Not all scents are created equal; some are much stronger than others, even in small quantities. It might be a good idea to test new scents in a small, separate space or when you can open windows if necessary.

  3. Consider Your Room Size: The size of the space you're scenting will also impact how strong the fragrance appears. Larger rooms may need more scent to achieve the desired effect, while smaller spaces need less.

  4. Take Breaks: Scents can overwhelm the senses if there's constant exposure. Switching off the humidifier every few hours is a good idea to give your senses a break.

  5. Pay Attention to Other People's Preferences and Allergies: Remember that not everyone might enjoy the same scents you do, and some people may be sensitive or allergic to certain fragrances. Consider the preferences and health needs of others who share your space.

  6. Clean Your Humidifier Regularly: Residue from essential oils and other scented products can accumulate over time, possibly leading to stronger than intended scents. Regular cleaning can help manage the scent level.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can ensure that your space smells pleasant without the fragrance overpowering. After all, the goal is to create a comfortable and inviting atmosphere in your home.

Dilute Essential Oils

Essential oils are a popular choice for adding a pleasant scent to the air through a humidifier, thanks to their variety of fragrances and potential therapeutic benefits. However, it's important to understand that essential oils are potent substances, and improper use can damage your humidifier or cause health issues.

When using essential oils in your humidifier, the rule of thumb is always to dilute them. Here's why:

So, how to dilute? You can dilute essential oils with water before adding them to your humidifier. Typically, a few drops of oil per cup of water is a safe ratio, but this might vary depending on the specific oil and your preference. Remember to mix well, as oil and water can naturally separate.

Also, please remember that not all humidifiers are designed to handle essential oils, so check the manufacturer's instructions to ensure your model is. If not, consider a diffuser, a device specifically designed for dispersing essential oils into the air, or create an alternative humidifier method to which you can add oils without risking damage to your machine. 

Lastly, remember to clean your humidifier regularly if you're using essential oils. Residue from the oils can accumulate and interfere with its function over time.

Keep Your Humidifier Clean

Maintaining a clean humidifier is just as important as adding the right fragrance. A dirty humidifier can breed bacteria and mold, which are dispersed into the air along with the mist.

Regular Cleaning and Maintenance

Regular cleaning and maintenance of your humidifier are vital to keeping it in good working order and ensuring the air quality in your home remains optimal. A neglected humidifier can become a breeding ground for various microbes and release them into the air, potentially causing health issues. Furthermore, mineral deposits can accumulate over time, impairing the device's functionality. Here are some tips for regular cleaning and maintenance of your humidifier:

  1. Empty and Refill the Tank Daily: Stagnant water can lead to bacterial and mold growth. Ensure you empty the tank and fill it with fresh water every day. Remember to turn off and unplug your humidifier before you begin the cleaning process.

  2. Clean the Tank Every Week: Use a brush to scrub off any buildup in the tank. Mix a cup of white vinegar with a gallon of water for an effective cleaning solution. Let the solution sit in the tank for about half an hour, then scrub and rinse thoroughly. You can also use a mixture of bleach and water (1 teaspoon of bleach per gallon) for deeper disinfection.

  3. Change Filters as Needed: If your humidifier has a filter, check it regularly and replace it according to the manufacturer's instructions. If not changed regularly, filters can accumulate minerals and become a hotbed for bacteria and mold.

  4. Dry Before Storing: If you won't use the humidifier for a while, clean it thoroughly and ensure it's completely dry before storing it. Storing it while it's still damp can encourage mold growth.

  5. Regular Check-ups: Inspect your humidifier for any signs of wear and tear or damage. If you notice it’s not working correctly, it's best to get it checked by a professional.

Remember, a clean humidifier is more effective and better for your health. It might seem like a bit of an effort, but regular maintenance will extend the life of your humidifier and ensure it's doing the job it's supposed to do – helping to create a more comfortable environment in your home.

Use of Demineralized Water

The type of water you use in your humidifier plays a significant role in its maintenance and functionality. Tap water, while convenient, often contains minerals that can create deposits inside your humidifier that promote bacterial growth. These minerals can also produce fine white dust that settles on surfaces around the room, which you might have noticed if you've used tap water in your humidifier.

On the other hand, demineralized water has had most of its mineral content removed and is thus recommended for use in humidifiers. Using demineralized water helps significantly reduce the amount of scale or mineral deposits formed in the humidifier and minimizes the dispersion of mineral dust around your room.

Another similar option is distilled water. Distilled water is boiled, and the steam is collected and cooled, resulting in water with many impurities and minerals removed. Both distilled and demineralized water will result in less frequent cleanings and a healthier output from your humidifier.

Bacteriostatic Treatment

Bacteriostatic treatment is a solution designed explicitly for humidifiers to inhibit the growth of bacteria, mold, and algae within the water tank. It ensures your humidifier disperses a clean, healthy mist and does not become a breeding ground for microorganisms.

The term "bacteriostatic" means that the treatment stops bacteria from multiplying. While it does not necessarily kill these microorganisms, it prevents their growth and reproduction by disrupting their metabolic processes. This makes it an effective way to maintain a cleaner humidifier and healthier indoor air quality.

Using a bacteriostatic treatment can be especially beneficial if you use your humidifier frequently or in large spaces where it operates for extended periods. That's because the more regularly your humidifier is used, the higher the chance bacteria or mold could begin to grow in the tank, particularly if the water sits too long.

When using bacteriostatic treatment, it's essential to follow the instructions on the bottle regarding the quantity to be used, as overuse could potentially be harmful. Also, make sure the product is compatible with your specific humidifier model. As always, regular cleaning of your humidifier is still necessary even when using bacteriostatic treatments, as it helps remove mineral deposits and any existing microbial growth.

Natural Ways to Keep Your Humidifier Smelling Good

Several natural methods can keep your humidifier smelling pleasant. Remember, the best scent is a clean one!

Use of Vinegar

Vinegar, specifically distilled white vinegar, might not be the first thing that comes to mind when making your humidifier smell good. Still, it can play a vital role in maintaining a fresh-smelling device. Vinegar is a powerful natural cleaning agent known for its disinfecting properties and ability to dissolve mineral deposits.

Here's how vinegar can contribute to a good-smelling humidifier:

Cleaning and Descaling: Vinegar is excellent for cleaning your humidifier, which is essential in keeping it smelling fresh. Over time, mineral deposits can build up in your humidifier, especially if you use tap water, and these deposits can create an unpleasant smell. You can dissolve these deposits using vinegar to clean your humidifier and eliminate unwanted odors. Fill your humidifier's tank with half vinegar and half water, let it sit for an hour, then rinse thoroughly.

Preventing Mildew and Mold: Vinegar is a natural anti-fungal and anti-microbial agent. It can help prevent the growth of mold and mildew inside your humidifier, both of which can cause unpleasant smells. Regular cleaning with vinegar can keep your device mold and mildew-free.

It's important to remember that you should not run your humidifier with vinegar in the water as the scent is strong and can be irritating to some people. Also, please always rinse your device thoroughly after cleaning to make sure no vinegar smell remains when using your humidifier.

Lemon Juice for Citric Aroma

Adding lemon juice to your humidifier adds a fresh, citrusy fragrance to your space and takes advantage of its natural cleaning properties. Thanks to its high citric acid content, lemon juice can help keep your humidifier clean and free from bacteria and mineral deposits, contributing to better overall performance and the scent of your humidifier.

Here's a closer look at how lemon juice can work wonders in your humidifier:

Citric Acid as a Natural Cleaner: The citric acid found in lemons is a natural cleaner. When used in a humidifier, it can help deter the growth of mold, bacteria, and algae growth, which can lead to unpleasant smells and potentially harm your health.

Deodorizing Properties: Besides its cleaning capabilities, lemon juice has natural deodorizing properties. It neutralizes odors and leaves a fresh, clean scent in its wake. Using lemon juice in your humidifier can combat any stale or musty odors in your home, replacing them with a light, uplifting aroma.

Mineral Deposit Removal: If you're using tap water in your humidifier, you may notice mineral deposits building up over time. The citric acid in lemon juice can help break down these deposits, prolonging your device's lifespan and keeping it functioning optimally.

To use lemon juice in your humidifier, add a few tablespoons of freshly squeezed juice to the water you fill your humidifier with. If you're using lemon juice, clean your humidifier regularly to prevent the acid from corroding any mechanical components. Refer to your device's manual or consult the manufacturer for clarification on using additives like lemon juice.

Use of Baking Soda

Baking soda is a household staple with many surprising uses, and one of them includes keeping your humidifier fresh-smelling. While it doesn't impart a distinct fragrance like essential oils or lemon juice, it plays a crucial role in odor neutralization and prevention.

Here's how baking soda can be utilized in your humidifier:

Odor Neutralizer: Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is an effective odor-neutralizer. If you're dealing with a humidifier emitting unpleasant smells, adding a small amount of baking soda to the water can help neutralize these odors, making your air fresher.

Mold and Mildew Prevention: Humidifiers create a moist environment which can sometimes lead to the growth of mold and mildew. Baking soda can inhibit the development of these fungi, ensuring your device remains clean and odor-free.

Cleaning Agent: Besides its deodorizing properties, baking soda can be used as a non-abrasive cleaning agent for your humidifier. A solution of baking soda and water can clean the tank and other parts of your humidifier, helping remove any residue or build-up that could cause unpleasant smells.

To use baking soda in your humidifier, add around a teaspoon of baking soda to the water. This can help keep your device and your home smelling fresh. However, it's important to remember to clean your humidifier regularly to ensure optimal performance and maintain a pleasant-smelling environment. Please always consult your device's manual or manufacturer's advice before adding additives to make sure it's safe for your machine.

Frequently Asked Questions

What other ways besides essential oils add scent to a humidifier?: Aside from essential oils, you can introduce a pleasant scent to your humidifier in several ways. As discussed above, natural substances like lemon juice and vanilla extract are excellent options. Additionally, you can consider using fresh herbs like mint or lavender. Tie a small bundle and place it directly in the water tank.

Can you use perfume or cologne in a humidifier to add fragrance?: While using your favorite perfume or cologne to scent your home might be tempting, it's generally not a good idea. Most perfumes and colognes contain alcohol and other chemicals that can damage the humidifier and cause health problems when inhaled. Stick to natural alternatives for a safe and pleasing aroma.

How often should you clean your humidifier to maintain a pleasant scent?: For a consistently pleasant scent and optimal function, cleaning your humidifier at least once a week is recommended. However, if you're using additives like essential oils or lemon juice, you may need to clean your device more frequently to prevent residue build-up.

Can adding too much fragrance to a humidifier harm your health?: Yes, overdoing it with any fragrance, including natural ones like essential oils, can be harmful. Strong scents can cause headaches, dizziness, or allergic reactions in some individuals. Use scents sparingly, and always dilute essential oils before adding them to your humidifier.

What are some signs that your humidifier needs to be cleaned?: Some signs that your humidifier needs cleaning include a musty or foul odor, decreased mist output, visible mold or algae growth inside the tank, or a layer of grime or mineral deposits on the parts of the humidifier. Regular cleaning can help you avoid these issues and keep your device running smoothly.


Your humidifier can do more than add moisture to the air; it can also transform your space into a fragrant sanctuary. Whether you prefer the refreshing scent of citrus, the calming aroma of vanilla, or the natural freshness of essential oils, there are numerous ways to safely add fragrance to your humidifier. And remember, nothing smells better than cleanliness, so don't neglect regular maintenance. With the right scent and proper care, your humidifier can provide a comforting and healthy environment you'll love coming home to.