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Clear the Air: Cleaning Air Purifiers and Humidifiers

Posted January 21, 2023 by Mike Lewis under Tips

Clear the Air: Cleaning Air Purifiers and Humidifiers


Indoor air quality is important for health and comfort. Air purifiers and humidifiers can improve indoor air, but only if properly maintained. Here I will discuss best practices for cleaning these appliances to keep your indoor air clean and fresh.

Why Regular Cleaning is Essential

Air purifiers and humidifiers operate by pulling air through filters and wicks. Over time, these components accumulate dust, dirt, and microbes. If not cleaned, particles build up and allow mold, bacteria, and allergens to circulate instead of being trapped. Unclean appliances spread contaminants rather than remove them.

Regular cleaning keeps appliances working efficiently. Clogged filters lead to reduced airflow, limiting purifying and humidifying capabilities. Proper maintenance extends product lifespan as well. Here are some signs it’s time to clean your appliance:

  • Increased operating noise
  • Persistent bad odors
  • Visible dirt buildup
  • Reduced airflow
  • Mold or mildew growth

Cleaning frequency depends on use, environment, and manufacturer recommendations, but every 1-2 months is a good rule of thumb.

Supplies You’ll Need

Cleaning air purifiers and humidifiers doesn’t require special equipment. Here are some supplies to have on hand:

  • Old toothbrush or other soft brush
  • Distilled or filtered water
  • Mild soap such as dish soap
  • White vinegar
  • Dry microfiber cloths
  • Cotton swabs
  • Vacuum with brush attachment
  • Replacement filters and wicks

Cleaning Air Purifier Components

Follow these steps to clean various air purifier parts:

Outer Housing

  • Unplug the purifier and move it to an open area.
  • Use a dry microfiber cloth to dust the outside vents and surfaces.
  • For stuck-on dirt, use a small amount of mild soap and water with a soft brush.
  • Wipe dry with a clean cloth.

Internal Components

  • Open the purifier and remove filters and other parts as specified by manufacturer instructions.
  • Wipe away visible dust and dirt from internal surfaces with a dry brush or microfiber cloth.
  • Clean fan blades, mesh screens, and sensors with a brush, cotton swab, or compressed air.


  • HEPA filters: Vacuum outer surface to remove loose debris.
  • Activated carbon filters: Vacuum outer surface, then soak in warm distilled water with a few drops of mild soap to release trapped particles. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Allow filters to fully air dry before replacing in purifier.

Collection Plates

  • Remove any reusable collection plates that capture particles.
  • Rinse under warm water and wipe clean with a soft cloth.

Humidifier Wicks

  • Remove wicks and soak in distilled vinegar & water solution for 30 minutes to disinfect and descale.
  • Rinse thoroughly before returning to the humidifier.

Cleaning Humidifiers

Use this process to clean portable and whole-house humidifiers:

Empty Tank and Wipe Down

  • Empty any remaining water from the tank.
  • Wipe the empty tank with a cloth dampened with vinegar and water solution.
  • Clean the tank lid, reservoir, and other surfaces with a soft brush and mild detergent.
  • Rinse surfaces thoroughly prior to refilling.

Descale Mineral Deposits

  • Fill tank with equal parts distilled white vinegar and water.
  • Let solution sit for 30 minutes, then scrub interior with brush to remove scale buildup.
  • Empty tank and rinse with clean water several times.

Disinfect with Bleach

  • Fill tank with cool water and 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach.
  • Let soak for 20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly with water.

Dry Completely

  • Allow tank and all parts to fully air dry before putting humidifier back together.

Finishing Touches

Once components are cleaned, reassemble appliances according to manufacturer guidelines. Replace old filters and wicks with new ones. Plug air purifiers back in and run briefly to ensure proper operation.

Regular cleaning according to appliance guidelines keeps air purifiers and humidifiers working their best. With a little routine maintenance, these appliances will continue effectively improving your indoor air quality.

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