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How To Clean A Humidifier Filter

How To Clean A Humidifier Filter? [4 Ways Included]

Humidifiers are notorious for being high-maintenance machines, meaning that you have to clean and disinfect them regularly.

Among all types of humidifiers, evaporative and whole-house humidifiers use filters to remove dust, bacteria, mold, and other impurities. These filters are conducive, but it also means that you have to clean or replace them every so often.

Instead of throwing it away, cleaning the humidifier filter can help extend its lifespan and save you some money over time. 

Note that you should dispose of the paper filter directly. It can’t be cleaned.

How to clean a humidifier filter with water?

Cleaning a humidifier filter with water is simple, but it may not be very effective. If you just replaced the filter a few days ago or clean it frequently, rinsing it with water should suffice.

Step 1: Unplug the unit

Using a humidifier is generally safe, but it is still electronics. To prevent any electric shock, you should turn off the device and pull out the cord from the outlet before cleaning it. 

Step 2: Empty the water tank

The humidifier is often located within the base or inside the casing. Instead of lifting the filter from it, you should empty the water tank together. You don’t want to put a clean filter back in a dirty tank which is a waste of time.

You can put the tank into a sink and then drain the stagnant water out of the tank. Let the tank air dry and put it back with the clean filter later.

Step 3: Rinse the filter with water

Take out the filter from the base or casing and check the condition of the filter. If there is no mold, mildew, or any noticeable mineral buildup present in the filter, using water to clean it should be sufficient.

Open the faucet and rotate the filter under the water stream to wash away the dust and debris. You can also use a soft brush to remove the impurities stuck on the mesh lightly. 

Step 4: Air dry the filter

Once you feel the humidifier is clean, you can shake off the remaining water and allow it to air dry. I don’t advise you to speed up this process by means of a hair dryer. It may cause damage to the filter, and all your efforts will go down the drain.

Put the filter back and fill the tank with distilled water. Your humidifier can start to work for you again.

How to clean a humidifier filter with vinegar?

Many manufacturers recommend adding vinegar to the humidifier for cleaning purposes. White vinegar is also effective in cleaning and sanitizing dirty filters. You still have to unplug the machine and empty the reservoir, but I don’t want to repeat them here.

Step 1: Fill the sink with warm water

In order to submerge the filter in the following step, you need to fill the sink or other big containers with warm water. Warm water can make vinegar take less time to work.

Step 2: Put in white vinegar

You should add one cup of undiluted white vinegar for every gallon of water and then mix them by hand or brush. 

Step 3: Submerge the filter in the solution

Take out the humidifier filter and submerge it in the vinegar and water solution you just made. Soak it for somewhere between 30 minutes to 1 hour to loosen the scale and small mold in it. 

Step 4: Rinse it with cool water

After a while, remove the filter from the solution, open the faucet and rinse it under running water to wash away the impurities left on the filter.

Ensure the filter doesn’t smell like vinegar, shake off excess water, and allow it to dry completely before putting it back. 

How to clean a humidifier filter with bleach?

If you find your filter is full of mold and mildew, cleaning it with bleach would be your best bet if you don’t want to throw it away.

Step 1: Fill the sink with tap water

As bleach is a type of powerful and harmful chemical, you should avoid adding warm or hot water as the fume created can irritate your airway. Wearing a pair of gloves and goggles to prevent accidents. 

Step 2: Make the solution 

Only add 1 teaspoon of bleach for every gallon of water. As I said, bleach is powerful so only a little bit can take effect. 

Step 3: Soak the filter

Soak the filter in the solution for about 10 minutes. Don’t submerge it for too long. The bleach will kill the bacteria and mold, and loosen the buildup gradually.

Step 4: Rinse the water thoroughly

Like cleaning it with vinegar, you should make sure you have gotten out of all the bleach before drying. You can do so by rinsing it thoroughly with cool water.

After it is completely dry, you can return it to the humidifier.

How to clean a metal humidifier filter?

Some whole-house humidifiers (also known as central humidifiers or furnace humidifiers) use a metal filter. Except for the 3 methods I mentioned above, you also use some specific cleanser to clean it. You can check the video below:

Step 1: Take out the filter 

Depending on the humidifier’s installation, taking out the filter could be easy or hard. Anyway, you should replace the filter 1 or 2 times every heating season. Cleaning it regularly is also beneficial.

Step 2: Pour in CLR

CLR is a cleanser in the video for removing the calcium, lime, and rust. Pour in enough CLR on the filter so that it can cover every corner of the filter.

Step 3: Wipe away impurities

Use a brush to clean the stuck-on debris and deposits. Don’t use too much effort to avoid any permanent damage.

Step 4: Add hot water

Pour some hot water on the filter and let it soak for 2 minutes to loosen more buildup.

Step 5: Rinse with cold water

Rinse the filter with cold water thoroughly and ensure it doesn’t have any cleanser left.


This post summarized 4 methods to clean a humidifier filter. For a relatively clean filter, you can wash it with water. But to remove mineral buildup, cleaning it with the vinegar could be more effective. 

When the mold and mildew are present in the filter, you should remove them with bleach, and for a metal filter, using some cleanser such as CLR can boost the process. 

Humidifier filters are usually affordable. If you don’t want to clean it or it can’t be clean, you can replace it with a new one.

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Liz Yang is the founder of Airsmartly. She has been working at home for a few years and realizes that the performance of the HVAC system plays such an important role in our life. She has tested more than 150 products in person, including humidifiers, air purifiers, dehumidifiers, and ACs, and wants to share tips about using or troubleshooting these products with you. Her uncle is an HVAC expert with over 30 years of experience in the field, and often offers assistance when she is unsure how to handle a situation. He is also in charge of reviewing the articles on this site.

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