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How to Keep Your Humidifier, and Your Skin, Healthy

How to Keep Your Humidifier, and Your Skin, Healthy

South America’s Atacama Desert -- a 41,000 square mile expanse stretching from Peru to Chile -- gets four inches of rain EVERY THOUSAND YEARS! And you thought your house got dry in the wintertime!

To get rid of your indoor desert and to moisturize your dry winter skin, use a room humidifier. If you don’t have one, get one -- that’s doctors’ orders! Heating systems can drive relative humidity (RH) below 10%—for optimal comfort and health you want RH at 30-50%. The added moisture from a humidifier can ease dry, itchy skin and irritated nasal passages, quiet down a snoring bedmate, and help break up congestion.

Related: How to Protect Your Dry Skin

But if you don’t keep ultrasonic and cool mist humidifiers clean, they become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold, and disperse microorganisms and minerals from their water into the air.

Here’s how to keep your humidifier healthy -- so you stay healthy too:

  1. Use humidifiers with removable tanks that can be emptied and cleaned. Empty standing water once a day.  
  2. Twice a week, wash the tank with a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide, or a 3:1 mixture of distilled water and vinegar—let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse several times with tap water. 
  3. Fill only with distilled water. Even if you use filtered water, the mist may contain minerals that get inhaled and trigger respiratory problems.
  4. Avoid disinfectants you leave in the humidifier’s water tank. Variations of some marketed in North American have proved dangerous for children to breathe. Stick with elbow grease to keep it clean and to keep dry skin moisturized.
  5. Change filters regularly; never let them develop discoloration or mold.

Related: How Can I Improve the Quality of the Air I Breathe?

Medically reviewed in April 2020.

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