Inge asked: How do I remove limescale from a humidifier? We got a humidifier (Vicks) after our son had croup this winter. The heating element seems to be aluminum and gets caked with really resilient limescale. I’ve tried leaving vinegar in it, but no joy. Should I pour vinegar into the water container so it boils/humidifies with a vinegar solution? Thanks!
Whenever surfaces are exposed to mineral filled water for extended periods of time, there is a chance of limescale, or hard water deposits developing. These can be difficult to remove, especially when they occur on the interior components of an appliance. If the unit can be disassembled, it may allow for easier cleaning. Check the user guide for cleaning instructions to go along with the directions below.
You Will Need:
- White vinegar
- Old toothbrush
- Soft cloths
- Dish soap
- Glass cup or bowl
- Spoon or dull knife
Steps to Remove the Limescale:
- Begin by unplugging the unit. Never attempt to clean any part of the humidifier while it is still plugged in.
- Clean the exterior with a soft cloth.
- Scrub away any limescale or “white powder” with a toothbrush.
- If there are mineral deposits that cannot be wiped away with water or water and dish soap, soak a cloth with white vinegar and wrap it around the affected areas.
- Allow the vinegar to set on the deposits for a few minutes.
- Wipe the loosened deposits away with a soft cloth.
- Rinse thoroughly with clean water.
- If the deposits are inside of the heating unit/element, it may require some easy disassembly. Not all vaporizers/humidifiers can be taken apart. Consult the user guide or manufacturer’s instructions to see what is possible for your unit.
- If the unit can be disassembled, look for two sections – the heating unit (The metal rods or shroud that heats the water and will likely hold the build-up.) and the power cordset (Do not disassemble this section!).
- Remove as much of the deposits as possible with the brush and soft cloth. A spoon or dull knife can also be used to scrape the surfaces clean.
- If the deposits will not come off, fill a cup or bowl with a few inches of vinegar.
- Soak ONLY the affected areas in the vinegar for a couple of hours to overnight. Do NOT immerse the entire heating unit in any liquid, vinegar or water.
- Wash away loosened deposits with a soft cloth and clean water.
- Rinse the newly cleaned areas well.
- Once clean, allow it to dry or dry with a soft cloth.
- Reassemble in the same way that you took the unit apart. Ensure that all screws are back in the appropriate places.
- Repeat these cleanings monthly for optimal humidifier performance.
Additional Tips and Advice
- NEVER clean a humidifier while it is still plugged in or operating.
- Some minerals in the water may cause the container to turn black or brown. This does not affect the purity of the steam. The minerals will settle in the bottom and can be discarded when emptying the water.
- If the heating unit cannot be disassembled to be cleaned, it will need to be replaced. There are replacement parts available through the manufacturer or sometimes, it may be cheaper to purchase a new humidifier.
- Do NOT try to remove the shroud or electrodes for cleaning. These are factory set and cannot be reassembled to the same conditions.
- Do not use CLR to clean your humidifier or vaporizer. One of the hazard statments on CLR’s MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) says not to breathe the vapors or mist, so using it in a product that creates vapors or mist is not a good idea. You can wash/rinse out the product thoroughly, but there still could be some residue left.
- There are tablets and liquids designed to keep minerals from building up on the surfaces of humidifiers. If your water has a high mineral content and/or limescale is a constant problem, consider adding these to your humidifier water. Some examples of these products are BestAir Humidifier Demineralization Treatment Capsules or Holmes 2-in-1 Humidifier Cleaning Solution. There are also humidifier filter cartridges for demineralization. These products can be found at home goods stores, hardware stores, supermarkets and online.
- If the limescale is a consistent problem, switching to using distilled water in it will remedy the buildup.