How hard water can damage your humidifier

February 29, 2016 • By


How hard water can damage your humidifier

People have humidifiers in their home to achieve a healthy balance of humidity in the air in their house. When air is particularly dry, people can suffer from dry skin, nosebleeds, sinus infections and more. A humidifier, by regulating the levels of humidity in the air, can help with these symptoms and make life at home more comfortable.

Some people worry about using a humidifier, however, because many myths exist about them being a health hazard. Humidifiers are only a hazard if they are not maintained properly, and if you use them with poor quality or hard water. Here we will look at how hard water can damage your humidifier, and risk causing problems with the mist it emits.

There are different kinds of humidifiers, and each type has its own level of susceptibility when it comes to hard water. Ultrasonic humidifiers are most at risk, while some evaporative humidifiers come with special filters than help to decalcify your unit and therefore ensure healthy air is emitted around the home. Be sure to check the packaging carefully in any case and, to be really sure, try to use distilled water at all times.

What’s the relationship between your house’s water and your humidifier?

The reason people buy humidifiers is to balance the levels of moisture in the air of their home. Particularly during winter months, people can suffer from a number of ailments brought about by low levels of moisture in the air. These ailments include nosebleeds, cracked lips, dry skin, sinus infections, snoring, itchy skin and more. A humidifier can even help maintain the condition of your wallpaper and furniture.

If you use a portable humidifier for certain rooms or a whole house humidifier that attaches to your furnace, the water that is used by the humidifier will most likely come from your home’s water supply. As you probably know, the water that is used in our homes is not generally the cleanest water and can cause problems with your humidifier.

Problems caused by hard water

Water contaminants in the air

The first and most notable problem you will have is that the contaminants in the water will make there way inside your unit, and the humidifier will begin introducing them to the air. Water from the tap is rarely clean and can collect many contaminants on its way to your home. These can cause you and your family problems when you breathe the air emitted by the humidifier.

Bacteria growth on humidifier
If you do not pay careful attention to your humidifier bacteria can grow on the humidifier pads and in the tank itself. This growth is a constant worry with humidifiers, in particular with portable models and ultrasonic humidifiers.

Be sure to change the water in these models frequently to avoid build up. If the water in your home has a high percentage of bacteria, it stands to reason that the growth of bacteria inside your unit will accelerate and cause you more problems. This will lead to you having to change the humidifier pads of reservoir more often, which can be costly and time consuming.

White dust

White dust is one of the biggest problems caused by hard water. When hard water is used by humidifiers, the minerals in the water solidify. This powder is known as white dust. The dust is emitted by your humidifier and it can show up on your chairs, tables, sofas, kitchen surfaces and even your carpet. Furthermore, these white dust is dangerous to breathe and can cause health problems for you and your family. Needless to say, this white dust is best avoided.

Blocking your humidifier

Hard water can clog up your humidifier, which can lead to permanent damage. The minerals in hard water can block the lines leading to your humidifier, which can cause many problems such as contamination in the air emitted by the humidifier, as well as a poor performance. This means you will either have to clean the unit thoroughly or even replace the unit all together. Hard water can also lead to the build up of limescale, which can create a surface where fungi and bacteria can grow.

How to prevent the effects of hard water on your humidifier

One way of preventing all these problems is to install a water treatment system into your home. Which type of system you install will depend upon your home’s quality problems. It could be that a water softener could be introduced into your home to take care of hard water, or an ultraviolet light can kill bacteria.

If this is too costly or time consuming for you, then you can simply use filtered, purified water in your humidifier. Whatever type of humidifier you own, the use of purified water will protect your family from the hazards of hard water, and ensure your humidifier lasts longer.

Be sure also to clean your humidifier regularly, as even with distilled water there will inevitably be some small build up and, over time, this can cause problems. Clean the water tank frequently to avoid the buildup of mold and bacteria. Using filtered, purified water will help to prolong the life of your humidifier and ensure your family breathe only the healthiest air. By ensuring you do not use hard water, and making sure you keep your humidifier clean and looked after, you will be sure to get the most out of your model, regardless of the type.

How to clean your humidifier

Consult the Manual

Each humidifier comes with a manual that gives you instructions on how to clean the appliance. Always refer to the cleaning instructions for any appliance. If your humidifier is still under warranty, it is very important to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. To do otherwise could risk the warranty itself.

Daily Clean

The best way for you to remember to clean your humidifier daily is by choosing a specific time of day. This could be directly fter work, before bed, or in the morning. At this time clean your humidifier. A daily clean will keep all the mineral deposits from building up in the appliance. A daily clean is easy to do, simply empty and refill the humidifier with clean distilled water daily.

Weekly Clean

Every week you should perform a real clean, and disinfect your humidifier. To do this you need to follow two different processes. The first is cleaning your dehumidifier. To do this, follow these instructions:


  • Unplug the unit
  • Remove the filter and rinse it with cool water. Do not use a cleaning product on your humidifier filters as the chemicals in the product could damage your filter.
  • Allow to dry.
  • Remove the tank.
  • Pour equal parts vinegar and warm water into a spray bottle.
  • Let the solution set for roughly 5-10 minutes.
  • Using an old toothbrush or sponge, scrub any leftover mineral content.
  • Repeat this scrubbing process twice should your unit require it.
  • Pour straight vinegar into the base of the humidifier and let it set for 45 minutes to an hour. Scrub the base to remove anything else that may be there.
  • Rinse thoroughly, and wait to dry.

Once the cleaning is done, you can move on to disinfecting your humidifier. To do this, follow these instructions:

  • Fill the tank with clean water, and add one teaspoon of bleach to each gallon of water.
  • Gently shake the solution to cover the tank evenly, and allow to sit for half an hour.
  • Rinse thoroughly.