Humidifiers are undeniably useful additions to any home. I call them the “unsung heroes of the dry winter months,” as they mitigate the unpleasant and unhealthy effects of high indoor humidity levels. But, like all heroes, they’re not without a fault: calcium buildup.
Don’t get me wrong: no one disputes the significance of calcium in our bodies. However, for a humidifier, it’s an inconvenience. If left unchecked, the buildup can clog your appliance, reducing its efficiency. Fortunately, there are ways to curb this issue before it gets out of hand.
How do you prevent calcium buildup in a humidifier? First, avoid using tap water to fill your humidifier; instead, use distilled water. Secondly, after each use, empty the humidifier’s water reservoir. Thirdly, maintain a regular cleaning schedule for your unit.
To delve deeper into this matter, I’ll explain what calcium buildup is, why it occurs, signs of it in your humidifier, how to manage it best, preventative measures to take, and much more.
What is Calcium Buildup?
Calcium buildup is a white, chalky substance caused by water hardness that accumulates inside an appliance or container. Over time, the buildup can lead to corrosion and clogs, reducing the appliance’s effectiveness.
So, how do calcium buildups form in humidifiers?
Humidifiers are like filters for air-they take out impurities while adding moisture back into the air. That is to say; they are completely reliant on water; without it, they can’t function. I would say water is to a humidifier, what oil is to a car.
Unfortunately, every drop of water contains some impurities. These impurities include minerals such as calcium and magnesium, which are abundant in hard water. When water evaporates from the surface of a humidifier, these minerals are left behind. The mineral deposits form a white, chalky substance called limescale.
Over time, the deposits reach critical mass and start eroding the interior surfaces of the humidifier. Eventually, corrosion results in plugged passageways and restricted airflow, lessening the appliance’s ability to do its job properly. Worse, lime scale often acts as glue, trapping dust and other debris between its surfaces.
So, how do you avoid calcium buildup? First, look for signs.
Signs of Calcium Buildup in a Humidifier
If you notice any of the following signs, it’s time to descale your humidifier.
- White paste in the humidifier’s water chamber.
- The unit struggles to maintain the desired humidity level. You’ll notice that the mist emanating from the nozzle is either moist or excessively dry. There may even be gaps between mist releases.
- Filters that don’t last long. With regular use, your filter should last about a month. If they don’t, chances are you need to descale your humidifier.
- Water leaks out of the bottom of the humidifier. If the tank water level drops more than half an inch below the minimum line, it’s probably time to descale.
- The humidifier emits a foul odor. An unpleasant scent usually indicates mold growth, which can contaminate the air in your home.
- Unusually high energy usage. If you notice a drastic increase in power consumption since adding a humidifier to your heating/cooling system, it’s most likely due to calcium buildup on the coils.
- The appliance stops working altogether. Occasionally, if left unchecked, calcium buildup can lead to a breakdown of the internal components in your humidifier.
So, before throwing your humidifier away and buying a new one, read on for tips on preventing this occurrence.
How to Prevent Calcium Buildup in a Humidifier
There are three things you can do to prevent calcium buildup in your humidifier: empty the water tank after each use, use distilled or filtered water, and clean your unit on a regular basis.
Let me explain.
I’ve had a humidifier for years and, like everyone else, fallen victim to calcium buildup. Due to my recklessness, the humidifier became clogged with calcium deposits over time (I was aware of the signs but ignored them). Eventually, my home’s humidity level plummeted as I ran out of warm mist.
Luckily, I salvaged the situation by following the steps mentioned above.
1. Drain Humidifier’s Water Reservoir after Every Use
Water left in the humidifier tank for too long means more calcium deposits. As water evaporates, minerals such as calcium and magnesium are left behind.
If these minerals are not flushed out of your appliance regularly, they will accumulate on all surfaces and clog the nozzles, rendering them unusable. Furthermore, stagnant water is a breeding ground for bacteria and mold growth, aggravating allergy or asthma symptoms.
As a result, I always empty the water reservoir of my humidifier after each use and refill it with fresh water.
2. Use Distilled or Filtered Water
Water can be classified into two types-hard and soft. Hard water is characterized by high levels of calcium and magnesium ions, while soft water is typically low in mineral content. Consequently, hard water accumulates more calcium than soft water.
Soft water should work fine but still has the potential to build up calcium deposits. On the other hand, distilled water has undergone an extensive purification process rendering it virtually devoid of any dissolved solids. It also maintains its pH balance, preventing any scaling or corrosion.
It is worth noting that distilled water is relatively expensive compared to your free tap water. For this reason, I recommend using it exclusively for your humidifier to save on expenses. Don’t worry, though, because humidifiers have varying water reservoir sizes, allowing you to choose the one that best suits your needs.
3. Keep Your Unit Clean Regularly
Just like anything else, if you do not clean your humidifier regularly, it will start to rust and accumulate calcium deposits. Over time, these deposits may cause irreparable damage to your device. Furthermore, bacteria and mold can flourish within your humidifier due to stagnated water, leading to unpleasant odors and health issues.
For most units, cleaning entails taking apart all components, including the air filter, nozzle guard and impeller, washing them thoroughly, letting everything dry completely before reassembling. Make this a habit, and your humidifier will serve you well for many seasons.
What Is the Best Humidifier Cleaning Solution?
Three cleaning solutions are effective for removing calcium buildup from humidifiers: citric acid, distilled white vinegar, and decalcifiers.
1. Citric Acid
Citric acid is an organic substance found in fruits like lemons and limes. Its acidic properties make it perfect for removing mineral deposits, bacteria, mold, and fungus from hard surfaces. The benefits of citric acid are that it’s biodegradable, non-toxic, and safe to use around children and pets.
When used on humidifiers, I found it to be more effective than white vinegar because:
- No weird smell
- It was less irritating to my skin
- Dissolved the calcium buildup within seconds
2. Distilled White Vinegar
It is the most common and popular cleaning solution among the three listed above. White vinegar contains acetic acid, which dissolves minerals like calcium that cause your humidifier to clog.
Among the various vinegar, I find distilled white vinegar to be the most effective at dissolving calcium. Plus, it has a milder odor than other vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar, making it more pleasant to use.
Decalcifiers are a much gentler option for those who don’t want to use harsh chemicals or cleaners on their humidifier. They dissolve mineral deposits by reducing calcium to its most basic form, chalk dust, and are typically made up of citric acid, aluminum sulphate, and sulfuric acid.
However, not all decalcifiers are the same! The proportion of each ingredient varies depending on the brand. Check the label for these ingredients before purchasing any decalcifier.
How to Clean Your Humidifier
Cleaning your humidifier regularly is one of the key ways to prevent calcium buildup and keep it running smoothly. Follow these steps for a thorough cleaning:
Step 1: Unplug and Disassemble Your Humidifier
First, you’ll need to unplug your humidifier and disassemble it (this will vary depending on your model). If you are unfamiliar with specific parts or how they fit together, consult your owner’s manual.
Mostly, this process will involve removing all removable parts from your unit and draining the water tank. Also, check the air filter for wear and replace it if necessary.
Step 2: Fill the Tank with Distilled White Vinegar and Water
Fill your water tank normally, then add two tablespoons of distilled white vinegar. Citric acid is also equally effective and can be substituted for vinegar.
Swirl the solution around and allow it to sit for 20-30 minutes. The white vinegar solution will dissolve any minerals that have accumulated in the reservoir. It will also eliminate bacteria and clean out any mold or mildew present.
Step 3: Empty the Tank Again
If you find any deposits on the tank’s walls or bottom, scrub them away with a soft brush. I use a toothbrush because its bristles are gentle enough not to scratch the plastic while still getting into tight spaces.
Step 4: Clean the Humidifier’s Exterior
Wipe the humidifier’s exterior with a damp cloth dipped in the vinegar solution. Most people overlook this step, but wiping the outer surface removes dust and dirt, contributing to unhealthy conditions.
Step 5: Rinse and Dry Thoroughly Before Reassembling
Place each humidifier component under running water to rinse any remaining vinegar residue. Allow the pieces to dry completely before assembling and plugging back in. I find air drying my components for an hour sufficient.
Faqs On How To Prevent Calcium Buildup In A Humidifier
1. How do I stop my humidifier from getting gross?
Make sure to empty and clean your humidifier’s water reservoir with white vinegar on a regular basis. Don’t forget to rinse it with fresh water and dry it completely before refilling the tank.
2. How do you remove minerals from humidifier water?
First, avoid tap water, which often contains minerals; instead, use distilled or purified water. Second, drain your humidifier tank after each use to prevent mineral buildup. Finally, clean the humidifier with vinegar to remove calcium buildup and disinfect it.
3. Can I use baking soda in my humidifier?
Although you can use baking soda in your humidifier, it is recommended to use it after washing with white vinegar. Simply dip a soft-bristled brush into the baking soda solution and scrub the water tank inside until all deposits are removed. Rinse well with water and then fill with fresh cool tap water.
4. Is it OK to run vinegar through a humidifier?
Although vinegar is a natural disinfectant and an effective cleaner, operating your humidifier with it inside can be disastrous. Acetaldehyde in vinegar, when released into the air, can cause asthma-like symptoms in some people, as well as throat, lungs, and nose irritation.
5. Can I put hydrogen peroxide in my humidifier?
You can clean your humidifier with hydrogen peroxide, but exercise caution. Hydrogen peroxide is a strong oxidizer that, if not diluted, can damage the components of your humidifier. As a result, always dilute before using it as a cleaning agent for your humidifier. Follow the instructions on the bottle for proper proportions.
6. Why is my humidifier crusty?
Most likely, the humidifier is crusty because of mineral buildup. When water evaporates, minerals such as calcium and magnesium are left behind. Over time, these minerals accumulate on the surface of your humidifier, causing it to become crusty. The result is an unsightly, clogged machine that no longer works properly.
7. What is the white residue from the humidifier?
The white residue on your humidifier is a buildup of minerals, including calcium and magnesium. It’s typically caused by using hard water in your humidifier, not cleaning it on a regular basis, and having stagnant water in the tank.
8. How often should I clean my humidifier?
You should clean the humidifier at least once a week. However, if you use hard water rather than distilled water, you can choose to clean the humidifier at least twice a week.
This way, you are guaranteed that you will keep your device in good condition safe from mineral deposits.
9. Is it safe to put vinegar in a humidifier?
You are only allowed to put vinegar in humidifiers when you are cleaning it. This is because vinegar can be used as a disinfectant.
After cleaning, ensure to rinse the humidifier thoroughly to eliminate any signs of vinegar. You should never run the device with vinegar as it may irritate your throat, nose, and eyes.
10. How do I stop calcium buildup?
The only smart way to stop calcium buildup is by cleaning the device with vinegar and running water. Ensure that after cleaning, you dry the reservoir before refilling it with water.
Video On How to Remove Calcium Buildup From a Humidifier
Calcium buildup can render your humidifier ineffective. However, a few simple routine maintenance tasks will keep your humidifier in perfect condition for many years.
To begin, if possible, avoid hard water and instead use distilled water. Second, regularly clean the tank with white vinegar to remove mineral buildup. Finally, after each use, empty the humidifier tank and refill it with fresh water. And don’t forget to replace the filter if it is corroded or shows signs of wear.