3 Tips For Using Your Humidifier This Winter
I will first admit that I have been through three humidifiers in the past three years. I basically destroyed the first one by not following the manufacturer's suggestions, which were, 1) Wash unit between each use, and, 2) Clean entire unit by soaking with either a bleach solution or vinegar solution once a week. Easy enough, yes. Another tedious task to add to my endless daily list? Absolutely. Let me give you my really great, valid list of excuses why these instructions were not followed. I bought the unit for my son's room when he was a baby. I think that might be enough said, but in case it is not, the piles of dishes, laundry, cloth diapers, dogs, husband, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, sleep deprivation, etc. took priority over messing with this little machine that I simply wanted to have make the air not so dry for my son. I refilled the water basin almost every day during the winter, which means I would have had to haul the top and bottom unit to the sink every day to soap it up and refill it before bedtime. Not a priority. I just really want to fill it with water and leave it at that. Is that so hard? Apparently it is, which is why it ended up growing icky slimy stuff along the bottom mechanical base, along with a nice cement-like crust of minerals that covered the once shiny inside. I did wash it with soap and a scrubbing sponge, but probably more along the lines of once a week or so, rather than in between each refill. I also tried to clean it with the vinegar solution a couple of times, but by then it was sort of too late. I got paranoid of what kind of nasty particles were being spewed into the air in my son's room, so I ended up tossing the thing out. The second humidifier just simply broke one day when I tried to open the cap to refill it. It was either a bad design overall, or I got a lemon.
I didn't want to give up on having a humidifier for my son, though, as he would wake up with dry crusted snot around his nose in the mornings during really dry winter nights, so I set about researching how to abate the mineral and slime buildup in a humidifier without me having to perform an extra daily cleaning task. Call me lazy, but I am quite certain few of you out there would disagree with that goal. I came across several products that were designed to combat these issues, mainly filter attachments and antibacterial cartridges. The main problem I have with these things is that they have to be replaced regularly. My secondary problem with the antibacterial product is, what is it made of? Would it end up as a particulate in my son's air? Hhhmmmm. Too questionable, but it did get me thinking. Antibacterial. How about Grapefruit Seed Extract? This natural substance is known for its antibacterial qualities. After months of use using common sense and natural products, here are my most helpful tips for using a humidifier effectively while saving you time in the tedious maintenance of the unit.
How To Use Your Humidifier
1) Use distilled water. I think this is probably the most important tip. If not distilled, then at the very least use filtered water. I saw a lot of nasty, floaty stuff in the base reservoir when I would remove the basin to fill it with water. Who knows what kind of bacteria and cysts and pathogens were floating around in there, just waiting to contaminate our air as well as slime up the unit. Using distilled or filtered water will not only give the air clean mist, but will also keep the growth of any kind of slime, mold or mineral buildup at bay. We have a reverse osmosis filter installed in our kitchen and it works like a charm for this. Reverse osmosis removes absolutely everything. It is even referred to sometimes as "dead" water. There is literally nothing in it but water.
2) Add Grapefruit Seed Extract. Also referred to as GSE. If you are using filtered water this should take care of anything that gets past the filters, as well as help keep any potential mold growth at bay. (Buy GSE in the supplement section of your health food store, or online here)
3) Buy a pretty humidifier that is easy to use. Okay, so this actually has nothing to do with getting the best use out of your humidifier, but since it will be a big plastic appliance displayed openly in any given room, it's nice to find one that is somewhat aesthetically pleasing, as well as easy to use. My favorite brand is Crane, in the tear drop shape. It comes in various colors to make it easier to coordinate with decor and is almost pretty in and of itself. Anyone that has been in my son's room has commented on his humidifier, usually wondering what it was, and then exclaiming how cool it looked after not believing it was a humidifier. Crane also makes cute animal shaped humidifiers, like the frog, cow, penguin and this adorable owl. These little animals are too cute, especially if you have a theme going in your child's room. The one thing I particularly like about the tear drop shaped design is the spout the mist comes out of swivels, so you can easily direct the mist in any direction, rather than moving the entire machine to aim the mist away from curtains or walls, etc. Lastly, this product is very quiet, a must when running in a room with a sensitive sleeper.
In conclusion, I am happy to report I have used my son's third humidifier using the above three steps every time and have yet to find a need to clean it. It looks as new as the day I bought it. Not a hint of slime or mineral buildup anywhere and I have had the thing for months. I have rinsed the base out a couple of times, just for good measure, but this thing is spotless.
NOTE: This post has been updated from original publishing. I originally recommended adding essential oil to the water, and while a small amount in a gallon of water is most likely not going to cause problems, essential oil can crack or discolor plastic. Only use essential oil with a unit that is specifically made to work with essential oils. For the aromatherapy benefits of essential oil in your room, a commenter suggested adding drops to a cotton ball and placing where the mist comes out to help disperse into the air. Alternatively, diffusers work very well, or easy to use and require very little maintenance.