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Portable Humidifiers Need Regular Cleaning During Winter Months

Release Date: January 27, 1992

With the onset of cold weather, many consumers are turning up the heat and turning on the humidifier. It's a good time to review the importance of keeping your humidifier clean. Without regular cleaning and maintenance, microorganisms can grow in the humidifier's tank and possibly become airborne. These microorganisms have the potential to cause respiratory problems, so the prudent thing to do is always keep the humidifier clean.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) recommend that consumers always clean new portable humidifiers before the first use, and regularly thereafter.

All humidifiers perform an important function -- adding moisture to dry, indoor air -- and several types of portable models are available to do the job.

Portable humidifiers include all types except furnace- mounted varieties and range in size from small, table-top units to floor consoles. Units designed for single room use include steam vaporizers, cool mist impeller humidifiers, and ultrasonic humidifiers. Two other types -- warm mist humidifiers and evaporative and wicking humidifiers -- come in a smaller size for single rooms or larger size for multiple rooms.

Some units may require special maintenance steps so carefully follow the manufacturer's cleaning directions. In general, these are the "basics."

For portable humidifiers with capacities under five gallons:

-Clean Daily

-Empty leftover water, wipe all surfaces dry with a soft towel, and refill with clean water.

-Sanitize Every Seven Days

-Empty leftover water and fill with a weak bleach solution (one teaspoon bleach per gallon of water). Let the solution "soak" for 20 minutes, swishing it around the sides every few minutes. Rinse with water until you can no longer smell bleach. Remove any scale or mineral deposits using a soft brush or towel and a vinegar solution (half vinegar, half water).

For portable humidifiers with capacities of five gallons or more:

-Sanitize Every Two Weeks

-Follow the sanitizing instructions above and refer to the manufacturers' directions for additional information.

-Besides frequent cleaning, manufacturers recommend these maintenance and safety tips for good humidifier performance.

1. At the start of the humidifier season, clean the humidifier first before operating it.

2. Disconnect the appliance whenever cleaning or filling.

3. Always use clean water for cleaning and filling. (Although most humidifiers use tap water, distilled water is recommended by some.)

4. Position the humidifier where air circulates freely, preferably near a return air register.

5. Don't over-humidify. A sign of too much humidity is moisture on walls or windows.

6. Sanitize and thoroughly dry the appliance before storing it away for next season.

CPSC's mission is to protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury and death associated with consumer products. The Commission's objective is to reduce the estimated 28.5 million injuries and 21,600 deaths associated each year with the 15,000 different types of consumer products under CPSC's jurisdiction.

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