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Dirty Humidifiers Can be a Danger to Your Lungs: How to Make Sure Your Humidifiers are Truly Clean

Humidifiers can be a saving grace to dry skin, lips and noses during the winter heating season when moisture is scarce. Too little humidity in your home can lead to not only dry, scratchy throats and skin, but it can also negatively affect your home environment by causing static electricity, peeling wallpaper and cracks in furniture, floors, cabinets and paint.

But humidifiers, which work by releasing water vapor into the air, can also be breeding grounds for bacteria and fungi -- both of which can travel, via the water vapor, into your home and lungs.

Studies by both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have shown that ultrasonic and impeller (or "cool mist") humidifiers are capable of transporting the potentially toxic mist, which can include microorganisms and minerals.

The concern is so great that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has alerted consumers that dirty room humidifiers -- the portable variety -- can be serious health hazards.

Humidifiers are great for helping
you avoid dry throats and dry
skin that looks like this, especially
during winter months. But if they're
not kept thoroughly clean they can
harbor bacteria and fungi that may
harm your lungs!

According to the CPSC, breathing in dirty mist can lead to lung problems ranging from flu-like symptoms to serious infection. People with allergies or asthma, along with the elderly, young children and those with lung diseases, are at a particularly high risk and may have increased symptoms.

How to Determine if YOUR Humidifier is Dirty
Any type of film or scum appearing on the water surface, sides or bottom of tank or motor parts is a sure sign that your humidifier tank is harboring bacteria or fungi. In addition:

  • If your tank contains a crusty deposit or scale, which form when minerals from the water collect on the tank, it is a prime surface for bacteria and fungi to grow.

  • The white dust that sometimes appears on furniture and surfaces surrounding the humidifier, which is composed of minerals from the water, may contain tiny particles that can be inhaled.

Reduce Your Risk by Keeping Your Humidifier Clean
According to Kristin Holmze, a spokeswoman for the American Lung Association, "The most common mistake people make with humidifiers is not cleaning them correctly or not cleaning them at all."

The following tips, compiled from information from the EPA and the CPSC, will help to keep your humidifier clean and reduce your risk of associated health problems.

  • Change the water in the humidifier tank daily, if possible

  • Clean the tank thoroughly every third day according to the manufacturer's instructions, but be careful when using chemical cleansers. The cleansers can also be inhaled if not rinsed properly. This is why cleansing your tank with PerfectClean's All-Purpose Terry Cloths or the Scrub and Clean Reversible Glove is so ideal. They're made of 100% safe ultramicrofibers that are only 3 microns in size, which is even smaller than many bacteria. These ultramicrofibers are by far the most effective cleaning material available. They pick up anything in their path, down to those contaminants that cannot be seen with the naked eye, and no harmful chemical cleansers are necessary!

  • If you decide to use a cleanser, use water with a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide.

  • To eliminate mineral scale buildup and the release of "white dust" use bottled distilled or demineralized water (tap water contains more minerals).

  • Use demineralization cartridges or filters if they are recommended for your humidifier.

  • Clean, and thoroughly dry, your unit before storing it for the summer. Also clean it before its first use in the winter.

  • Don't let water stand in the tank for extended periods of time (such as while you're on vacation).

  • If you experience respiratory symptoms that you believe are related to your humidifier, stop using it immediately.

The Scrub and Clean Reversible
Glove is ideal for cleaning those
hard-to-reach humidifier tanks.
For the special introductory price
of just $8.95 it:
  • Eliminates any hand-grip
    strain (the wiper is on your
    hand, so there is no need to
    grasp it like a traditional rag)

  • Is a remarkably fast and
    efficient way to clean
    surfaces with curves and
    edges that can be difficult
    with other wipers.

  • Is commonly used over 100
    times before requiring
    replacement, so it's an
    extremely convenient AND
    cost-efficient way to clean!
    Simply wash after use and
    they're as good as new!

  • Can be used dry or with water for the most effective "deep clean" you'll find anywhere!

Use a hygrometer like this one
with an easy-to-read display to
measure the humidity level in
your home. Levels exceeding 50
percent can lead to the growth of
biological pollutants that can
aggravate allergic symptoms
and asthma.

Read More Now

Another concern? Too much humidity in your home can lead to the growth of biological pollutants, which can cause allergic reactions and asthma symptoms. For this reason, do not humidify your home to levels exceeding 50 percent humidity.

You can use a hygrometer -- like the recommended thermo-hygrometer with a jumbo easy-to-read display -- to measure humidity levels in your home. Some humidifiers also contain built-in humidistats that can be adjusted to a specific moisture level.

If you follow these tips, you should be able to experience the benefits of a home humidifier -- some much-needed moisture for your skin and throat in the dry days of winter -- without having to sacrifice your respiratory health in exchange.

  • Remove mold from walls and ceilings before painting or staining.

  • Clean shower curtains well and replace them as needed

  • Vacuum regularly using a vacuum with a high-efficiency filter like a HEPA filter (High Efficiency Particulate Air filter). Empty the dirt bag when it gets to be half full or less.

  • Control dust by washing bedding often and in hot water to kill dust mites. Use the commercial-grade PerfectClean Flexible Duster that can be bent into a wide variety of shapes to clean all those areas that, up until now, were impossible for you (let alone any other duster) to reach, but are some of the most common locations of dirt, dust, pet hair, lint and potentially harmful microscopic contaminants!

In the event that you decide to move to a new home, be sure to inspect it thoroughly so you don't inherit a new set of pollutant problems when you move in.

Using common sense to keep your home free of excess moisture and keeping all surfaces clean will go a long way toward improving the indoor air quality of your home and reducing your exposure to harmful biological contaminants.


CPSC Issues Alert About Care of Room Humidifiers

U.S. EPA: Use and Care of Home Humidifiers

"Dirty Humidifier Can Make You Sick"

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