humidifier smells musty

Humidifier Smells Musty- Red Flag! Important

If you look in the dictionary, the word musty is defined as having a “stale, moldy or damp smell”.

If your humidifier smells musty then you more than likely have a humidifier with stagnant moldy water.
This is a red flag and you should turn the humidifier off till you have thoroughly cleaned the humidifier with vinegar and allowed it to completely dry.

  Though the benefits of a humidifier are many , operating a humidifier that has stagnant water will turn the humidifier into a germ machine that will fill your air full of mold spores and airborne bacteria.

At that point it’s not just an issue of smelling bad, it can actually be dangerous to your health.

Did you know that the symptoms of mold allergies often look very similar to the symptoms of the flu or pneumonia?

Sneezing, runny nose, post nasal drip, fatigue, itchy and watery eyes, can all occur from breathing in mold.

Legionnaires disease is caused by inhaling bacteria from water or soil.

Symptoms related to legionnaires include fever, muscle aches, shortness of breath and gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea vomiting and diarrhea

A lesser version of legionnaires is called Pontiac fever which also creates symptoms that resemble the flu and pneumonia.

As you can see that a musty smelling humidifier is not something to take lightly.

Don’t panic.

Just take the appropriate steps and clean your humidifier thoroughly before using it.

How to Clean a Musty Humidifier

Cleaning a musty humidifier requires one main ingredient and that is “vinegar”. And though you can get away with using white distilled vinegar, you can purchase ” cleaning vinegar” . It is actually about 25% more acidic and will do a better, more thorough job for you.

The steps are simple:

1. Take your humidifier apart (these are just the parts that are made to come apart easily, I am not talking about taking a screwdriver and breaking the machine down to its bare components or anything like that)
We’re just talking about taking the basin off, removing any lids, gaskets, etc.

2. Dump the water out of the basin

3. Pour a cup of cleaning vinegar into the basin and swish around

4. Take the other parts and soak them in a bowl of  vinegar. Nothing too amazing just make sure that everything is soaking enough to ensure that no mold or bacteria is left untouched.

5. Poor enough vinegar into the bottom half of the humidifier to ensure that all the areas are covered.

6. Wipe any area with vinegar that does not lend itself to sitting in a bath of vinegar to ensure that everything has been disinfected.

7. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes.

8. Wipe everything down. There shouldn’t be too much scrubbing unless it’s just been a very long time since the humidifier has been cleaned.
  You should find that all the mold and grime is easily removed after having let it sit for 20 minutes.

9.  Rinse everything with very warm water.

10. Let everything completely dry before putting it back together

Humidifiers have actually taken a very positive turn in the world of appliances.

These days humidifiers can be purchased that are very sophisticated and will monitor your humidity levels and alert you when you need to increase or decrease the humidity in your house.

Some even have sensors that will turn the humidifier on and off as needed.

Other advances in humidifiers are geared towards making humidifiers safer so that they do not have as much of a chance of becoming a germ farm.

Though there is yet to be a humidifier built that you could call 100% germ-free, there are technologies that some brands of humidifiers use that come awfully close.

Some of these technologies include:

1.  Ultraviolet light

Ultraviolet light is a technology that has been used to kill germs and bacteria for a very long time.

All types of industries use UV as a method of disinfection. Air purification, aquariums, and barber shop supplies just to name a few.

It only makes sense that ultraviolet light would be incorporated with humidifiers to keep bacteria from being able to grow inside and eventually becoming part of the air you breathe.

2. Antimicrobial plastic

Another really cool technology being incorporated into the construction of humidifiers is antimicrobial plastic.

This is plastic that actually resists the growth of mold and bacteria. Building a humidifier out of materials that resist mold and bacteria is very innovative and exciting and one that you can actually find in some brands of humidifiers right now.

3.  Antibacterial additives

Anti bacterial additives are another great ideal that can help keep your current humidifier cleaner and free of bacteria for longer amounts of time.

Some of the main brands of antibacterial additives is aqua stick.

4. DIY additives

You don’t necessarily have to go purchase a new humidifier or buy commercial additives.

Distilled vinegar can be placed right into your water and help keep your humidifier cleaner for a longer period of time.

Colloidal silver is something that many people have on hand that can be added to humidifier water that will kill bacteria and benefit the person breathing the colloidal silver misted water immensely.

Hydrogen peroxide is another easy additive that will help keep the water and the humidifier disinfected and is also a great additive to reduce germs and bacteria in the air.


A musty smelling humidifier is the definition of a moldy humidifier.

If your humidifier smells musty, then you should take it as a red flag to immediately turn it off and to thoroughly clean it with vinegar.

You should not take this lightly because there can be serious consequences to inhaling water that has bacteria growing on it.

Symptoms can resemble pneumonia and can include everything from sneezing and watery eyes to more severe symptoms like fever, achy muscles, and vomiting or diarrhea.

Cleaning your humidifier thoroughly with vinegar will disinfect the humidifier and get you back to enjoying the benefits of the humidifier.

As an added protection, you can purchase additives to place in the water to keep it fresher longer.

You can also purchase humidifiers that use technologies that will help your humidifier stay germ-free longer.

Published by

Dennis Reed

Dennis Reed Owner and Author @