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Is Your Humidifier Contaminating Your Indoor Air?

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mold in humidifier contaminating indoor air

There are many benefits to running a humidifier in your home, especially if you live in a dry environment. Dry air can pull out moisture from your skin, eyes, and throat, causing discomfort and making colds and allergies worse. But if you run your machine constantly, you could face a far more dangerous issue: mold in your humidifier.

That’s right – mold can grow inside a humidifier system and create an extremely unhealthy level of air quality. Long-term mold exposure is linked to many health issues, especially for people with mold allergies, weakened immune systems, and children.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that breathing in mold can lead to:

  • Asthma attacks or complications
  • Eye, skin, throat, and nose irritations
  • Hay fever
  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Rashes

Poor air quality caused by mold and other contaminants in the air can cause respiratory issues and even infections. So, if you or your family has been experiencing any odd health problems lately and run a humidifier, you could be breathing in mold!

What is even more alarming to note is that homes with humidifiers have a higher risk of mold growth! This is because of the increased humidity levels in a house with humidifiers. If this humidity level exceeds 55%, it creates the perfect breeding grounds for mold spores to form.

Here’s what you need to know about mold in humidifiers and how to protect your home.

What Causes Mold in Humidifiers to Grow?

humidifier mold growth causes

You may first be wondering how does mold get into a humidifier anyway? Well, mold thrives in dark, damp conditions. The internal workings of a humidifier create the perfect breeding grounds for mold to grow in.

There are several types of humidifier systems – all of which can get mold. The most common types you’ll see in homes are:

  • Steam vaporizers – this machine heats up the water to create steam which is released into the air.
  • Ultrasonic humidifiers – this type vibrates, creating ripples in the water which releases droplets as a mist through a separate opening.
  • Evaporators – this humidifier heats up the air so it evaporates into the air.
  • Impeller humidifiers – this machine vaporizes the water by mixing the water at a high speed so droplets form and fly out.
  • Central humidifiers – this type is built into the central air conditioning system, and it releases water into the airstream throughout the entire home or building.

Apart from central systems, most humidifiers have a chamber that you fill up with water. This then runs through some sort of pipe system or opening to get released into the air.

These small crevices can get moldy quite quickly if they are not cared for correctly or cleaned thoroughly. In fact, mold can start to form inside of a humidifier in as little as two days!

These mold spores may be nearly invisible to the naked eye. But if they are released into the air along with the water droplets, they can breed on other surfaces. Mold will grow quite well on walls, furniture, carpets, or even clothes.

How Do I Know if There is Mold in My Humidifier?

mold growth in humidifiers

The first step to identify mold in a humidifier is to look inside the water chamber and any openings where water is released. Now, the mold that grows inside of humidifiers is not always visible – nor does it always appear like typical green or black mold. Many times, the type of mold that grows in humidifiers is white or even pink!

If you notice any unusual colors or buildup around these areas, it may be mold. However, this mold may not be visible to the naked eye if there is only a small amount. You should also look for any visible mold growth or musty smells in the area around the humidifier. Mold spores will latch onto surfaces like rugs or walls underneath and around the unit.

Another sign that mold may be growing is a musty odor emitting from the humidifier. Pay attention if to any odd smells in the room where your humidifier is running. If it starts to smell like a basement, it could be caused by mold growth.

If it has been a while since you have thoroughly cleaned your humidifier, there is a fairly high chance that it has mold inside. Even if you can’t see or smell anything unusual, it is best to take precautions.

How Can I Prevent Mold from Growing in my Humidifier and Home?

prevent mold growth in humidifiers

There are also some ways that you can prevent mold in humidifiers from forming in the first place.

Use the Right Type of Water

Some kinds of water can contribute to mold growth more than others. Unfiltered tap water may contain bacteria and/or minerals, which could cause mold to form. Instead, you should only use distilled water.

Another tip is to add a cup of white vinegar for every gallon of water. This is a natural disinfectant that will safely clean your humidifier while it runs and prevent mold from forming.

Replace the Filters

If your humidifier unit has a filter, it is important to stay on top of changing it as often as directed. You should also rotate the filter up and down each time that you refill your humidifier. This helps to evenly distribute the water through the filter, so areas don’t become waterlogged.

Disinfect Your Unit

You should also clean your unit every week or so, especially if it is running constantly. First, fill your unit with 2 cups of white distilled vinegar and 1 cup of water and turn the unit on for about 20 minutes. Then, disassemble any removable pieces and wipe them down, scrubbing away any buildup.

You can also soak the holding tank with one gallon of water and a teaspoon of bleach for an even deeper clean. Let all of the pieces air dry completely before reassembling.

Worried About Mold in Your Home?

If you do have mold in your humidifier or you think you might, you should have your house tested for mold. Professional technicians will collect samples from the walls, carpets, and even the air to test for mold spores.

If there is mold in your home, you will need to have professional removal services step in right away. Some types of toxic mold can be dangerous to remove unless you have the right equipment and cleaning solutions. You should only let trained experts handle the job!

If you are concerned that your humidifier has mold or has caused mold to grow in your home, reach out to Greenworks to schedule a mold inspection today!


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Avatar for Victor Coppola

Victor Coppola

Victor Coppola is a Building Biologist with decades of diverse environmental experience spanning natural resource management and contaminated sites to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and building hygiene matters. He focuses on the three most prevalent issues degrading today's built environment: Moisture Odor & Mold (M.O.M.). Mr. Coppola and his Team are sought out by individuals and professionals concerned about IAQ to those actually suffering from Biotoxin Illness. His hybrid blend of environmental interests and services enable him to give a unique perspective into today's changing environment. Think your home is killing you, better call Victor and his Team at GreenWorks.
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