Need a better method than ionic silver for purifying humidifier water
November 3, 2010 11:33 AM   Subscribe

My humidifiers keep developing a brown muddle. How do I keep them clean?

I've been living in a very dry apartment for a while now, and acquired two different humidifiers that seem to help a lot. They're both cold water humidifiers - one's a wick humidifier, kind of like this one. The other uses some fancy rotating disks.

My water is apparently dirty, or contains iron bacteria, or something: both humidifiers get dirty constantly, accumulating this brown to reddish slurry. I could go through a wick in about a month, after all the dust and brown scum one accumulates.

The other humidifier uses an ionic silver stick that's supposed to keep the water clean, but to no avail.

My question: Do I need to put filtered water in these things? How can I keep the water clean without going through a hundred filters, wicks, or ionic silver sticks a month?
posted by Make Way for Ducklings! to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It would be a pain, but you could buy distilled water to use.
posted by exogenous at 12:24 PM on November 3, 2010

I like to use distilled water, and a couple of drops of lavender essential oil. I don't use it for the scent, but because it has mild antibacterial properties. It's light enough that it won't gum up anything, as long as you don't add too much.

You might try thoroughly disinfecting them first, though. The bacteria will continue to breed unless you can kill the nasties it in the first place. Bleach water or vinegar might work for that.
posted by annsunny at 12:35 PM on November 3, 2010

Response by poster: I'd be going through about 5 gallons a day I'd imagine. If it was a lot less I'd consider it but as is it'd be a logistical nightmare.

Here's a possible workaround: I have small Brita pitchers that use activated carbon filters. Would they be likely to take out the offending contaminants even if they were old/overused?
posted by Make Way for Ducklings! at 2:14 PM on November 3, 2010

I'm guessing the slurry is actually diatoms. They're little creatures that grow in water, sort of like algae

There is probably a resident population living inside your humidifier, which gets "refreshed" every time you add more water. So cleaning out your humidifier with bleach or vinegar would be the first step I'd try.

If they come back, maybe your humidifier would let you add vinegar or bleach to the water itself. Check the instructions, because if you do that when you're not supposed to, you can quickly destroy your machine.

A standard Brita pitcher is unlikely to remove diatoms from water. A Pur 3 Stage (which only comes in faucet mounting, not countertop pitcher) will definitely do the trick. Diatoms are harmless and ubiquitous, but you may not want to be drinking them anyway.
posted by ErikaB at 6:07 PM on November 3, 2010

All you have to do is fill a gallon jug of water and let it sit for a couple days. Fill your humidifier with the (distilled) water, discarding the bottom inch or so. This is cheaper than buying gallons of distilled water and has essentially the same effects.

You could also filter your water through a Brita filter but it's really not necessary if you're able to leave jugs of water to settle over a couple of days.
posted by Siena at 6:12 PM on November 3, 2010

Maybe you should look into flushing your hot water heater? That could remove enough sediment and deposits that you could possibly fill your humidifiers from the hot water tap and not have as much of a problem?
posted by lemniskate at 6:15 PM on November 3, 2010

They also make an additive specifically for humidifiers that you add to the water to cut down on the algae. You should find it in the store next to the replacement filters.

I'd try filtering or letting the water settle, then add this to water in the humidifier.
posted by wrnealis at 5:06 AM on November 4, 2010

Response by poster: These are some great suggestions! I think I'll probably need to experiment.

For anyone who comes to this thread looking for humidifier additive: [link]

This is the wick after just a few days. Let me know if more pictures would be useful!
posted by Make Way for Ducklings! at 12:14 AM on November 5, 2010

Response by poster: Filtering does appear to help a lot. I don't know if I can keep it up.
posted by Make Way for Ducklings! at 10:09 AM on March 12, 2011

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