How to Clean a Dehumidifier

Many homes nowadays have at least one dehumidifier, and no wonder – dehumidifiers make the air feel fresh and crisp by reducing the amount of water vapor in the air. Dehumidifiers draw humid air into the unit using a fan, cool the air to let the water vapor condense on internal coils, then expel the dry air back into the room. This means condensation gathers inside the dehumidifier, typically in the form of water collected in the dehumidifier’s water reservoir tank.

Most people know to empty the reservoir. In fact, many dehumidifiers will simply not turn on if the reservoir is full. However, this is not the only thing to do, in order to maintain a dehumidifier in good working order. If the machine gets dirty, it will become less efficient and use more electricity over time, and ultimately stop working entirely. In addition, mold may grow in the unit’s air filter and contaminate the air – a scary prospect.

It is therefore important that dehumidifiers are cleaned regularly. What “regularly” means would depend on how frequently it is used. For normal households that run dehumidifiers every day, cleaning should be carried out at least once every 3 weeks.

A Step-by-step Guide to Cleaning Dehumidifiers

Just follow a simple 6-step process to effectively clean a dehumidifier. This will keep the machine in good working order, and more importantly, keep the family safe from harmful mold and unwanted air particles.

1. Turn off and unplug

This may sound obvious, but is an important step for safety. Turn off the machine, and completely unplug it from the wall socket. Then the machine will be safe to clean.

2. Clean the outside

This is not just for aesthetics. Look for the air vents on the exterior of most dehumidifiers, and they will often have lots of dust or even dirt particles accumulated over time. This is where air has been drawn into the dehumidifier for cooling. Most air vents are designed to trap larger airborne dust or dirt particles, but they will become clogged over time.

To clean these air vents, simply use a dry cloth or paper towels. A slightly damp cloth may help for dirtier places, or even some elbow grease.

The shell of the unit can also be cleaned, of course, to keep it looking good!

Bear In Mind: Water or cleaning solutions should never be applied or sprayed directly onto the unit’s exterior. Doing do could cause irreparable damage to the unit’s electronic and electrical components.

3. Clean the reservoir tank

This is not just about emptying the tank after it collects water. The tank should be cleaned regularly, according to the recommended schedule. Otherwise, harmful mold or bacteria could start to grow in the wet conditions of the tank. Over time, these could be sprayed by the dehumidifier into the air, causing allergic reactions or more severe health conditions in the household.

First, ensure the tank is completely emptied and dry. Then, re-fill the tank up to one-quarter of capacity, with warm water mixed with a few squirts of ordinary dish soap or kitchen detergent. The most diligent cleaners would scrub the insides of the tank with a sponge or wet cloth, to ensure that the most tricky nooks and crannies are dealt with.

Now empty the tank again, and wipe the walls of the whole reservoir tank with some vinegar, using a clean cloth or sponge to spread the vinegar around. There will be a strong smell, but this is temporary. Simply let the vinegar sit in the tank for about 10 minutes – it would typically dry out by then. Wipe off the remaining vinegar with a clean cloth, and let the unit air-dry. Only when it is completely dry should the tank be refitted in the dehumidifier.

Some dehumidifiers have a continuous drainage feature, which drains water through a hose into a sink or drain close by. Note that the insides of the hose would also have to be cleaned, as it is conducive to growing mold. It would be a good idea to disconnect the hose from the unit, and rinse or flush the inside surface with vinegar.

Bear In Mind: Ordinary white vinegar from the supermarket is the recommended disinfecting solution. Some people may prefer to use bleach in order to be truly sure that any mold is killed. However, bleach tends to be corrosive and may harm the unit with repeated use. In most circumstances, vinegar is a strong enough disinfectant.

4. Clean the Air Filter

This is one of the most important steps. The air filter is the heart of the dehumidifier. It cleans the air that is drawn into the dehumidifier, before the air is re-expelled back into the room. Through this process, not only does the air in the room become clean, the dehumidifier’s sensitive internal parts are protected from dust and dirt. If the air filter becomes clogged over time, the dehumidifier simply cannot work as efficiently, or may even stop working, as air simply cannot pass through it.

Most units have an easy-to-locate air filter, with user manuals describing how to remove it. After removing the air filter, check how dirty it is, and also whether it has been damaged and needs to be replaced. Most dehumidifiers have washable air filters, but at some point after heavy usage, even these would have to be replaced with new ones.

To clean a reusable air filer, use a vacuum cleaner to suck out any dust or dirt that can be removed. To deal with more stubborn particles, soak the air filter in a mixture of warm water and ordinary washing detergent for around 10 minutes. Make sure that it is completely dry before replacing it in the dehumidifier.

Bear In Mind: Some dehumidifier models have air filters that require special care. It would be a good idea to check the user manual to determine if the air filter can be washed in liquid solutions, or can simply be vacuumed clean. Damage to an air filter cannot be repaired. In that case, a replacement will need to be ordered.

5. Clean the Reservoir Filter

This small filter is typically near or inside the water reservoir tank. It traps any particles that somehow make it past the air vents, the air filter and the rest of the machine. Not many dehumidifiers have such a filter, but for models that do, cleaning it is important to ensure that the machine can continue to function properly.

The good news is that cleaning is easy. Just remove the filter and rinse it with a good dose of warm water. Air-dry the filter, then replace.

6. Plug Back In

Once all the parts of the dehumidifier are cleaned and completely dried out, the unit can be re-assembled.

Then, plug in the dehumidifier, hit the “on” switch, and enjoy the hum of it working. It is important to check the user display for any alerts – most units will indicate any errors that may have occurred, for example, a component that is still wet. It is good practice to let the dehumidifier run for several hours, before checking the water reservoir tank and also the actual humidity in the room. This will fully ensure that the dehumidifier is working as it should.

Final Words of Advice

A clean dehumidifier is a working dehumidifier. Dust, dirt and mold inevitably build up over time, and it is important to clean them out before they create health hazards.

The good news is that no special cleaning products are required. Warm water, vinegar, and ordinary household detergent will do. Enjoy the cleaning!

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