Humidifiers are very simple appliances. You add water to it, turn it on, and you’re all set. Your humidifier will start releasing moisture into the air just as it’s designed to do so. But the question is, can you use tap water in a humidifier?
There has been a lot of discussion about what water type to use on a humidifier. After all, you’re going to inhale and get in contact with the vapors it will release. It’s just fitting to be meticulous about what you put in it.
As for the water to be used in humidifiers, tap water is often a no-no. While it’s not really toxic, tap water can bring about several problems, which we discussed below.
Can you use tap water in a humidifier?
As mentioned, tap water should be avoided when using humidifiers. This water type isn’t necessarily dirty or toxic, but its components can cause problems in a humidifier and to the persons inside the room.
Here are some of the reasons why tap water is a no-no in humidifiers:
1. Tap water will cause white dust.
The main problem with tap water is it will release white dust into the air when loaded into a humidifier. It’s due to the mineral content, which is much higher in areas with hard water.
The tiny droplets the humidifier creates by breaking down water will be sent into the air using the built-in fan. However, aside from water, these minuscule droplets also carry minerals and salts.
Over time, these minerals will settle on surfaces and leave a layer of white dust. Some would be left lingering in the air waiting to be inhaled.
Inhaling the white dust from humidifiers is dangerous because it can penetrate the respiratory tract. Even if you’re completely healthy, regular inhalation of white dust will take a toll on your health.
You’ll notice recurring coughs and a runny nose. Over time, you’ll develop more serious symptoms until you suffer from a condition called ‘humidifier fever’.
Aside from you, the pets around will also suffer from respiratory irritations when they inhale the dust.
Take note that even if your humidifier isn’t in use, the white dust that accumulated in your room can recirculate into the air. This can keep causing irritations until you clean up and ventilate the place.
2. Tap water will cause mineral buildup in the tank.
Another problem with tap water is it causes mineral buildup inside the humidifier. It’s like the thick salt-like formation on kettles over the years of using tap water.
Over time, the mineral buildup will start to block parts of the humidifier. You’ll notice reduced mist production as the mineral deposits thicken.
If you don’t clean this off your humidifier, the unit will soon become irreparably damaged. Worse, it will trigger other problems like bacterial and mold growth.
Also, mineral buildup can be pretty hard to remove from humidifiers. This is why you shouldn’t use tap water in the first place.
3. Tap water may allow mold and bacterial growth.
As tap water leaves mineral deposits inside the humidifier, mold and bacterial growth may set in. Mold spores can thrive on the deposits since it’s moist.
Aside from that, bacteria will also hound your humidifier. Before you know it, you’re already inhaling pathogens that will make you and your family sick.
Overall, molds and bacteria are common problems in humidifiers. Still, these are very easy to avoid by cleaning the water tank regularly and replacing the water daily.
4. Tap water can cause health problems
When used in humidifiers, tap water can harm a person’s health. You may experience recurring coughs, runny nose, heavy breathing, itchy skin, and respiratory irritations. All of these are triggered by the accumulation of white dust in the air due to tap water.
Although tap water is more convenient than distilled water, it comes with repercussions. In the long run, you’ll save more money from medications if you consistently use distilled water.
How to demineralize tap water
There are several ways you can demineralize tap water in your home. You can explore reverse osmosis, deionization, and distillation.
Reverse osmosis is the most common and widely used method of treating hard water in households. You can purchase a reverse osmosis system and have it installed on your sink.
Basically, this reverse osmosis system has multiple levels of filtration. As water runs through these filters, minerals and contaminants will be removed. So once the water exits the system, it’s safe to drink and ready to use on your humidifier.
On the other hand, there’s also a process called deionization. It’s usually used in industrial and commercial settings.
This works by running the water on cation and anion resins. Through ion exchange between these resins, the mineral content of the tap water will be removed. But although deionization demineralizes your tap water, it doesn’t remove bacteria and other pathogens.
Lastly, there’s the distillation process. This is the process through which distilled water goes through. It removes minerals, salts, and other contaminants from the water. This way, you can use it on your humidifier and as a beverage.
The best water to use on a humidifier
The best water to use on a humidifier is the distilled type. This water type is free from minerals and other contaminants, making it the safest choice.
If you’re using a humidifier in your baby’s room, you should strictly use distilled water all the time. This applies to all humidifiers in your home, especially if your family members have sensitivities.
Moreover, you can use purified water as well. While purified water still has mineral content, it’s very low and actually beneficial for the human body. Also, it won’t cause white dust as much as tap water does.
Aside from that, you may find spring water in stores, which is safe to drink. However, you should avoid using this on your humidifier because spring water has higher levels of potassium, magnesium, and calcium. All of these are healthy when ingested orally, not if sniffed as white dust after being dispersed by your humidifier.
On the other hand, you should be cautious with alkaline water. This is safe to drink just like spring water, but it’s a different story when it comes to humidifier use.
Alkaline water has a higher pH level than tap water. It’s also infused with healthy minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, bicarbonate, and more. We don’t recommend using this on your humidifier, especially if you’re living with someone suffering from lung problems.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do you remove minerals from tap water?
A: The best way to demineralize tap water is to use a reverse osmosis system. This is one of the steps done when purifying water for commercial consumption. Aside from removing minerals from the water, reverse osmosis will also remove salts and other contaminants. It will also remove harmful bacteria and viruses from the water.
Q: Can I use tap water in a cool-mist humidifier?
A: Whether you’re using a cool-mist or warm mist humidifier, you should avoid using tap water. It’s because tap water has high mineral content, which can cause buildup inside the humidifier tank. Aside from that, these minerals will be diffused and turn into white dust. When inhaled, such dust will trigger respiratory irritations and asthma attacks.
Q: Can humidifiers make you sick?
A: Humidifiers can make you sick if you don’t clean them regularly. Also, the usage of tap water will cause the production of white dust, which is notorious for triggering a slew of health problems. It can trigger massive asthma attacks, skin itchiness, recurring coughs, and runny nose.
Q: Why do my lungs hurt whenever I use my humidifier?
A: ‘Humidifier fever’ is a condition associated with the use of humidifiers that release contaminated vapors. It’s scientifically known as hypersensitivity pneumonitis. This can be prevented easily by cleaning your humidifiers regularly. Also, you should replace old humidifiers that tend to have recurring mold and mildew problems.
Q: What can I put in my humidifier?
A: You should only put distilled or purified water in your humidifier and nothing else. Since humidifiers are only designed to release moisture in the air, you should never use them as a diffuser unless indicated on the label. If you want to avoid molds, you can add two drops of 3% hydrogen peroxide to the tank.
Q: Why do humidifiers leave white dust?
A: The white dust coming from your humidifier is the mineral content of the tap water you used. This will be released into the air and settle on various surfaces around your house. Unfortunately, you’ll also inhale this dust, which can have negative impacts on your health.
Can you use tap water in a humidifier? Technically, no one’s stopping you from using tap water, but you should be aware of the consequences. Tap water can produce white dust, which is the culprit of respiratory irritations.
Instead, you should try to stick to distilled water all the time. This way, you can enjoy clean and moist air without dust.
Home Air Quality is founded by Bernard K to provide information on Indoor Air Quality in Homes and enlighten people about what they need to know about creating and maintaining a comfortable and healthy home environment.
We believe that “Quality air brings a healthy life.”