Humidifier Not Working – What To Do?

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It's almost impossible for a machine to perform perfectly all of the time. The same thought goes for operating a humidifier. One day it might work - and the next, you're struggling to find out what's wrong. What factors can prevent a humidifier from working? If that's what you're wondering, let's find out!

The fix to the problem will depend on the issue your humidifier is giving you. Is it not producing mist? Does it turn on - but doesn't work otherwise? These are some of the symptoms you'll have to keep in mind. Regardless, here's what could be wrong with your humidifier: 

  • No power
  • Lack of water
  • Blockages from mineral deposits
  • Water leaks

Now that we know the potential trouble makers for your humidifier, we'll need to address the issue. Then, the next step would be to take preventative measures. This way, you avoid another problem of the same level. We'll cover these topics in-depth. If you'd like to learn more, keep reading ahead.

A black vase shaped humidifier, Humidifier Not Working - What To Do?

What Is Wrong With the Humidifier?

If we're going to fix the humidifier, we need to troubleshoot our way to the root of the problem. We can start by tackling the minor issues and work our way up to the large ones. Let's get started. 

A black humidifier placed on a small table inside the living room

Problems with Power

One of the simple issues to tackle is to check the sources of power. So, these are the steps you'll have to take: 

  1. First, check if the humidifier is connecting to an outlet. If it is, check that it is plugged all the way in. 
  2. While connected to an outlet, try to start the humidifier. If it's still not working, check the cable itself. 
  3. Does the cord show no signs of damage? You can move on to testing the outlet. Try connecting the humidifier to another outlet. If you find the outlet is the culprit, you'll have to temporarily operate the humidifier elsewhere until you fix the original one.

Water Level

Sometimes the problem isn't electrical. If we're fortunate enough to avoid problems with the outlet or the cable, we can move on to checking if everything is in place. Meaning, the reservoir has enough water for the humidifier to work. 

Some models may not work until there's enough water inside the tank. Check your owner's manual to ensure you're filling it correctly. Then, make sure you seat the reservoir correctly too. 

Mineral Deposits

If it's been a while since you've cleaned the humidifier, there could be a build-up of mineral deposits. Regardless of the type of humidifier, water will leave behind small traces of minerals as it evaporates. Some models will deal with this issue by using filters.

Others - like mist humidifiers - don't have a way to prevent blockages. So, if you're not using distilled water, the water is leaving minerals behind near the heating element. It won't be an issue the first few runs. But, over time, the mineral build-up can prevent your humidifier from working. 

Tackling this issue involves stripping the humidifier down to the base. There will be some differences in steps depending on the type of humidifier you own. 

Mist Humidifiers

  1. Start by taking apart the machine. Once it's all separated, check the base. There should be a ball-like figure present. The ball-like figure is most likely the heating element. 
  2. Depending on how long you've used the humidifier, it should either be lightly coated or heavily coated with white and brown crust. The crust is the minerals left behind. 
  3. It's time to think about cleaning the build-up. Fill the base with distilled white vinegar. It should be enough to cover the whole heating element. Depending on the severity of the build-up, you'll need to wait 30 minutes to an hour. 
  4. After this period, the mineral build-up should have chipped away from the heating element. 
  5. Pour the vinegar out of the humidifier. 
  6. Use a toothbrush and a q-tip to scrub away any remaining minerals and mold - if there's any. 
  7. Finally, rinse the base until it no longer smells like vinegar. 
  8. You'll want to clean the other components before you assemble the machine back together. 

For visual guidance, here's a YouTube video demonstrating what to do: 

Humidifiers with Filters

  1. Humidifiers with filters will require you to clean the system overall. But, there are some additional steps and considerations to take regarding filters.
  2. Consult your owner's manual to locate the filter. Then, take it out. 
  3. Depending on how long you've used the filter, there will be mild to harsh build-up. You may also see orange discoloration around the edges. It indicates the filter was doing its job of filtering out mineral deposits.
  4. For mild build-up, rinse the filter through some water. Filters with excess build-up will require a vinegar solution cleaning. Then, rinse it under cool water until it no longer smells. 
  5. Air-dry the filter for 1-2 hours. 
  6. Once it's completely dry, turn the filter over and assemble the humidifier back together. 

Here's a YouTube video for reference on how a used filter will look like:

Water Leaks

One aspect to consider is what happens when you try operating the humidifier. There are a few areas where water can leak - the base, reservoir, and nozzle. 

If it's leaking from the nozzle, set the mist level to a lower setting. Leaks from the reservoir mean you didn't seat it properly. There might be some locks or levers that you're not setting in place. Consult the owner's manual to see how it's supposed to be seated. 

Leaks coming from the base means you have to take advantage of your warranty or purchase a new humidifier. 

Is It OK To Put Tap Water in a Humidifier?

Taking a glass full of tap water

Depending on where you live, filling the humidifier with tap water isn't ideal. As some suggest, over 85% of the US has hard water. Though, it will range from moderately hard to extremely hard water. 

If you're not familiar with what hard water means, it means water high in dissolved minerals. The two main culprits are calcium and magnesium. It affects your humidifier in one of two ways:

  1. For mist humidifiers, calcium and magnesium deposits will remain within the machine building up over time. They will mostly deposit near the heating element. This situation results in a reduced life expectancy for the humidifier. 
  2. Humidifiers that use filters or none at all will run into two problems. First, the mineral deposits will clog the filter a lot quicker. Meaning, you'll have to clean the humidifier more often. The second would be white dust

Many would recommend using distilled water instead of tap. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't use water from the tap at all. If you don't want to purchase distilled water for specific use in a humidifier, you'll have to make sure to keep up with maintenance. 

Clean the humidifier frequently. This way, you avoid shortening the lifespan, white dust, and other issues. 

How Do I Reset My Humidifier?

A blue humidifier placed near the window

One feature some humidifiers will have is a reset light. If you're not sure how to reset the machine, it's best to consult the user's manual to know what to do. In most cases, it will require a thorough cleaning before you can use it again. 

You can use the instructions above on cleaning a heating element. The reservoir should also get a vinegar solution treatment. Scrub away any mineral deposits. Rinse the other parts with mild dish soap. 

Once all parts are dry, assemble the unit and try using it again. According to one user manual, the possible causes for a reset light are: 

  1. Empty water tank
  2. Scale build-up

Search for your specific model online to ensure you're following the correct reset instructions. 

What Does the Red Light Mean on a Humidifier?

One of the causes for a red light in a humidifier is a lack of water. So, you'll have to fill the water reservoir. If that isn't the case, some humidifiers have atomizers that need cleaning. It involves stripping the unit down to the base and brushing the atomizer with light soap. 

Dry it and attempt to start the machine again. Here's a YouTube video demonstrating what to do: 

The last cause for a red light is scale build-up. Meaning, you'll have to use vinegar to break down the mineral deposits. Then, give the machine a thorough cleaning before assembling back together. 

How Long Should a Humidifier Last?

As some suggest, humidifiers can last six months to five years. It all depends on how diligent you are with cleanings. Other factors like water hardness also influence how long it can last.

Final Takeaway

Wooden covered humidifier on the table with a gorgeous vase on the side

It can get frustrating troubleshooting a humidifier. With a bit of research, finding the fix becomes slightly easier! We hope you found the information above helpful. 

Before you go, do you have other humidifier concerns? Do you own a Vicks humidifier? If it's leaking, you can check out our post - Vicks Humidifier Leaking - What To Do?

Are you worried about how long you're letting the unit run? We can offer some advice! For more information, check out our post - How Long Should Humidifier Be On?

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