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How to Clean and Properly Maintain a Dehumidifier

by Nick Evans | Last Updated: August 13, 2021

Water damage can happen on any property without warning. A burst pipe, bad weather, and broken appliances are some of the causes of this damage. While these things are sometimes unavoidable, a dehumidifier can help remove the moisture from the floor to the walls. This lessens the damage and will keep your property dry. 

Moreover, dehumidifiers are the best first line of defense when water damage occurs, restoring your property to its normal condition. Furthermore, this equipment can collect mildew, molds, bacteria from the air, maintaining a healthy and comfortable environment in your home. 

So, you must keep your dehumidifier clean at all times. If not, the stagnant water in its tank may cause mold to form inside the equipment.  

How to clean a dehumidifier

How Does a Dehumidifier Work? 

Dehumidifiers follow a simple process for functioning:

  1. The dehumidifier takes in hot air and sends it to the coil through a fan.
  2. The hot air passes through the cooling coil and is compressed to form condensed water in the dryer.
  3. The condensation draws water droplets into the water container in the dehumidifier.
  4. The dry, cool air then enters your home through the other side of the device.

The dehumidifier should reduce the air’s moisture down to 30-50%. Most units come with a meter to measure the humidity in your home and allow you to set the humidity percentage based on your needs. 

Things You Will Need for Cleaning

To clean a dehumidifier, you will need these tools and equipment: 

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How to Clean the Dehumidifier 

When cleaning the dehumidifier, it is crucial to take safety steps to prevent getting sick and accidents.  

1. Gear up

You must wear a dust mask and rubber gloves when cleaning the dehumidifier. Rubber gloves will protect you from direct contact with grime, dust, soap, and other chemicals. On the other hand, a dust mask will keep you from inhaling dust and allergens. 

2. Turn off the dehumidifier and unplug the power cord

Make sure that you turn the humidifier and unplug it before cleaning. This ensures that no electricity is running inside the equipment. 

3. Clean the tank 

Cleaning the water tank that collects the extracted water from the air is crucial to keep the mold from growing. 

4. Clean the coils 

The evaporator coils behind the equipment draw moisture from the air through condensation with the help of a fan. This process can freeze the coil once the air gets too cold. 

Turning the equipment off will thaw the coil for a few hours. Collect the dripping water and dispose of it outside or in a drain. 

5. Clean the filter 

Remove the filter from the dehumidifier and use the vacuum to remove the debris and dirt. Filters may get clogged up with dust from the humid air over time. 

After that, rinse the filter with cold water and a mild soap mixture to remove the sticky grime and dust. Let it dry before placing it back. 

Disinfect the Dehumidifier’s Tank Using Vinegar 

Vinegar for cleaning a dehumidifier

Use a mixture of water and white vinegar in equal parts. Use the mixture to disinfect the tank by scrubbing its interior using a small toothbrush. This will keep the molds from growing. 

Let the mixture stay in the tank for 30 to 90 minutes based on its condition, disinfecting the tank thoroughly.  

How to Properly Maintain the Dehumidifier 

While dehumidifiers are low maintenance, they are certainly not maintenance-free. Below are simple tips to help you keep your dehumidifier in good running condition and extend its life. 

Review the Manual 

Maintenance varies depending on the unit’s brand and model. So, make sure to read the user’s manual for specific requirements. 

Install the dehumidifier correctly

For best performance, make sure that your dehumidifier is in the right place.  

Keep it from obstructions

Most dehumidifier models suggest placing the unit at least 6-12 inches away from the walls and other possible obstructions. This will let the equipment get proper air exhaust and intake. 

Level surface 

Make sure that the unit is standing on a flat surface for proper air intake. 

Shut all the windows and doors 

Make sure that you tightly shut all the windows and doors in your area when using the dehumidifier. Otherwise, the equipment will work overtime, dehumidifying the air that gets through the open doors and windows. Hence, higher energy bills. 

Check the room temperature 

Dehumidifiers work best in rooms where the temperature is higher than 65 degrees Fahrenheit. If you need to dehumidify in harsh environments, consider using a specialized unit design to work for those spaces. 

Replace the Filter 

Dehumidifiers normally have air filters, collecting harmful air particles like dust and certain allergens inside your property. Aside from this, the air filter: 

  1. Eliminates impurities, creating healthier, cleaner, dehumidified air 
  2. Protects the unit’s internal parts 
  3. Ensures efficient operation every day 

A dirty filter will keep the air from circulating freely inside the dehumidifier. This makes the unit work harder that may break it in the long run. To keep its optimal performance, you must replace the filter with a new one based on the manufacturer’s time frame. 

Clean the Water Tank Regularly 

Empty your dehumidifier’s water tank at least once every day. Moreover, you must clean it with soap and water and disinfect it frequently to keep molds and mildew to grow inside.  

It is crucial to monitor your unit’s water tank and remove all the collected debris. Even if the tank looks clean, you still have to clean it with soap and water and make sure it is dry before placing it back in the dehumidifier. 

Keep it Away from Moisture 

A dehumidifier is still an electronic appliance, so keep the outer part, especially the control panel, dry. If the control panel gets wet, use a cloth to wipe it dry. 

Avoid Short-Cycles 

Do not turn off your dehumidifier only to turn it back on shortly. You must wait at least 10 minutes before turning it back on. This time frame allows the pressure to neutralize, keeping the compressor from getting damaged.  

Moreover, short cycling may cause the compressor to overheat and may trip the circuit-breaker. Also, it will lead the dehumidifier to remove moisture less efficiently as the equipment doesn’t have enough time to dry excess moisture fully.  

Some dehumidifiers have an automatic delayed start feature, protecting the compressor from the damages caused by short cycling. 

Check the Condenser Coils from Ice Build-up 

We’ve already mentioned that the dehumidifier’s condenser coils may freeze if it is operating in cooler temperatures. This can prevent the equipment from working efficiently.  

Here’s what you should do if you think your unit is not working properly due to freezing: 

  1. Turn the unit off and unplug it to access the coils safely. 
  2. Check the coils to see if there is any ice build-up. If so, the room is likely too cool for the dehumidifier to work properly. 
  3. Check with the manufacturer to know the cause of the malfunction and the procedures to fix the problem. 

Some dehumidifier models have an automatic defrost feature that turns the compressor off once the ice is detected. Its fan will then continue running to melt the ice build-up. When the build-up is gone, the unit will automatically resume its operation. 

Clean the Air Passages 

Dirty air passages may result in the dehumidifier’s poor performance. Depending on the condition, clean both grilles that collect and release the air with a vacuum brush attachment. 

When Should You Use a Dehumidifier? 

During hot summer days, your air conditioning unit will do a great job of keeping your indoor humidity at the right levels. However, during cooler days when the air conditioner only runs for short periods, humidity rises indoors, making your family feel uncomfortable. 

That being said, here are the signs that you need to turn your humidifier on. 

Mold is Forming 

Mold from humidity

If mold starts to form in your home and you notice a musty smell, then the humidity inside your property may be too high. Humidity over 50-60% lets the mold grow. Mold can grow virtually anywhere; your home is not safe from it with these levels of humidity. 

Mold can be troublesome in the long run, especially if it spores near a food source. Moreover, if someone in your family is sensitive to mold, it may cause a problem. With this in mind, you want to run a dehumidifier to manage your indoor humidity. 

Condensation Occurs 

Condensation caused by humidity

If you see drops of water are forming on your window while it is not raining, this means your home has a humidity issue. While this may seem not a big problem, tiny drops of water may start pooling in window corners, damaging wooden frames. If this happens, your window may rot, or mold may start to grow in cracks or on the surface.  

Your Body will Tell You 

Using your Body as a barometer is one of the easiest ways to know if you need to start your dehumidifier. If you feel cold and clammy, have troubles with sneezing, or your allergies are flaring up in your home, then you know what to do! 

How Your Health Benefits from Dehumidifier 

Aside from mold, a dehumidifier can also eliminate dust mites. Dust mites strive when the humidity is at 65%, which a dehumidifier can easily manage. Both mold and dust mites are common allergy triggers. Hence, dehumidifiers can lessen the symptoms of allergies.  

Cockroaches, spiders, silverfish, and other invaders are less likely to occur without mold and dust. The lower level of humidity can also help people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

Dehumidifiers are also known to control asthma. Too much moisture in the air makes it heavier to breathe. This makes a high-humidity environment hard for people with asthma. Less humidity can make breathing in and out easier for the lungs. This removes mugginess and makes the air cooler and more comfortable. 

Possible Side Effects of Using a Dehumidifier 

Woman coughing from dehumidifier

A dehumidifier works differently for everyone. Using one in your place may have possible side effects.  

A dehumidifier makes the air dryer. So, if you live in a dry place or use electricity or gas to heat your home, you may not need a dehumidifier. 

If the air is too dry, it may worsen certain conditions like pneumonia. Also, it could affect the skin and hair. People that are suffering from eczema are prone to flare-ups if their environment is too dry. Moreover, if you have a stuffy nose and dry cough, running a dehumidifier may worsen the symptoms. 

How to Choose the Right Humidifier for Your Home? 

Before buying a dehumidifier, you must know the key factors about your home and the unit to understand the size of the dehumidifier that is right for your need. You should also know the product’s efficiency level and the most appropriate type to lessen the humidity. 

Test the moisture 

There are some signs of high humidity at home that tell whether you need to buy a dehumidifier. Check your windows and doors for excess condensation and see if moisture is forming on walls or ceilings.  

If these signs are present, but you’re still not sure if your home is experiencing high moisture issues, then you need a hygrometer. It is a humidity gauge that monitors the air quality in your apartment and reports the reading. 

Normally, 30-60% humidity level should not cause any issue, and lowering it to 30-50% will make the home more comfortable and the air easier to breathe. If the humidity level in your home is higher than the ideal range, then you could use some dehumidifier. 

Find the scope of the problem 

Are you having problems with only one area of your home, or the entire property is overly humid? This question will give you the solution to your problem. 

A large-scale humidifier is tied into the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system and has a drainpipe that goes into the sink or outdoors. These models of humidifiers are expensive and require professional installation. 

If only a certain area in your home has high humidity, a portable dehumidifier that is cheaper and more consumer-friendly would be a good choice. It is plugged directly into the wall and works via a built-in interface. These units are easy to operate and configure. Some portable types have hoses that can automatically pump or drain the collected water, while others have tanks that need to be emptied regularly. 

What Size Do You Need? 

Dehumidifiers of the same designs may differ in capacity. You can choose a small unit that can handle 10 pints of water from a 500-square-foot room. You can then add 4 pints volume for every 500 square feet added. So, for a 1000-square-foot basement, you will need a total of 14-pint capacity. 

If the space is too damp, you may need to increase the unit’s size to accommodate the increased air moisture level. With this in mind, a 500-square-foot room may need a dehumidifier that holds 12-pint water, adding 5 pints capacity for every 500 square feet added. 

Additional Factors to Consider Before Selecting a Dehumidifier 

The size of your home or the room where you need a dehumidifier is one of the main factors for choosing a model. However, other conditions affect the level of humidity at home and the size of the unit you need.  

People exhale hot, humid air, sweat, and consume water. So, more people at home means higher humidity levels. In most cases, the humidity that humans have produced is negligible. However, for large families of six or more members, a larger dehumidifier might be needed. 

The number and size of windows and doors can also affect the levels of humidity at home. Doors and windows let heat enter the house, so more doors, and windows mean higher humidity levels. 

Bathrooms and laundry rooms also affect the humidity level when using the shower and the washing machine. So, it is wise to invest in a unit that can hold increased air moisture. 

So, if you are trying to determine the size of the dehumidifier, you must consider the size of the room and: 

Energy-Efficient Models 

Energy efficient dehumidifiers consume around 15% less energy compared to conventional units. This means many savings in the long run and avoiding around 2,800 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Final Thoughts

Dehumidifiers provide fresh, dry air at home that has health benefits, help you save energy, enhance indoor air quality, and prevent molds and dust mites from growing all year round. 

However, it is crucial to know how to clean and maintain them properly to ensure that they work as they should. Otherwise, your dehumidifier will inefficiently work and will consume a lot of energy.

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