Humidifiers are a lifesaver for those cold and dry nights. They give you a cool mist and moisturize your skin, preventing allergies and irritations. These helpful little devices require little maintenance, but they still do need you to pay adequate attention to make sure they are clean and you’re breathing in good indoor air quality .
If you ever forget to clean your humidifier and empty the tank after use, you may notice a layer of slime on the bottom of the tank. This can vary in color but usually, you’ll find pink residue with some white or yellow. This is mold that grows in damp and dark spaces such as inside your humidifier. Luckily, pink mold in a humidifier is common and quite easy to address.
However harmless at first, pink mold can become harmful if left for long. Thus, it’s important to take the necessary steps to remove pink mold inside your humidifier before it can be spread further into your home. Below, we will discuss the possible effects of pink mold, how you can get rid of it, and how you can properly take care of your humidifier.
What is Pink Mold?
Some of the most common types of mold you may find in your home are usually green or black, but mold actually can be any color. It comes in some shades of red, orange, purple, brown, and even pink. Some factors that influence the mold colors are the food source and humidity levels.
Pink mold is the most common type of mold found in humidifiers. Like any other type of mold, it grows in moist and dark areas such as the water tank of your humidifier. The water itself may appear clean while in use, but the pink mold may still form inside since the water in the tank likely sits for hours in the dark of night.
Check your humidifier tank and base for any pink residue. There are three types of pink mold you can look out for.
One is the Serratia marcescens (S. marcescens). This type of pink mold is actually a bacteria and not a mold. This bacteria is most commonly found around sinks, showers, and toilets because it feeds on ingredients found in soaps and shampoos.
The Aureobasidium pullulans (A. pullulans) mold is also commonly found in bathrooms, but it can also form on organic materials like plants and wood. The A. pullulans may begin growing in white, yellow, or pink color then eventually turn to brown or black. It feeds on organic wastes and requires high levels of water to grow, so you can find this mold in the bathroom, houseplants, wooden window frames, as well as your humidifier tank.
Fusarium is another type of pink mold. It is highly unlikely to find this type of mold inside your home since it lives in soil and feeds on dead plant tissues. However, if it grows on a houseplant, it can spread to the wall, carpet, or other nearby surfaces.
If you find pink molds in your humidifier, then it’s probably A. pullulans. This type of mold is harmless for the most part. Even so, prolonged exposure to it can have some negative impact on your health.
How Does Pink Mold Form?
Pink molds can form inside your humidifier where water sits too long, creating a healthy environment for molds. Humidifiers have a water reservoir tank to hold water. To add moisture to the room, the humidifier pulls water from the tank and releases it into the air as cool mist or steam. Different types of humidifiers use various humidification methods to do this.
Humidifiers are particularly useful during cold and dry seasons. They are normally used at night to help you relax and sleep better and prevent morning allergies or nasal congestion due to the dry air. When is left in the tank overnight where it’s dark, the wet interior of your humidifier becomes an ideal hangout for mold and bacteria.
Pink mold may start to form within 24 to 48 hours after using your humidifier, depending on the contents of the tank, the level of bacteria inside, and whether the water you put in the tank has been purified or distilled, among other factors.
Is Pink Mold in Humidifier Dangerous?
Pink mold is not dangerous essentially and you can easily deal with it with little time and effort. However, like any other type of mold, exposure to mold can cause respiratory problems over time. If mold grows inside your humidifier and you don’t remove it immediately, it will be sprayed out into the air in your room along with the water vapor. Then, it will find a new space to grow, such as your eyes, nose, and lungs! This can lead to a condition called “humidifier lung.”
Along with this, here are some of the health risks mold could bring if not controlled. Asthmatic people who already have compromised respiratory systems are likely to experience severe reactions when exposed to mold. It can trigger asthma attacks, cold-like allergies, and other respiratory illnesses. Chronic exposure to pink molds can also lead to pneumonia and bronchitis due to lung inflammation.
Additionally, when your eyes are exposed to airborne mold spores, they may become red, itchy, and watery. Mold can also grow on contact lenses because they have organic matter and moisture required for pink molds to thrive.
Pink mold exposure can also lead to bladder infections, particularly urinary tract infections (UTI), but this usually only happens in severe levels of mold infestation. If ingested, the pink spores can even cause stomach aches and nausea and lead to diarrhea.
While anyone can experience a reaction to pink mold, infants and the elderly are more susceptible to these symptoms.
How to Clean Pink Mold from a Humidifier
Whether or not you have pink mold problems, you must clean your humidifier regularly. Proper cleaning and maintenance should be performed every time you refill the tank with water, or at the very least, once a week. In most cases, this should be enough to prevent mold from growing inside your humidifier in the first place.
If you find pink mold, you must clean your humidifier immediately. Check your manual first for specific instructions in cleaning and maintenance. If your manufacturer allows, you can clean your humidifier and remove the mold with these steps:
First, make sure to unplug your humidifier, then remove the tank from the base.
Throw out any remaining water, then fill the tank with either white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. You may also use a cleaning solvent like bleach. However, this can be dangerous to the machine depending on your manufacturer’s instructions, and it usually isn’t necessary.
Leave the vinegar or peroxide solution to sit in the tank for about half an hour to allow it to break down the pink mold so it can be easily removed.
Empty the peroxide or vinegar from the tank. Rinse the tank with warm water and dry it thoroughly.
You also need to clean the base by following your manufacturer’s instructions or using the same solution of water and peroxide or water and vinegar.
Wash the vapor spout as well. If there is mold, you can use the same solution of vinegar or peroxide and a toothbrush to remove any residue. Wipe down everything before reassembling.
Tips to Prevent Mold Growth in Humidifier
Proper, regular maintenance and cleaning of your humidifier help keep it safe from pink mold and bacteria. The easiest way to maintain the cleanliness of your humidifier is to empty and refill the water tank with fresh water every day so that it doesn’t sit inside for long periods.
If your humidifier is mold-free upon inspection, here are some easy steps to clean it. First, unplug the humidifier, remove the water tank from the base, and empty any remaining water. Use a mild liquid soap and clean water with a sponge or rag to clean the inside of the tank. Allow it to air dry then place it back. Also inspect the vapor spout for any residue or mold growth. Follow the same steps to clean the vapor spout.
You can also take some preventive measures by using distilled water for your humidifier rather than tap water, especially if you’re not sure of its quality. Hard water contains minerals that could make your humidifier more susceptible to mold and bacteria development than distilled water. If possible, switch to distilled water to help keep your humidifier clean.
Furthermore, if there are no regulations against it, you can also add a small amount of vinegar to the water in your humidifier tank. This can help keep the tank free from pink mold and bacteria. Another option is to add a few drops of tea tree oil. It is a natural disinfectant that can help prevent the growth of pink mold and also make breathing easier for people with respiratory conditions.
Like any mold, pink mold thrives in dark and damp or moist areas. Pink mold in your humidifier is not a particularly dangerous matter that would require any special equipment. While it’s not as harmful as black mold, it can still lead to health problems after long periods of exposure. In particular, long-term exposure to pink mold can cause respiratory complications, bladder infection, and gastrointestinal issues.
Those who already suffer from similar health problems are more susceptible to the negative side effects if pink mold is left unattended. Thankfully, pink mold in a humidifier is pretty common and it can be easily solved by cleaning your humidifier thoroughly. Always check your manual first and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning. With regular maintenance and proper use, you can prevent the growth of mold and bacteria and keep your family healthy.