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How To Clean A Dehumidifier

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When you live in a humid area, having a dehumidifier in the house can help asthma or allergy sufferers breathe easier, as well as helping prevent the buildup of mold or mildew. This machine acts very much like an air conditioner, with air flowing through it and vapor being removed, and has different parts that need to be cleaned on a regular basis. In this article, we will show you how to clean a dehumidifier.

How To Clean A Dehumidifier

While pulling moisture out of the air, it’s also pulling out floating dust and debris. This dirt is removed by filters within the dehumidifier, which causes them to get clogged. With pets in the house or just a lot of people, the filters can lose airflow pretty quickly.

The moisture that is removed from the air going through the appliance has to end up somewhere, and that’s normally a bucket or reservoir at the bottom of the dehumidifier. If left by itself over a long period of time, that water can become a great host for mold and mildew. Additionally, if any mold is present in the assembly, it may be distributed to the rest of the house.

How Often Should a Dehumidifier be Cleaned?

When used on a regular basis, the filters and water reservoir can get pretty gunked up from the dust, spores, and lint that travels through the air in the average home. Plan to perform a basic cleaning every 2-3 weeks when the dehumidifier is being used consistently.

The water bucket, or reservoir, can fill up quickly and should be emptied every day when it is in use consistently, otherwise it may overflow. Some dehumidifiers have a hose attachment where the bucket drains automatically, but there will still be moisture in the reservoir that could create mold. For a unit like this, regular basic cleaning should hopefully be enough, but you may need to check daily.

A deep cleaning, performed by dismantling the entire dehumidifier, should be done at least once a year. This will get to the areas not covered by a basic cleaning and will help your appliance run smoothly over a long period of time.

Cleaning a Dehumidifier

As mentioned above, there are basic cleaning steps you should follow on a regular basis, and also a deep cleaning that should be performed yearly. We will give you the instructions for both of those cleaning methods.

What You Will Need To Clean a Dehumidifier

Have these items ready so you will not need to go find them in the middle of your project. Read the instructions for which cleaning method you will be performing to know if things like a screwdriver will be necessary.

  • Clean cloths or rags
  • Sponge
  • Bottlebrush or other cleaning brush with mild bristles
  • A sink or hose
  • Dishwashing detergent
  • Gloves
  • Chlorine bleach
  • A vacuum cleaner with the brush attachment
  • Mask
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Flathead screwdriver

How to Perform a Basic Dehumidifier Cleaning

These simple tasks should be performed about every 3 weeks or so, or at the very least once a month.

Vacuum cleaner
  1. Unplug the unit.
  2. Clean the outside of the dehumidifier with a dry cloth.
  3. If necessary, dampen the cloth with water only to clean the outside.
  4. Remove the water reservoir or water bucket and dump the water.
  5. Wash the water bucket with mild dishwashing liquid and rinse.
  6. If mold is present in the water reservoir, use a bleach solution of 1/2 cup bleach to 1 gallon of warm water. 
  7. Wear gloves to protect your hands from the bleach.
  8. Let the bleach solution rest for about 15 minutes, then rinse. 
  9. Remove the air filter and wash it with a sponge and soapy water. Check your user manual – the manufacturer may recommend only using a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment.
  10. Clean the bucket filter if your unit has one. This is a small piece attached to the bucket and can be cleaned under running water.
  11. Vacuum up any stubborn lint, hair, or dirt on the outside by using the brush attachment.
  12. Let all parts dry before reassembly. This is not completely necessary but will help prevent any new mold from accumulating.

How to Perform a Deep Dehumidifier Cleaning

A more thorough cleaning of your dehumidifier should be done about once a year. You will need to disassemble the entire unit, so having the manufacturer’s instructions would be very helpful. We will give you general instructions, but your model may be different than ones we have taken apart.

  1. Complete the basic cleaning explained above, but do not reassemble the unit.
  2. Remove any knobs that are on the unit.
  3. Unscrew and remove the grill cover, exposing the compressor and fan.
  4. Unscrew the metal housing screws. Do not remove the housing yet.
  5. Unscrew and remove the drip pan if your unit has one. There are normally screws that go from the drip pan to the housing, so this needs to be removed before the housing.
  6. Remove the metal housing by lifting it up. If it does not lift easily, check for any tabs that might be holding it on the base.
  7. Gently clean the evaporater coil and fins. You can use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment, or a specialty brush. Be sure not to bend the fins, they are very delicate.
  8. Vacuum up any dust and dirt that are on the inside of the dehumidifier assembly, or around the compressor.
  9. Clean the fan with a cloth.
  10. Put the unit back together, going in reverse of the directions above.
  11. Plug the unit back in and test.

Dehumidifier Tips and Information

A dehumidifier performs its action by sucking in warm, moist air, and then cooling it as it goes over condenser coils and fins. This contraction leaves behind water, which is then collected in a bucket or reservoir. This is the same principle as an air conditioner, but the focus is more on removing water from the air than strictly cooling it.

Since the same method is applied, it may not be necessary to run both an air conditioner and a dehumidifier at the same time. Air that is too dry can actually cause conditions like pneumonia to become worse. You will also be increasing your energy bill when you might not need to. Every house is different, so test for yourself.

Related: Here is how to clean your window air conditioner unit.

Who Should Use a Dehumidifier

You might want to use a dehumidifier if you suffer from allergies. Reducing moisture in the air can help mitigate a lot of allergy triggers, including:

  • Dust mites
  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Animal dander

High humidity can also have a negative affect on asthma sufferers. Keeping a house, or even just a few rooms, with low relative humidity can make breathing more comfortable for someone with asthma.

In addition, if you start seeing mold in different parts of the house that are not necessarily prone to moisture, a dehumidifier can make a big difference. Some molds are extremely unhealthy, not only to those who have mold allergies, but also children, anyone with a respiratory illness, or even healthy individuals.

Conclusion

Having a dehumidifier in the house can be very beneficial to those who need them, but when it becomes dirty, it may be spreading more harm than good. Be sure to clean your dehumidifier before it gets to the state where it projects mold around the house.

We recommend dumping the water reservoir daily. This will keep it from overflowing and causing a mess on the floor around the appliance. Basic cleaning should be performed every three weeks or so, and you should deep clean the dehumidifier at least once a year.

Allen Michael is the Founder and Editor of Home Viable, a website that he started to provide readers with tips on home efficiency and automation. He draws on his engineering background combined with his family-of-four experiences for his articles.