Should you use tap water in a house humidifier?

Tap water use may cause health concerns when used in humidifiers, research suggests.

Sometimes I get some interesting questions from readers, and I mostly mean this as a compliment. But, only occasionally does the right comment really get me thinking. That's what happened today when Ellis Johnson from Illinois asked what kind of water he should use in his new house humidifier.

Now, I confess, I have always used tap water, and I've never really thought seriously about an alternative. But, after all, we have bottled water for drinking, and a water filter on our fridges, so it makes sense that this water might be better for us.

With this in mind, I went out in search of answers and found that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a whole section devoted to the topic.

According to the agency, the government doesn't have an official stance on whether or not using tap water in a humidifier can cause health problems. However, it did suggest that researchers have found that tap water use can leave a white dust on the surface of the devices, presumably caused by the extra minerals found in this drinking water. And while the EPA didn't say anything conclusively, they suggested that this buildup – formally called "scale" – might increase the speed at which mold or other microorganisms grow in a particular machine.

As a result, the EPA says that using distilled, bottled water can be a solution that prohibits the buildup of scale. But, using this type of water may reduce the cost savings that humidifiers, especially smaller portable models, provide.

It's ultimately up to you to decide, but with this information in mind, I suggest using water from a fridge or water filter that attaches to the sink. These sources provide clean water without the frequent expense, and they can help you enjoy the savings many humidifiers advertise and deliver year round.

Related posts:

  1. Cleaning a portable humidifier filter
  2. Simple steps for cleaning a humidifier base
  3. Dealing with a leaky humidifier

106 thoughts on “Should you use tap water in a house humidifier?

  1. I guess I’d be able to make a more informed decoisin if I actually had a better understanding of what we’re worried about with tap water (if indeed we’re worried).Like, is the reasoning behind using special water a concern about microbes? (in which case boiling seems like it would fix the issue, right? do filters catch most microbes that we’d be worried about?) Or are we mainly concerned with traces of lead or minerals or other non-microbial…things? (in which case a filter would probably pick a lot of that up, but boiling woudn’t make a difference, right?)

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