Common Humidifier Problems and How to Fix Them

Have a humidifier that’s not working or giving you problems on a regular basis? The good news is most of those issues are easy to fix, and suffered by millions of homeowners around the globe. You are certainly alone, and with this guide, we will help you address and solve some of the most common humidifier problems.

Humidifier not working

The number one issue most homeowners experience with their humidifier is that it simply won’t work. We’ve seen complaints of models not turning on out of the box alongside issues where a humidifier stopped working after only a few weeks. While the problem that can be tricky to diagnose, if any of these issues are the problem, you’ll be back up and running in no time.

If the humidifier is switched on, but nothing is happening, the first thing you want to do is check for power. Make sure the cord is fully inserted into the outlet. If that’s not the problem, make sure no breakers have been flipped in the fuse or breaker box of your home. The same goes for GFCI plugs that may have been triggered when you turned the humidifier on.

You’ll also want to sure the unit is level. Some humidifiers can be fairly fickle and need to be perfectly level before they begin to function. That’s especially true with humidifiers that have an anti-tip feature. Control lock features built for child safety are another simple reason some dehumidifiers won’t turn on as well.

Humidifier not producing mist

If your humidifier turns on as it should, but doesn’t produce mist, there are several areas that could be causing this problem. Some are technological in nature, so you need to ensure the humidifier has enough water to function properly. If the machine isn’t level, a humidifier may stop producing mist even if there is water in the tank.

With an evaporative cool mist humidifier, check the wick filter and make sure it doesn’t need to be changed. That’s a common humidifier problem that’s often overlooked, but cheap and easy to address. Clogs can happen with ultrasonic and steam humidifiers as well, however, especially if you have hard water in your home.

A humidifier not producing mist can also be caused by mineral deposits, which can clog up a system quickly regardless of the style. That’s why manufacturers recommend using distilled water in a system. Cleaning the tank and base thoroughly will eliminate this buildup, and our humidifier cleaning guide will show you how to maintain any type of humidifier, whether it has a wick filter or produces a warm mist.

Another easy fix for steam-based humidifiers is to simply wait. It can take time for the heating element to warm up enough to produce the desired effect, especially if the heating element is covered with mineral deposits. Waiting 4-5 minutes may fix the issue, but it’s important to check the actual humidity level in the area as well.

If the humidity level in the room isn’t above the level you set on the system; then the machine won’t turn on. That’s a common error many homeowners make, but one you can fix with a digital hydrometer. These inexpensive devices allow you to measure the humidity level in a room, and they are incredibly easy to use.

Humidifier is leaking 

A leaky humidifier or dehumidifier is a homeowner’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, it’s also a common humidifier problem. If you notice water leaking from your machine or suddenly see a puddle on the floor, you need to find the source of the problem before you can address the situation.

If your humidifier is leaking from around the nozzle, try setting the mist level to a lower setting. That’s typically the issue with leaks from nozzles or vents. Tanks are another part that’s prone to leak, but before you start thinking the humidifier tank is cracked, simply check the cap. When the tank cap isn’t properly sealed, it can slowly leak or cause your humidifier not to get enough water to function.

You also need to ensure the water tank itself is properly seated into the machine, and any levers or locks are in place. Humidifiers that aren’t level are known to leak as well, so make sure it’s sitting on a flat, even surface. If your humidifier isn’t leaking from the tank or top, there’s a chance you have an issue with the base.

In comes cases, you may notice a trickle of water coming directly from a seam on the base itself or a pool below the system. While there are ways to address this issue, when a humidifier has a leak in the base it’s generally time to call customer support and take advantage of your warranty. Electricity and water don’t mix, so don’t try to operate on your machine.

White Dust coming from a humidifier 

The white dust problem with a humidifier is another problem that many homeowners are likely to experience. It can be quite alarming at first, especially if the humidifier is placed near darker surfaces or anything black.

Well, that white dust is actually mineral residue that’s left behind after the mist evaporates into the air. It’s caused by using hard water in a humidifier, but can be solved by switching to distilled water. Filtered water or bottled water can help as well. White dust isn’t harmful, but it can clog up your humidifier more quickly.

Bad odor from the humidifier

Whenever you turn on a humidifier and get a terrible smell, it definitely gets your attention. The good news is that as long as it isn’t a burning smell, it’s another easy fix. The most common reason for a bad odor from a humidifier is a bad filter or mold and bacteria in your system.

This is remedied by cleaning your humidifier and setting up a regular maintenance schedule. You should rinse the tank after every use, but the system needs to be “cleaned” once a week in most cases. If the wick filter in your system is dirty, simply replace it.


While we just touched on a few of the more common humidifiers problems and how to fix them, a variety of other small issues plague users, including indicator lights not turning off or condensation around windows. Your user manual is the best defense against problems with a humidifier, but it’s always important to consider things like humidifier placement and sizing into account as well.

Written by

Rene has worked 10 years in the HVAC field and now is the Senior Comfort Specialist for PICKHVAC. He holds an HVAC associate degree and EPA & R-410A Certifications.

3 thoughts on “Common Humidifier Problems and How to Fix Them”

  1. My problem is light work no mist clean dust but no sound. I unplugged to dry out after cleaning too part and still same result.

  2. Mist not working! Cleaned and did everything it told me to do. Still no mist. Barely feel cool air. Not happy at all with product. Had it for a year will not purchase this one again. Bought it off qvc. I will buy a cheaper one that lasts.


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