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How you can improve the air quality in your home

Adding humidifiers and air purifiers can help, but they require some TLC.

ST. LOUIS — Even if the weather outside isn’t frightful, you might still be dealing with winter’s dry and dirty indoor air. Adding humidifiers and air purifiers can help, but they require some TLC. The experts at Consumer Reports reveal the secrets to keep them clean and running at peak performance.

A humidifier can help keep the air inside of your home at a comfortable level. But one that isn’t cleaned properly can produce mold spores. To keep it fresh, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, which typically include daily and weekly maintenance.

Here are some other general guidelines from CR:

Every day, rinse, then towel-dry the humidifier’s tank and fill it with clean water. 

Every week, give your humidifier a deep cleaning. Remove the tank and add one cup of vinegar to the well in the base. Use a cleaning tool or toothbrush to get into the crevices and scrub off any built-up scale. Then rinse well.

To clean the tank, fill it with one cup of vinegar and one cup of water and let it soak for about 20 minutes. Also give it a few good shakes along the way. Then rinse well and towel-dry. And be sure to replace the filter or wick according to your owner’s manual.

If your current humidifier is tough to clean, maybe it’s time for a change. CR recommends the Honeywell HUL430 for $76; it’s easy to clean and use. The bonus is there’s no wick, cartridge, or filter that needs to be replaced.

In addition to humidifiers, people use air purifiers to reduce allergens and indoor air pollutants, so it’s a good idea to keep them well maintained. Replace the filters regularly, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you have an air purifier with a permanent filter, vacuum it gently with the brush attachment about once a month. Some permanent filters can also be washed but again, check your manual.

The Honeywell InSight HPA5300B for $ 290 is very easy to use and costs hundreds less than many of the recommended air purifiers in CR’s tests.

If you don’t have an air purifier, Consumer Reports says you can improve indoor air quality by vacuuming regularly and limiting indoor smoke from wood fires, candles, and incense.