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Here's How to Clean Your Portable Dehumidifier

Follow these easy steps to keep your dehumidifier free of mold.

A person uses a wand attachment on a vacuum to clean a dehumidifier
Chris Monroe/CNET

While your dehumidifier is busy pulling moisture from the air, it's also collecting all sorts of nasty stuff -- mildew, bacteria and mold. Cleaning it out regularly (at least once every few weeks) is an important part of its maintenance, especially during periods of frequent use. Follow these steps to make sure your dehumidifier is clean, which, bonus, helps it run optimally to keep the air you breathe as healthy as possible. 

Read more: Best Portable AC Units of 2022

1. Unplug your dehumidifier

Turn off your dehumidifier and unplug it. This ensures that it's safe to clean, whether you're just wiping it down quickly or spending a bit more time rinsing the bucket, filters and other individual parts. 

A person scrubs a dehumidifier air filter
Chris Monroe/CNET

2. Wipe the outside

Your dehumidifier does a lot of work to remove potentially hazardous stuff from the air. Its outer shell is the first line of defense between your dehumidifier's internal components and the muggy air it's trying to collect. 

So, after you've turned off your dehumidifier and unplugged it, get a dry cloth and wipe off any gross stuff that's collected on the outside. If it's especially dirty, you can dampen the cloth, but don't spray water -- or any cleaning solvents -- directly on it. 

3. Clean out the reservoir

All of that moisture from the air ends up in your dehumidifier bucket (unless you're pumping the water directly into a separate drain). That means it can get dirty fast and needs to be cleaned roughly once every three weeks during frequent use. 

Add mild liquid soap and water to the bucket. Then scrub gently and rinse. Let the bucket dry before putting it back.

4. Rinse the air filter

Your air filter is the workhorse of your dehumidifier. While the bucket collects water, the air filter extracts dirt, mildew, mold and other impurities in the air in your home. 

Take out the air filter and wash it gently with a sponge and soapy water. Let it dry completely before reinstalling it. 

5. Vacuum 

If you want to be extra thorough, grab a vacuum attachment or a brush and clean out any remaining dirt.

a bucket filter
Chris Monroe/CNET

6. Remove and clean the bucket filter

The bucket filter also helps trap stray impurities in your dehumidifier. It's much smaller than the main air filter -- about the size of a thimble -- and is typically tucked away somewhere in the reservoir. Remove the bucket filter -- check your manual to confirm that your dehumidifier has one -- and rinse it with warm water. Let it dry completely before returning it.

And that's it -- you're done. 

These steps should work for most plug-in residential dehumidifiers, but be sure to read the manual that comes with your appliance to get specific use and care info.