Last Updated on March 10, 2023
Using humidifier at night can do wonders with improving your sleep quality. As a byproduct though, it can make certain continuous or recurring sounds.
One of the specific ones that may be really annoying to light sleepers is repeated gurgling and bubbling. Well, why does your humidifier gurgle? Is there a way to get rid of it?
Recurring gurgling, bubbling and gulping from ultrasonic humidifier is usually due to air rushing in its tank to replace water given off as mist. A vaporizer can also gurgle due to overboiling. Solution can be as simple as loosening water tank cap or avoid using salt. While in other cases, you would need humidifier from a different manufacturer.
How often and how loud you hear your humidifier gurgle depends on its design, type and size.
Generally, all ultrasonic units do this to some extent. However, depending on design, one may do so every couple of minutes or seconds, while another after couple of hours or almost never.
It took me a while to study different reasons behind these annoying sounds and possible solutions to get rid of them, entirely or mostly. I hope I am successful in adding to quality of your sleep.
Why Your Humidifier Gurgles and Bubbles?
Air Bubbles Are Replacing Misted Water
Most humidifiers used these days are ultrasonic. They produce mist by a diaphragm vibrating at very high frequencies.
If your humidifier is gurgling or bubbling in an intermittent manner, it is most probably ultrasonic.
Warm mist humidifiers i.e., vaporizers can also gurgle but usually they are constant rather than periodic in their nature like cold mist ultrasonic humidifiers.
This continuous nature of noise makes them much less disturbing. Anyways, I will cover more about vaporizers in the next section.
Coming back to the reason why your ultrasonic humidifier gurgles. Let me give you an example.
Have you ever tilted a bottle to fill a glass of water? Water comes out in breaks in a gulping manner. Why does it do so?
Actually, air is constantly rushing in and pushing back to fill the space that is created by water leaving the bottle.
Same thing happens with your humidifier. In fact, there is an air outlet that allows air inside your humidifier’s water tank. When air bubbles rush inside water container to replace misted water, you hear humidifier gurgling.
Fortunately, there is a bright side...
Most humidifier work have similar basic working but they usually differ in design. A humidifier with better design and thoroughly tested for quietness would be much less prone to gurgling repeatedly.
Usually with ultrasonic humidifiers, bubbling and gurgling is intermittent.
You can take measures, that I will discuss soon, to reduce and delay these sounds, making your humidifier almost gurgle-free, but some of it is inevitable.
If it makes the sounds every couple of seconds or even minutes that would be real discomfort for light sleepers. But I think once every couple of hours would be bearable for most of us.
Water Is Overboiling Inside Your Humidifier
Warm mist humidifiers and vaporizers may also produce disturbingly loud gurgling sounds. However, with these kinds of humidifiers, they are more continuous than recurring.
For vaporizers, most probable reason is overboiling of water.
Warm mist humidifiers produce steam by boiling. So by principle you can expect a constant faint gurgle during their operation. However, with overboiling this gurgle is much more exaggerated.
Note: Terms ‘warm mist humidifier’ and ‘vaporizer’ are used interchangeably in humidifier industry. Both have heating elements to heat water and spread it via steaming to moisturize the environment.
One indicator of overboiling of water is that your unit will spit water out intermittently.
Let me show you an example of a similar case:
There are several reasons for overboiling of water in humidifier.
First, and the most common is adding more salt than required.
Normally, you don’t even need to add salt in your vaporizer. You should only do so when your humidifier is not steaming to supplement and boost heating process.
The problem actually occurs when you add more salt than required. This causes a large increase in electrical conductivity of water that leads to overboiling.
How to use salt and how much of it? No worries, I will cover that too. If you like, you can also check out this article where I discuss that in much more detail.
Second cause of loud consistent gurgles due to overboiling is using very hard water.
No doubt It is a requirement for water to be a little hard for steaming process to begin. This is because some minerals are necessary to conduct electricity to heat up water.
However, when mineral content is too high i.e., water is too hard, there will be overboiling, indicated by loud gurgling and spitting of water from humidifier casing.
How To Get Rid of Gurgling from Your Humidifier?
1. Use Humidifier from A Different Manufacturer
As I said earlier, same kind of humidifiers have similar working principle and mechanism.
However, design differs…
This is the reason why some ultrasonic units may run for hours and barely produce that annoying gurgling sound once or twice, while others may do so every couple of minutes or even seconds.
One of the solutions to this is using humidifier unit from a different manufacturer.
Specifically, one that is tested for its quietness and reviewed by people to almost never make such kind of noises.
Your previous humidifier, that disturbs you at night, doesn’t need to be a waste. You can operate it at a place that is relatively noisy and away from your bedroom.
To be helpful and save you time, I did research of my own.
I finally narrowed down to this ultrasonic humidifier, based on quietness, but also design and working. Here, have a look.
2. Use a Different Humidifier Type
You can entirely get rid of intermittent gurgling and gulping by using a different kind of humidifier.
If ultrasonic humidifier is not your cup of tea, I would recommend an evaporative humidifier.
It operates on a different working principle compared to an ultrasonic one. This way you won’t have to worry about any gurgle at all.
However, it uses a fan that runs constantly for humidification. You will hear it as continuous very low white noise (much better and lower than inconsistent bubbling sound).
A very quiet evaporative humidifier with great capacity and performance is Vornado Evap40 Evaporative Humidifier. Click here to view its specifications.
It has the highest water storage capacity I could find, 4 gallons (about 15 liters) to be exact. You can adjust humidity you need in the room as well as control its speed with low, medium and high options.
In case you are wondering, this humidifier is backed by Vornado’s 5-year limited warranty.
3. Run a Fan with Your Humidifier
Whether a sound is pleasing or distasteful to you comes down to your personal preferences.
However, generally speaking, intermittent noise is more irritating and bothersome compared to continuous one.
On top of that, not all sounds are same…
For example, hearing a gulp or splash every couple of seconds could interrupt your sleep much more than a continuous white noise. In fact, many people find white noise soothing and it helps them sleep.
An effective remedy to your humidifier gurgles is muffling it with another bearable sound i.e., using a fan with it.
Turning on a fan will make recurring gurgling and bubbling sounds much less noticeable.
Pro Tip: Try keeping fan at a higher speed, acceptably close to you, while humidifier farther, at a distance that will reduce gurgling noises without reducing its effectiveness.
4. Clean Your Humidifier Components
Regardless of its type, every humidifier needs cleaning and maintenance with time.
Cleaning humidifier will clear air passageways and keep its operation healthy, effective and smooth. A mixture like water and vinegar will be helpful for this purpose.
Besides that, cleaning may also resolve annoying gurgles, reduce them or/and increase their delay.
This is especially true for ultrasonic humidifiers and when these gurgles are not a design problem i.e., they did not use to happen in the beginning when you initially bought the unit.
On the other hand, for warm mist humidifiers, you cannot use 100% distilled water. Pure water is an insulator of electricity as it lacks minerals.
Thereby, they need slightly hard water to steam.
This means, with warm mist humidifier, you are bound to form mineral deposits on heating element and boiling compartment.
Consider cleaning vaporizers periodically, instead of using salt or baking powder to increase boiling, as higher quantities can lead to overboiling and consequently loud gurgles.
5. Carefully Regulate Additional Minerals
Many manufacturers allow adding salt to vaporizer or warm mist humidifier, in case it is not steaming.
There is a reason why salt works.
Actually, salt improves mineral content in water. Increasing minerals improves electrical conduction. More electric conduction means more heating.
Just adding a pinch of salt is enough to supplement the process and initiating steaming of the unit.
The problem occurs when you add more than required. This will lead to overboiling of water that you will experience as loud consistent gurgling.
Another indicator of water overboiling is humidifier spitting water.
It is better to not use salt, unless needed. If you do need to add it (some manufacturers recommend it), start with only a pinch.
Personally, I don’t even recommend using salt in most cases, even if your vaporizer is not steaming. Rather, start with cleaning and removing hard scales from heating element first.
If you wish to know more about steaming and overboiling, you may check this article I specifically wrote about it.
6. Use Suitably Hard Water with Warm Mist Humidifiers
It is recommended by manufacturers to use distilled water in their humidifiers.
Using hard water will lead to white dust on your furniture and accessories. The unit itself deteriorates in performance with hard water.
However, this only goes for cold mist humidifier and specifically ultrasonic ones.
Warm mist humidifiers and vaporizers need slightly hard water to operate. This is because minerals in hard water allow electrical conduction that is required for the unit to steam.
However, if you use water that is too hard, electrical conduction will become very high.
As a result, previously discussed scenario will repeat i.e., overboiling. Vaporizer will spit water and produce a continuous gurgling sound.
Solution: Use water in warm mist humidifier just hard enough to make it steam but soft enough to prevent overboiling and resultantly loud gurgles.