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How to Clean a Vicks Vaporizer

Laurie Brenner
Table of Contents

Rinse the reservoir out after each use; during the flu and cold season, weekly maintenance is called for. Clean and dry before storage as well.

A Vicks Vaporizer helps relieve stuffy noses when you have sick children or adults abed during cold and flu seasons. The home appliance generates steam, sometimes with specific medications added to the water reservoir or medication cup. Clean and maintain the vaporizer regularly. As each model is slightly different -- for example, the waterless vaporizer can't be immersed in liquid -- visit the Vicks website to download the correct manual.

Daily Cleaning

Unplug the unit from the wall and let it cool before doing any cleaning. After each use, when it is cool to the touch, completely drain the water reservoir. Rinse and empty the water reservoir in cold water, over the sink. Wipe dry with a clean, soft cloth.

Disinfect the Water Reservoir

After a bout of sickness, disinfect the reservoir as needed. Fill it with cold water, adding 1 teaspoon of 3 to 5 percent household bleach to a gallon of water. Pour the bleach and water mixture into the reservoir. Gently swish the container to mix the bleach in the water and to ensure coverage of the insides of the container.

Let the bleach and water mixture sit in the reservoir for at least 20 minutes. Drain the liquid from the unit and rinse with clean, cold water until the smell of bleach is gone. Wipe down the inside of the reservoir with a soft, lint-free, clean cloth.

Clean the Medication Cup

After the medication cup empties, you'll find a mineral oil base in the bottom of the cup; wipe it clean with a cotton ball or piece of cotton cloth. The medication cup is found in front of and below the steam outlet on the appliance.


Do not place VapoSteam products designed for use with the Vicks Vaporizer into the medication cup; these products are meant for use in the water reservoir itself.

Add fresh water and medication for each use of the vaporizer. Do not reuse old water and medications.

Weekly Maintenance and Cleaning

Before storing the vaporizer for use next season, clean the unit using the following weekly maintenance and cleaning steps. Unplug the unit from the wall and let it cool down before attempting to clean it.

  1. Empty the water reservoir of standing water. Rinse with cool water and wipe dry with a clean, lint-free cloth.

  2. Fill a bowl or pan large enough to accommodate the steam unit with 3 1/2 inches of vinegar in its bottom. Set it in the kitchen sink. Remove the unplugged steam unit from the machine and set it into the vinegar. Let the steamer soak in the vinegar for 10 minutes.

  3. Insert a toothpick into the water intake holes in the bottom and the steam outlet at the top to remove any hard water or other buildup. Set the toothpick aside. Hold on carefully to the toothpick; do not let it fall inside the steam unit.

  4. Cover the bottom holes on the steam unit -- where it sucks water in to make steam -- with your fingers.

  5. Turn on the faucet and direct it so that its water flows into the steam outlet at the top of the steam unit. Once water starts to fill the unit and begin to back out the top, shut the faucet off and cover the steam outlet with fingers from your other hand. With your fingers sealing the holes at the bottom and top of the steam device, vigorously shake the steam unit several times.

  6. Drain the water out of the unit into the sink. Repeat the process of filling with water and shaking several times. Repeat this until you no longer see the black particles flowing from the steamer as you drain the water and the vinegar odor is gone.

  7. Dry off all parts of the vaporizer with a clean, lint-free cloth before storing it in a dry, cool location.

  8. Warning

    • Never leave children unattended when a Vicks Vaporizer is operating. The unit produces hot steam that can easily burn curious children. 
    • Keep the unit at least 4 feet from the bed of the child or the adult while in operation. Only place it on a solid, flat surface. 
    • Before operation, confirm the cord is fully unwound and out of the way to avoid patients or children tripping over the cord.