Why Your Vicks Humidifier Is Spitting Water – How To Fix It

Vicks humidifiers have set a benchmark in the market because of their efficient performance, compact design, and cost-efficiency. However, since they are electronic appliances, these premium units can sometimes malfunction and start spitting water. 

Vicks humidifiers spit water when there are excessive minerals or salt in the tank. Clogging due to dust and mineral deposits, overheating, overfilling or incorrect placement of the unit can also lead to a Vicks humidifier spitting water.

This article is a comprehensive guide on what to do when your Vicks humidifier starts acting up. We’ll then take you through all the potential reasons why your humidifier might be spitting water and relevant troubleshooting tips. We also cover some frequently asked questions central to the topic. 

Types of Vicks Humidifiers

This article is relevant to the following models of Vicks humidifiers:

  • Embrace Cool Mist Humidifier 
  • Dual Comfort Cool Warm Mist  
  • NaturalCare Cool Mist Humidifier 
  • Mini Cool Mist Humidifier 
  • Filtered Cool Mist Quiet Operation Humidifier 
  • Mini Filter Free Cool Mist Humidifier 
  • Starry-night Humidifier
  • Easy Fill Cool Mist Humidifier 
  • Sweet Dreams Cool Mist Humidifier 
  • CoolRelief Cool Mist Humidifier 
  • Vicks Filter-Free Cool Mist Humidifier 
  • Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier 
  • Vicks Warm Steam Vaporizer 
  • 3-in-1 Sleepytime Humidifier 
  • Warm Mist Humidifier 

If you are unsure what model of Vicks humidifier you have, please refer to the detailed table at the bottom of this article.

Reasons Why Your Vicks Humidifier Is Spitting Water

Vicks humidifiers add moisture by releasing either mist or steam. Water coming out of the unit is indicative of a problem, and the following are the potential causes behind it: 

1. Too Much Salt

Extra salt or mineral deposits in the water tank are the first thing you should look for if your Vicks humidifier starts spitting water. 

The unit draws in dry air from the room and adds water vapors for humidification. These vapors are generated by evaporating the tank water. 

Tap water contains minerals (typically calcium and magnesium) that deposit inside the tank and the vaporizing system or outlet. These deposits build up and form clogs that interfere with the proper working of the unit, and as a result, it can blow out water (i.e., spit).  

This problem can be solved in the mist humidifiers by using distilled water in the tank. But using demineralized water is not possible in the case of steam-producing humidifiers (vaporizers). 

Salt acts as a catalyst for boiling because it reacts with water molecules and forces them to move more freely. This makes it easier to form steam.  

For each Vicks humidifier, the amount of salt is specified according to the runtime and capacity. While the unit won’t start working properly until you add salt, excessive amounts of it can increase the conductivity of water. A unit can then start boiling violently, eventually spitting out water. 

When the problem stems from mineral deposits, you can easily diagnose it by inspecting the water tank or drain for hard mineral crusts. A gurgling noise indicates the issue is in the drain, where the water contains too much salt. 


  • Disconnect the humidifier from the power outlet and drain the tank. Rinse it thoroughly to remove any residual impurities. Then refill the tank and turn the unit on. 
  • If you own a Vicks mist humidifier, make sure to only use demineralized water in the tank. Some Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier units come with a demineralization cartridge that removes minerals from the water. The cartridge works for one to two months and efficiently clears the minerals from water in little time (the time depends on the content of impurities). 

We recommend either using the cartridge that came with your humidifier or distilled water in the mist humidifier, especially if you have a hard water supply.  

Water Purification Guide has a complete breakdown of brands of distilled water available here

  • In the Vicks steam units, start with adding only a pinch or two (⅛ tsp) of salt. If the system does not start producing steam within ten minutes, add ½ tsp more salt. 

Before adding salt, make sure to leave the unit unplugged for 20-30 minutes. This helps the humidifier cool down and is crucial to ensure efficient working. 

  • Change the Vapopads if need be. The humidifier won’t properly generate steam if a Vapopad is used for over 8 hours. 

Remember that you don’t need to add salt every time you refill the tank. While water evaporates, salt builds up in the tank and can work for a few more operations.  

Note that you should refrain from adding salt to the water if you’re using hard water. Hard water is already rich in minerals that are sufficient to generate steam.  

2. Overfilling

Filling the tank beyond the maximum limit mark may be why your Vicks humidifier is spitting water.  

Most units come with a built-in feature that detects the water level in the tank. In the case of overfilling, Vicks humidifiers automatically turn off to prevent spills. If for some reason, the auto-shut-off feature fails to work, the humidifier can start blowing or spitting water. 

Apart from water spitting out of the unit, you will also notice the base of the tank flooding, which confirms the problem.  


  • Unplug the unit and drain the extra water. As a precautionary measure, it is better to fill the tank with only half of its maximum capacity.  
  • Ensure that the unit is switched off when refilling the tank to avoid any accidents.  

In the future, filling to just below the max line can help prevent this problem from recurring.

Also, check with your electrician to fix any issue with the auto-shut-off feature. The problem might lie within the float system or internal working of the unit. A technician will help diagnose and fix the problem, altogether preventing any consequent problems.  

3. Dirt and Debris

Adequate cleaning and maintenance are critical for the proper functioning of any electronic appliance, and humidifiers are not exception. Vicks humidifiers can accumulate clogs (or deposits) due to various reasons.

The minerals, salt, and other impurities in the water can form hard crusts in the system.  

Since the humidifier is placed in a relatively open space (for proper airflow), dust, debris, and other contaminants in the air can easily make their way on and into the machine. The filterless units are particularly prone to dust blockages if not cleaned regularly. 

These clogs and debris buildups can interfere with the normal working of Vicks humidifiers, and it can end up blowing water from the steam/mist outlet. Especially if a blockage has formed in the mist outlet, and not just in the tank.


Thorough descaling of the appliance is a must to run the humidifier smoothly again. Here are some steps to clean Vicks humidifiers: 

  • Before cleaning, turn the humidifier off to prevent any accidents related to short circuits or electrical issues. 
  • As part of daily maintenance, drain the water tank completely and rinse it thoroughly with fresh water. Remember to fully empty the tank base. Refrain from using detergents as they can leave a thin film behind that damages the tank material. 
  • Wipe the tank and base dry with a clean cloth. Do not use any bristle brushes or abrasive material as it can damage the tank. 
  • For weekly maintenance, you will need to wash the unit with bleach or vinegar solution.
    • Vicks mist humidifiers: prepare a bleach solution by mixing one teaspoon of bleach in one-gallon water. Fill half of the tank with the prepared mixture and shake it vigorously every few minutes. After twenty minutes, drain the solution and wash the humidifier with running water until the bleach smell is gone.  
    • Vicks vaporizers / steam humidifiers: soak the steam unit for 10 minutes in 4 inches of white vinegar. Then, cover the bottom side of the steam unit and add tap water through the outlet. Shake vigorously before draining the water out of the outlet. Repeat the process to remove the vinegar odor.  
  • You can also use a mild detergent in the steam humidifiers to clean salt residues. 

After cleaning, let the humidifier dry completely before using it again. 

Plentiful Air has a complete guide to cleaning, maintaining and resetting Vicks Humidifiers available here.

4. Incorrect Placement and Overheating

Placing the humidifier in the incorrect location can contribute to water coming out. Ideally, you should place your Vicks humidifier in an open space, elevated at least a few inches above the ground. This is essential to ensure the proper flow of air.  

Unregulated airflow can hamper the proper functioning of the unit. This can send the unit into overdrive. Under stress, the system overheats, which then affects the boiling/evaporation in the humidifier. 


Unplug the unit and leave it for 20-30 minutes to cool down. Then place the humidifier on a flat surface, a few inches above the ground. Since there’s a chance of a spill or a leak, make sure your appliance is not near wooden furniture. 

Keep the cord away from heated surfaces and inspect it for any damage before plugging the humidifier in, as a damaged cord can disrupt the electrical connection and overheat the system. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some FAQ regarding Vicks humidifiers: 

Why Is My Vicks Humidifier Gurgling?

The gurgling sound from Vicks humidifier is indicative of excessive boiling/evaporation, which is typically the result of extra salt and/or minerals in the unit. A tank that is low on water can also generate a gurgling noise.

If you hear your Vicks humidifier gurgling, here’s how to go about diagnosing the problem: 

  • Check the tank. If the water level is low, unplug the unit and turn it off. Then remove the cover and refill the tank till its max limit mark. Place the cover back, turn the unit on, and it will start working fine. 
  • If the water levels are not a problem, then high levels of impurities or clogging are probably responsible for why the humidifier is gurgling. Drain the water and rinse the tank. In case of mist humidifiers, refill the tank with distilled water. For steam humidifiers, just refill the tank without adding salt and see if it starts steaming properly. 

Why Is My Vicks Humidifier Not Misting/Steaming?

Vicks humidifiers will not mist or steam for several reasons. Low amounts of salt prevent Vicks vaporizers from producing steam, while insufficient water in the reservoir will prevent a Vicks mist humidifier from producing mist. Overheating, blockage, and impaired airflow can also stop misting/steaming in all models of Vicks humidifiers.

If your steam humidifier is powered on but not producing steam, add a pinch of salt to the tank, and wait for 10 minutes. Low salt can be why water is not boiling (and producing steam).  

Check the water level in the tank and refill it if need be. Also, change the Vapopads (in steam humidifier) if they have been used for over eight hours.  

Clean the entire unit and if descaling doesn’t work, call in an electrician to look into the problem. 

Why Is My Vicks Humidifier Leaking?

Vicks humidifiers leak because of excess water in the tank or reservoir. The water typically leaks from the base of the humidifier, although it can also lead to spitting at the outlet during operation. Broken seals and incorrectly seated water reservoirs can also create leaks. 

If Vicks humidifier is leaking, drain the tank to remove extra water. If this doesn’t work, then inspect the unit for broken seals. In case of damaged seals, call in a technician and get the humidifier fixed before using it again. 

Vicks Humidifier Types & Features

Here are all the types of Vicks humidifiers available commercially. Use the features to determine your current model, or one that could best suit your needs:

Vicks Humidifier Features 
Embrace Cool Mist Humidifier Filter-free.
1.2-gallon tank capacity.
24 hour run time.
Auto mode and Turbo mode.
Ideal for medium-large rooms.
Dual Comfort Cool Warm Mist  Can switch between cool mist and warm mist.
1.2-gallon tank size. 
40 hour run time.
Can create medicated mist.  
Dual mist outlets. 
Best for medium-sized rooms. 
NaturalCare Cool Mist Humidifier Filter-free.  
0.6-gallon tank capacity. 
24 hours run time. 
Nighttime color changing light. 
It can function as a diffuser. 
Suitable for small rooms. 
Mini Cool Mist Humidifier Filter-free. 
0.5-gallon tank size. 
24 hour run time. 
Best for small rooms. 
Filtered Cool Mist Quiet Operation Humidifier Wicking filter in the water tank. 
1.1-gallon tank. 
24 hour run time. 
Suitable for medium-sized rooms. 
Mini Filter Free Cool Mist Humidifier Filter-free. 
Cool mist. 
0.5-gallon tank size. 
20 hours run time. 
Suitable for small rooms. 
Waterless Vaporizer A waterless vaporizer that can humidify the air by producing steam. 
8 hours runtime per VapoPad.  
Best for small rooms. 
Easy Fill Cool Mist Humidifier 
(currently unavailable)
Auto-shutoff feature (for empty bucket). 
1-gallon tank size. 
36 hours run time. 
Recommended for medium-large rooms. 
Sweet Dreams Cool Mist Humidifier Ultrasonic. 
1-gallon tank capacity. 
24 hours run time. 
Caters to small-medium rooms. 
CoolRelief Cool Mist Humidifier Filter-free. 
Produces cool mist along with steam. 
2-gallon tank size. 
24 hours run time. 
Best for medium-large rooms. 
Vicks Filter-Free Cool Mist Humidifier Ultrasonic. 
Variable mist control.
1.2-gallon tank size. 
30 hours run time. 
Appropriate for a medium-sized room. 
Plug Waterless Vaporizer 16 hours runtime (on one pad). 
Best for small rooms. 
Non-medicated menthol scent. 
Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier Filter-free.  
1.2-gallon tank capacity. 
24 hours run time. 
Suitable for large rooms. 
Vicks Warm Steam Vaporizer Auto shut-off feature. 
1.5-gallon tank size.
24 hours run time. 
Made for medium-large rooms. 
3-in-1 Sleepytime Humidifier Filter-free. 
Cool mist.  
Nightlight of 7 colors. 
0.6-gallon tank size. 
24 hours run time. 
Best for small rooms. 
Warm Mist Humidifier Filter-free. 
Auto-shutoff feature. 
1-gallon tank size. 
24 hours run time. 
Made for medium-large rooms. 

Russell Singleton

Russell holds a Bachelor of Science (Environmental and Marine Geoscience) with Class I Honors. He is currently completing his doctorate in science and is passionate about all earth processes, especially isotope geochemistry and paleohydrology.

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