Sunbeam Vaporizer/humidifier

September 6, 2021, 10:31 AM · Thinking about winter now that it's September. Last year I bought the very cheap Sunbeam Warm Steam Vaporizer ( and it was a great pairing with the control unit I purchased from recommendations (the WILLHI WH1436H Mini controller).

The problem is that the Sunbeam has been discontinued and the head has lots of calcification from last year. I seem to remember that some forum members have cleaned thiers in the past - is my memory correct? Is it really possible to clean the head enough to get another season? I hate to try to find another model when this one worked so well.

Replies (28)

September 6, 2021, 11:52 AM · You can fill the chamber with vinegar, plug it in OUTSIDE, and let it boil-off for a bit. This will loosen much of the mineral deposits that can then be scrubbed off with a plastic scrubber.

I stopped using a humidifier a few years ago, and started using Strettos in my violin cases and cabinets. They work well.

Edited: September 6, 2021, 12:58 PM · I use both a room humidifier and a Boveda in my violin case. My apartment gets VERY dry. Also, with the advent of the new hammered dulcimer I'll need to be even more careful. It's designed so that the wood interacts with the humidity so it doesn't impact the tuning so much, but obviously any wooden instrument is going to be susceptible.

The mineral deposits are INSIDE the head of the Sunbeam, where I can't get to it with a brush. Periodically I've been able to shake out large chunks...

Edited: September 6, 2021, 3:05 PM · Sadly, the Sunbeam steam vaporizer has been discontinued. I have enough of them skockpiled to last me for the rest of my life, but this doesn't really help anyone else.

I consider the next-best to be the Vicks steam vaporizers. They don't put out nearly as much moisture-per-unit as the Sunbeam, so you may need to use two or three of them to output the moisture that the Sunbeams did. The upside is that since they don't dispense moisture as quickly as the Sunbeam, they don't need to be refilled as often. LOL

September 6, 2021, 1:12 PM · My other half balances a tray of water on the CH radiator.
I was going to suggest vinegar, but imagine never getting rid of the smell!
September 6, 2021, 1:35 PM · No worries about the smell of vinegar hanging around. I have done the vinegar boiling procedure many dozens of times. It rinses out thoroughly with no residual order.
September 6, 2021, 1:40 PM · An electric skillet and a small fan.
September 6, 2021, 1:55 PM · Thanks! It's on the balcony on a long extension cord and full of a 75% vinegar/filtered water mix as I didn't have quite enough vinegar. I'll keep an eye on it so it doesn't run dry.
September 6, 2021, 2:13 PM · Distilled vinegar is good to use.
Edited: September 6, 2021, 4:31 PM · Paul Deck wrote:
" An electric skillet and a small fan."

If one is going to use a stove-top powered humidification device, I would suggest that it be natural gas powered, rather than by electricity. Efficiency for both heating and water evaporation are much higher by burning natural gas on-site, than by burning it remotely in a power plant, converting the energy into steam, using the steam to run a turbine, then using the turbine to power a generator, which feeds into a grid which has further power losses all down the line.

One of the by-products of burning natural gas is that a good part of the combustion process ends up as water. If I am trying to add moisture to my home air, I'd rather have that water here, than at some remote power plant, where it will be uselessly vented to the surrounding atmosphere, contributing to the "greenhouse effect".

Edited: September 6, 2021, 6:06 PM · I agree with David -- certainly about the combustion byproduct -- but some people are leery of leaving a gas stove on while they are away from home, whereas an electric stove burner doesn't seem to create the same fears. For many years (grad school, etc.) I just left a pan of water on the stove on low heat to humidify my apartment, 24/7 unless I was cooking rice or noodles!

Also some folks don't have gas. I have gas to my home, but only to the attic, where it powers the furnace that backs up my heat pump. There's talk in some places of banning the running of gas lines to new residential construction. I think that's a bad idea but for other reasons than David mentioned.

I saw this cute little model on Amazon. If I were considering using it for a humidifier I'd consider drilling some holes in the top, which is probably aluminum. A lot of other models have glass lids.

September 6, 2021, 8:34 PM · Once you get the mineral scale out of the humidifier, consider using de-ionized or distilled water - the scale problem should be minimized. For my case humidifiers, I put one or two drops of chlorine bleach in about 300 cc of water, and use that to replenish them - no scale; no mold.
September 6, 2021, 8:47 PM · I go through far too much water to keep that room humidified to buy it, sadly, and then it all has to get carried upstairs to my apartment. However, if I descale once a month this winter rather than not at all, that will help a lot :) Yes, I know, but it seemed fine.

Pretty shocking just how much stuff came out of the head of the Sunbeam!!! I may get more vinegar and do it again.

September 6, 2021, 9:05 PM · Nobody ever reads the instructions that come with those things...
September 7, 2021, 6:34 AM · True Paul, I was chuckling over that myself :)
September 7, 2021, 7:48 AM · Charles, the Sunbeam vaporizer(s) in my shop go through as much as 4 gallons per day, during a really cold spell. So it's much more economical for me to replace them when they get so much mineral buildup that they stop working, than to buy distilled water.

There's another issue with using distilled water: This style of vaporizer relies on the water being conductive in order to function. Basically, they won't work with distilled or demineralized water unless salt or bicarbonate of soda are added to make the water more conductive.

Edited: September 7, 2021, 9:00 AM · I was using Vicks Warm Mist humidifiers which worked really well and used a heating element to boil the water, so distilled water could be used if one so desired (but it would be really expensive!).

The nice thing about warm mist humidifiers is that they don't spray minerals into the air like mechanical humidifiers do, so your room (and violins) don't become coated with a thin layer of mineral dust. But they do need to be cleaned regularly to remove the mineral deposits inside the device.

I think that the Vicks Warm Mist humidifier may be an equivalent alternative to the discontinued Sunbeam humidifier.

By the way, thanks, David, for your recommendation of using the controller coupled with the humidifier. That worked really really well.

September 7, 2021, 2:55 PM · A super-accurate and reliable setup, costing only around a hundred bucks or less (purchase price) to keep a practice room or small shop humidified, if anyone is wondering.

I have tested much more expensive setups which weren't nearly as good.

September 7, 2021, 3:41 PM · Haven't read the whole pile, so please forgive me if I'm off topic. Instead of vinegar, you might prefer to use citric acid. It's cheap, and it's odorless.
Edited: September 7, 2021, 4:58 PM · David has a good point about the electrolyte -- I prefer sodium bicarbonate as it seems less corrosive than sodium chloride. My water is soft enough that I have to add a pinch of bicarb to my tap water. Bicarb also doesn't leave deposits like magnesium, calcium, and iron mineral compounds will. I also agree with David about the cost of deionized water, it's close to $1.00 a gallon at the supermarket. (Which always makes me chuckle -- and not in a good way -- when I think about GASOLINE being $2 to $3 per gallon.)
September 7, 2021, 7:38 PM · Nuuska, I think I'll try my coffee descaler sometime, Dezcal, which is citric acid and sulfamic acid. Works way better in my coffee maker than vinegar.

I think the current Honeywell warm mist humidifier may be similar, I use a larger Honeywell on the coldest days when the whole house humidifier can't keep up.

September 8, 2021, 5:25 AM · Stan, I have one of those Honeywells. It works fine, and is easier to refill than the cheaper ones I recommend, because the water reservoir lifts away using the handle at the top, and can be carried easily with one hand. The only reason I haven't recommended it is that many reviewers have had issues with it leaking water. Mine has not, but I can see how the design makes it more vulnerable to leakage than the one I recommend, this one:

Edited: September 8, 2021, 8:50 AM · I used a Honeywell that looked much like that for 2 winters and it was prone to leaking that second winter.the combo of the Sunbeam and the control unit David recommended worked far better. My violin was much happier though it is a different violin with an upgraded case.

I'll pick up a Vicks or 2 as a backup, it looks similar to my Sunbeam.

I'm looking forward to my hammered dulcimer arriving, this particular model is designed to better absorb winter changes and all that entails. Doesn't mean it won't live in my humidified home office/music room. No wooden instrument can be fully safe.

September 8, 2021, 9:17 AM · Dave, thanks for the link. For 15 bucks that is practically disposable! Good water capacity too.
Edited: September 8, 2021, 11:00 AM · Hi Catherine,

I bought something like this:

This obviously will not work for large rooms. So, I had the mist directed to the corner where violin practice is done; and it works well enough for that corner. Hygrometer and temperature monitor in place show good numbers. Violin is in case when not practicing.

I think this could work in smaller rooms, or if you have two humidifiers in medium sized rooms. The tap water is replaced daily during winter months. Not used during the summer.

September 8, 2021, 3:37 PM · There were 4 of the Vicks warm mist humidifiers that David linked to a local store, I bought two of them. They won't spoil in my closet as I'm sure the Sunbeam will die at some point and with my luck the Vicks will be out of production by then.
September 8, 2021, 10:30 PM · Lisa I believe the "cool mist" or "ultrasonic" types of humidifiers are not recommended because they tend to deposit minerals from the droplets whereas a true vapor humidifier won't do that.

Stan mentioned sulfamic acid. Please let us know how that works. Sulfamic acid is a much stronger acid than acetic acid.

September 9, 2021, 7:18 AM · For coffee equipment I use, 50 grams for a liter of water, rinse well afterwards. But like I say for 15 dollars, I'd might consider just doing a minimum of cleaning and replace it at the end of the season.

A cool mist unit I tried once was also not nearly as effective as steam units.

September 9, 2021, 11:18 AM · I had a Vicks (maybe warm mist? not sure) secondhand from a friend meaning no instruction manual, didn't know about cleaning it, until...well, it was nasty (maybe that's why it seemed like it wasn't doing anything useful) and in the process of multiple soakings and scrubbings, I managed to crack plastic in unsuitable places. After multiple scoldings from my luthier about open seams, I finally bought a Vornado evaporative model, which is pricier, massive, and requires periodic wick replacement, but it appropriately humidifies my open living room space and turns the motor off automatically. I have a Dampp-Chaser piano system too and use a bit of the pad treatment in the humidifier jugs.

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