Why is My Vicks Humidifier Showing Red Light? Demystified, and How to Fix!

If your Vicks humidifier shows a red light, well, there is a problem. Usually, this is caused by low water in the tank, an overfilled tank, loose water level sensor, water leakage into the base/circuitry, and for warm mist Vicks humidifier, the heating elements are covered by mineral scale.

A red light flashing on the humidifier can be a cause for concern, even more than a humidifier showing blue light.

But a Vicks humidifier red light does not mean the end of the appliance. Most Vicks warm or cool mist humidifiers are fairly simple to use, in plug-and-play design.

Humidifiers increase the humidity of the room, so you can sleep at a good humidity level for the bedroom.

Warm mist humidifiers are great for sinuses and other health problems. These humidifiers also help with chest congestion.

Keep reading to see the causes and fixes of a red light on a Vicks misting unit:

1. Vicks humidifier does not have enough water

vicks humidifier red light with water

This is the most common cause of the Vicks humidifier showing a red light. If there is too little or no water in the tank, the unit flashes a red light.

Of course, by this time, the humidifier is not producing mist. It will shut down to prevent damage to the motor.

What happens when you run a humidifier without water is that the motor overheats. It can cause serious damage to the unit.

In some instances, it can also cause fire or melt the plastic parts. Running a unit when it is low on water is also one of the main causes of the Vicks humidifier burning smell.

Solution: Turn off the humidifier and unplug it from the wall socket. Give it 20 to 30 minutes to cool down. You should not remove the tank from the humidifier while it is still running. After it has cooled down, fill the tank with water and return it. Make sure you tighten the cap to stop your humidifier getting everything wet.

2. The Vicks humidifier tank is TOO FULL

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t! That’s what it sounds like.

It is not! The solution to the flashing red light of the Vicks humidifier is filling the tank with water. But this does not mean filling the tank to the brim with water.

If you do that, the red light will illuminate again.

Solution: Check the tank, and if it is full to the brim, switch off the humidifier, unplug it, and wait for it to cool down. Remove the tank and pour out the excess water. The red light should go off, and if it does not, move on to the next step.

3. Water has leaked into the base

water in the humidifier base

When cleaning the Vicks warm mist humidifier, you will use a water-vinegar solution to remove scale buildup on the heating elements.

However, the heating element unit is attached to the base of the humidifier. Therefore, it is possible that water could leak into the base.

You should NOT IMMERSE THE HUMIDIFIER BASE IN WATER! Still, there is a risk of water finding its way into the base and the circuitry.

Solution 1: If the humidifier is still under warranty, do not open the motor unit because that will void the warranty. Just put it upside-down on a rack to air-dry it for a few days.

Solution 2: If you love doing things with your hands, and the humidifier is not under warranty, use a screwdriver to see if there is water in the circuitry. If there is, use paper towels to dab it dry. Leave the dismantled humidifier to air-dry completely for some time, and then put it back together.

4. The humidifier is too dirty: how to clean it

When a humidifier is dirty and caked with mineral scale on the tank walls, and the mist nozzle, you cannot tell how it will behave.

Thus, it is just best to keep it clean. If you check your Vicks humidifier manual, you will see it says to clean it at least once a week.

Alternatively, you could always contact Vicks customer support to ask any question regarding your product.

How to clean your Vicks humidifier

Step 1: Switch it off, unplug it, and let it cool down

Step 2: Remove the tank, set it aside

Step 3: Pour a 50-50 mix of water and white vinegar in the tank, set it aside to remove the scale on the tank walls. Swish it around so the solution gets to all corners of the tank.

Step 4: If there is stubborn scale on the walls, use the provided brush or a bottle cleaner brush to remove it

Step 5: Pour out the cleaning solution of water and vinegar, and rinse the tank with cold water, set it aside

Step 6: Clean the base of the humidifier by pouring a little white vinegar into it, let it sit for a bit, and then wipe it clean with a piece of cloth.

Step 7: Fill the tank with water, tighten the cap, and attach it to the tank properly.

5. Faulty water level sensor

Sometimes, the water level sensor, which is located in the tank can develop problems. If it fails to work properly, this will cause the humidifier to show a red light.

The sensor is supposed to detect the water level in the tank, and send the signal to the control board. This is how the red light is initiated to alert you of the low water level.

Thus, if the sensor is faulty, it can cause the red light to illuminate even when the water level in the tank is okay.

Solution: After the humidifier is cooled down, access the sensor inside the tank and check whether the sensor is clogged with debris. Wipe it clean gently. If it is cracked, or shows signs of other damage, you need to take the humidifier to a technician so they can replace it.

6. The humidifier filters are clogged

Dirty, clogged filters will always cause the humidifier red light to go on. The good thing is that they are washable, and reusable. However, if too worn out, consider ordering a new one from Amazon.com or the Vicks website.


Step 1: Switch it off and unplug it. Allow it sometime to cool down, remove the tank

Step 2: remove the filter by twisting it in the counterclockwise direction.

Step 3: If there is any debris, gently brush it off using the provided cleaning brush.

Step 4: Clean the filter under running cold water to remove all dirt

Step 5: Let it air-dry, return to humidifier tank by twisting it in the clockwise direction, and then refill the tank.

7. Your humidifier is overheating

This is another common cause of red light on humidifiers. Many people ask what would happen if you run a humidifier without water.

If for some reason, such as a faulty water level sensor, the humidifier keeps running even when empty, it would overheat.

Also, placing the humidifier too close to an external source of heat will cause it to overheat.

And this would cause the red light to go on!

Solution: Ensure the tank has enough water, the water level sensor is working okay, and that it is not close to an external source of heat such as an open fire or an electric heater.

8. The humidifier needs resetting

After cleaning a humidifier, it requires resetting. First, fill the tank with distilled water because using tap water in a humidifier might cause scale on the tank.

The humidifier light might illuminate green to show everything is okay, but after some time, it might start to illuminate red.

If the red light comes on, switch the unit off for some time, for about five minutes, and then switch it back on. You could also disconnect the humidifier from power for a few hours and switch it on again.

If the cause of the red light is the need for resetting, it shall go off, and the humidifier will illuminate green.

If it does not go off, something else is wrong with the humidifier.

9. Heating element is covered in scale (for warm mists)

When you use tap water in the humidifier, it contains minerals, and this forms scale build-up on the walls. Since this is a warm mist unit, even the humidifier boiling the water does not prevent this.

Remove the tank and the mist chimney to access the heating chamber. If the heating elements have scale, pour a water-vinegar solution and let it stay for some time. You could then use a soft cloth to wipe the scale out.


Why is there a red light on my Vicks humidifier?

The light comes on to warn you not to use the unit without checking it. It is a safety alert and it can help you prolong the life of your humidifier.

Here are the most common causes of a red light on your humidifier:

  • Low water level or no water in the tank: If the level is ½ inch or less, the red light goes on
  • Heating elements are covered in scale
  • The unit needs resetting
  • The water level sensor is loose

Start with the simplest checks all the time, such as ensuring the unit has enough water and that it is not too full.

You could also try to reset the humidifier by switching it off and back on after a few hours. Usually, resetting is recommended after cleaning the humidifier.

If these fail, take it to a technician to check the water level sensor. You can also take it apart and check for yourself.

Why does Vicks warm mist humidifier red light keep coming on?

Check the water level sensor and the float ring. This is a bit complicated, so unless you are sure you can do it, take it to a technician.

But even with the water level sensor checked, the red light could still come back. There is one final check to make, on the control board.

This is the heart of the warm mist humidifier. With so many small parts and wires, something could go wrong. It could cause the red light to go on and off all the time.

If that fails, well, perhaps the unit is done for. If you open it up when it is still under warranty (Vicks humidifiers mostly come with a warranty of 3 years), it will be voided.

Wrapping it up

If the Vicks warm mist humidifier red light stays on, it means something is wrong. Everything is okay when the humidifier light is green.

Luckily, simple checks like the water level in the tank, cleaning the heating elements, and resetting the unit seem to fix these issues.

If they don’t, you could check the user manual the unit came with to find out what the manufacturer recommends.