Do I Use Hot or Cold Water in a Vicks Steam Vaporizer?

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The steam vaporizer from Vicks distributes steam throughout the air to help relieve coughing and congestion. When you or your family suffer congestion from a cold, asthma or other respiratory distress, a vaporizer may ease some of the irritation of dry air passages. Assembling and filling the vaporizer properly is essential to proper steam production. Using water that's too hot or too cold may create problems with the steam unit, damaging the vaporizer.


Basic Instructions

Twist the steam unit counterclockwise until the unit's arrows line up with the arrows on the water tank. Lift the steam unit out of the tank. Fill the water tank to the fill line marked inside using lukewarm or room-temperature tap water. Add a few pinches of salt to the water to encourage steam production. Secure the steam unit in the water tank and twist it clockwise to secure it in position. Plug the vaporizer in to start the cycle.

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Vapor Inhalants

The Vicks Steam Vaporizer includes an indent on the top of the steam unit called a medicine cup. The cup is located at the top of the grill area of the vaporizer. Add a tablespoon of medicated inhalant to the medicine cup. Alternatively, add Vicks VapoSteam to the water in the vaporizer tub according to the package directions. These inhalant additives disperse with the steam, so they should be added before you plug the vaporizer in.



Once a week, soak the steam unit in 4 inches of white vinegar for 10 minutes. After soaking, run cold water into the steam unit, plugging the bottom hole until the unit is filled. Uncover the bottom hole to drain the water from the steam unit. Continue to flush it with water until the water runs clear and you don't smell vinegar. Fill the water tub with tap water and a teaspoon of bleach. Drain and rinse the tub after 20 minutes. Let the steam unit and tub dry completely before refilling or storing it.


You may need to hold the steam unit down for a few seconds until it absorbs a small amount of water. Steam should appear from the vents within 10 minutes. If steam doesn't flow steadily, try adding a pinch of additional salt. Unplug the vaporizer when you're not using it. Drain the vaporizer as soon as it cools. Don't leave water sitting in the unit. The nightlight illuminates to alert you when the vaporizer is plugged in. As long as it's plugged in, the unit is running. Watch the water level carefully. Unplug the vaporizer before adding water.



Tara Kimball

Tara Kimball is a former accounting professional with more than 10 years of experience in corporate finance and small business accounting. She has also worked in desktop support and network management. Her articles have appeared in various online publications.