There’s nothing worse than getting your fog machine out of retirement for a birthday party or Halloween celebration, only to find it no longer works. Most people automatically assume they should be cleaning their fog machine to fix this issue, but it’s not always the answer.
Cleaning Your Fog Machine
Learning how to clean a fog machine also means learning when it’s time to do it. Sometimes people are too zealous in their efforts and end up doing more damage to the machine than good, so an important part of cleaning fog machine is knowing when exactly it’s time.
Once you’ve established the best step is to give it a good clean, we can walk you through the steps and show you a great homemade fog machine cleaner to use. With some maintenance and TLC, you can ensure your fog machine lasts for many more years of entertainment.
Knowing When to Clean Your Fog Machine
October is coming around; you’ve got the fog machine out of the basement and want to give it a try to see if it’s still working. You pour in the fog machine fluid, turn it on, and nothing happens. The next step is to clean it out, right? Well, not always.
Before you get down to the cleaning part, there are some things to check. Most of the time, the issue will be with the fog fluid you’re using and not the machine itself. In this case, make up a fresh batch of juice, load it in the fluid tank, and see if that helps.
To prevent this issue from happening in the future, be sure you are using high quality juice that is properly designed for your machine. There is a big difference between high and low quality fog juice, with the former being properly designed to produce dense fog without damaging your machine.
However, if you change the juice in the fog fluid tank, and find that your fog output is still not sufficient, then it’s likely because the fogging machine is clogged. Therefore, learning how to unclog a fog machine will be an integral part of the cleaning process and an essential skill to have on hand.
How to Clean a Fog Machine
Fog machines aren’t complex devices, so cleaning them doesn’t require too much work. However, you will need to work slowly through the steps to ensure you’re taking care of every part. Try these out to give your smoke machine a thorough cleaning.
Step 1: Find Somewhere Suitable
To clean your fog machine, you’ll need to move it outdoors as the smell from the cleaning fluid can be quite powerful. Look for somewhere outside that’s close to an electrical outlet.
Step 2: Clean the Tank
Remove the tank from the unit and empty any remaining fog liquid out into the sink. Shake it a few times and leave it upside down to ensure all traces are gone. There’s no need to rinse it out as the cleaning solution will do that for you when you’re at that stage.
Step 3: Make Cleaning Mixture
Cleaning the fog machine can be done easily with natural ingredients that most people have at home. Use a mixture of distilled water and white vinegar with equal parts of each. Mix the two liquids together in whichever proportions you’d like, but aim for at least enough to fully fill up the tank on your fog machine.
NOTE: Be extra sure to use distilled water and not tap water. Distilled water means that minerals and impurities have been removed from the water. These substances can potentially harm or clog the fog machine on their own. You wouldn’t want to cause damage to your machine during the cleaning process!
Step 4: Pour It In
With the mixture made up, you can return the tank into the fog machine. Pour your cleaning mixture carefully into the tank where you normally pour your fog juice. Aim to fill it up as close to the top as possible without overflowing.
Most machines will need around half a liter of the vinegar-water solution to be enough. Once it’s full, you simply need to let the machine run and all of the cleaning solution to go through it. The fog machine is sort of cleaning itself at this point.
Step 5: Rinse It Out
When the vinegar mixture is complete, you can then pour clean distilled water with nothing else back into the tank. Once again, turn on the machine and run it through again with just the distilled water. This final part will ensure any trace remains have been flushed out. When it’s done, leave the machine and tank to air dry out.
Step 6: Clean Other Parts
With the tank cleaned out, you now need to work on the other parts of the machine. Spend some time wiping down the exterior of the machine and getting into every crevice possible. Use a small toothbrush or something similar to get in deep enough.
Next, scrape out the nozzle and look for any clogging there. If needed, you can insert a pin or needle into the nozzle to remove any excess dirt that may have built up. It is common for the nozzle to become clogged with regular use, and this is especially true if you are using low-quality fog juice.
Step 7: Test Your Fog Juice
Once the cleaning is done, you should now test your fog liquid to make sure it’s acceptable. Pour it into the tank and let the machine make fog for a few minutes to assess. When done, you can store it away. Always be sure that you test a batch of fog juice before you store it away when you’re finished cleaning, otherwise it can do serious damage.
An Important Part of Fog Machine Ownership
Fog machines are certainly a lot of fun, but just like any other machine, they require ongoing care and maintenance. Learning about your specific machine and what it needs to run smoothly is the best thing you can do to ensure it will serve you well for years to come.
If you buy a reputable fog machine, it should have all the details needed for proper cleaning and care. Not only should it tell you which fog juice to use, but how to load the fog machine properly, and how long it can sit before you need to change the juice. Each machine is different, but as long as you take specific care of the machine you have, then you shouldn’t find it too difficult.
Before you attempt any type of cleaning, always check the manufacturer’s guide as to what’s acceptable for the machine. In some cases, you may void the warranty by using specific ingredients or products, so you have to be aware of what’s allowed before you begin. As an example, some machines will void the warranty simply by using DIY fog juice in the machine.
When taken care of correctly, fog machines don’t need a lot of regular cleaning, and it’s generally recommended that you rarely do a deep clean like this. With regular maintenance of the exterior, keeping the hose clean, and using the right fogger fluid, you should be able to avoid these intense types of cleaning.
Clean Before Storing
It is also recommended that you clean your fog machine thoroughly before storing it away. If you know there is a time when you won’t be using your fog machine for an extended period (such as after Halloween) then it’s definitely advised to clean it using the process above.
If you store the fog machine while it is clogged, you will find that it is probably going to be inoperable by the time you pull it out again to use it. Before storing, you also need to make sure that there is absolutely no vinegar left in the lines. This is why it’s recommended to run distilled water through the lines after you have run the vinegar solution through the lines.
Avoid Clogging – Use High Quality Fog Juice
As you’ve seen throughout this article, it has been a running theme that it is imperative to use proper fog juice in your fog machine. In this section we’re running through a couple of our favourites.
First, let’s explain why this is so important. There is a tendency among many fog machine owners to believe that budget fog juice will work just fine. And while we wish this were true, it is often not the case. In fact, there is a sizeable difference between low quality and high-quality juices.
For one, high-quality juices tend to be made with ingredients that will not damage your fog machine. They use pharmaceutical grade, non-toxic, and non-hazardous chemicals, that won’t clog your machine when used properly.
Also, a high quality fog juice just looks so much better! You’ll get a much denser, thicker, and more atmospheric fog. A quality fog juice creates an effect that won’t be rivalled by a budget brand.
Our Top Picks
Now that you understand why it’s so important to use high-quality juice, let’s check out a couple of our favorites. But remember to check that each fog juice is actually compatible with your machine. A fog juice will never be the best if it doesn’t even work with your machine!
The first brand of note is Chauvet. Chauvet makes all sorts of quality fog machine juices. The juices are made with ingredients which are non-toxic, non-hazardous, and that will not stain or damage surfaces.
But all of that wouldn’t matter if it wasn’t some quality fog, and we’re happy to report that it is! Chauvet is one of the most trusted names in the fog community, and their expertise actually extends to fog machines as well. Chauvet’s fog juices were specifically designed for their own machines, but they will work in many types of water based fog machine (just be sure to check your machine for compatibility).
Check out this video demonstration of the different Chauvet juices. There sure is a lot to choose from!
Froggy’s Fog is another brand that comes highly recommended from almost all most foggers. Similar to Chauvet above, Froggy’s has a wide variety of fog juices available.
They’re also made with high-quality ingredients and pharmaceutical grade chemicals. They produce high-quality fog, and the difference is noticeable over cheaper brands.
Fog Machine Uses
To round out our article, we’re going to leave you with some inspiration. One of the primary reasons that people end up with a clogged fog machine is that they go too long without using it. We don’t want this to happen, so here are a bunch of other uses for your fog machine:
More Than Just Halloween
Of course, there’s Halloween. This might be the most obvious usage of a fog machine. A layer of fog adds a spooky element to every Halloween party or display.
But how about using this creativity and applying it elsewhere? A thick layer of smoke adds an element of mystique to just about anything. Try spicing up your photos or adding an extra element to your parties.
If you organize theatrical performances or stage shows, then fog machines give you professional level special effects on a budget. They’re also a way to make an amateur band look professional!
There are many creative uses for fog, and we hope we’ve inspired you to get more use out of your machine than just once a year. Follow our instructions to keep your machine in top shape, and you’ll enjoy your fog machine for years to come!
Fog Machine Cleaning FAQ
How often should I clean my fog machine?
It is recommended that fog machines are cleaned every 40 hours it is in operation or every two weeks. You should avoid cleaning your fog machine any more than this.
How do you unclog a fog machine?
Clogging happens more often when you use a lower quality fluid. A clogged machine will not function as it should and can ultimately destroy the machine's heating element. Unplug the machine and drain the reservoir of all fluid. Then fill the reservoir halfway up with distilled water and then add distilled vinegar until the reservoir is full. The vinegar will help dissolve whatever may be clogging the system.
Can fog machine fluid go bad?
Fog machine fluid typically only has a shelf life of between 12 and 18 months, and that is if it is being stored in a heat-sealed container.
Do fog machines have a warranty?
No. Not all fog machines come with a warranty. However, Titan machines typically come with a 2-year warranty. Many manufacturers would rather you purchase a replacement rather than repairing the machine. Many replacement parts you will find are going to be on the pricier side.
What are some routine maintenance items to stay on top of when it comes to a fog machine?
If you purchase a cheaper machine, you may find that it breaks down more often. So, you should first consider the advantages of purchasing a higher quality machine. To keep your machine in great working condition, you want to clean all the components of the machine every 40 hours it is operational.
You also want to be sure to use higher quality fluids in the machine so that it doesn't clog the machine. Finally, store the machine at room temperature to prevent the tubing from becoming damaged. Treat it as you would any other electronics.
How do you store a fog machine?
To store a fog machine, you will want to make sure there is a small amount of fog fluid in the lines. You will also want to store the machine in a climate-controlled area and on a very level surface.
Should I use regular or distilled water to clean my fog machine?
It is best to use a mixture of 50% distilled water and 50% vinegar to clean your fog machine properly.
What do I do if my fog machine is spitting out fluid?
This typically happens when the heater core isn't hot enough to evaporate the water that is in the fluid. It can become very dangerous and can also result in first degree burns if you are not careful. Heater cores are capable of reaching 700 degrees or higher.
If this happens, turn the fog machine off and make sure to put distance between you and the machine to prevent any of the fluid from hitting your bare skin at close range.
Since this typically happens with lower wattage machines, you will want to make sure to get a higher wattage machine that is specifically engineered to keep the heater cores hot while withdrawing the fluid with Instant Stop Technology.