Your skin is cracked, your lips are chapped, you get bloody noses more often, and annoying static electricity buildup shocks you every time you touch something metal. These are all common symptoms of dry winter air. The solution? Run humidifiers throughout your home to help make you more comfortable.
While they’re meant to improve indoor air quality, without proper care humidifiers can also harbor mold and bacteria growth and cause respiratory problems. That’s why, to enjoy them to the fullest, you must learn how to properly use and care for home humidifiers.
Tips for Using Humidifiers
Avoid Tap Water
There’s no specific health risk associated with using tap water in a humidifier, but the high mineral content can cause “white dust” to settle on surfaces in the room. More importantly, minerals found in tap water increase crusty scale buildup in humidifiers, creating the perfect breeding ground for mold and bacteria.
One option to minimize these problems is to use distilled water. The water still contains some minerals, but far less than tap water, especially in areas with naturally “harder” water.
Another option is to use demineralization filters or cartridges. You know you should pursue this option if the manufacturer specifically recommends it.
Keep Relative Humidity Below 50%
While dry air clearly has negative effects, overly humid air does, too. Be careful not to overrun the humidifier. The goal is to keep your home between 35% and 50% relative humidity. Any higher than this and you risk mold and bacteria growth that could irritate your lungs. You know your home is too humid if condensation forms on the windows or walls.
Many humidifiers have a built-in humidistat to adjust the moisture level. If your humidifier doesn’t have a humidity readout, pick up a hygrometer at your local hardware store. Use this device to measure and maintain the correct relative humidity.
Keep the Area Around the Humidifier Dry
Place the humidifier on a hard, non-porous surface. If it gets damp around the humidifier, turn the vapor output down. If your unit can’t be adjusted in this way, run it intermittently. Touch soft materials near the humidifier – such as carpet, drapes or a tablecloth – each day to make sure they’re not damp.
Stop Use if You Develop Respiratory Problems
If you begin to associate breathing trouble or other respiratory issues with running the humidifier, stop using it and contact your doctor. You may develop symptoms even if you care for the humidifier properly.
Caring for Your Humidifier
Keep the Tank Clean
At the end of each day, pour out the water, wipe down all surfaces and refill the tank with distilled water. Be sure to unplug the unit during this process.
Every third day, do a more thorough cleaning. Empty the tank and scrub it with a brush to remove mineral deposits, scale buildup or moldy film that has formed. Wipe all surfaces dry and refill with distilled water.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions about what cleaners or disinfectants to use. If you’re not sure, a safe bet is to use a solution of water with 3% hydrogen peroxide. When using anything but water to clean the tank, rinse it thoroughly with tap water before refilling it with distilled water.
Clean the Humidifier Before Storage
You only need a humidifier during the winter months. When spring arrives, carefully clean the tank one last time. Dry all exposed surfaces by hand and let it air dry for a few hours before packing it away in a dry location. If you used demineralization filters or cartridges, throw away the last one you used before putting the humidifier in storage.
Next fall, clean the unit before using it for the first time to remove any dust that has settled on it.
Follow Instructions Regarding Replacement Materials
Some humidifiers come with filters or other parts that need to be maintained or replaced periodically. For the best results, use these products the way the instructions tell you.
A properly used, well-maintained humidifier can keep you comfortable and healthy all winter. Contact Rainbow Restoration® for more tips and tricks about maintaining good indoor air quality.
Other topics that you might want to read:
Carbon Monoxide: The Silent Killer
How Clean Is The Air You Breathe?