Humidifiers are a great way to control the dryness of the air in your home. Heated air gets dry quite fast, which is awful for the sinuses. Also, it dries the skin out quickly, especially during the winter.
Even our grandparents know that placing bowls of water on the radiator or stove improves the air quality. Additionally, humid air is great for wooden surfaces in your home. It prevents cracks from forming and keeps your floor and furniture strong.
In addition to keeping your skin and sinuses happy, air humidifiers can prevent the spreading of viruses. The most common viruses, such as the cold and the flu, have a hard time getting through the heavy humid air. To be exact, spreading can drop from 77% in dry air to a mere 14% in humid air. That makes for a five-fold decrease, which is no laughing matter.
With the cold season getting close, you should definitely think about getting a humidifier for your home.
However, if you’re not careful when using it, you can cause mold to grow, which is not something that you want. In light of that, I’ve gathered some useful information that should teach you how to use your humidifier safely.
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What Are Humidifiers?
Even though there is a variety of humidifiers out there, they all have the same effect. A humidifier is basically a tank of water that disperses humid air into the air of the room. Most commonly, the system used to disperse the water defines the type of humidifier.
Since water can evaporate all by itself, you can simply use a bowl of water as a humidifier. If you decide to humidify your room this way, be sure to put the bowl near a source of heat. Heat encourages water evaporation. Still, this method will take longer than using an electric humidifier.
Types of Humidifiers
Depending on the method they use to disperse the water, you can find the following types of humidifiers:
- impeller humidifiers
- steam vaporizers
There are also cool-mist and warm-mist humidifiers. As their names suggest, their main difference is the temperature they operate at.
Cool-mist humidifiers disperse the water without heating it, keeping the air at room temperature. They don’t produce any steam, so they’re not as dangerous as warm-mist humidifiers. People with children tend to use cool-mist humidifiers since they are the safest option.
Most cool-mist humidifiers use ultrasound to disperse the water into the air. Doing so, they don’t require a heating element or a wick, making them simple to operate and maintain. Additionally, cool-mist humidifiers work best for large areas, making them the ideal choice for large homes with pets or children.
Unfortunately, they come with a couple of disadvantages. For starters, cool-mist humidifiers are at high risk of developing mold or bacteria. Since there’s no heat to disinfect the water, you have to clean it quite often. You should replace the water regularly, but you can also use disinfectants in your water (more on that later).
Another downside to cool-mist humidifiers is the white dust that comes out of them if you use particularly hard water. The dust is actually the dried-up mineral content from the water. It’s not dangerous at all, but it is annoying.So, you’ll need to either clean up around the humidifier regularly or use distilled water in your tank.
In contrast to cool-mist humidifiers, warm-mist ones use evaporation to disperse the water into the air. Most devices achieve that by heating the air until it turns into steam. The steam then gets dispersed throughout the room via a fan.
Many people use these humidifiers for medical purposes. If you’re down with the flu, a warm-mist humidifier is the way to go. It will alleviate your symptoms and make you feel better.
Moreover, you don’t have to worry about mold and bacteria. Since warm-mist humidifiers operate at temperatures that go above 70°C, the bacteria can’t survive and develop further.
However, if you have pets or small children in your home, you should be extremely careful when using warm-mist humidifiers. For starters, they can get quite hot, especially if they’ve been running for a while. And if your child or pet knocks it over, they could get seriously burned.
In addition, we all know how bad it is when water comes into contact with electricity. To stay safe, you should place your warm air humidifier far from the reach of pets, children, and passers-by.
How To Use a Humidifier
Using a humidifier is quite simple — you just turn it on and leave it be. You’ll also need to clean it and replace the water in the tank once in a while, but that doesn’t require much effort either.
However, before you go ahead and run the humidifier, you should carefully think about its placement.
For starters, the humidifier should be placed at least 12 inches away from the ground or surrounding walls of the room. If you put the humidifier too close to a wall, you run the risk of developing a mold infection inside it.
Additionally, make sure that there’s nothing placed above the humidifier. Since it disperses the water upwards, anything above will get damp and wet quickly. You can easily destroy a shelf by placing a humidifier underneath.
If your humidifier comes with a pre-installed hygrometer (air humidity sensor), you can set your desired humidity and basically never think about it again.
On the other hand, if your humidifier isn’t as complex as that, you should definitely consider buying a hygrometer. Set it up near the humidifier, and wait until you achieve your desired humidity. Then, you can turn the humidifier off.
As I mentioned, each type of humidifier comes with its own risks.
If you own a warm-mist humidifier, your only concern is putting it in a hard-to-reach spot. By doing so, you don’t have to worry about pets or kids knocking it down and causing an accident.
Cool-mist humidifiers are a bit safer than warm-mist ones, but they do require regular maintenance to prevent mold from developing. For example, unless you’re using distilled water, you’ll need to clean up the residual mineral dust on a regular basis.
What to Put in a Humidifier to Prevent Mold
Unfortunately, the main problem with cool-mist humidifiers isn’t the white dust — it’s the mold and bacteria.
Since there’s no heat to sterilize the water, you’ll have to do all the maintenance yourself. If you don’t, and you run the humidifier with moldy water inside, that could cause serious health problems. Breathing in mold can be dangerous. Some of the side-effects include irritation, coughing, and other lung issues, so please take this seriously.
Here are a couple of remedies that should prevent mold and bacteria growth in your humidifier:
Even though putting vinegar in your humidifier can make your house smell horrible, it’s actually a great way to kill the mold.
I wouldn’t recommend using bleach to clean your humidifier regularly. It’s not safe and it damages the humidifier’s internals. However, it can effectively remove mold from your water tank. You can check out this article for more information on using bleach and vinegar for mold removal.
Much like bleach, you shouldn’t use hydrogen-peroxide regularly either. I recommend using it for one or two cleanings at most.
By far the best way to keep your cool-mist humidifier clean is by using tablets. Nowadays, you can find these tablets in any supermarket or even buy them online. They’re safe, cheap, and easy to use.