Can You Overuse A Humidifier?

Many households utilize humidifiers due to their wide array of benefits. They can help individuals overcome coughs, combat congestion, and much more. Humidifiers have filled the role of an essential device for optimizing your family’s health and wellness. Think about the winter months in your home. You likely used your central heating unit to pump in warm air, and air conditioners can even have a similar effect.

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Unfortunately, that indoor air wasn’t just warm—it was probably dry. So dry, in fact, that you may have suffered from dry skin, bloody noses, dry throat, or stuffy nasal passages. They can help support sinus health and reduce overall dryness and the presence of allergens. Some people even believe that they can help with symptoms caused by the common cold. By using a humidifier, you can overcome these symptoms of dry air and low humidity.

Thus, if you haven’t taken advantage of these essential devices, humidifiers are must-buys. However, that doesn’t mean you can just buy one and turn it on without some knowledge about them. While they have countless benefits, you have to be careful when you use a humidifier.

Humidifiers can be overused. In fact, when you overuse your humidifier, the humid air may have harmful effects. Furthermore, using your humidifier improperly can also have negative effects.

If you want to be sure you’re using your humidifier properly, read on for some information and tips on using your humidifier appropriately.

Common Mistakes Made With Humidifiers

While people think humidifiers can just be plugged in and turned on, they should actually be used with care. Much like you use an alarm system for your home safety, you should use the humidifier for the health safety. Without proper attention to several factors, you may be doing more harm than good. Considering you bought your humidifier for positive health benefits from your indoor humidity, you should take the time to use it how it is designed to be used.  

Neglecting Cleaning Your Humidifier

One of the most important aspects of a humidifier is the cleanliness of the device. To understand the impact of a dirty humidifier, you must think about how the device works. In a warm mist humidifier, you put water in the humidifier’s water tank, which is then heated up and turned into steam. The goal of a humidifier is to use water to improve the moisture level of the room it is sitting in and therefore to improve the indoor air quality.

If your humidifier is dirty, it could be adding toxins into the air. This would result in you or your family breathing in dirty air. Depending on how long it has been since the humidifier was last cleaned, it could have mineral deposits, white dust, bacterial growth, or even the growth of mold inside. It doesn't matter whether you're using a warm mist humidifier (or steam vaporizer) or a cool mist humidifier like an ultrasonic humidifier or an evaporator— they all need to be cleaned. 

To ensure you're getting health benefits and accidentally creating health issues, you need to regularly clean your humidifier. Doing so ensures your household is breathing in clean air, not air ridden with toxins.

Ignoring Humidity Levels In Your Home

The level of humidity in your home directly corresponds with symptoms of respiration problems. While humidifiers are designed to help you with respiration problems, if you’re not checking your home’s humidity levels, you could be doing more harm than good.

If humidity levels are too low, you may suffer from a dry cough, congestion, scratchy throat, and more. However, if your humidity levels are too high, your symptoms from allergies or colds may worsen. Thus, you need to consistently check your humidity levels to ensure you keep it at the optimal level.

Households should maintain their humidity levels between 30 and 50%. Beyond worsening symptoms of an illness, once humidity levels surpass 60%, there’s an increased risk for mold to grow as it thrives in humid conditions.

Using Tap Water

humidifier in the bathroom

Along with neglecting to clean, tap water can make your humidifier dirty after time. Furthermore, using tap water can have negative health effects.

Depending on where you live, tap water may have excessive levels of minerals in it. That’s why humidifier manufacturers and providers recommend using distilled or purified water.

When you use tap water in your portable humidifier, the water will turn to steam, just like any other water source. However, the minerals in the water will either be left in the humidifier to form deposits, or they’ll be dispersed in the room with the moisture. Either scenario is bad.

As your humidifier outputs moisture with minerals in it, the minerals can either be inhaled or deposited on countertops, furniture, or walls. Over time, these buildups can harm your furniture.

Letting Humidity Levels Rise Too High

The last mistake goes hand in hand with the second mistake— not checking your home’s humidity levels. As stated before, your humidity levels should be maintained at 30 to 50%. Once those levels rise to 60% or more, you’re putting yourself and your family at risk for serious health complications from microorganisms.

Mold will begin to grow on surfaces in your home like ceilings, walls, and even in closets, bathrooms, or other areas.  When mold grows, it will slowly destroy whatever it’s growing on. Thus, when your humidifier emits too much humidity and mold grows, you may be putting your home at risk for damage from mold.

However, mold is not the only result of excessive humidity levels. Airborne-transmitted dust mites, bacteria, and viruses can survive in humidity levels around 70%. When you spend significant time somewhere with high humidity levels, you put yourself at an increased risk for developing respiratory infections or allergies due to the bacteria and viruses in the air.

You need to be aware of the humidity level in your home, and you should never let it rise above 60%. Otherwise, you’re allowing your humidifier to have harmful effects on your health and it can lead to even more respiratory problems.  

Signs Of Overuse

Without testing the humidity in your home, it may be difficult to tell if you’re overusing your humidifier. Thus, the best idea is to purchase a hygrometer. These tools check the relative humidity in the air. If you do not have one of these tools, you can look out for the following signs that indicate you’re overusing your humidifier.

Musty Smell

One key indicator that you’ve been overusing your humidifier is a musty smell. Such a smell likely comes from mildew or mold growing somewhere from the excess of water vapor. If you smell this, you should check all around your humidifier.

Mold could be growing anywhere around the humidifier. If you keep your humidifier running in a closed room, such as a closet, and you notice a musty smell, there’s a high chance mold is growing in there.

However, closed areas are not the only place the smell may be coming from. Check your carpets, under rungs, and walls. If you find a musty smell, you should not ignore it. Stop humidifying and search until you find the source of the smell.

Mold Patches

Even if you don’t smell something musty, that doesn’t mean mold isn’t growing. You may notice patches of black, grey, or discolored surfaces that indicate mold is growing. This is the most apparent indicator of the overuse of a humidifier.

Don't humidify any more and clean the surface with mold. If the mold is black, you should wear a mask while you clean.

What’s more, if the growth of the mold is extensive, you may need a professional to clean it out. When mold spreads and grows for too long, there’s a high chance you’ll have to get rid of the material it was growing on.  

Wallpaper Peeling And Paint Blisters

When the amount of moisture present is too high, you may notice wallpaper peeling in your home. Extra moisture in the air will cause your wallpaper from being able to properly stick to the walls. The only way to fix this issue is to reduce the amount of humidity in the room.

Similarly, you may notice bubbles or blisters forming underneath the paint on your walls. Again, moisture is the cause. High humidity levels may cause moisture to coalesce under the paint. Even if you were to put a new coat of paint on top, it likely wouldn’t fix the problem. You must address the humidity.

Risks Of Overuse

As mentioned previously, living in conditions can be harmful to your health. While humidifiers are good for combating symptoms of allergies and dry coughs, they may worsen your cough and allergy symptoms if used improperly.

Furthermore, a closed area with high humidity is the optimal environment for mold, which can be dangerous to be around. At the same time, high humidity can help airborne pathogens like bacteria and viruses spread through an area. Thus, when your humidifier has been overused and increased the humidity level of your home too much, those living there may have an increased risk of developing an infection.

The Bottom Line

If you’ve never used a humidifier before, you may not be aware that you can overuse it. Depending on the environmental conditions, the size of your home, it may be difficult to do so, or it may take a long time. However, it’s entirely possible. A good way to know if you’re overusing your humidifier is by checking the humidity levels via a hygrometer.

If you do not have a hygrometer, there are several telltale signs of high humidity levels. Keep an eye out for mold, wallpaper peeling, paint bubbling, and any musty smells. These signs may indicate your humidifier has been working too much.


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