When To Use a Humidifier

Last updated on Dec 14, 2021 FEATURED
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There is no doubt that humidifiers can be important for use both at home and in the office. But, you need to take note of when to use and not to use a humidifier for effective results. 

If used at the right time, humidifiers can help you improve sleep and alleviate respiratory problems. Similarly, they can help keep your skin moisturized. However, if used inappropriately, humidifiers can cause health problems, wood decay, growth of mold, mildew, and bacteria. All these arise due to excessive dampness and air pollution resulting from improper use of humidifiers.

What Is a Humidifier?

We need to first understand what a humidifier is. This is a device used to release moisture into the air to increase humidity. Humidifiers are so important in areas with low or fluctuating humidity.

When used as instructed, humidifiers can help improve your health. This is because they can alleviate respiratory conditions such as sinuses, asthma, and cough. It can also help prevent nose bleeds, dry skin, and eyes.

Humidifiers come in different types. But they all serve a common purpose of increasing humidity. Below are some of the common types of humidifiers on the market.

  • Ultrasonic Humidifiers

These are warm and cool mist humidifiers that use ultrasonic technology to release moisture. The technology works by vibrating the water in the tank to release water molecules into the air. These are cheaper and use less energy.

  • Evaporator Humidifiers

These use fans to blow air through a filter, wick, or belt. Since they use fans they are a bit noisy.

  • Steam Vaporizers

These humidifiers use electric heaters to boil the water and release water vapor. These can help increase the room temperature as well. But, they are risky. They can cause burns if the water spills.

  • Central Humidifiers

These are heavy-duty or whole house humidifiers. They are usually connected to home heating or air conditioning systems. One central humidifier can cover your whole house. You may not need to install other humidifiers in different rooms.

How You Can Make Your Humidifier Work Better

When using humidifiers, scientists emphasize you keep a close eye on them. This will help you get the best out of your humidifier. Below are some of the precautions that can help make your humidifier effective.

  • Frequently Change Filters

You need to change filters in a humidifier periodically. Filters play an important role in preventing water contaminants from being released into the air. If left unchanged for a long time, they wear out. As they wear out they become a breeding ground for microorganisms such as molds which can pose a risk to your health. Poorly filtered water vapor also poses a risk of emitting unwanted minerals into the air.

By changing the filters, you minimize such risks, which is good for your health. It is recommended you change filters at least once a month or as instructed by the manufacturer.  

  • Check Humidity Levels

You do not need to have excessive humidity in your home or office. This is because too much humidity can lead to the growth of bacteria, mildew, dust mites, and molds. In fact, too much humidity can block the airways and trigger asthma or allergy episodes.

Notably, you need to ensure your humidity levels remain in the range of 30-50%. According to CDC, this range is ideal for your health. You may use a hygrometer to monitor your indoor humidity levels. Alternatively, you can acquire a humidifier with built-in humidity sensors. These can help you maintain a good range of humidity.

  • Change the Water

While some humidifiers have large water tanks that can sustain humidification for over two days, it is better to change the water daily. This is because molds and bacteria thrive in stagnant overstayed water. When they build up, these microorganisms may be released into the air.

So, you need to frequently change the water to minimize the chances of microorganism growth.

  • Wash the Water Tank

Before refilling your water tank, you should ensure the container is clean. By washing the water tank, you remove white dust residues, molds, and bacteria. When emitted into the air, any of the above can make you so uncomfortable.

Clean your humidifier tank with vinegar. Vinegar is able to remove most contaminants found in a humidifier.

  • Use Distilled or Demineralized Water

You should consider using distilled or demineralized water because this type of water is pure and does not have any minerals. So you do not have to worry about white residue or white dust.

When To Use A Humidifier

Humidifiers should be used when the relative humidity is less than 30%. According to the CDC, the ideal humidity for healthy living is between 30-50%. Anything below 30% is extremely dry air. This means you need a humidifier.

Lets delve into some periods when the air is commonly dry.

  • Winter

Here is an image showing heating up a room
A woman getting warmth from a stove

Winter is undoubtedly a very cold season. During this period, many of us constantly make use of heating systems. These may include wood stoves and others. Notably, as you are warming up yourselves you are also making the air dry. This is because the fire pulls in oxygen as it burns and this is when the moisture in the air also dries up.

Additionally, cold air does not hold much moisture like warm air does. In this regard, during winter periods you need to have a humidifier. This will help protect you from complications resulting from low humidity.

Having said that, you should not wait for winter to put on your humidifier. Humidity levels some times keep on fluctuating even if it is not winter season.

How to Tell the Humidity Levels Are Below 30%

  • Use a Hygrometer

here is an image of a hygrometer

The most effective and reliable way is to use a hygrometer. This can help you determine when the humidity levels go below 30%. Some humidifiers come with a built-in hygrometer (humidistat). These can detect when humidity is below 30% and automatically adjust mist output. However, these cost slightly higher than ordinary humidifiers. 

  • Nosebleeds

When you start experiencing nosebleeds, it is a sign of low indoor humidity. Cleveland Clinic states that nose bleeds are a common indicator of dry air. When the indoor humidity is below 30%, the nasal membranes dry out and start cracking. This usually leads to nosebleeds. 

  • Dry skin

Here is an image showing dry skin
Image of dry skin

Dry skin is also primarily caused by low humidity levels. When you experience it, you need to check your indoor humidity levels. 

  • Sinus or Nasal Congestion

You can tell that the humidity levels are below 30% when you experience sinuses or a stuffy nose. Low humidity can make the nasal passage and mucus dry out. When the mucus dries out, it becomes thicker. This blocks the sinuses, making breathing difficult. 

  • Red Eyes or Dry Eyes

These conditions commonly occur as a result of irritated sinuses or allergies. Sinuses and allergies are also triggered by low indoor humidity. When your eyes become dry or red, it could be a sign of dry air. 

  • Asthma Attacks

Humidity levels below 30% usually make breathing difficult for people with asthma. This is because dry air irritates the airways, making you prone to asthma attacks. So, asthma attacks are a possible indicator of low humidity.

  • Dry Cough

This is another way to tell that humidity is below 30%. Low humidity makes the airways lose moisture causing a dry cough. When you breathe dry air, the mucus membrane and nasal passages dry out, leading to coughing. Therefore, when you notice any family member having a cough, you may start to use your humidifier.  However, if the cough persists, seek medical advise.

When Not To Use Humidifiers

We have discussed when to use humidifiers. But, you also need to know when not to use a humidifier. At times humidifiers may cause more harm than good.

Humidifiers should not be used when the relative indoor humidity is above 50%. As discussed above, the ideal humidity is between 30-50%. When it exceeds 50%, it poses a lot of risks. Below we highlight some effects of too much humidity in a home or office.

  • Worsens Asthma

Humidifiers can help alleviate asthma symptoms. However, if the humidity becomes too high, it actually worsens the condition.

This is because breathing moist air can narrow the airways. Certainly, this makes it difficult to breathe. So, if you have asthma, you may start getting attacks.

  • Causes Allergy-like Symptoms

Too much humidity may increase mucus levels in your nose and throat. This can make your nose congested and lead to a runny nose, or postal-nasal drip. While these seem to be allergy symptoms, they can also be symptoms of high humidity.

  • Favors Molds Growth

Excessive humidity may make the room damp and favor the growth of molds. Molds not only affect the quality of your property but also the quality of your health.

Therefore, to avoid such situations you should monitor your humidifier. Ensure it releases the required amount of moisture. When the humidity level is at 50%, turn off the humidifier. If you have a humidifier with a humidistat, it can automatically shut-off when the humidity is at 50%.


In conclusion, you should use your humidifier only when the relative humidity levels are below 30%. You may use a hygrometer or humidifier with a built-in humidistat to monitor your indoor humidity. If you do not have any of these, you can notice dryness in the air by looking out for any of the conditions discussed above. 

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