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Benefits of Humidifiers

Benefits of humidifiers - featured. A humidifier is working in a room with plants and shelves in the background

Welcome improved indoor air quality and a host of other advantages by bringing an air humidifier into your home

Improved sleep, relief from colds and congestion, and superior air quality are all known benefits of humidifiers: but should you buy one?

Many of us suffer the negative side effects of dry air in our homes, particularly during the winter months when the cold, dry air is exacerbated by having the central heating turned on. In hot, arid climates, air conditioning can also further dry out air, causing a range of health problems and potentially contributing to property damage.

When used correctly, a humidifier can help you achieve the right level of moisture in your indoor air and provide a wealth of benefits as a result. From warmer, more comfortable air, to fewer viruses and improvements in allergies, the advantages of using a humidifier can be significant.

To discover more about how humidifiers work and the positive effects they can bring to your home, we enlisted Dr Jie Zhao, a research scientist specializing in indoor environmental air quality and lead at Delos Labs, to help inform our deep dive. Read our easy explainer to find out if a humidifier should be your next purchase.

Benefits of humidifiers

What is a humidifier?

A humidifier is an electrically powered household appliance that delivers moisture into the air to achieve improved humidity levels in an enclosed space. There are also some smaller, more portable models that may be USB or battery-powered, plus other, larger humidifiers that are built into your heating system.

Humidifiers comprise a water tank, often a sensor to determine humidity levels, and sometimes some automatic controls. They work by sending out a fine mist into a room to add moisture to the environment; some models offer cool or warm mist options and the ability to add essential oils, too.

There are a few different kinds of humidifier to consider: evaporative humidifiers, steam humidifiers and ultrasonic humidifiers, so take care to choose the right variety for your needs.

Do I need a humidifier?

Not everybody will benefit from using a humidifier at home. The air indoors should have an optimum humidity level of around 30-60% moisture; anything over this amount means you should actually shop for a dehumidifier instead.

If moisture levels in your home environment fall below the optimum then your indoor air quality could be impacted. Dr Zhao says, “Anyone living in a lower humidity environment or location with drier winter air can benefit from using a humidifier. People who suffer from allergies or respiratory issues may also benefit.”

What are the health benefits of using a humidifier?

There are a whole host of health benefits to be had from using a humidifier, according to Dr Zhao. “Proper humidity levels enhance thermal comfort, sleep quality and even viral transmission. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, breathes or talks, they emit small respiratory droplets into the air. Dry air causes these droplets to evaporate faster, forming smaller virus-carrying particles that can stay in the air for a longer time and travel through larger spaces.”

Allergy sufferers will also find their symptoms are improved with more moisture in the air. Dr Zhao explains: “Humidity can help to reduce airborne allergens by causing them to settle more quickly. Dry air can also increase certain allergy symptoms due to irritation and discomfort caused by a dry throat or nasal passages.”

The boost in moisture delivered by a humidifier can also provide relief from:

  • Dry skin, throat, eyes, lips
  • Sinus problems
  • Nose bleeds
  • Asthma and other respiratory problems

Are there other benefits to using a humidifier?

Anecdotally, people report that breathing humidified air feels more comfortable, cleaner, and refreshing. Houseplants thrive in moistened air, and humidity naturally takes the chill out of the air, so you may find yourself saving on heating costs, too. The correct humidity level indoors will also mean your property is protected against cracks in wood, plaster, and leather as well.

Are there any disadvantages to using a humidifier?

The main disadvantages of using a humidifier arise from poor maintenance and overuse. A humidifier’s water tank can become a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and fungi, which can then be spread around your home. This is especially dangerous for babies, children, and vulnerable people to breathe.

To avoid potential dangers, cleaning instructions from the manufacturer should be followed rigorously and Dr Zhao says it’s safer to avoid ultrasonic humidifiers if your household includes any vulnerable groups.

“Ultrasonic humidifiers create water droplets, which are essentially particulate matter made of water and any minerals or contaminants inside the water. We know that fine particulate matter is one of the most dangerous air pollutants in the world. Since people with asthma and allergies are more vulnerable to this, I’d recommend using evaporative or vaporizer humidifiers over ultrasonic models, just to be safe.”

Overuse will lead to excess humidity, which brings its own problems: allergies can worsen and it can encourage mold growth, condensation, and other property damage linked to dampness.

Take care when using warm mist vaporizers, too: they shouldn’t be used near fabrics that can collect the moisture, and never around babies or children since there is a high risk of burns.

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