Knowing how to improve home humidity can improve your health, protect your home’s structure and furnishings, and as a bonus, it can reduce your energy bills!
But, before you start tinkering with your indoor humidity levels, you need to know just how humid your home should be and the signs that it’s either too humid or not humid enough.
How To Improve Home Humidity
PROPER INDOOR HUMIDITY
The recommended indoor relative humidity level is 35 to 45%. Problems arise when the humidity is too low or too high, so it’s good to have a way to measure humidity levels. A simple, inexpensive indoor humidity gauge can track your home’s humidity levels and temperature, taking the guesswork out of the process.
In the winter, the combination of lower outdoor humidity and heating the home essentially sucks the moisture out of the air. The first signs of low indoor humidity are static electricity shocks, dry skin and eyes, and an increase in respiratory problems.
If humidity levels remain low, the air will begin to suck moisture out of your houseplants, and then it starts going for more expensive things like the wood trim around your windows and doors, your furniture, and eventually your home’s structure. Your paint will chip, and those chips will become airborne so what doesn’t settle on your furniture as dust will wind up in your lungs. See? It’s important not to let your home’s humidity levels get low!
Increasing Home Humidity
There are simple, inexpensive ways to improve home humidity that might be sufficient, depending on your home’s size.
Adding water: Moisture is added to the air through evaporation.
• Help this process along by leaving bowls of water sitting around the house, particularly near floor registers or on sunny windowsills.
• Showering with the bathroom door open lets the steam spread throughout your home.
• Allowing your bath water to sit in the tub can also increase home humidity, although if you have mildew issues in your bathroom this should be avoided.
• Even simmering a pot of water or soup on the stove can add moisture to the air. Toss in some cinnamon sticks and citrus peels and that moist air will smell great, too!
• Skip your dishwasher’s heated drying cycle and pop the door open instead. The steam from the hot wash cycle will add immediate humidity while air-drying dishes continue to add more.
• Spritzing the air with water a few times a day can safely add humidity. Want to freshen your home at the same time? Use this water-based homemade air freshener spray.
Laundry lines: Drape clothes over a clothes drying rack and let the water in the clothes transfer into the air. I have a retractable indoor clothesline in my kitchen and use it throughout the winter for this very reason.
Leave this running: You can hire a heating specialist to add a whole home humidifier setup to your existing system, or just get an attractive humidifier console and place it in a central location in your home.
Turn this down: Unless you have a whole home humidifier attached to your central heating system, running the heater will remove moisture from the air. The lower you keep the heat, the less moisture you’re removing.
Reducing Home Humidity
In the summer, too much humidity in the air can also lead to problems in soft furnishings and carpets by causing unseen mold. That extra moisture will cause serious illnesses long before you discover it. Excessive indoor humidity can also rot wood trim and furniture and make paint bubble and peel.
Obviously, turning humidifiers down or off is one way to reduce indoor humidity. There are other inexpensive ways to reduce indoor humidity, too.
Run fans: Running the bathroom fan during and for 15 minutes after showers will remove humidity from the bathroom’s air. This is a great way to prevent that yucky pink mold that grows in the corners of your shower, too. Run ceiling fans in other rooms to circulate the air and lower its moisture content.
Use lids: Just as leaving a simmering pot of water will increase your home’s humidity, covering cooking pots and using your range hood’s fan will remove humidity from the air when you cook.
Move houseplants: Summer is a great time to move your indoor plants outside so they’re not constantly adding moisture to your home’s air. Don’t do this all at once or you’ll shock your tender plants and possibly kill them. Start by moving them to a shady area outdoors for an hour or two each day, and increase the time daily.
Check venting: Make sure your clothes dryer is properly vented to the outdoors, and check to make sure the vent isn’t blocked either indoors or outdoors.
Stash this: You can remove humidity in small areas like closets and cupboards using chalk or charcoal, both of which are great at absorbing moisture. Simply dump a couple of boxes of chalk (the kind you’d use on a blackboard or sidewalk) or several handfuls of charcoal briquettes into a large coffee can, poke holes in the lid, and place it on a closet shelf or in the back of the cupboard. Change the chalk every 6-8 weeks.
Run this: If all else fails, placing a dehumidifier in a central location within your home can remove excess moisture from the air. Most home dehumidifiers have an automatic humidity sensor that shuts them off when the air has reached a proper level, so if you’re able to locate it near a drain you won’t have to mess with it aside from an occasional cleaning.
Whether you’re adding or removing moisture from the air, knowing how to improve home humidity is essential for the health of your home and its inhabitants. Don’t wait until your family starts having respiratory problems and your paint starts to flake and peel. Do something to improve your home’s humidity levels today!
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article first appeared on Feb. 25, 2013. It has been revised and updated for republication.