What is a Humidifier?
It’s no secret that humid air feels better to our bodies. Our skin, lips and respiratory systems all feel better when they are moisturized! During the winter months, the air gets colder and cold air is not able to hold as much moisture as warm air. When we heat that moisture-less air to warm our homes, the humidity can drop even further.
There are two main kinds of humidifiers: warm mist and cool mist. Both of these types have strengths and weaknesses. We mostly choose cool mist and I’ll explain why…but warm mist has some great advantages as well…
Warm Mist Humidifiers have an internal heating mechanism that boils the water before releasing it into the air. Models like the Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier are exceptionally quiet since they don’t use a fan to disperse the water into the room. They are also nice in the cold winter months since warm mist feels, well, warmer! While boiling the water potentially kills mold and bacteria before it is released into your house, there are 2 big downsides for us (but they may not be a big deal to you).
Since warm mist humidifiers release boiling water into the air, these humidifiers are potentially hazardous for kids. Boiling water. Do I need to say more? Both the steam that it emits and the water inside the humidifier can and have burned kids.
The other downside is that since they rely on steam rather than a fan, they are only good at humidifying a small room. If you are an adult who has a cold in the winter months and want to use this in your bedroom, these are ideal! If you want to humidify a large area of your house for a whole family, a warm mist humidifier won’t get it.
Cool Mist Humidifiers don’t use a heating element, instead most of them like the Pure Enrichment Humidifier use ultrasonic vibrations to release mist into the air. Some other models use a wick that absorbs moisture and a fan to disperse it, although these are less common now since fans are loud and wicks have to be replaced.
Cool mist humidifiers are great for large areas and can be really quiet too. Plus, you don’t have to worry about kiddos getting burned. Another advantage is that it uses less electricity since it isn’t running a heating element.
Combination Cool Mist and Warm Mist Humidifiers are pretty much the best thing ever. They have both options built into one machine. We have the Pure Guardian Ultrasonic Warm and Cool Mist Humidifier. We have had it for years and love it. We nearly always run it on cool mist since it is our living area, but with a push of a button it turns into a warm mist humidifier. (A word of caution…buttons are so fun to push for toddlers…) We can always move it into a bedroom and change it to warm mist if someone has a cold and needs extra moisture in the air at night.
Why We Use It…
- Skin. It makes our skin feel better. Chapped hands, dry lips. Dry winter weather does a number on skin.
- Sinuses. It’s like the difference between being at the ocean and at the desert. Your sinuses choose the ocean. It just feels better.
- Flu. Low humidity levels help the flu virus spread according to research by Oregon State University. Studies show that keeping the air at a relative humidity of 40-60% reduces the survival of flu viruses in the air and on surfaces. Humidifiers can help keep humidity in that range. When we brought Brynlee home from the hospital, we were particularly worried about her getting the flu and RSV during her first year. While this research is fairly preliminary, it was enough to prompt us to use a humidifier to help her stay healthy.
- Asthma and Allergies. This is a bit of a tricky one since mold in a humidifier can actually make asthma worse. Some humidifiers release dust which can make allergies worse too. Check with your doctor if you have asthma and are considering using a humidifier. In my case, extra moisture in the air really helps me breathe easier and moisturizing my nasal passages makes my allergies feel better. I just make sure to clean the humidifier every 3-5 days.
- Psoriasis. My husband has psoriasis (a skin condition that makes dry, flaky patches of skin). Keeping the air more humid helps his psoriasis not flare up as much.
All of these are great reasons to use a humidifier, but there is a big caveat: You HAVE to clean them frequently. I know many models claim to have anti-mold technology, but mold can find a way and does! The last thing you want is to be spewing toxic mold into your house all winter!
How to Clean a Humidifier
Most humidifiers will come with cleaning instructions and possibly even specialized cleaning brushes. Here is what I have found works:
- Disassemble the humidifier and wash all surfaces with soap and water, scrubbing away all visible mold.
- Run the humidifier for 30 mins with a solution of 50/50 water and white vinegar to kill all mold inside the machine and mold growing in the holding tank. I plug the humidifier in and run it outside so that we don’t have to breathe the vinegar smell. It won’t hurt you, but it doesn’t smell great.
- Rinse the humidifier and begin to use it again.
See, it’s not so hard!
How do you keep your air humid enough in the winter??