How to Use a Humidifier Safely

The air indoors dries out during winter, but using a humidifier can add much-needed moisture to help relieve the discomfort of a dry nose, throat, lips and/or skin, and even lessen or prevent household problems like static electricity, cracks in furniture and peeling wallpaper.

But people have often raised safety concerns about usage of humidifiers…so should you use one?

Don’t use a humidifier if you or a family member has asthma. And if you or a family member is allergic to mold or dust mites, be extra-careful about cleaning your humidifier and monitoring indoor humidity levels to make sure they don’t rise too high.  Look for the UL logo on the product. It means samples of the product have been tested for compliance with important safety standards.

It should be set up on the right spot, especially to prevent tripping hazards!

You don’t want people to bump into it or trip on the power cord. Also find a spot where children can’t reach it. A child who sees you filling the humidifier might try to open it up.

  • Put your humidifier on a flat waterproof surface about three feet off the ground.
  • Make sure the power cord is out of the way, so no one will step or trip on it. Keep the cord away from heated surfaces like radiators, too.
  • In a baby or child’s room: Keep the unit out of reach so your young one can’t climb on it or play with it.
  • Point the mist away from electrical outlets. Over time, water build-up could lead to rust accumulation or even cause a short circuit.

Always fill up the humidifier with cold water!

Hot water contains more minerals, which creates scale inside the humidifier. Those mineral deposits become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. Distilled or de-mineralized water can help reduce that risk. It also prevents the creation of “white dust,” humidifier vapor filled with minerals from the water. While the Environmental Protection Agency says white dust is not a serious health hazard, some researchers have found evidence of lung problems in a young child who was exposed to it. That is why it is advisable to steer clear.

Keep the humidifier clean

Mist laden with bacteria, mold and mildew from a dirty humidifier can trigger lung problems, causing flu-like symptoms or even a lung infection. Follow these steps to keep your unit clean:

  • Empty and refill the tank daily.
  • Never add medicine, oils, perfumes or bath salts to the humidifier’s water tank.
  • If there are no cleaning instructions, the EPA suggests cleaning your humidifier as often as every three days. After you unplug it and empty the tank, use a brush to clean the inner walls. Remove mineral deposits and film from all interior surfaces you can reach, and then wipe dry.
  • Empty and dry the tank (and unplug the unit) when not in use.

If the air inside a room feels too humid, call an HVAC technician right away, as it means something is wrong with the humidifier.

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