how humidifiers help

How Do Humidifiers Help? A Quick-Reference Guide

how humidifiers help

Maybe it’s your first time coming across humidifiers or you know about them but just want to find out more ways in which they help. Most people will just tell you they help by adding moisture to your air, but there is more to them than that. However, before I explain the details, allow me to summarize how they help.

In summary, how do humidifiers help? Humidifiers primarily help by protecting both living and nonliving things from the damaging effects of dry air. They also help by providing a way to add moisture in various industrial processes and sometimes they help by cooling or warming in certain indoor spaces.

Humidifiers help in so many ways, some of which I never even imagined before doing the research for this post. In this light, for those of you wondering how they help, this post is a quick reference list I put together just for you.

Here I show you almost every fundamental way in which humidifiers help. A lot of the ways humidifiers help on a personal level are health related. Because of this, I have bunched all the human health related stuff together as one point to avoid repetition. 

I have tried to keep things brief here and not list the entire universe of ways humidifiers help. In this light, I wrote this post in a way that some items on the list can help you imagine additional ways in which humidifiers help on your own. 

So, if you read through everything here, you won’t only know the common ways humidifiers help but you’ll also be able to easily figure out many other ways humidifiers can help as you will grasp all the fundamental ways in which they help. I have said enough. Now let's go through the list.

1. Keep You In Good Health

I think the most important way in which humidifiers help is by keeping you in good health. Humidifiers are made to produce and add humidity to your air. Like moisture that is naturally in your air, the humidity they produce also serves as a natural moisturizing agent for your body. 

They can ease symptoms from a host of illnesses caused by dry air and I’m now going to briefly take you through some key health issues humidifiers can be helpful for.

Dry Skin

As most of our body is made of water, when your air gets dry, be it seasonally or because you are in a dry part of the world, the dry conditions pull moisture from your body to compensate for lack of moisture in the air. 

When your body loses enough moisture, one of the first things you notice is that your skin dries up. The skin around your hands, feet, body gets ashy, your lips chap and crack and you get more dandruff, and your hair gets brittle.

For some people, this becomes so annoying it can even lead to breakouts and itchy and flaky skin. All this is because of moisture levels in your body being too low. This is where humidifiers come to the rescue. 

With a decent humidifier, you can add enough moisture in your indoor air to prevent all this as the extra moisture it adds in your air can be so much to the extent it stops your body from losing moisture. Beyond this, a humidifier also increases humidity to the extent your body can absorb moisture from your air.

Sinus, Congestion, Nose Irritations

Dry air has got to be one of your nasal passages' worst enemies. First, it causes the skin in your nasal passage to dry up and cut and if you nosebleed like me, you know very well how this can cause you nose bleeds daily.

If there is not enough moisture in your air, this can also be bad for the cilia in your nasal passage. Cilia are tiny hair-like structures found across the surface of your respiratory and nasal passages. 

Their function is to protect your respiratory system by trapping and brushing out airborne dust, allergens, pathogens and foreign particles that enter your respiratory system as you breathe. However, when the air is dry (below 30% relative humidity), scientists have shown that your cilia do not work effectively, making you more prone to airborne illnesses.

But when your humidity rises above 30% relative humidity, your ciliary function improves significantly and your mucus flows more easily as your airways are better lubricated. Higher humidity helps break up phlegm in your nose and chest and ease congestion.

Based on all these scientific findings, as they improve your humidity level when your air is dry, humidifiers help significantly by easing nosebleeds as they can add enough moisture to your air to prevent cuts from occurring in your nose and congestion. 

With less congestion, humidifiers subsequently help by easing your sinusitis and overall they help you avoid a lot of nasal issues caused by dry air as they can provide adequate moisture to keep your cilia working at their best.

Influenza And Airborne Diseases

Enough scientific evidence shows that if your indoor humidity level is above 40% you significantly decrease your chances of spreading and getting a flu as compared to when your humidity level is below 40%. 

This is because as humidity levels rise, respiratory particles in your air stick together, grow and become heavier much faster and consequently they fall to the ground before you inhale them, much faster than they would when the air is drier. In the exact way, higher humidity levels also decrease the spread of other airborne diseases.

So if flu virus and other airborne disease particles are in your indoor air and your humidity is below 40%, a good humidifier can help you to quickly increase your humidity level above 40% and make these particles heavier and less able to float and linger around your air, decreasing your chances of inhaling them.

Besides this, as I mentioned earlier, by keeping your indoor humidity at a good level, humidifiers also help improve the performance of cilia in your nose, which help to keep out pathogens including the flu virus and dirt particles inhaled through your nasal passage.

Next, something many people do not know about and do not mention is humidifiers that can disinfect your air. These kinds of humidifiers are also referred to as foggers. Besides water, you add disinfectants in their water tank or reservoir that kill pathogens but are safe for humans to inhale. 

Then, as they add moisture to your air, they also disperse disinfectant particles into your air and reduce the spread of airborne diseases through your air, helping you keep safe from airborne diseases indoors and ultimately stay in good health. 

Dry Cough And Throat

I have noticed this for myself. When my air is rather dry, my throat gets more irritated and my coughs are also more dry. However, as soon as I jump into a hot steamy shower and inhale the steam, or if I drink a lot of fluids, my coughs get more phlegm and become more productive, and if I have a sore throat, it feels better.

This might not be the case for everyone, but next time you have a cough and throat issues, especially during the dry seasons, try running a humidifier and take note if you feel any difference. For most people, humidifiers help ease their cough and throat irritation symptoms by maintaining their relative humidity in the comfortable 40% to 60% range for humans.

Benefits Of Using A Humidifier During Sleep

Another way humidifiers help in keeping you in good health is by improving your sleep. Sleep is very important in keeping our bodies healthy and when the air is dry, this can disrupt your sleep in various ways.

When the air is dry, it can cause you to snore excessively and the snoring can disrupt your sleep quality, causing you to be moody and tired and when you are awake and host of other health issues. 

You snore excessively because when you breathe in dry air as you sleep, this triggers your respiratory system to produce a lot more mucus than it should and the mucus constricts your nasal passage, causing loud vibrations as you breathe, which are then heard as snoring. 

By adding moisture to your bedroom’s air, using a humidifier helps reduce your snoring by limiting the amount of mucus your respiratory system produces and helps you get better sleep quality. 

Adding to this, humidifiers help you breathe more easily, which is very important for sleep, and ease a lot of irritations (as I have mentioned earlier) that can disrupt your sleep. Last, though humidifiers are certainly not used for this purpose, for some people the white noise some of them produce can be so soothing that it helps them fall and stay asleep more easily.

Great for Babies and Children

Babies and toddlers derive the same benefits as adults from humidifiers. However, humidifiers are especially helpful for them because their skins and bodies are still extremely sensitive and more susceptible to the health issues caused by dry air.

Humidifiers will help you give your baby or young child added comfort by maintaining good humidity levels around them year round and by doing so might help give you more peace as your baby or child may not cry as much because of discomforts caused by poor air quality.

So now I have shown you, when used properly, humidifiers can really help you health-wise by easing a lot of health issues caused or worsened by dry air. However, this in no way means they are a medical treatment for your illness. If you are going to use a humidifier for health reasons, please always do after consulting with your doctor.

2. Prevent Dry Air From Damaging Indoor Finishes & Furniture

A common problem I found in places with low relative humidity is that finishes and furniture in buildings end up shrinking, twisting and warping. This is because the air is so dry it sucks up most of the surrounding moisture.

As a result, your wallpaper shrinks, and if you have wooden floors, they shrink, twist and warp, and you get cracks in your walls and similarly your wooden furniture also gets damaged. 

To prevent a lot of this damage, the solution is to add moisture to your indoor air and this where humidifiers come. Used correctly, humidifiers can help preserve your building’s interiors and furnishing by adding and maintaining adequate moisture levels indoors to prevent loss of moisture from these valuables and subsequent damage because of your air being too dry.

3. Help You Control Your Temperature

Though this is not the primary function of humidifiers, from my observation they are increasingly being used in regulating temperature both indoors and outdoors. Not sure if you have noticed, but these days, in summer, I often see mist spraying from the ceiling around outdoor sections of restaurants.

Humidifiers placed there to cool and moisten the ambient air around patio spaces in all kinds of buildings and not just restaurants produce this mist. So humidifiers can help by cooling both outdoor and indoor spaces in summer.

Funny enough, by adding moisture in exactly the same way as they do when used for cooling, humidifiers also help by warming spaces when it's cold and dry. As far as I am aware, they are, however, only used to warm indoor spaces.

The science behind all this is a little hard to follow, but let me try to explain it simply. Our bodies are cooled by evaporation. So when it's cold and dry, the dry air causes much more moisture to evaporate from our bodies than when it is humid and because of the faster rate at which moisture from your body evaporates, you feel quite cold in cold dry air.

Now if you add more moisture to your air when it’s cold and dry, since there is more moisture in the air, the moisture from your body does not evaporate as fast as it did compared to when there was less and so you feel a little warmer even though your temperature did not go up. 

This also means when you increase your humidity level you can feel warmer at lower room temperatures and you can, for this reason, use much less energy and save on heating costs during dry winters. From this explanation, you can also clearly see that humidifiers also help by warming indoor spaces.

4. Keep Houseplants Healthy

If there is something plants cannot do without its water and if you can provide this to your plants not just through their soil but also through the air in the form of high relative humidity, I have got to say your plants will love you. Without enough air moisture, a lot of houseplants can actually shrivel up and die.

With added moisture in your air, you also keep your plant’s soil damp and damp soil helps most plants grow and remain green and healthy. All in all, humidifiers help by keeping your indoor humidity at an ideal level for your houseplants to thrive.

5. Keep Pets Healthy

Just as humans need moisture to stay healthy, animals do too. If pets do not get enough humidity, you often see it in their skin. They flake and produce much more dander. This includes lizards, birds and mammals. 

In fact, for this reason, some humidifiers fit inside enclosures of certain pets, especially those kept in terrariums. Apart from skin conditions, if the air is too dry, some animals, like birds for instance, quickly develop respiratory issues. So with pets, humidifiers also help by mainly keeping their skin and respiratory system healthy.

6. Improve Various Industrial Processes

I found several commercial and industrial processes that depend on humidifiers and this where I believe the can of worms on how humidifiers help opens up. Humidifiers help in:

  • Agriculture
  • Industrial and Commercial Printing
  • Facility sanitization and disinfection
  • Dust suppression
  • Data centre humidification
  • Automotive manufacturing
  • Food and beverage processing

The list of industrial processes in which humidifiers help is endless. That said, for most of these processes, humidifiers mainly help by maintaining the moisture content of materials, improving production efficiency, yield and quality, saving energy and by protecting assets and manufactured products from getting damaged.

7. Prevent Dry Air From Damaging Valuable Items

Another danger of dry air I have to mention is static electricity. It is not a problem until you touch your electronic devices. Static is most damaging if you handle electronic circuit boards with no insulation. 

However, though many electronic gadgets are insulated well to shield them from damage from static, enough people still lose their laptops, and other electronic gadgets to static. As it is a problem caused by dry air, static can be stopped by increasing your humidity level. 

Humidifiers also help by preventing static from damaging electronic devices. Humidifiers can do this because moisture they add in the air serves as a natural conductor and, in consequence, earths any static charge before it builds up on your body or on any surface and causes damage.

About the Author


Jean is a research economist by profession and he runs Fresh Air Genie. He is enthusiastic about maintaining good air quality at home and on the go and he shares his knowledge about this here at Fresh Air Genie.

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