One Home Appliance You Don’t Want Near Your Floors, Cabinets, or Books

published Dec 7, 2020
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Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Dry air season is upon us, which means in most parts of the country, it’s time to dust off our humidifiers. Whether you have a respiratory infection or the climate is to blame for your dry skin, nose, and lips, increasing the humidity in your home’s air is a simple-but-effective way to breathe easier. But, as with any home appliance, running a humidifier comes with some important caveats, including one that could help you prevent significant damage to your home. 

When you’re setting up your humidifier, avoid placing it near wood: on a wood floor, on wood furniture, or even near wood trim and cabinets. Just like moist air can loosen up pesky nasal secretions, it can also soften fibrous materials in your home.

Bryan Buckley, brand manager at One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, says humidity can cause wood to warp over time as it loosens the fiber, resulting in potentially costly deterioration.

While you’re at it, keep your humidifier away from other fibrous items, including books and papers. It’s also a smart idea, Buckley says, to keep a distance from electronics and outlets to avoid potential electrical damage caused by humidifier leaks. 

Other humidifier-placement advice is more about ensuring your appliance works effectively when you need it (and preventing an unnecessarily high electrical bill). “Avoid placing humidifiers close to radiators or vents, as they will cause misreadings and cause the humidifier to function at a higher capacity than needed,” Buckley says.

Credit: Dabney Frake
It would be better if this humidifier were fully on the rug and farther away from the books and nighstand.

The Best Places to Run a Humidifier

Now that you know where not to keep your humidifier, where’s the best place to set one up if you need it? Buckley recommends, of course, that you keep the humidifier in the area of your home where it’s most needed—in the driest spaces or in the rooms you’re spending the most time. For example, if you WFH and you have a stuffy nose, set one up in your home office or living room during the day and keep one in your bedroom when you’re sleeping. But there are some best practices to keep your humidifier functioning optimally, and, just as importantly to reduce the risk of damage on other parts of your house. 

In general, keep your humidifier set up about three feet from you (including when you’re sleeping). For ideal circulation, Buckley suggests setting it on an elevated, non-wood surface like a side table or shelf, which will also protect against the chance of water leaking onto wood floors or trim.

Even if you keep your humidifier in an ideal spot, keep in mind that using one requires a bit of maintenance. Too much moisture can quickly promote the growth of mold and mildew, which can make your space smell dank and musty. On top of cleaning your humidifier regularly (and emptying it out when you’re not using it), Buckley suggests using a simple, cheap tool called a hygrometer to prevent too much humidity in your home. If the reading is above 60 percent humidity, it’s probably time to turn your humidifier off. (As a contrast, 30 percent or lower means your home is on the dry side.)

In the event that humidity won’t let up even after you turn off your humidifier, Buckley says, a whole-home dehumidifiers may come in handy, along with portable units for extra-damp spaces like basements, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. But since too much humidity could also indicate an issue with your central air conditioning (or mold in your home), don’t hesitate to enlist an HVAC pro to help you figure out what’s going on. Breathe easy!

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