During the winter, dry air in your home can cause dry skin, irritation, worsen asthma and respiratory issues, and cause excessive static electricity. But why is the air so dry in your home in the winter? And how are we supposed to humidify the home?
Firstly, cold air itself holds less water, so the air outside is dry. Don’t be fooled by the humidity levels listed on your weather report–they indicate the relative humidity, not the absolute humidity.
Relative humidity is a humidity percentage relative to the amount of water the air can hold, so 60% humidity in the winter time is much less than 60% in the summer.
Even though you heat your home, and warm air can hold more water, you still get air from the outside since your house is not a closed system. Also, home heating systems significantly dry out the air (especially with wood-burning stoves, and forced air systems). To combat this, you can increase the humidity in a variety of ways. Before we get to this list of ways to humidify your home, let’s talk about what humidity levels we should be aiming for.
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What humidity level are we aiming for, and why?
- 30-50% is good humidity level for health according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Keep it less than <60% to prevent mold growth or problems with wood.
- Under 30% can cause dry skin, nasal passages, and static electricity. Wood also shrinks when dry and older houses can become more creaky as the wood shrinks.
How do you know your home’s humidity level?
You may be able to see the level on your thermostat, but if not, you can order a hygrometer (2-pack for less than $10 on Amazon).
Why not just use a humidifier?
You can use a humidifier to raise the humidity level, however this easy solution creates its own problems–humidifiers can harvest mold and bacteria in your home. They also require frequent maintenance, and most require you to buy filters which adds to their cost and maintenance.
I’ve tried whole-house humidifiers, but they get moldy quickly unless you clean them often, and use chemicals to kill mold and bacteria.
The only humidifier I use is this one, because it uses LED light to kill mold and mildew growth, so you never have to clean it. The room that I use it in is in the room that my baby sleeps. Other than that, I don’t use humidifiers because I personally cannot keep up with the maintenance costs and I worry about spraying chemicals into the air mt family breathes.
So while you can purchase humidifiers, at least for me, they aren’t end-all-be-all solutions.
Now here are some of the best ways I’ve found to increase your home’s humidity during the dry winter months without using a humidifier:
1. Invest in some House Plants
Not only do house plants look lovely and bring life to any home during the winter, but they also help to detoxify and humidify the home. (1)
By watering your plants, some of the water will evaporate and naturally humidify your home.
2. Boil Water
I leave a nice big pot of boiling water on the stove and I like to sprinkle a little cinnamon, clove, nutmeg or other spices in there to make my home smell delicious. Sometimes I add orange or lemon peel if I have one on hand.
You could also add a few drops of essential oils into the pot. But no need to go out and buy any! Just start with cinnamon or spices and see how you like it.
I like to start it off in the morning with a rolling boil and then turn it down to simmer for a few hours.
Note: Never leave your stove on unattended!
3. Keep your thermostat on a lower setting.
By turning down the heat, you will be using less energy, drying out the air less, and this will cause your home to have more moisture in it naturally.
This may be hard at first, but if you layer your clothing inside you can stay warm and lower your energy bill too!
4. Air dry your laundry
This one is really great for overnight, so you don’t have laundry in your way during the day, and you can naturally humidify your rooms all throughout the night.
Before you head off to bed, take a clean load of laundry out of the wash and hang a few larger pieces in each room to humidify it. (I don’t like to do this with a bunch of small things, because it becomes a little tedious.) I usually throw socks and underwear in the dryer and dry them separately.
Bonus, if your detergent smells nice, this will make your house smell like clean and fresh!
(Here’s a non-toxic laundry detergent I love that smells great.)
5. Use a room spray
This one is very easy! I recommend doing this before bed or a couple times throughout the day while you’re at home.
Spray your linens, couch, curtains, or your carpet. This spray will cover a large surface area with a light mist of water and freshen your home with a nice scent. Use 4oz of water and 10-15 drops of your favorite essential oils, or a combination. Shake before spraying.
I many times have just used pure water to this instead of including any essential oils.
I use these glass amber bottles to make this room spray.
6. Make your own DIY humidifier
You can do this in a variety of ways, but what I have found to be the easiest is to aim a fan towards a wet washcloth, small towel or a sponge. Bonus if you can have it partially dipped into a bowl of water so it will wick the water up as it evaporates.
This is similar to how a wicking or evaporating humidifier works. The fan blow dries the wet cloth or sponge quickly, evaporating the water and humidifying the room.
7. Set out water sources
You can place little trays or cups of water, or use an indoor fountain. If you have small children be careful with this, so they are not able to reach them.
Basically, the idea is that the more water is in your house, the more humid the air will be due to evaporation.
If you have a wood-burning stove:
- Place a pan or kettle of water on the stove. The heat will cause the water to evaporate, and add moisture back into your home. Be careful not to let them dry out!
8. Use a diffuser or vaporizer
We have an essential oils diffuser that I use frequently. This won’t make a significant change in humidity, but it can help.
9. Shower strategically
Steam from your shower will help humidify your house.
Instead of using your bathroom fan, don’t!
Open the door after you shower so the steam and water can help humidify rooms in your house.
Well, these are the ways I try to keep my family healthy during the winter by optimizing our humidity levels in a natural way.
How do you keep your house humidified in the cold winter months? Comment below!
(1) Kobayashi, K. D., Kaufman, A. J., Griffis, J., & McConnell, J. (2007). Using houseplants to clean indoor air.