Humidifiers are great, but...

In New York summers, many New Yorkers turn to humidifiers to take some of the stickiness and discomfort out of the air at home or at work.

Humidifiers come in a wide variety, whether built into HVAC systems or as standalone units – ultrasonic, impeller humidifiers, evaporators or steam vaporizers.

They work their magic and help stabilize the humidity level at 30 percent to 50 percent, the “ideal” indoor humidity range according to the Mayo Clinic. Humidifiers soothe or eliminate bloody noses, cracked lips, dry sinuses and breathing problems.

However, maintenance and awareness are vital if you want the humidifier to do its job and not become a detriment.

The Mayo Clinic says “humidifiers can make you sick if they aren't maintained properly or if humidity levels stay too high. If you use a humidifier, check the humidity levels in the room where it is used and keep your humidifier clean. Mold or bacteria can grow in dirty humidifiers. If you have allergies or asthma, talk to your health care provider before using a humidifier.”

Cleanliness is important lest the humidifier start working against you, the Mayo Clinic says.

“Dirty water tanks and filters in humidifiers can grow bacteria and mold. This mainly can cause problems for people with asthma and allergies. But dirty humidifiers can be trouble even for healthy people when they release mist or steam tainted with bacteria or fungi into the air. That may trigger flu-like symptoms or even lung illnesses. Evaporators and steam vaporizers may be less likely to release airborne allergens than may cool-mist humidifiers.”


How to keep it clean

The internationally recognized clinic has suggestions for keeping a humidifier clean:

• With portable humidifiers use distilled or demineralized water. They are better than tap water, which contains minerals that encourage bacteria to grow inside the humidifier and can escape into the indoor air.

• Change humidifier water often.

• Clean humidifiers every three days.

• If you have a central HVAC humidifier, read the instruction manual and check with an experienced technician if you have questions.