Humidifiers keep your hair, skin, and lungs happy -- here's how to use them

If you live in Australia, you should get a bedroom humidifier.

Dry air is the enemy of your body, especially your respiratory linings. It doesn’t help your skin or hair either.

In the autmn and winter seasons, the weather cools and outside air dries out. Then, when we turn on our heaters, whatever moisture remains in the air departs. The average heated home is twice as dry as the Sahara Desert! The humidity level may be only half of that considered to be comfortable (around 40-50%).

Nasal and throat linings are excellent barriers against invasion by viruses and bacteria when moist, but this protective function falters as these linings dry out. Dry winter air facilitates upper respiratory infections such as the common cold, sinus infections, sore throats, tonsillitis, laryngitis, and bronchitis.

Your skin too, is healthier and more protective against germs, when it is moist. Your hair looks glossier, is frizz-resistant, and is considerably more manageable when it isn’t dried out.

Fortunately, there are readily-available and cost-effective humidifiers that can help us moisturize the air. The problem is that some of them can spread more disease than they prevent. And so, here is a guide on everything you need to know about buying and using a humidifier:

Choosing the proper type of humidifier is critical

There are two basic types of humidifiers: hot and cold.

Simply stated: You want the hot type.

The reason is that the hot and most warm humidifiers disperse moisture into the air by forced evaporation. Water enters the air as water molecules, and any contaminants such as bacteria, mould, and toxic chemicals are left behind in the reservoir.

Why you shouldn't buy cold or ultrasonic humidifiers

Compared to warm mist humidifiers, cold and ultrasonic humidifiers create tiny water droplets that not only contain water but also the germs and impurities that hide in the water reservoirs. These dirty droplets will get into the nasal passages, throat, wind pipe and the lungs as well as spread a white haze over the room. The ultrasonic humidifiers are the most dangerous since they create microscopic droplets that can pass into the farthest reaches of the lungs and cause pneumonias.

Setting up your room for a humidifier

Once you have the hot or warm mist humidifier you want, you need a way to measure the level of humidity in the room. Humidity meters, better known as hygrometers, are cheap and readily available at most hardware stores or online. They cost about $US8 to $US10 and are either mechanical or electronic. These instruments usually have a thermometer incorporated in them.

Place the humidifier up on a dresser or strong shelf with a metal pan or tray under it. All humidifiers leak some, and the tray will protect your furniture. Place a fan behind the unit in order to mix room air with the heated, humidified air, to distribute the mix, and to prevent a 'hot spot' on the ceiling about the unit.

To use them, place the meter away from the humidifier, crank up the unit to full, and wait until the room humidity reaches 40%. When it does, dial back the humidistat dial until the unit clicks off. Thereafter, you will only need to keep the reservoirs full and clean the heating chamber every 2 to 3 weeks to remove mineral deposits.

Tips for using your humidifier

Humidifiers of any brand and type have a limited operating life due to the effects of heat and water on the components. A 3-year life is about average. Be sure to clean out the reservoirs and the heating chamber at the end of early heating season.

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