For vocal health, don't let your humidifier turn against you! Part 2 of 2.


NOTE: This is the second post in a 2-part article. Click here to read part 1!

In Part One, we talked about the benefits a voice actor receives from proper indoor humidity, and discussed various types of humidifiers. Aahhhh! Instead of the raw feeling you get from air that's been overheated or air-conditioned, moist air is so soothing, right?

Right. Except for this unsettling thought:

It can also make you sick.

Although proper humidity promotes health, improper use of a humidifier can be harmful. The device itself can breed and spread microbes and allergens. Some types of humidifiers can also break water-borne minerals into fine particles (possibly appearing as white dust) that can be irritants or transportation for germs. (This has been a concern especially with ultrasonic types.) They might even distribute toxic metals.

You MUST keep a humidifier clean.

To avoid such complications, follow manufacturer instructions, but in general:

  • A small humidifier should be cleaned, rinsed and dried every day before refilling, and sanitized weekly, possibly using a weak bleach solution (1 tsp regular bleach to gallon of water), then vinegar and water (50/50) to loosen scale. Some sources recommend simply dish soap and thorough scrubbing.
  • Empty a large humidifier every day and refill it with clean water. Every few days, wipe with hydrogen peroxide or vinegar to kill mold, and twice a month use the bleach solution.

Case in point: A friend of ours once had recurring post-nasal drip. It went away on weekends, and he figured that was because he was exercising. In fact, it turned out to be the drum humidifier he was using at home. The big unit had come with water-treatment tablets, but he thought they were to control minerals, and as he had no deposits, he hadn't been using the tablets. But actually, they were to disinfect the water. He stopped using the unit, and his sinus problem immediately disappeared. Since then, he has used a vaporizer when needed.

One advantage to boiling water is that the process itself kills germs. Yet, a Consumer Reports article states that – of evaporative, ultrasonic and vaporizer types – only the evaporators emitted no bacteria, while the other two types– including vaporizers (except for one) – did.

Then there's still the issue of mineral deposits, so some manufacturers and authorities recommend using distilled water.

What to shop for

To sum up, check out these issues when shopping for a humidifier:

Heated Humidifiers

In some parts of the country, the heated humidifier causes mold to grow on walls and ceiling. It might be because there is too much moisture being put into the air. Therefore, close attention needs to be paid to the percentage of moisture in the air. It is recommended that 50% humidity is adequate. Just a thought.

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