New Africa/Shutterstock.comUsing a humidifier to boost the relative humidity of your home is great for your health and comfort when you live in a dry climate or just have very dry winters. Sometimes they can leave white dust everywhere. What’s the deal? When it comes to home care, the last thing anyone wants to do is work. We understand your frustration when your humidifier leaves chalky white dust everywhere. Here’s everything you need to know about humidifiers and how to avoid white dust covering your stuff. Table of Contents: How humidifiers work
Why Ultrasonic Humidifiers Leave White Dust
Is the White Dust Harmful?
How to Avoid the White Dust
How humidifiers work Before we get into the solution to the white powder problem, it is important to first understand how different types of humidifiers function. Evaporative Humidifiers. If your furnace has a humidifier attached, you are already familiar with evaporative humidity. They work exactly as their name suggests. Air is passed through a “wicking” pad that has been soaked in water. The moisture is then evaporated from the pad and carried into the air by a fan inside the unit or, in the case if your whole-house humidifier, the blower fan in the furnace. The same mechanism applies to free-standing evaporative humidifiers. They are not connected to your home’s water supply, and must be refilled manually. The fan blows air through the wicking pad to move it into your living area. Vornado’s Evap40 freestanding evaporative humidifier is a good example. (Though if you want something a little less institutional-looking and a little more stylish, you may want to get their EV200 model.) Vornado EV200 Fill the two tanks and turn it on auto mode. This large humidifier will take a slow-and steady approach to humidifying large spaces. Steam humidifiers: A steam humidifier boils water to release steam into the room. Although there are some whole-house humidifiers that use steam technology, it is rare. Stand-alone steam humidifiers are more common than standalone units. Most people are familiar with steam humidifiers even though they don’t realize that they exist. These little Vicks-brand humidifiers have been around for years and many a child has been cured of bronchitis or slept better thanks to them. There are larger versions, such as the Vornado Element B. Vornado Element B. This humidifier has a combination of both evaporative humidification and steam-driven humidification. It is smaller in size. Ultrasonic Humidifiers are relatively new to the market. They raise the humidity in the room using a different mechanism than steam and evaporative humidifiers. Ultrasonic humidifiers do not evaporate water or create steam to let it go away. Instead, they eject water from the machine. A small plate within the machine vibrates at a very high ultrasonic frequency with so much energy that it flings tiny drops of water out of the humidifier into the air. This particular design is best-seller the Pure Enrichment MistAire. Pure Enrichment MistAire The compact unit is fun to use and lasts longer than smaller ultrasonic units due to its large water tank. Ultrasonic humidifiers have a distinct “fog” smell that is a hallmark of Instagram houseplant photography. There are some pitfalls and problems to using an ultrasonic humidifier. But, we’ll get into them. Why Ultrasonic Humidifiers Make White Dust. While the little fibers are household dust and the white powdery stuff is not, they can be used to make humidifiers. Jason FitzpatrickNow, we have a quick overview of how each type of humidifier works. But, the question remains: why does the ultrasonic humidifier leave a layer containing very fine white dust everywhere else? It all comes down to the high-energy delivery system we just mentioned. Only water can enter the air when water evaporates naturally. All the other stuff in the water remains behind. This is why your skin can feel dry and grity if you sweat a lot. The water has evaporated, but the salt remains. The same thing applies to steam-based humidification. When you boil water for long enough, steam will eventually evaporate. However, the rust, calcium and other contaminants in tap water will remain in the pot. However, ultrasonic humidifiers do not convert water to vapor. They simply fling the water up in the air, almost as if it were being shot into the room with microscopic squirt gun. This means that all impurities in water travel along with the water and into the room. What is that white dust? It’s the minerals in the water you have added to the ultrasonic humidifier. If the dust looks whiter and chalkier than normal, it’s because you are rubbing your fingers on your dresser. It’s not regular household dust. It’s a combination of regular household dust and a fine layer of calcium or other mineral “chalk”. If you have an ultrasonic humidifier for house plants, you will likely find the dust on their leaves. You’ll notice the dust covering vertical surfaces well, and it is especially attracted to electronics. It’s an ultrafine powder suspended within humid air that sticks to vertical surfaces. It’s also attracted to staticky surfaces like your TV or computer monitor. Is the White Dust Harmful? You might have found this article because you were frustrated by having to deal with the white dust in your home. You might also be curious about whether it is harmful. You shouldn’t panic over the dust, but you should do everything possible to avoid it. Why? Why? Because you’re also removing fine dust from everything and inhaling the water contaminated with minerals (and all other impurities) from the tap water. Ultra-fine particulates are harmful to your health. Research with mice has shown that ultrasonic humidifiers can penetrate the lung tissue. Another study showed that an upstairs bedroom with an ultrasonic humidifier increased the amount of fine particulate matter in air as it was circulated through forced air heating. Although it’s not as hazardous as grinding concrete without protective gear, or working in an asbestos mine. However, it’s better to avoid putting too much particulate matter into the air. There are two ways to avoid white dust. You can switch to distilled water if you already have an ultrasonic humidifier, or if you prefer to use one. You can find steam-distilled water in almost every grocery store. It is inexpensive and readily available. The water is clean and free of impurities. It can also be used in an ultrasonic humidifier to not leave white dust (or any other residue) on furniture or electronics. You don’t have to buy small jugs anymore. Water delivery services often sell 5-gallon jugs of distilled water. If you don’t want the hassle and expense of buying jugs after jugs of distilled water, you could also opt for an evaporative or steam based humidifier like the Vornado EV200, Vornado Element A. To remove any minerals left behind by the evaporation process, you will need to clean the machine every now and again with mild acids like white vinegar. Evaporative humidification is a good option if you have very dry winter air. Although distilled water may seem inexpensive if you only need to buy a few gallons for your iron, it can quickly add up when you want to increase the humidity in your home. In dry climates, it’s possible to add a gallon of water per day. Tap water can add only a dollar to your monthly water bill. For the same humidity increase, distilled water will cost you $30+ per month. You’ll be able to avoid white dust regardless of whether you remove the minerals from your start (by using distill water) or if you use a method that keeps them in the machine (evaporation, steam), however. You’ll have a cleaner living space and less dust.