How To Use a Humidifier To Help Reduce Dust In The Home

Ile Kauppila

Written By

Ile Kauppila

Expert Reviewed By

Josh Mitchell

Last Updated On

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Dust is an everyday fact of life — but for some of us, it’s a nightmare. I’m asthmatic and excessive dust causes me serious breathing issues.

If you’re like me, you may wonder whether humidifiers can help with dust. The good news is that they can!

Humidifiers don’t eliminate dust, but they do make it easier to control.

In this guide, I will explain in detail how a humidifier can help you keep your home dust-free.

Key Takeaways

  • Humidifiers do help against dust. The added moisture makes the particles damp and heavy making it difficult for them to stay airborne.
  • Humidifiers do not clean the air. Cleaning the air is the job of an air purifier.
  • For best air quality, you can use both a humidifier and an air purifier in your room.

Will A Humidifier Help A Dusty Home?

Humidifiers help with dust in your home — absolutely!

My trusty ultrasonic humidifier has really aided me in controlling the amount of dust in my home.

My asthma doesn’t flare up as often and I can breathe much easier with proper indoor humidity levels.

Humidifiers don’t remove dust from the air, though (I will touch on this issue a bit later). Instead, they help you keep your home clean by managing dust in other ways.

I’ve listed here the most important ways humidifiers help with dust.

Optimal Humidity Helps Control Dust

The ideal humidity level in your home is between 30-50% (60% being the upper most level). (1) Maintaining this healthy air moisture level helps control dust and dust-related respiratory problems.

What are the Optimal Humidity Levels
If your home has too low humidity, dust particles can float and fly through the air freely.

As a result, you’re more likely to breathe them in, which causes health issues.

Important Note

On the flipside, too high humidity can be detrimental to health and belonging. High humidity encourages mold growth, which can lead to additional health concerns.

Dust causes me enough problems already — there’s no need to add mold spores into the mix.

I recommend purchasing a humidifier with a built-in humidistat or hygrometer.

This component allows the unit to turn itself off if the humidity level rises too high.

Humidifiers Reduce Airborne Dust

My humidifier helps me breathe better because it reduces the amount of dust particles in the air.

Humidifiers help control allergens
It doesn’t get rid of the dust, but the humidity helps stop it from wafting around my home.

With appropriate humidity levels, water vapor will soak into and/or condensate on airborne dust particles.

The increased moisture makes the dust heavier and forces it down to the ground.

The heavy dust won’t get in my nose, throat, and lungs. I can also easily vacuum or wipe it up to maintain a dust-free home.

TL;DR: As vapor condenses around dust particle in the air, it makes them heavier thus dragging them down to the ground. If the air is dry, there won't be enough vapor in the air. Hence the need for humidifiers.

Improves The Overall Air Quality

Not only do humidifiers reduce airborne dust particles, but they also improve the general air quality.

how humidifiers can help alleviate allergy symptoms

The increased humidity levels moisturize your airways, which can relieve sore throat, dry skin, and nasal irritation — not to mention my asthma problems.

Moisture also acts like a natural lubricant on your mucous membranes.

If dust particles happen to get in your respiratory system, well-moistened surfaces don’t allow them to stick in your pipes and you can easily sneeze or blow the dust out.

Just make sure not to increase the air humidity too high.

Overly humid air gets heavy and difficult to breathe, which can aggravate respiratory problems.

TL;DR: Optimal humidity levels also lubricates your nasal passage and airways.

Dust Mites Feed On Dust

Dust mites are among the most common allergens, as I know much too well. Dust mites thrive in excessive humidity levels (above 60%).

Important Note

60% humidity is considered the upper most level. Ideally try to maintain between 40%-50%. 

This is because dust mites don’t really drink water, but instead absorb it from the air.

With plenty of airborne moisture, your home turns into a paradise for dust mites and they can make plenty more pests in comfort.

A humidifier won’t replace a good cleaning, since dust mites feed on dust.

Together with regular cleaning, though, a humidifier has helped me lower dust mite levels in my home.

TL;DR: Dust mites love humidity. Hence it is very important not to go overboard with humidification.

How Different Humidifier Types Help With Dust

There are many types of humidifiers and some of them are just better for controlling dust than others.

Types of humidifiers

Below you will find my guide to which humidifiers are best for controlling dust in your home.

Warm Vs. Cool Mist

Warm and cool mist humidifiers both can help you reduce airborne dust particles.

However, I would recommend a cool mist unit if dust control is your primary goal.

Cool mist humidifiers are generally slightly more effective at humidifying your home.

As such, they’re the better choice if you simply want to boost humidity levels.

However, warm mist humidifiers boil water before releasing it as steam, which kills potential bacteria in the water.

The warm mist can also be more pleasant in winter months, and it does soothe cold and flu symptoms.

TL;DR: Warm mist humidifiers boil the water to produce steam. They are soothing but are dangerous. Cool mist humidifiers are often recommended to reduce risk of accidents.

Evaporative Vs. Ultrasonic

Evaporative and ultrasonic humidifiers are the most common types of cool mist humidifiers.

ultrasonic vs evaporative humidifiers

If you’re buying your first humidifier to remove dust in your home, I say go for an evaporative unit.

Evaporative humidifiers work by sucking water into a wicking filter and blowing over it with a fan to turn the moisture into water vapor.

The filter removes possible dust particles floating in the water and keeps you from accidentally adding more dust to the air.

Ultrasonic humidifiers are my favorites, but they are unfiltered.

As such, they may create white mineral dust if you use hard water in them.

As the airborne water vapor evaporates in dry air, the trapped minerals will turn to fine dust that covers your home.

You can mitigate this problem by always using distilled water in your humidifier instead of tap water in the unit.

TL;DR: Evaporative and ultrasonic are two popular types of cool mist humidifiers. Each has its slight advantage over the other.

Portable Vs. Whole House

A whole-house humidifier attaches to your HVAC system to disperse moisture through the air conditioning ducts.

This helps humidify the whole house, which can be very useful if you’re asthmatic and live in an arid climate (like I do).

However, whole-house humidifiers are pretty expensive and they can over-humidify the air in your entire home.

If your dust problem is localized to certain areas of your home, a portable humidifier lets you raise the humidity level where you need it the most.

TL;DR: Whole house humidifiers are expensive, but they can maintain optimal humidity across your entire home.

Does A Humidifier Remove Dust?

Humidifiers are great for improving air quality by reducing the amount of airborne dust particles.

humidifiers vs air purifiers

As I mentioned, though, they don’t actually remove dust from your home.

This is because humidifiers simply aren’t designed to do that. Even a filtered humidifier unit will not eliminate dust — it only forces it to descend onto the floor and other surfaces.

If you want to actually remove dust from the air, I advise you to purchase an air purifier.

Air purifiers are designed to remove dust (and any other airborne contaminants) from your home.

For the most effective dust control, I recommend using both an air purifier and a humidifier.

This dynamic duo of devices sucks up airborne dust while also maintaining healthy humidity levels, which brings you all the benefits I talked about earlier!

TL;DR: Humidifiers are NOT a replacement for air purifiers. For actually removing the dust from the air, you need an air purifier.

How To Tell You Have Dust Allergies?

Dust allergies are very common, but a surprisingly high number of people don’t realize they have them.

I’ve listed here the most common symptoms that indicate you may suffer from dust allergies.

You Are Coughing & Sneezing

We all cough or sneeze, when dust gets into our noses.

If you find yourself coughing or sneezing excessively (particularly if you’re asthmatic like I am) you might have a dust allergy.

Humidifiers can help with coughing by moisturizing your airway, which makes it easier to expel dust from your system.

You Have Itchy Throat, Nose, Or Mouth

Itchiness in the throat, nose, or mouth is a result of dust particles irritating the mucous membranes of your nasal passages.

If you have an allergy to dust, your nose, mouth, and throat will react to the dust particles latching themselves onto your membranes, creating an itchy sensation.

Are Your Eyes Dry, Watery Or Itchy?

humidifiers can help with dry airs

Dust can irritate your eyes the same way it irritates your nose and throat.

If you notice your eyes itch and are very red in dusty environments, it may be a sign of allergies.

Watery eyes are the result of your body trying to flush the irritating dust off your eyeballs. Dust might also absorb moisture, leading to dry eyes.

You Have A Runny Nose & Postnasal Drip

Your respiratory system produces snot and mucus to try and clear away irritants.

I know it sounds gross, but it’s a vital natural defense mechanism. If you’re allergic to dust, you may notice your nose getting very runny.

The mucus might drip down your nasal passages, which can make you cough and gag (I hate it when that happens).

You Feel Sinus Pressure

Sinus pressure is a sensation of internal pressure around your nose and eyes.

It’s caused by your sinus membranes reacting to irritating dust particles. Certain humidifier models can relieve sinus problems quite efficiently, so I advise giving them a look.

TL;DR: Dust allergies have overlapping symptoms as compared to other allergies and seasonal flu. It is best recommended that you seek doctor's advise to diagnose what is causing your allergies.

5 Common Causes Of Dust At Home

Have you ever wondered where all that dust in your home actually comes from? I sure have, so I looked into the gross details to explain what dust actually is. (2)

  • Human Skin/Hair
    Our skin is a living organ and when skin cells die, they shed and become dust. The same goes for your hair once it dies and falls off your body.
  • Fabric Fibers
    Anything from our clothes, sofas, and carpets will generate dust by releasing loose fibers. The threads in our clothes will gradually deteriorate and break over time, which creates dust. The same goes for your carpets.
  • Pollen
    Pollen from various plants latches onto our clothes and bags when we are outside. As we return home, we bring the pollen with us and release it back into the air as we disturb the particles.
  • Animal Fur
    I have a dog, so I know all too well that fur and pet dander get everywhere. Even if don’t own any pets, loose animal fur is always floating in the air outside and in other buildings. It will get caught on your clothes and come home with you.
  • Insects
    Disgusting as it may be, insects make their way into our homes and will leave droppings. They will also die and as their tiny corpses decay, they turn into — you guessed it — more dust. This includes the dust mites in your home.

TL;DR: Understanding and identifying the different causes of dust will help you with mitigating it.

FAQs

What Type Of Humidifier Does Not Leave White Dust?

Evaporative humidifiers are unlikely to leave white dust as they filter the water before releasing it into the air.

You can mitigate white dust issues with any kind of humidifier by always using distilled water in them.

Do Humidifiers Help You Breathe Better?

Humidifiers can help you breathe better by maintaining a healthy humidity level.

Appropriately humid indoor air moisturizes your airway and binds particles, which makes breathing easier.

Can I Put Lemon Juice Or Vinegar In My Humidifier?

You shouldn’t put anything but pure water in your humidifier. Lemon juice and vinegar are acidic and can degrade your humidifier’s components.

However, diluted vinegar is great for cleaning your humidifier!

How Can I Make My Humidifier Smell Nice?

To keep your humidifier smelling fresh, you must clean it regularly — preferably every other day.

You shouldn’t add fragrances or essential oils to the unit, as they can damage its internal parts.

Final Words

Dust is not just a nuisance — it can be a real health hazard if you suffer from allergies or asthma like I do.

My humidifier is an essential tool for keeping my home free of dust, and so can yours.

You now know all the ways humidifiers can help you control the amount of dust wafting in your home’s indoor air.

Use the device right and you’re well on your way to drawing a deep, healthy, dust-free breath in your home.

References: 

  1. https://www.energystar.gov/products/appliances/dehumidifiers/dehumidifier_basics
  2. https://www.newscientist.com/lastword/mg24232351-500-what-is-dust-and-is-it-harmful-to-human-health/
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Ile Kauppila

MA Multimedia Journalism / BA English Philology

Ile Kauppila
Ile Kauppila is a globetrotting writer and editor living in Virginia. Ile holds an MA degree in Multimedia Journalism and a BA in English Philology. Ile has written for a variety of home, HVAC, and energy-related websites and publications. He has covered HVAC solutions, insulation, and energy-efficient construction, automotive AC systems for multiple auto dealerships and garages.

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