The difference between a house and a home is how much you love living there. LaunchPad explores the innovative technologies that help you care for your space more effectively.
When you move east from the west coast, your friends, family members, and acquaintances — varied though they may seem in their preoccupations and personalities! — will all delight in murmuring the same words in your ear: but the humidity. And frankly: yeah, damn, the humidity. Not so bad, I lied to myself, until I returned to the arid West six months post-move, took a shower at my parents’ house, and realized, toweling off, that I hadn’t felt truly clean in months.
But in the winter, or in an air-conditioned interior, an equal but opposite problem emerges. Moisture levels plummet, and gazing into the mirror one morning, you discover you’re more husk than flesh.
Dry air causes all kinds of problems — from the cosmetic (ashy skin, split lips, the opposite of That Wet Look, etc.) to the more serious. If you dry out your mucous membrane, you’re more susceptible to illnesses of all kind — not to mention the fact that the flu virus lives longer and travels more easily in dry air. Fun!
But it’s 2018! You don’t have to live this way! For your consideration: the humidifier. A humidifier is a device that ups the humidity in a room or home. You might associate them with commercials for cold medicine — and they are soothing for a stuffy nose — but if your home is dry and your eyeballs feel like cotton, you might want to consider one for year-round use.
There are two different types of humidifiers: ultrasonic and evaporative. Ultrasonic models use a high-frequency vibration to produce a fine mist, whereas evaporative models use wicks and fans that allow water to evaporate in response to the dryness of the room. Ultrasonic models tend to be quieter, but they’re also pricier, and they can overhumify a room, which evaporative models cannot.
But if you must have the latest in ultra quiet humidifier tech, go ultrasonic. Dyson makes a model that looks like it belongs on a spaceship, uses ultraviolet light to kill bacteria (!), includes a powerful fan that circulates hydrated air around a room, and includes a humidistat to monitor humidity levels and adjust accordingly. (Optimal humidity levels in a home hover around 40-60% — any higher, and your space becomes a breeding ground for mold and mildew — so a humidistat is important.)
But those aren’t your only options! If you have a small space, love a multifunctional device, and feel an essential oil phase coming on, a diffuser might be your best bet. Diffusers distribute scents in the air, usually by producing a fine mist.
Important to note: Not all diffusers humidify. If you only fill a diffuser with oil, not water, it’s not going to help your sinuses. And even if you find a diffuser that produces a nice stream of vapor, they generally don’t have the same humidifying power as a single-purpose machine. If you’re trying to render a large space a little more tropical, one diffuser probably won’t cut it — consider a humidifier/diffuser combo. Muji makes some nice minimalist options.
If you’re broke or stubborn, but the skin on your legs is rough enough to sand down that old chair you found in the trash, you have other options. Get a bunch of houseplants that need frequent watering, and buy a few of those blown-glass water bulbs, guaranteed to give your pad a sort of it’s-1973-and-we’re-thinking-of-joining-a-swingers-club vibe. (Peace lilies, spider plants, and money trees are all relatively thirsty and hard to kill.)
Alternately: When you do laundry, get a drying rack or jerry rig a clothesline and let your sheets dry in your apartment. After you shower, hang your towels to dry in your bedroom, or in another room where you spend a lot of time.
And finally, a low-tech trick I learned from my mother, a native daughter of Buffalo: Fill some shallow baking dishes with water and place them on top of your radiator, or in a patch of sun. Not as good an option, of course, but in a pinch — and who hasn’t had a humidity-related emergency? — it’ll do.
Katie Bloom is a writer living in Queens.