Top 10 household items impacted by humidity levels

Top 10 household items impacted by humidity levels

Dry air can wreak havoc on a wine collection. Photo via iStock.

From antique furniture and photo albums to pianos and even wine, low humidity levels can wreak havoc on many of our prized possessions.

People may be familiar with the effects of dry air discomforts associated with cold winter weather like itchy dry skin or scratchy throats, but the impact on household objects is often overlooked. The designers of Honeywell Humidifiers and indoor air scientists have released new research on how everyday household objects suffer under low humidity conditions and what steps homeowners can take to combat the effects of dry air.

"Relative humidity levels can drop to as low as ten percent in the winter months, which is as dry as the Sahara Desert. If humidity levels are too low, household objects from wood furniture to artwork can be damaged over time as moisture is pulled from wood, paper and other porous materials," said Dr. Ted Myatt, ScD., senior scientist with Environmental Health & Engineering and the University of Rhode Island. "The solution is to maintain relative humidity levels in the optimal range of 40 to 60 percent by running a humidifier in colder, drier winter months, to mitigate these effects."

The research conducted found that the following list of 10 household items are most impacted by low relative humidity:

Wood Furniture: Has your favorite wooden bench seemed a little shakier? It could be because of low humidity. Wood absorbs and desorbs water as relative humidity rises and falls, which causes it to swell and shrink. This results in furniture joints becoming loose or even pulling apart.

Musical Instruments: Not sounding quite right? Low humidity levels may be to blame for your instrument falling out of tune. Natural wood instruments such as guitars, violins and pianos can be damaged when the wood contracts resulting in failed glue joints or cracks.

Books: Low humidity causes the pages of books to become more brittle and fragile, and the dimensions of the pages can even change as the paper absorbs and desorbs water. This leads to wrinkles in the paper, flaking ink, or warped covers on books.

Woodwork and Wood Floors: If you've noticed a slight bend in your wood floors, or gaps between the planks, it could be because of low humidity. As the wood expands and contracts, mitered corners can separate and floors can "cup" so that the floor doesn't remain flat.

Wine: Does your uncorked bottle of wine not taste right? Wine corks can dry out, shrink and crack if exposed to low humidity over time, allowing air to come into contact with the wine and potentially ruin the bottle.

Artwork: Maintaining humidity levels is vital for protecting artwork around the home. Low moisture levels tend to make paint brittle and prone to cracking, which is especially detrimental to oil paintings on canvas.

Stamp Collections: Much like books, repeated absorption and desorption of water can ruin stamps by making them brittle or discolored.

Photograph Collections: Have you noticed your new photographs looking more like your parents' photo albums? When photographs curl up at the ends, it's likely due to low humidity levels. They can also result in the photo emulsion flaking off and damaging the photograph.

Walls: Peeling wallpaper and separated drywall seams can be a sign of low humidity in the home. The porous materials may crack and separate when exposed to low levels.

Electronic Equipment: Static electricity brought on by low humidity levels can damage internal components of computers, televisions and other electronics – a lot more damaging than dealing with static in your hair!

Running a humidifier in your home, especially during the dry winter months, can help maintain relative indoor humidity levels in the optimal 40 to 60 percent range. Whole-home ventilation systems such as energy recovery ventilators and heat recovery ventilators can also help manage the moisture levels in a home. To confirm when ideal humidity levels are reached, use a humidity monitor displays relative humidity and indoor room temperature.

Read more about indoor air quality.


Topics: Appliances, Dehumidifiers and Air Purifiers, Going Green, Healthy Homes, Indoor Air Quality, Ventilation


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