Excess humidity can make anyone feel uncomfortable in their own homes. Hot summers can feel even hotter while the winter air can feel wet and clammy with high humidity. One effective solution to reduce humidity in your home is by using a dehumidifier. However, it can be costly, from your initial purchase to the maintenance and energy costs.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can help reduce humidity in the air naturally. You’ll be surprised how useful some of these household staples are as a homemade dehumidifier. While they don’t have the capacity of an electric dehumidifier, natural desiccant dehumidifiers are much cheaper and you can place them throughout your home for better coverage.
Why You Need to Control Humidity
Relative humidity (RH) is the amount of water present in the air compared to the maximum amount it could hold at a given temperature. Indoor humidity must be kept within the recommended range of 30% to 50% RH.
High relative humidity means perspiration cannot evaporate since the air is already saturated with too much moisture. Hot air is also able to hold more water vapor, making high temperatures feel even hotter when humidity is high.
Aside from causing discomfort, high humidity creates a perfect environment for the growth of mold, mildew, and bacteria. Touching mold or inhaling mold spores may cause allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and skin irritations. It can also lead to allergy-induced asthma attacks.
Furthermore, mold can grow on almost any moist surface and spread as it feeds on organic material. If left for long, this can damage your walls, wooden furniture, soft furnishings, and carpeting.
High humidity also makes an ideal environment for dust mites. They thrive in moist locations, most commonly in your mattress or pillows where you sweat and breathe. Dust mite wastes can trigger allergy symptoms similar to hay fever.
Excess moisture can also damage fabrics, food items, and other personal belongings, as well as the very structure of your house. It can lead to paint peeling off, wood rotting, and metal rusting.
Causes of Humidity in Your Home
The main source of humidity is water and heat in the environment. As the temperature increases, water evaporates faster, thus increasing humidity. When the moist air cannot escape to the outside, indoor humidity rises.
Any open water source in your home can cause excess moisture in the air. Common household activities such as cooking and taking a shower release moisture to the air and increase the humidity level without adequate ventilation. If you wash and dry your laundry inside, this can also raise the humidity.
Leaking or burst water pipes can cause standing water and lead to high humidity. When rain or groundwater seep into the soil, it could flow to your basement and penetrate your home’s foundation, causing condensation and damp stains.
Signs of Humidity Problems in the House
Here are some common signs of humidity you need to watch out for.
Check the humidity levels in your home with a hygrometer or similar device. If it is consistently above 60%, this can be a problem. If you live in a region with a humid climate or in a small house or apartment with poor ventilation, you can also expect high indoor humidity levels. Humidity levels may be higher at certain times of the day, but if it rarely goes down to 40–50% RH, then it may be a serious problem.
Condensation or water droplets and fog on walls, windows, or surfaces is an early sign of excess moisture in your home. It happens when damp air comes into contact with a colder surface, such as windows, walls, glass, or other metal surfaces. Condensation is common in the bathroom or basement.
If moisture is left unattended for long, it can lead to mold growth. Mold may be hard to spot right away since they like dark and damp places that are usually out of sight such as under the sink or toilet, or beneath your carpeting. If you notice a musty smell in your attic, basement, or from your crawl space, then this is one indicator of mold growth due to humidity. Mold appears in different colors, but are usually black, greenish spots, or fuzzy, white powder.
In more extreme cases, you may find water stains or damp spots in your walls and ceilings. You may also find cracks in drywall or gaps between the floor and baseboard. If water starts to pool in one area, like a corner in your basement, it’s best to consult an expert to find the source and the right solution before you bear more damages.
Lastly, if you or anyone in the house suffer allergic reactions at home, this could be a sign of dustites and mold due to excess moisture.
While electric dehumidifiers are highly effective to remove moisture in any room size, they can be expensive to run and require a lot of maintenance. Luckily, you can use natural dehumidifiers to absorb moisture from the air.
Rock Salt Dehumidifier
Perhaps the easiest option and most commonly found in any home is rock salt or sodium chloride. It is a natural dehumidifier or a hygroscopic substance that absorbs water from the air. Get a large bowl or bucket and drill small holes in the bottom for water to escape through. To make your own rock salt dehumidifier, fill the container with rock salt and place it on top of another bucket where the water can drip down. Check the bottom bucket once or twice a week, throw the water away, and refill the top bucket with rock salt.
Baking Soda Dehumidifier
Another common product found at home that you can use as an alternative dehumidifier is baking soda or sodium bicarbonate. When dissolved in water, it can also remove tough stains, clean difficult surfaces, and neutralize foul odors. Simply put the baking soda in a bowl or any open container and place it in a corner of the humid space. Always check and stir the powder when clumps start to form. It’s not the most effective moisture absorber but it’s good for small humid environments with strong odors like kitchens or bathrooms.
Coffee Creamer Dehumidifier
You can also use non-dairy creamer or coffee whitener to absorb moisture. Fill a large bowl or container with the powder and place it in the humid area. Wait until the coffee whitener hardens then replace it.
Charcoal has many useful benefits and one of them is for removing moisture in the air. Put a charcoal briquette in a bowl and place it where you have moisture problems. Charcoal is also effective in neutralizing odors naturally, making it extremely useful in bathrooms, closets, and small attics. Homeowners also use it in refrigerators to remove stinky odors from food.
Calcium Chloride Dehumidifier
One of the oldest and most common DIY dehumidifiers is calcium chloride, a salt crystal that looks like small white beads. You can purchase it from drugstores and hardware. Place the calcium chloride inside a container, sock, or lycra stocking to hang. Make sure to have a bowl under it to catch the liquid as the crystals dissolve when they absorb moisture. Calcium chloride (as well as other salt crystals) is usually found in commercial moisture absorbers such as DampRid. However, prolonged exposure to calcium chloride can cause skin irritation, lung damage, and other respiratory issues.
Silica Gel Dehumidifier
Another common non-toxic desiccant is silica gel. You’ll find it in tiny packets with DO NOT EAT labels inside boxes or bottles of packaged goods such as vitamins and dried foods, and new shoes or bags. Instead of throwing them away, you can save and reuse them as a DIY dehumidifier. Just drop a packet or two into your gym bag, kitchen cabinet, or closet to keep your things fresh and dry. Silica gel can absorb up to 40% of its weight in water, which means 100 grams of this material can extract moisture as much as 40 ml from the air.
Tips to Help Remove Humidity
Instead of removing existing moisture, you can prevent humidity from rising by following the easy tips below.
The first and easiest step in reducing humidity levels is to maintain proper ventilation. During the day, keep your windows and doors open to let the air flow freely. This can be very effective if the humidity outside is lower than that inside.
Improve the Air Flow Using Fans
If you can’t open your windows, run your fans to circulate the warm, stale air inside. The added airflow also keeps moisture from accumulating and speeds up evaporation. Exchange the damp indoor air with fresh cool air by using an exhaust fan instead of opening windows. You can also turn on your air conditioner to improve your overall comfort in larger rooms.
Take Shorter, Colder Showers
Taking a bath or using the shower (especially with hot water) releases excess moisture in the air. Steam forms and raises the humidity in the bathroom and nearby areas. To minimize the moisture produced, try to keep your showers shorter and colder if possible. Open your bathroom windows or turn on the exhaust fan during or after you use the bathroom to keep moisture and odors out.
Dry Your Clothes Outside
Avoid hanging your wet laundry indoors. Moisture from the clothes evaporates into the air and increases humidity levels. Letting your clothes remain damp inside the house can cause a musty smell that sticks to the fabric. The best solution is to hang your laundry outside, but if this isn’t possible, you can also use a dryer or fan to help dry them faster.
Repair Leaks or Cracks in Your House
Before you make your own DIY moisture absorber, it’s important to find the root cause of humidity in your house. If there are holes or cracks in your walls due to either poor construction or natural deterioration, then your house may be prone to high humidity. Warm air can seep through these areas and enter your home. If you have any water damage such as leaks or burst pipes, this can cause extreme humidity. If you can’t find the cause, have a professional examine your home and look for appropriate solutions.
There are many natural methods you can try to help reduce humidity in your home. They are incredibly easy and simple and you can save a lot on the costs of buying and operating an electric dehumidifier. However, take note that a homemade dehumidifier cannot remove moisture in large quantities like electric units. It simply absorbs moisture up to a limited capacity in a small corner of your room.