Do Humidifiers Damage Furniture? [Especially Wood]

Most humidifiers release a fairly light spray of water as they put moisture into the air. It's light, but still visible to the eye. So it's a natural question to ask - do humidifiers cause damage to items like furniture? What about wood, which is especially moisture-sensitive? We've checked with furniture and flooring experts for their take.

Humidifiers do require special care to make sure that they don't damage other furniture or materials in the room. While it's not likely to be caused by the humidifier running normally, unusually high or low humidity levels can be hard on wood. You should also take precautions against the humidifier leaking. 

Read further to learn more. We'll explain why you probably don't want the humidifier on a wooden table, and what to do if you have nowhere else to put it.

We'll explain why high - and low - humidity levels are bad, and how to protect your wooden furniture from high humidity. Then we'll cover why your humidifier might be spreading mold around the house (another source of damage!) and what to do to prevent it.

Composition with modern essential oil diffuser on table against blue background, Do Humidifiers Damage Furniture? [Especially Wood]

Can I Put A Humidifier On A Wooden Table?

A wooden table (or any wooden surface) isn't the best place to put a humidifier. Wood naturally doesn't do well with water. If the table gets too wet, it can split, crack, swell, lift or stain the veneer, or experience other signs of water damage.
You can, of course, get moisture on the table just from the humidifier's spray over time. This is unlikely to be enough to cause any damage, though. But perhaps more problematic - what if the humidifier leaks, or tips and spills? You can try to be careful about keeping a humidifier on a wooden table, but it's a bit risky. Better to just find another location.
Modern air humidifier and houseplant on table in living room.
Avoid the floor, however. It's too likely to spill, and it's too low for the humidity to mix as well into the air. While the little bit of water probably won't hurt your floor too much, it's not doing you any good if the water isn't making it into the room's atmosphere. Plus, wet floors are a slip hazard.
If you absolutely can not find anywhere else to place your humidifier, at least try to protect the tabletop. Use a plastic tray to set the humidifier down - this will also collect and trap any spills. You can also put a waterproof table protector or cover underneath.

What Happens To Wood In High Humidity?

In the winter, it might seem like there's no such thing as "too much" when it comes to a humidifier. But no matter how dry the outside air is, you should still keep an eye on the air quality. High humidity levels are a cause for concern, especially when it comes to wood.
Wood just doesn't do well with excessive moisture. Whether it's wooden furniture, floors, or even the wood framing your window, too much moisture causes swelling.
This causes a number of problems. Wooden joints, for example, may separate or split. Doorframes can become warped and difficult to close properly. Drawers or other moving parts may stick.
Water damaged high gloss white MDF bathroom vanity cabinet door with molding.
It may sound hard to believe, but wood can swell as much as two inches when humidity is too high. Even once you return to more ordinary levels, the damage caused by this may be irreversible. For instance, if your wooden floor has buckled, that can't be undone. Always monitor humidity levels and take preventative care to reduce issues.

How Do You Protect Wooden Furniture From Humidity?

The first step in protecting wood furniture, and all indoor wood surfaces, from humidity, is to simply control the climate. Make sure that any appliances such as dryers are vented outside. If it's an attic or basement space, ensure that there is proper ventilation. Use fans in the bathroom, or over the stove.
Use a humidifier, and keep track of humidity levels. A hygrometer is a useful tool that lets you know when you've reached optimal humidity levels. Try to stay around 40% humidity - the best indoor humidity level for winter is between 30-50%.
For more information on this, check out our post The Best Indoor Humidity Level For Winter.
You may also need to know how to keep your indoor humidity at a low level. If so, check out our post How To Naturally Reduce Humidity In A Room.
Putting a finish on wood furniture can also help protect from moisture and humidity. Painting a varnish, shellac, lacquer, or even just paint offers a layer of protection. For best results, do three coats in all.
Once properly finished, you can help maintain the wood by using a wood polish or wax regularly. Wax is a bit more effort but gives better coverage.

Can Humidifiers Cause Mold?

mold in the corner of the window

Yes, humidifiers do have the potential to cause mold. This happens in two ways.
  1. If humidity levels aren't monitored and kept at a healthy level, this can encourage the growth of mold. Mold spreads and grows quickly in the overly damp air.
  2. Within the humidifier itself, mold can grow if it isn't cleaned out regularly. Bacteria and mold spores can be released through the mist, which is especially troubling for people with allergies. If your humidifier has a filter, that may also grow mold as well - and start to smell.

To avoid this problem, rinse and refill your humidifier daily. Don't let water sit in the tank - if you aren't going to use it that day, dump the water out until you need it again. And don't let the humidifier sit in direct sunlight, where it may grow algae.

Once a week, give it a good cleaning and disinfecting. Wipe everything down. Clean it with white vinegar to remove any mineral build-up. Then disinfect with a diluted bleach solution. Check your manual for specific instructions, and always follow the recommendations of the manufacturer.

Is Low Humidity Bad For Hardwood Floors?

old parquet or laminate flooring deformed by water exposure. scratched floor covering close-up

We've covered many reasons why high humidity can wreak havoc. So you might be thinking, "Well, I'll just keep the humidity low then, and not risk it."

Unfortunately, that's just as much trouble. Low humidity is just as bad for wood, like your hardwood floors. High humidity causes swelling, but low humidity results in shrinking. Neither situation is ideal, and both can potentially cause permanent damage.

Wood can also dry out, which can cause it to weaken or fracture. It can damage the finish on wooden surfaces such as floors.

Low humidity can cause health concerns, as well. High humidity can cause mold to grow, but low levels let viruses and germs thrive. The mucus membranes that protect you from those germs are also less effective when they're dried out, making you susceptible to infections.

In addition, you may suffer from chronic dry skin, an irritated throat, and eczema, among other conditions. Low humidity is no better for you than high humidity, unfortunately. While it's a bit more effort on your part, you really should just keep an eye on the daily levels and make sure they remain between 30-50%.

In Conclusion...

Aroma lamp on table

Humidifiers are necessary for many homes in the winter. Low humidity levels are a cause for concern. Not only are they uncomfortable and unhealthy, but they can damage wood in the home.

However, use your humidifier carefully. Keep an eye on the humidity levels with a hygrometer, as levels being too high is also bad. High levels can cause mold and bacteria to spread and are still damaging to wooden surfaces.

Clean and disinfect your humidifier at least once a week. Rinse and refill it daily. Try to place it off the floor, on a flat surface. It's better to avoid wood, or at least use a waterproof cover as well. With just a little effort, you can keep your indoor space at the ideal humidity, and comfort, all winter long!

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