5 Unhealthy Mistakes People Make With Dehumidifiers | Livestrong.com (2023)

5 Unhealthy Mistakes People Make With Dehumidifiers | Livestrong.com (1)

You can reduce the moisture levels in the air in your home by running a dehumidifier.

Image Credit: Maryviolet/iStock/GettyImages

Ask any allergist, and they'll tell you: Excessively damp, humid air in your home is unhealthy.


"Anything above about 60 percent provides the perfect atmosphere for both mold and dust mites to thrive, which can cause a stuffy nose, eye irritation, sneezing, coughing and even wheezing," says Janna Tuck, MD, a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and an allergist in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Too much moisture can also cause issues in your house, including warping or cracking wood furnishing and floors, encouraging the growth of mold and mildew on carpets and allowing rust to accumulate on your toilet tanks and water pipes. A dehumidifier can help you reduce the dampness in the air, but it's only effective if you use it properly. Here, five mistakes not to make with your dehumidifier, plus what to keep in mind before making a purchase.


1. You Don’t Set the Right Humidity Level

The optimal relative humidity level is between 30 and 50 percent, Dr. Tuck says. Aim for 30 to 40 percent in colder areas during heating season.

If the humidity is higher than that, it can breed dust mites, mildew and mold and trigger allergies. Keep in mind, it's also important to make sure the humidity in your home doesn't dip too low — that can lead to dry skin, itchy eyes and other allergy-like symptoms, per the Mayo Clinic.

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The best way to control your humidity in the home is by monitoring humidity levels through a reliable HVAC thermostat, says Anthony Carrino, celebrity home improvement expert and Trane Residential partner. You can purchase one at a home improvement store, and they range in cost from around $50 to $300.


A cheaper option is a hygrometer, which you can buy for as little as ten dollars online or at your local drugstore. Dr. Tuck has several in various spots of her house so she can routinely check her humidity levels.

The basement is usually ideal for a dehumidifier because the humidity there tends to be the highest. "If you can reduce it there, then you can usually reduce it through your whole home," Dr. Tuck says. Another reason why the basement is a good idea is it usually has a drain, so that you can empty the dehumidifier easily.


"You don't want water to just sit there, since that in itself can breed mold, which can trigger allergies and other respiratory problems," Dr. Tuck says.



To empty a dehumidifier, find the drain port on the back of the unit, unscrew the drain plug, then attach a hose and let it drip directly into the basement drain.

If you do opt to put your dehumidifier in the kitchen or bathroom, place your hygrometer elsewhere, since temporary moistness from cooking or showering can make it appear that your house has higher humidity than it actually does, Dr. Tuck says. This in turn can over-dry your house, which can parch your own skin, hair, eyes, and even your nose and throat, actually making you more susceptible to respiratory problems.


Most portable dehumidifiers have top-mounted air discharge and can be placed against walls, but if yours doesn't, make sure you place it away from walls and furniture, so that air can circulate freely around the unit.

3. You Leave Windows and Doors Open

5 Unhealthy Mistakes People Make With Dehumidifiers | Livestrong.com (2)

Keeping windows and doors open lets in outside air, making it harder for your dehumidifier to do its job.

Image Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/GettyImages

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Enclosing the space allows your dehumidifier to work more efficiently.


"If your dehumidifier is in your basement and you leave a window to the outside open in a region with high humidity, all you're doing is pulling outside water into the house, which won't help you at all," Dr. Tuck says. It also allows outdoor allergens such as pollen or mold to trickle in.

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4. You Don’t Empty It Regularly

Most portable dehumidifiers use a removable plastic bucket and warning lights to indicate when the bucket is full and needs to be emptied.


There's typically an automatic shutoff when the bucket is full, so you won't have to worry about the bucket overflowing, Dr. Tuck says. But if the water in the bucket is left for a long period of time, it could cause mold to start growing on your dehumidifier. This could trigger an allergic reaction, or, even if you don't have allergies, irritate your lungs, Dr. Tuck says.


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If you have trouble remembering, consider buying a dehumidifier that comes with a fitting that allows you to hook a hose directly to the bucket. This can then be directed into a floor drain or sump pump, so there is no need to empty it.


5. You Don’t Clean It Often Enough

5 Unhealthy Mistakes People Make With Dehumidifiers | Livestrong.com (3)

Use soap and warm water to keep all the parts of a dehumidifier clean.

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While your dehumidifier sucks moisture from the air, it's also pulling in things like mold, mildew, bacteria, pollen and dust, which means it's a must to keep it clean. Aim to clean it weekly, recommends the Mayo Clinic.

Most new models have an indicator light to tell you when it is time to scrub it down. Follow the manufacturer's advice that's in your owners' manual.

But don't forget to unplug it, advises Dr. Tuck, and to clean out all its parts — the dehumidifier bucket, the air filter and the bucket filter, with soap and warm water. This is because the moisture from the air can start to build up inside of them, which can encourage the growth of mold. Let it air dry before starting up again, and if you can, vacuum out any residual grime with your vacuum's small attachment.

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Before You Buy a Dehumidifier

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Before you make a purchase, keep these three considerations in mind:

1. Look for an Energy-Friendly Model

You can expect to pay about $10 to $15 a month to run a typical residential model, with many eating up over 1,000 kWh of energy a year, says Shane Dutka, founder and general manager of Review Home Warranties, a website with information for homeowners on home warranties. But you can slash electricity use — and cost — by investing in an Energy Star model.


These models must meet certain guidelines to get an energy-friendly seal of approval, per the Energy Star program, which is run by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. For dehumidifiers, that means they use more efficient refrigeration coils, compressors and fans to remove the same amount of moisture as a similarly sized conventional unit but use nearly 15 percent less energy.

2. Measure Your Space

You'll want to get a dehumidifier that's the right size for the room, so make sure to measure the space. A damp room that's under 1500 square feet usually only needs a 30-pint dehumidifier, while a larger one may require a 50 or even a 70 pint.


When in doubt, go with the larger size, since you can run it on a lower setting and thus reduce electricity usage and bring down your energy bills.

3. Make Fixes to Cut Down on Moisture

Even the most efficient dehumidifier won't work well if you've got too much outside moisture seeping into your house. Try making the following simple home improvements, per Energy Star:

  • Extending downspouts from your gutters away from your home foundation, and make sure both are clear and open.
  • Make sure your clothes dryer is properly vented to the outdoors.
  • Repair any leaking outdoor faucets.
  • Use vent fans in your kitchen and bathrooms.
  • If your house has central AC, install an AC vent in the most humid space of your home (usually your basement). This will help dehumidify, and improve airflow between the most humid parts of your home and the drier parts.

Dehumidifiers to Buy

  • hOmeLabs 3,000 Sq. Ft Energy Star Dehumidifier ($249.49, Amazon)
  • Honeywell, White TP30WKN Energy Star Dehumidifier ($199.99, Amazon)
  • Frigidaire 70-Pint 2-Speed Dehumidifier ($329.99, Lowes)



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Can dehumidifiers cause health problems? ›

Health Hazards of Do-It-Yourself Dehumidifiers

Not so bad, right? Here's the catch: over time, long-term exposure to calcium chloride and its dust can cause lung damage, as well as other respiratory issues in the nose and throat. It can also cause skin irritation and contaminate clothing.

Why you shouldn't use a dehumidifier? ›

Cons of Dehumidifiers

Moisture in the unit may cause mold growth if you don't clean and dry it regularly. You can use bleach to kill any mold and bacteria that collect in the unit as it's running. If you don't clean the unit, it may cycle mold spores back out into the air of your home.

What is the downside of dehumidifier? ›

Using an air dehumidifier will also increase your electricity bill; if you leave it switched on constantly, you will pay for it! Finally, these machines do emit some background noise that users may find bothersome. This can be as loud as 20 to 50 dB.

Where should you not use a dehumidifier? ›

You want to place your machine in an area where there is good air circulation so the unit can efficiently work. We do not recommend placing a dehumidifier directly against a wall or piece of furniture. Instead, put it at least six inches away from these vent-blocking surfaces.

Is it OK to sleep in a room with a dehumidifier? ›

Yes it is perfectly safe to sleep in the same room as a dehumidifier. If you are particularly interested in a dehumidifier for the bedroom the noise level will be particularly important to you.

Is sleeping with a dehumidifier good for you? ›

Most importantly, it helps you sleep through the night without waking up hot and sweaty, allowing you to wake rested and refreshed. At the same time the lower moisture levels reduce mites, mould, and mildew so you suffer less from allergies and breathing problems.

Should you drink water from a dehumidifier? ›

Many of us are trying to find ways to avoid wasting water, and I'm happy to report that you can find productive uses for your dehumidifier water. However, please, please, please do not drink it! Both dehumidifiers and air conditioners reduce the humidity level in indoor spaces.

Why can't you drink water from a dehumidifier? ›

So providing your coils are clean, you could collect the dripping water and drink it. But if the water sits around in the tank, it can provide a hospitable medium for the growth of bacteria and molds making it unfit for drinking.

Can you dehumidify too much? ›

Can you dehumidify too much? There is a chance of dehumidifying your home too much with a dehumidifier, especially if you are leaving your dehumidifier running for several hours on a timer unattended. Over-dehumidifying your home can lead to an increased chance of respiratory illnesses and dry and cracked skin.

Can a dehumidifier make a room too dry? ›

It is unfortunately a common occurrence that a dehumidifier ends up drying out the air in a home so much that it creates a new set of problems, such as the easy spread of illnesses, cracked, dry skin, and problems with static electricity.

What is the average lifespan of a dehumidifier? ›

The lifetime of dehumidifiers usually ranges from five to 10 years. To maximize the lifetime, it's important to care for your dehumidifier. Be sure to regularly change the air filters, clean the condensing coils and exhaust grilles, and empty and clean the water bucket.

Should I use a dehumidifier everyday? ›

Not necessarily. How often you should use a dehumidifier will depend on your home, climate and other factors. To achieve the highest energy efficiency, run a dehumidifier for at least 12 hours a day. This will allow you to remove moisture from the air without racking up the energy costs.

Should you run a dehumidifier in the basement all the time? ›

May said that, as a guide, it's best to use a dehumidifier when your basement feels humid or when you've spotted some of the signs outlined above. Running a dehumidifier for around 12 hours a day will enable you to manage indoor moisture while ensuring your energy costs aren't too high.

How close should a dehumidifier be to your bed? ›

It is best to place the humidifier at least 3 feet away from your bed. This is to avoid being directly exposed to too much moisture and to allow the moisture to be distributed evenly around the room.

How long should a dehumidifier run per day? ›

How Long To Run Your Dehumidifier? So to recap, run your dehumidifier unit for at least 12 hours a day. This is a good rule of thumb. Again, it's okay if you don't stick to this schedule every day, but be aware that the more your family runs your dehumidifier unit the fresher and cleaner it will be all year long.

How long does it take for a dehumidifier to dry out a room? ›

How long will it take to get the moisture under control? As long as the dehumidifier you choose is large enough for the area it is working in, and there are no specific damp problems, then a dehumidifier will normally reduce the humidity to the chosen level within a few days to a week.

Where is the best place to place dehumidifier? ›

The best place to put a dehumidifier is in the location closest to the source of the moisture. In multi-level homes, this means that dehumidifiers should most often be placed in basements or upstairs close to the stairs to your basement. This is because the basement is the most humid place in your home.

What is the best humidity level for sleeping? ›

Best Humidity for Sleeping

The best relative humidity for sleeping and other indoor activities has been debated. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the best indoor relative humidity falls between 30% and 50%, and it should never exceed 60%.

Is dehumidifier good for lungs? ›

When the humidity in the air is very high, it is often very difficult to breathe. That is why environments with high humidity can be difficult for people with asthma. With a dehumidifier, the effort of inhaling and exhaling can be easier on the lungs, letting in fresh air. Healthier environment.

Where is the best place for a dehumidifier in a bedroom? ›

Place your dehumidifier in the center of your bedroom if it is possible close to the plug. With this trick, the air will circulate around the unit. If your bedroom is large, place the dehumidifier close to the moisture source. While the dehumidifier is operating, make sure that the windows and doors are closed.

When should I turn off my dehumidifier? ›

Knowing the proper humidity levels is key. When the relative humidity (RH) drops below the 30%–50% range, you should immediately switch off the dehumidifier. The ideal relative humidity for comfort and well-being is 45%. Humidity helps maintain comfort and indoor air quality.

How much water should a dehumidifier remove in a day? ›

Attention should be given to the placement of your unit. It should be positioned in proximity to a sump pump or drain and the hose should be placed outside of walkways to avoid a tripping hazard. Most dehumidifiers will remove between 30 and 70 pints of water per day.

Is it OK to reuse dehumidifier water? ›

The water collected in your dehumidifier is deionised water. You can use it in several cases. However, if there is still mold in the place you dehumidify, it would be better to wait till you improve your air quality with the continuous dehumidification and use the water afterwards.

What can I do with water from dehumidifier? ›

Having said this, here are 5 ways in which you can use this water, save the planet, and save your pocket:
  1. Watering the plants.
  2. Flushing the toilet. When it's time to flush the toilet, just pour some dehumidifier water into the bowl (no the tank). ...
  3. Cleaning the Floors. ...
  4. Washing the Car. ...
  5. Ironing your Clothes.
Jul 1, 2018

Is the water that comes out of a dehumidifier distilled? ›

Conclusion. Technically, a dehumidifier does make distilled water. Distilled water is water that contains little to no minerals, but the distilling and dehumidifying processes differ.

What does it mean if your dehumidifier collects a lot of water? ›

If your dehumidifier's water basin is filling up too quickly, you probably have extra water in the air due to an issue like a cracked pipe, water leak or open crawl space. If you're hardly getting any water in the basin, you may need to simply turn the control to a drier setting.

Does a dehumidifier take water from walls? ›

Dehumidifiers work by removing moisture from the air. This can help to reduce condensation on walls and prevent mould and mildew growth. However, dehumidifiers will not necessarily dry out damp walls. If your walls are damp, you may need to use a combination of a dehumidifier and a fan to help dry them out.

Do you have to run a dehumidifier in the winter? ›

For most families, dry winter weather requires more humidity, not less humidity, to maintain higher comfort. But if you live in an area that is both cold and humid, you may benefit from running a dehumidifier in your basement or other humid areas of your home.

Will dehumidifier get rid of mold? ›

Mould will easily grow and spread if the right conditions are present. So, dehumidifiers don't kill mould, but they can help to prevent it from growing inside your home by reducing humidity.

What is ideal humidity for basement? ›

Normal Basement Humidity Levels

A comfortable basement should maintain a humidity level of 30 to 50 percent — however, those may differ depending on your climate.

What is dangerously dry indoor humidity? ›

Anything under 30% is too dry, and over 50% is too high.

Is 60 humidity too high for a basement? ›

Is 60 Percent Humidity Too High for a Basement? Yes, 60% humidity is too high for basements. Generally, a safe humidity level is between 30-50%, but that can vary a bit depending on where you live and the conditions of your environment.

What is the ideal humidity for a home? ›

The ideal relative humidity for health and comfort is somewhere between 30-50% humidity, according to the Mayo Clinic. This means that the air holds between 30-50% of the maximum amount of moisture it can contain.

What is the best dehumidifier to buy? ›

Best dehumidifiers 2023, at a glance
  • Best overall - Honeywell 24L.
  • Best for energy saving - Meaco 20L Low Energy.
  • Best for drying laundry - Ebac 3850e 2L.
  • Best dehumidifier for small rooms - ProBreeze 500ml mini dehumidifier.
Feb 22, 2023

Do dehumidifiers use a lot of electricity? ›

Dehumidifier energy use is rather low. An average small 30-pint dehumidifier uses 300W of energy. An average big 70-pint dehumidifier uses 700W of energy. Essentially, a dehumidifier draws much less electricity than a water heater, an air conditioner, and even a hair drier.

Should I use dehumidifier in summer or winter? ›

For now, we leave you with this simple one: use a dehumidifier during the spring, summer and early fall to keep moisture at bay, but unplug and stow it away during the winter to prevent damage to your unit.

Which is better air purifier or dehumidifier? ›

If you're hoping to reduce mold, mildew and moisture, a dehumidifier is your best choice. However, if allergy control and air quality are top priorities, a convenient air purifier is undoubtedly the way to go.

Should basement dehumidifier be turned off in winter? ›

If the temperature or humidity drops below the ideal level, you will want to turn the dehumidifier off. You never want the coils or water to freeze because it can cause lasting damage to the device.

Is a little water in basement OK? ›

Allowing water to remain present in the basement can increase the level of humidity in the entire home, causing unpleasant conditions and making HVAC systems run longer. More importantly, water in the basement can be a catalyst for the growth of mold, which can create serious health problems for the home's residents.

Can a dehumidifier be too big for a basement? ›

But buying a dehumidifier isn't a one-size-fits-all proposition. A model that's too small for your space may hardly make a dent in the moist air, while one that's too large may make the air excessively dry.

Should doors be closed when using a dehumidifier? ›

While your dehumidifier's on, keep your doors ajar. Dehumidifiers can't attract the moist air with the doors closed! Opening your doors slightly allows sufficient airflow so your dehumidifier can do its job. Easterly-facing walls get less sunlight, so they suffer most from condensation.

Can one dehumidifier do a whole house? ›

As the name implies, this can treat an entire house. They can be standalone in the basement, or they can be installed into your duct system. The Aprilaire 1850 Dehumidifier, for instance, can remove up to 11.9 gallons of water per day.

What are the symptoms of humidifier sickness? ›

Under appropriate exposure conditions susceptible individuals may succumb to an episode of humidifier fever, an influenza-like illness with pyrexia and malaise as the main symptoms, but cough, chest tightness, dyspnoea and weight loss may also be seen.

Is it OK to leave dehumidifier on overnight? ›

Can I leave the dehumidifier running at night? Yes, we recommend using a dehumidifier 24hrs, however, be aware that there will always be a noise generated from the machine when it is operating.

Should a dehumidifier run 24/7 in basement? ›

You can run your dehumidifier for 24 hours daily, but this will strain the internal components. As a result, the lifespan of the dehumidifier will be shortened, and you'll need to purchase a new one. Running the dehumidifier 24/7 will also raise your electricity bills tremendously.

Can a dehumidifier hurt your lungs? ›

There could be a reason why dehumidifiers aren't considered a standard tool for managing asthma — dry air can also aggravate the lungs. So, to avoid doing more harm than good, dehumidifiers should only be used when the air is extremely damp.

Is dehumidifier water toxic? ›

Whether water from a dehumidifier is drinkable depends how clean you keep your tank and how long the water has been sitting around. The water the dehumidifier collects is actually very clean water; comparable to distilled water.

Is it OK to run a dehumidifier all the time? ›

Electric dehumidifiers can be left for a long time before their tray is full of water. As long as you come back to check on them every day or every other day, it's usually fine. On the contrary, small electric dehumidifiers will eventually burn out from 24/7 use– typically after six months or more.

Why is my dehumidifier giving me a headache? ›

To recap, low humidity can cause headaches. Dry air encourages the mucus membranes to dry out, at which point they become irritated and inflamed. Additionally, dry air may trigger allergic reactions as well as the offgassing of toxic chemicals, both of which can also cause headaches.

Can I water plants with dehumidifier water? ›

Water from a dehumidifier is good for watering plants outside your home during a drought. And since about 30% of drinkable water in the U.S. is used to irrigate outdoor plants, during a drought it's a good idea to use any gray water you can for watering your yard.

Do dehumidifiers carry bacteria? ›

Dehumidifiers work by extracting moisture from the air, which prevents the growth of microbes.

How much water does a dehumidifier collect in a day? ›

Attention should be given to the placement of your unit. It should be positioned in proximity to a sump pump or drain and the hose should be placed outside of walkways to avoid a tripping hazard. Most dehumidifiers will remove between 30 and 70 pints of water per day.

How many times a day should I empty my dehumidifier? ›

All portable dehumidifiers have a water collection container, often called a tank or a bucket, to collect the water extracted from the air. These buckets are quite small, to keep the overall size of the dehumidifier down, and need to be emptied at least once a day.

Should I run dehumidifier in basement all the time? ›

May said that, as a guide, it's best to use a dehumidifier when your basement feels humid or when you've spotted some of the signs outlined above. Running a dehumidifier for around 12 hours a day will enable you to manage indoor moisture while ensuring your energy costs aren't too high.

How many hours a day should a dehumidifier run? ›

So to recap, run your dehumidifier unit for at least 12 hours a day. This is a good rule of thumb. Again, it's okay if you don't stick to this schedule every day, but be aware that the more your family runs your dehumidifier unit the fresher and cleaner it will be all year long.


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