Moisture can be tricky to manage in your home. As people in dry climates will know, too little moisture can be uncomfortable, lead to chapped lips, nosebleeds and even cracking in wooden furniture. That might seem bad, but it’s much better than the opposite – too much moisture – which might cause mild discomfort or literally make your home unsafe to live in. When the moisture content in the air is too high, all kinds of nasty stuff like mold, mildew, and fungi will begin growing in your carpets, drywall, furniture, etc.
What is the normal moisture level in a house?
According to the environmental protection agency, moisture levels in your home shouldn’t go below 40% or exceed 60%. Anything outside of that range makes it more likely that you and your family will experience discomfort and even health issues. Anywhere inside the recommended values is safe, and the actual level will vary depending on what feels comfortable to you.
The easy way of measuring your home’s moisture content is with a hygrometer, which comes built into most humidifiers & dehumidifiers, or can be bought separately. However, these usually measure your entire house or room, and all it takes for mold to take hold is one musty corner. That’s why you should be on the lookout for the following signs that moisture levels are too high:
Signs that you have too much moisture in your house:
1. Your home feels and smells damp
Moisture has a very particular feel to it, it gives the air a sticky, heavy quality that is impossible to miss, especially on hot days. This is because as humidity increases, it interferes with your body’s ability to cool down via perspiration – sweat – and makes you feel hotter overall. Similarly, on colder days, it can make you feel colder since the chilled water particles will rest against your skin.
If going by feel isn’t enough for you, in most cases you can also smell dampness. If a room in your home smells musty, then the moisture content should be lowered somehow. What you’re actually smelling is usually the beginning stages of a mold or mildew infestation, so taking quick action in these cases is paramount.
2. Condensation in your windows
If you find water beading on your windows or fog/vapor on the glass, then you most likely have a moisture problem. If you find that your windows fog up, but your room doesn’t feel or smell damp, then the moisture might not be coming from the air, but from your construction materials.
Sloppy construction can leave moisture in concrete or cause improper sealing, which allows moisture to get in from the outside. If this is the case, then your window sills and frames might develop mold, mildew or even rot.
3. Signs of moisture on walls and ceilings
Peeling or bubbling paint, wet spots, discoloration, or materials feeling “squishy” are all signs that there is too much moisture in your home. Unless you live in a climate with extremely high humidity, it’s likely that there is a source of water somewhere inside your house. It could be a leaky pipe, dishwasher, washing machine, or even come from underground if your foundations are improperly sealed.
If you have mold growing in your home, then you definitely have too much moisture and should look into lowering it. However, now that you have a mold issue, simply buying a dehumidifier won’t cut it. Yes, it will stop the mold from spreading to new areas, but it is unlikely to deal with existing mold.
For that, you’ll probably have to hire an expert. While household bleach can kill mold spores, all it takes is missing one spot for your house to be at risk of a new infestation down the line. Even worse, mold can even take root in your AC and ventilation, and spread to your entire house, causing terrible health consequences for you and your family. To learn more, check out our article about mold & mildew.
How do I get moisture out of my house?
Once you’ve determined that your house has a moisture problem, the only logical step is finding a way to fix it. Luckily, for mild cases the answer is pretty simple: getting a dehumidifier and set it somewhere in the recommended range of 40 to 60 will do the trick.
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We suggest starting out at the lower end of the range and slowly increasing it if you feel any discomfort. Keep in mind that if you live in a large home, you might have to move your unit between rooms or purchase several in order to lower moisture levels. They also make large whole-home dehumidifiers for severe issues or homes in tropical climates, but these can range upwards of $1,000. That said, there are large room units that work very well on a budget.
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There are also moisture catchers that can be hung in closets or other small spaces that will help reduce moisture and humidity. Sometimes closets and crawl spaces carry the most humidity due to lack of circulation.
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Unfortunately, if you have a leak of some kind, a dehumidifier might not be enough to get the moisture out. In these cases, we suggest hiring an expert that can identify leaks in your plumbing and fix and fix any water damage.
How can I get humidity out of my home without a dehumidifier?
While dehumidifiers work – they are expensive, ugly, noisy, and will cause a hike in your electric bill. If you’re looking for a prettier, eco-friendly way of dealing with moisture, look no further than plants! There are a handful of plant species that absorb air moisture through their leaves, require little to no maintenance (Since you don’t have to water them), and will lighten up your home. Ask around your local nursery or check our article on plants that help reduce humidity!