Damaging Dry Air
Parched skin isn't the only victim of dry winter air due to low humidity. The prized stamp collection you inherited from your uncle could be in danger too. Interior humidity can dip as low as Sahara Desert levels of 10-percent. Moisture-deprived air can harm wood furniture, musical instruments, and more. Dr. Ted Myatt, ScD, senior scientist with Environmental Health & Engineering and the University of Rhode Island, recommends keeping your home's humidity levels between 40 and 60-percent. "A lot of the info about furniture, artwork, and stamp collections is based on guidance geared toward museums," he says. "But that doesn't mean the antique furniture I have in my home isn't just as valuable to me as what might be in a museum."
The fix? Invest in a humidity monitor (about $20; Honeywell) and prevent damage by placing humidifiers strategically throughout your home near the following items.
An heirloom wood bench may seem shakier than usual—for good reason. Wood swells and shrinks as humidity levels rise and fall. Contracting wood can produce cracks and faulty furniture joints.
Take better care of your special pieces by watching our video on how to stain and finish wood furniture.
Dry, brittle, and misshapen pages in that early edition of your favorite tome could be caused by a lack of moisture. Paper changes as it gains and loses water, resulting in flaking ink and warped covers.
Showcase your favorite reads by following our steps for how to build a ladder bookshelf.
Dry air can lead to bent boards and gaps between planks. Mitered corners can shift and separate as wood expands.
Fix existing damage by watching Tom Silva fill gaps in a wide-plank wood floor.
Low humidity can turn that bottle of wine you've been saving into swill before it ever makes it to your glass. Dry air can desiccate corks, causing them to crack, shrink, and let in wine-ruining air.
Offset the disappointment of ruined vino by trying out one of our 10 uses for wine bottles.
Feel free to blame that out-of-tune sound on low humidity levels. Plus, contracting wood can lead to cracks or failed glue joints in wood instruments like violins, pianos, and guitars.
Walls and Wallpaper
Meet the new culprit behind separated drywall and peeling wallpaper. Low humidity levels may cause cracks and separation between layers in porous materials.
Start fresh by watching our video on how to strip wallpaper.
Stamp and Photo Collections
As with books, fluctuating humidity levels can leave postage keepsakes brittle and discolored. Older film photos are susceptible to flaking photo emulsion, and even recent digital prints can suffer from curled corners.
Show off family memories with our project for how to make a window-sash picture frame.
Ever spotted what looks like a thermometer on an art museum wall? That's a hygrometer, which measures humidity. A lack of moisture can make paint so brittle it cracks—which is especially bad news for oil paintings on canvas.
Keep your favorite paintings safe by reading our tips on how to choose the right hanging hardware.
So much for all that pricey home automation. Low humidity levels can create static electricity and wreck the internal components of electronics like TVs, computers, and more.
Hide components and wiring with our video on how to hang a flat-screen TV.