How Does Humidity Affect Furniture? Full Resource

High humidity can make us uncomfortable and cause bad hair, increased indoor mold, and just make us feel miserable all the way around. How does humidity affect furniture?

Humidity affects furniture by causing the wood to swell and contract, leaving wood more fragile and susceptible to cracking, splitting, and losing its luster. In high humidity, wood swells, and in low humidity, wood loses its retained moisture. This constant fluctuation stresses wood over time.

How Does Humidity Affect Furniture? Full Resource
Humidity can destroy the integrity of your furniture.

Humidity may seem like an abstract idea that doesn’t have any real-life impact on our lives, but it does more than make us feel sticky.

This environmental condition affects different materials in ways we don’t always expect. Let’s look at humidity and see exactly what effect it has on furniture specifically!

How Does Humidity Affect Furniture?

Several things can affect the humidity levels in your home, from the climate outside to the lack of proper ventilation.

One thing that humidity affects most is your furniture.

An acceptable humidity range for a home is between 30 and 50 percent. In this humidity range, wooden furniture will not shrink or swell significantly.

However, humidity may affect your plastic and metal objects; they can become brittle when humidity levels are low.

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High Humidity

  • High humidity combined with high temperatures can lead to the growth of mold and wood rot, which will leave black stains on your furniture.
  • High humidity can also cause warping in wooden furnishings; this is when an intentional curve or twist in the wood becomes so tight that it cannot be undone naturally.
  • High humidity will also swell wooden boards. Wooden furniture can be re-sanded and refinished, but this process may cost more than the original purchase of the piece.
  • Humidity is most harmful to metal furniture and can cause rusting in unprotected metals.

Knowing how to control humidity levels in your home can help increase your furniture’s lifespan.

Other Effects of High Humidity on Furniture

When humidity levels are high, humidity-sensitive furniture is at risk of these problems:

  • Peeling lacquer or shellac finishes
  • Peeling veneers on wood furniture
  • Expanding wood begins to deteriorate
  • Loss of adhesion of humidity-resistant finishes

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Is High Humidity Bad for Wood?

There are wood structures both inside and outside that are exposed to high levels of humidity. Is humidity bad for wood?

High humidity can be bad for unprotected wood causing warping, cracking, and splitting. Wood expands when there are high levels of moisture in the air. When humidity levels decrease, wood contracts. This fluctuation puts stress on wood, therefore showing signs of stress and damage.

Let’s get a little nerdy for a moment and explain what happens. Water molecules in the air are attracted to capillary waves found in wood.

This attraction forms hydrogen bonds between the water molecules and the capillary waves when humidity rises above 40%.

As humidity rises, the hydrogen bonds become unstable and may break.

When humidity rises above 70%, wood can begin to exert pressure on these hydrogen bonds causing them to break more easily over time.

This expansion and contraction forms stress in the wood. The more humidity there is, the tighter the expansion and contraction become until something has to give way.

When humidity reaches its limits of 100%, this extra pressure may cause capillary waves to break free from their moorings and sink deeper into the wood.

This increased capillary wave depth is not good for the wood because it leaves a void behind, causing more humidity to penetrate this newly formed void.

Needless to say, high humidity is most certainly bad for unprotected wood.

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What Humidity Level is Best for Wood Furniture?

If humidity changes are too severe, it can lead to warping, shrinking, swelling, and cracks in furniture.

Maintaining a proper humidity level for your wood furniture is best between 30-50%.

Wood does best in moderate humidity levels and will dry up and crack or swell if humidity is too low or high.

While humidity levels can change depending on the season, humidity can also rise from humidity-generating activities such as cooking, doing laundry, and bathing.

Does Furniture Absorb Humidity?

Furniture absorbs humidity, causing the wood to swell. When the humidity levels drop and the air becomes drier the wood contracts.

Humidity also affects windows, metal appliances, floors, and more. If humidity is an issue in your home, it’s time to take humidity control measures seriously.

How Do You Know Humidity Has Damaged Your Furniture?

When you have furniture in your home or office, you may not know when they get damaged.

However, some signs can help you understand when humidity is affecting furniture, including:

  • Cracks or splits in the furniture.
  • The appearance of molds and mildews: Molds are not only unsafe for one’s health, but they also destroy wood furniture. When humidity is high, mold and mildew can grow on wooden surfaces and leave their ugly marks.
  • Warping and Shrinkage: Wood exposed to high humidity absorbs more moisture than wood at lower humidity levels.
  • The appearance of pitting: Pitting is a humidity-related problem that appears on the surface of the wood.
  • The appearance of ridges: High levels of humidity also lead to the formation of ridges on wood surfaces.

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How Do You Get Humidity Out of Furniture?

Your furniture has been affected by the humidity and you are wondering what you can do. How do you get the humidity out of furniture?

To get the humidity out of furniture, reduce the humidity level indoors where the furniture resides. Purchase a dehumidifier to effectively reduce the moisture from the air, and practice proper ventilation practices when cooking and taking hot baths and showers.

Encouraging moisture to be removed from your wood furniture is one thing, but you need to find a way to maintain a humidity level in your home between 30-50% year-round.

There are ways you can reduce the humidity in your home. Below are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Repair water leaks
  • Insulate your home well
  • Use a dehumidifier in each room in your home
  • The use of air conditioning in warmer climates will help to reduce humidity

How Do You Protect Furniture from Humidity?

Maintaining a moderate humidity level in your home can create an ideal environment for wood, metallic, and other types of furniture.

Keep the following in mind:

1. Use Humidity Resistant Furniture

You can purchase humidity-resistant furniture that is built with materials that are more tolerant to humidity than traditional types of wood.

For example, they often make furniture with humidity-resistant veneers over standard wood types, such as MDF or chipboard.

Related Article: If you feel you have high humidity in your home, testing your humidity levels in your home is recommended. Where to Place a Hygrometer in a House?

2. Consider Humidity Resistant Flooring

If humidity is a problem in your home, consider humidity-resistant flooring.

For example, ceramic tiles and vinyl are humidity resistant and are less likely to buckle or warp when humidity is high.

Laminate flooring can be humidity resistant as well, but not quite as humidity resistant as ceramic tiles.

There are tiles and stone flooring that can absorb humidity, as well as humidity-absorbing flooring mats that can be placed under humidity-prone furniture to help absorb damaging moisture from the air and pull it away from the furniture you are trying to protect.

3. Maintain Humidity

Use an AC when the weather is warmer and a dehumidifier in several areas of your home. Use your ventilation systems and open windows.

Trina Greenfield, Author
SmackDown Media LLC

About the Author:
Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those interested in the air quality in and around their homes. Trina writes content about things she’s passionate about, such as safe, in-home air, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.