D.I.Y. Winter Humidifier

I generally don’t like winter. Yes, winter is when powdays happen, but I dislike being cold. I apparently don’t have enough warm clothes so I spend most of my days moving slowly unless nearby heat sources…much like a lizard. Note to self, buy more wool sweaters.

My favorite heat source lately has been this slim electric radiator. But despite my love of its constant heat, I know it’s drying out the already dry air in the house. I realized what needed to be done. I need humidifiers. As many as I can get my hands on. Dry air causes dry skin, but also frizzy hair, static-y dogs, even nosebleeds and congestion. Sadly, I have all of those things.

Looking for a low-tech humidifier? Here's one that I made in a pinch. It may not be super effective, but I like it. #DIY #LittleProject #DIYhumidifier #LadyJupiter

Disclosure: This site has a few affiliate links, but not in this one!

I searched for modern humidifiers and didn’t find much. Well, one that I liked was out of the budget right now (because I had just bought a cycledesk). I already have two of these cold-mist ultrasonic humidifiers, but I was looking for something that wouldn’t pull electricity. Then I saw the As Seen On TV ceramic ball humidifiers. Bingo.

All I needed was the concept, not the product. So I got to thinking about what I had on hand and was suddenly inspired by a self-watering planter that I got from IKEA. They don’t sell it anymore, and I can’t find other commercial versions. And sadly I don’t live near Tiny Badger Ceramics otherwise I would ask her if she could fire me a duplicate with her beautiful porcelain. So without her talents I turned to what I do have:

  • terra cotta plant pots
  • glass vases
  • water

I put the three together, et voilà – a simple humidifier that looks nice by the electric radiator. I might even add a few drops of an essential oil for passive diffusion. When I stopped trying to replicate the IKEA planter (which is filled with plain water in my Plant Hospice room), I saw that all you need is a object to wick away moisture and a water reservoir. This could be as low tech as clay bricks in a bucket. But if you have access to people and/or facilities you could make any shape clay wicks, and use any non-porous container for the water. Possibilities are endless.

If you enjoy this simple & neutral humidifier, here is what I did so you can follow along.

  1. Gather supplies:
    1. 5″x5″ cylindrical glass vase
    2. 4″ terra cotta planter (on-hand from a home improvement retailer, was $0.79)
    3. Water
  2. Clean your glass and terra cotta as needed, wiping with a damp tack cloth is plenty
  3. Wet the planter inside and out (optional; this is just to get the wicking action started ASAP)
  4. Place the planter in the vase
  5. Add water

Needed a humidifier, so I made a simple one with a terra cotta plant pot #humidifier #diy #itworksThat’s it. From here all you need to do is keep water in contact with the planter, so when you see the water line drop and the planter become more light than dark -add water.
Why? Water that isn’t being wicked up into the pot will become stagnant, but will slowly evaporate. If you want the water to simply evaporate into the air, remove the pot to promote air flow on the water’s surface. Mine is placed near a radiator, but away from curious dogs. Other good locations include open shelves, countertops, and anywhere else you would display objects.
That was the point with this humidifier -to be functional and display worthy.

We need to have a quick talk about mold.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that your damp, indoor, porous pot might harbor a mold spore. I don’t like it either – mold evokes a strong disgust reaction with me, so my tolerance for it is low. Just keep an eye on your terra cotta. If your otherwise clean pot appears to be growing mold it probably is.

No need to panic. Just dump out the water, and scrub everything with hot soapy water. If the terra cotta won’t be used for plants anytime soon, carefully dab some bleach on the pot and let it further disinfect in the sun if possible. If the pot (like mine) will soon be used for plants, use white vinegar instead, add more sunny days, and rinse again before adding potting soil.

Again, mold is gross. But it’s a natural product that loves these conditions. Happy humidifying!

Needed a humidifier, so I made a simple one with a terra cotta plant pot #humidifier #diy #itworks

This maximalist needs to live out of a suitcase for several weeks, so it's time to REALLY use a capsule wardrobe. I need a second suitcase for shoes already! #LadyJupiter #CapsuleWardrobe #SummerCapsule #PackingAnxiety #Anxiety  It's not often that I earn a black eye, but I tempted gravity and lost. What's a gal to do? Heal, conceal, and share photos! #LadyJupiter #GravityHurts #EmergencyRoom #Stitches #FatLip #cleanCTscan #healing #JustAddTime #YouShouldSeeTheOtherGuy  Outfits of the Day, Q1! Daily outfits of a stay at home mom who is super motivated to keep shrinking; insulin matters! #LadyJupiter #OOTD #DailyOutfits #March #Q1 #38F #prediabetic

Frizzy hair and sad plants? Low indoor humidity affects everyone in the house. Here's how I keep my plants happy in the winter without special objects or tools. #DIY #humidifier #terracotta #reuse #evaporation

Looking for a low-tech humidifier? Here's one that I made in a pinch. It may not be super effective, but I like it. #DIY #LittleProject #DIYhumidifier #LadyJupiterNeeded a humidifier, so I made a simple one with a terra cotta plant pot #humidifier #diy #itworks

Author: Tracey

Tracey has a bachelor’s degree in Technical Writing from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She loves editing, riding bikes, and cooking for her family.

8 thoughts

  1. What a fantastic idea! I will be creating this today with – as I believe you mentioned – items I already have!
    *** Reuse / Renew / Recycle ***
    I already know it will work based on the properties of terra cotta. This is EXACTLY the information I was looking for. Not only am I frugal by necessity, I’m more importantly trying to lessen my dependence on consumerism and shrink my carbon footprint.
    THANK-YOU so much Lady Jupiter. ~ Fyi, I’m adding this to my Pinterest to share your idea. : )

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t understand the what the terra cotta pot has to do with anything? Why is this different than letting water in a glass evaporate? I’m guessing ‘wicking’ must mean something different than ‘evaporating’?


    1. Hi Rebecca, thanks for the question! And yes, wicking is not the same as evaporation, but the goal is the same.

      Evaporation is the transition of a liquid to a gas. It is easily understood when any liquid is left uncovered (more dramatic in low-humidity areas). Similarly, wicking assists evaporation via capillary action (the ability for liquids to flow in very small spaces).

      Think about reed diffusers (like this https://amzn.to/34ln1CJ) ; a great way to disperse fragrance in a small space. Reed diffusers use reeds as wicks to draw scented oil out of the bottle so the fragrance can evaporate into the air. Any porous object can be a wick, and any liquid can be evaporated! While I prefer to wick water with terra cotta, the same capillary action is at work when I use a towel to dry my hair, and the towel dries.


    1. Well, it works better than nothing, but probably not as well as an electric humidifier.

      I don’t really have any specific means to measure room-by-room humidity, so I can’t provide anything measurable to judge efficacy.


  3. I will try this. I have several small hygrmeters/thermomter combo devices you can get cheaply on amazon for my plants. I already use a humidifier but I’d like to see if I can try this and see if there are any changes. It’s forecasted to be really dry in the next few days and I can maintain my room where i keep all my plants at 45% to 55% with my humidifier so we shall see. I will also use bigger terra cotta pots and use a small fan to make it more effective.


  4. I wonder if this concept could be used in reptile enclosures that need to maintain a certain humidity? Barring the possibility of mold growth everything about this seems safe to a reptile as long as the pot is kept from being able to be broken. This is an amazing concept! I love it!


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