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It’s no secret that bathrooms have the type of conditions that make it easy for mold to grow. Poor ventilation, warm temperatures, and water sources (that toilet! steamy showers! dripping faucets!) can combine to create a high-humidity environment where mold can thrive.
A type of fungus, mold isn’t just unattractive when its black spots pop up in a bathroom — it can be a health risk too. It produces spores that at high levels can cause allergic reactions and symptoms, including a stuffy nose, congestion, itchy, red eyes, and throat irritation. For people whose allergic reactions are also tied to asthma, mold can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, cough, and difficulty breathing.
Now let me say I do appreciate fungi in all of their biological glory outside my home — there are millions of fungi species and frankly mold spores are all around us and we likely inhale them with every breath we take. Usually a few, if you are healthy, are not a problem. (We are not talking about toxic black mold here, which can be dangerous.)
However, having two family members with asthma, I’ve been fighting the good fight against mold and mildew (mildew is often used as a more generic term, and can refer to mold that has a flat growth pattern) in our one and only, poorly ventilated bathroom, for ages. Given that it’s a 100-year-old home, it never really had the technology or setup to help keep moisture down, and steam radiators made the problem worse.
I’ve replaced an underpowered bathroom fan (twice! still useless), routinely cleaned walls and ceilings with bleach products like Tilex, and repainted the walls and ceiling (also more than once) with special anti-fungal paint that you can buy at Home Depot or just about any hardware store. All these steps helped, but none were a magical cure.
The process was exhausting. I figured I needed to change it up, because frankly I never wanted to clean my ceiling again.
While I didn’t want to devote my already limited floor space to a pricey appliance that may or may not help, I figured I’d give it a shot. After reading dozens of reviews and looking at many different products, I settled on a Midea 22-pint Energy Star–certified dehumidifier. It has more than 12,000 reviews on Amazon and a 4.5/5 rating.
The brand was relatively new to me, but just about everyone seemed to love the company’s air conditioner. The unique U-shaped design (which preserves window space) was so popular this year, it was perpetually out of stock all summer and seemed to be featured in every New York apartment I went into. So I figured the dehumidifier might also be well designed.
I was not wrong. Dehumidifiers work by pulling in air with a fan, running it over coils that remove the moisture using condensation, and then blowing out the warm, dry air from a vent.
The water accumulates in a holding tank, which you will need to empty when full. (Or you can have it drain continuously via a hose, but you will need a floor drain handy, like in a basement area, which didn’t really work in my bathroom.)
Most dehumidifiers pull air through a filter on the back of the machine and release it out of vents on the top.
Given my tiny bathroom and shortage of surface area, I really wanted a side-venting model. I aimed for a completely flat and featureless top — in case I ever needed to stash an eye pencil (which would roll into vents on other models) or set down a hair dryer on top of it, even temporarily. These units are not tiny — it’s like having a carry-on suitcase in your bathroom at all times — so I wanted to make it as functional as I could.
The Midea does vent out of the side, and the only feature on the top of the device is the controls, so there’s plenty of space to put other stuff. It can handle up to a 1,500 square feet room (more than enough for my tiny bathroom), removing up to 22 pints of water a day. It has an 0.8-gallon tank, which I was concerned that I might have to constantly empty. That really hasn’t been a problem.
During the winter when the air is dry, I generally have to empty it every 3 to 4 days. (It has an automatic shutoff so it doesn’t overflow.) During high-humidity summers, it’s more often — generally every couple of days. I’ve used the tank to water plants both indoors and out, including during a summer drought. The unit has wheels and it’s easy to move, so when I need to maneuver it a bit to empty the tank, it’s not a problem. (The tank location is another feature I liked — it’s in the front for easy access.)
I was concerned that the dry, warm air venting out during summer would make the heat unbearable in the bathroom, but that didn’t happen. It actually feels like it improves air circulation regardless of season as it cycles on and off to keep the humidity between 30% to 50%, the level the Environmental Protection Agency recommends for living spaces.
You can change the settings or run it continuously to remove even more moisture from the air, but I don’t want the air to be too dry. If the humidity is too low it can lead to cough, dry skin, or a scratchy throat.
It’s not perfect — it doesn’t respond immediately to high humidity levels from a shower, for example. It will eventually cycle on, but if you want to avoid a spike in humidity, you may need to manually turn it to continuous mode.
But it’s not a big deal. Given that my bathroom is now essentially mold-free — seriously, it hasn’t been a problem in the shower, on the ceiling, or anywhere else for an entire year — I have to say, 10/10 would recommend.
You can buy the Midea Dehumidifier on Amazon for about $180.