Steaming is all the rage in the music industry right now. Singers are spoilt for choice with vocal steamers, vocal nebulizers, and humidifiers all on the market. But what does vocal steaming involve and what benefits does it have for the singing voice?
Steaming is of the best ways to hydrate your vocal cords. Inhaling the steam using a steamer, nebulizer, or your own steam bath will soothe your vocal folds. This can improve the performance of your voice. But there are do’s and don’ts where steaming’s involved.
If you haven’t tried steaming before, it’s definitely worth trying. Vocal steamers are a secret weapon to keep a singer’s voice healthy and at its best.
Is steaming good for singing?
Mabis personal steamer
Steaming is one of the best things you can do for your voice. Regularly inhaling steam from heated water can keep your voice in good condition and prevent vocal strains.
Breathing in steam brings moisture into your voice box and soothes the vocal folds. It hydrates your vocal cords and reduces swelling and irritation.
A happy singing voice is a hydrated voice. Unlike water, steaming directly applies moisture to your vocal folds. This rehydrates your voice box and cures hoarseness fast. Steaming is really effective and beneficial for your singing voice, but it should never replace drinking water.
How long should you steam your voice?
For optimum results, aim to steam your voice for around 10 minutes every day. You can steam multiple times a day, but make sure you let your voice rest for a bit afterwards.
You could do it in one session and inhale the steam for 5 – 10 minutes continuously. Or you could break it down into several smaller steam sessions throughout the day. Breathe the steam in through your nose for roughly 3 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day.
This approach might suit you better if you find it too clammy to breathe the steam in for long periods of time. It also works well for singers, as you can steam your vocal folds before and after a performance as part of your warm–up and cool-down.
Can you steam your voice too much?
Like with most things, steaming works best when it’s done in moderation. It’s fine to steam your voice every day, or even multiple times a day. But remember steaming is like a type of warm–up for your vocal cords and you need to give your voice time to recover after steaming.
It’s recommended that you avoid singing for at least 10 minutes are you use a vocal steamer. This allows the warm moisture on your vocal cords to cool. Some people avoid talking during this time too, to reap the full effect of inhaling the steam.
Steaming tips for singers
Using a steamer is usually self-explanatory. Most vocal steamers you can buy work in the same simple way. But for a singer, these tips can help boost the benefits of your vocal steamer:
- Never use boiling water when you steam – use water that’s just off the boil
- Don’t add eucalyptus or any menthol oils to your water because these can irritate your voice
- Avoid breathing cold air for 20 minutes are you steam
- Try doing some gentle humming after you steam to warm up your voice
Vocal steamers for singers
MyPureMist Steam Inhaler
According to Welovesinging.com, the top 4 vocal steamers in 2019 were:
- Vicks Personal Steam Inhaler
- MabisPersonal Steam Inhaler Vaporizer
- MyPurMist Handheld Steam Inhaler
- GurinSteam Inhaler
DIY vocal steamers
Vocal steamers don’t have to break the bank. If you don’t want to invest in buying one, there are plenty of cheap and easy ways you can create your own vocal steamer at home.
These simple methods are great for beginner steamers:
- DIY vocal steamer – boil some water in a kettle or on the hob. Leave to cool for a couple of seconds, then pour the water into a bowl. Lean your face directly over the bowl and cover your head with a towel. Inhale the steam for 5-10 minutes.
- Make a steam inhaler jar – boil ½ cup of water and pour it into a mason jar. Allow to cool for a minute and then place your hands around the top of the jar and cup your mouth and nose to the jar’s rim. Inhale deeply through your nose for roughly 5 minutes.
- Take a hot shower – steaming your voice can be as simple as taking a hot shower and breathing in the steam! Be careful to not let the water run too hot and burn yourself, though.
VocalMist is one of the leading brands in steaming. Their bestselling product, the VocalMist Portable Nebulizer, is a “singer’s best friend.”
The VocalMist Portable Nebulizer is fully portable and small enough to take anywhere with you. It features a removable face mask and is battery-powered by rechargeable lithium batteries. Check out this video to see VocalMist in action:
The nebulizer can be bought directly from the VocalMist website. It’s not the cheapest option out there though, with prices averaging at $98.00 (£74.85).
Vocal nebulizer for singers
Using a vocal steamer is great for your voice. But research shows that using a vocal nebulizer might be even better.
A nebulizer works in a similar way to a steamer. It’s a device that vaporises liquids into tiny particles that you can then inhale. A nebulizer produces smaller particles than a steamer, meaning you can inhale the moisture molecules much easier and quicker.
Unlike vocal steamers, you also can use a nebulizer to vaporise solutions other than plain water. Vocal coaches recommend adding salt to a nebulizer for optimum hydration. Saline water matches the natural fluid properties of our cells and using a 0.9% sodium chloride solution in your nebulizer is said to offer the best results.
Vocal steamer or nebulizer
Nebulizers offer some great benefits for your voice, but they may not be the best option for regular use. Dr Anthony Jahn warns that nebulizers pose more risks than steamers. The device carries vapour further into your lungs than a steamer and can carry material into your bronchi that shouldn’t be there.
Nebulizers are best used for medical reasons, or perhaps when your voice is impaired and under real strain. It’s not recommended to use them regularly just to maintain your singing voice.
For continued, safe use, vocal steamers are the better option for singers. If you want to decide for yourself, check out this video:
Humidifiers for singers
As a singer, it’s crucial to keep your voice hydrated. This means trying out all the different methods available. Humidifiers are another great way to take care of your vocal cords.
Humidifiers are devices that can be set up in your home or workspace. They emit water vapor or steam into the air, increasing the moisture levels around you. They’re really beneficial for singers because the added moisture in the atmosphere relieves congestion and stuffiness.
Like vocal steamers, humidifiers keep your vocal cords hydrated and relieve irritation. It’s recommended that the ideal humidity for your house is 40% and you can use a humidifier to monitor and regulate this.
Best humidifiers for singers
As found by TheApplianceGuide, the best humidifiers in 2019 for singers were:
- Honeywell HCM-350
- Vicks V745
- CLBO Ultrasonic
Humidifiers come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s worth researching which type would be best for your personal needs.
Some have cool mist technology while others feature heated mist. You can also get personal humidifiers or models for your whole home.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can anyone use a vocal steamer?
Steamers are a safe option for most people to use. If you suffer from asthma you should consult your doctor before using a vocal steamer.
If you have a fungal growth in your nose or throat, avoid using a vocal steamer as inhaling the steam can accelerate the growth of the infection.
Does steaming help laryngitis?
Steaming is a great way to treat laryngitis at home. Inhaling warm, moist air will soothe irritated and inflamed vocal cords.
Using a humidifier is another way to relieve the symptoms of laryngitis. Set one up in your home or workplace to keep moisture in the air and hydrate your vocal folds.
Can I drink less water if I use a vocal steamer?
Steaming should never replace drinking water. Using a vocal steamer should be used alongside drinking the recommended daily intake of water.
A vocal steamer directly applies moisture to the vocal cords, whereas drinking water bypasses the vocal folds. Steam is therefore great for hydrating your vocal folds, but it won’t hydrate and nourish the rest of your body as water does.
What do you use to keep your vocals in tip-top shape? Let us know your tips in the comments below!