This started as a project to construct a wick for an old console humidifier. See 2nd photo. The wick holder is on top. Wicks are no longer available locally and would cost a lot to buy online with shipping. I also found this works very well as a humidifier in its own right when combined with a container of water and a fan.
If you plan to use this as a wick for an existing humidifier, be warned that this is designed only for a large evaporative console humidifier. I have no experience with other types and cannot attest to the suitability or safety of constructing something similar for any other type of humidifier. Construct and use at your own risk.
This took a lot of experimentation and trial and error on my part to see what works. I'll warn you ahead of time this involves quite a bit of work, but the finished product is well worth it.
A shallow, rectangular container that will hold 2-3 gallons of water.
Several sheets of 5-mesh plastic needlepoint canvas. They usually come in sheets about 13"x22". Amount needed will depend on how large you plan to make the wick box.
Several yards of heavyweight non-woven polyester interfacing/stabilizer that has a papery feel. I found that the super-stiff, super-thick or thick batting-like stuff doesn't wick as well. Be sure not to get the fusible kind. This usually comes in 20-inch widths.
Pony bead lacing. This is a soft, somewhat stretchy cord that is a couple mm in diameter and is used for stringing pony beads. Probably available at local craft or hobby store. Comes in black and translucent white.
A fan, preferably a desk fan with adjustable tilt.
A sewing machine and thread.
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Step 1: Construct Wick Box
Construct a box out of the plastic canvas to fit the water container (or your humidifier wick holder) with four sides and a bottom. Leave the top open. It can be as large or small as you like, but since the fabric will probably not wick higher than about 5 inches, 9 inches tall is probably plenty tall enough. I would suggest a width just slightly more than either 4 or 5 inches. This way you can use the 20" width of fabric with no waste. Cut enough pieces of plastic canvas to fit a divider every second mesh inside the box. Use the pony bead lacing to lace the pieces together. It is only necessary to attach each divider at the top and bottom on each side. Some parts of the one shown were put together with cable ties before I got the pony bead lacing idea.
Step 2: Construct Wick Fabric Segments
Count the number of dividers in your wick box. You will need to construct 1/2 this number of fabric segments. Cut interfacing into strips 4 or 5 inches wide. Cut strips into lengths approximately 4 times the height of the wick box, less 1/2 inch. To construct each segment, place 2 strips together and on the top one, place a mark 1/4" to each side of the center. A fabric marker with water soluble or disappearing ink works well for this. Fold each end to the marks and sew in place near the center. I don't know if it's really necessary, but I washed and dried my fabric segments before using.
Step 3: Insert Fabric Segments
Place the fabric segments into the plastic canvas wick box. One will be draped over every other divider.
Step 4: Set Up Humidifier
Fill water container with a couple inches of water. Run wick box under water to pre-wet and place in water container. Aim fan at the surface of the water.
Once set up I like to place a mark on the water container at the level of the water with a dry erase marker to gauge how much water is evaporating in a day. It will usually go down about an inch a day.
To clean, I put the fabric segments in the washer with some vinegar, agitate a little, let them soak a while, then finish the wash cycle. This gets them clean and removes hard water deposits. The water container should be emptied and cleaned regularly also.
The beauty of this is that you could construct one for every room in your house if necessary, although for a small house one may be enough. Not terribly aesthetic, but a lot less expensive than store-bought ones, especially considering the cost of disposable paper wicks. And I find that a desk fan makes a lot less noise than the console humidifier.