Salt lamps are popular, but they can have problems
Deep in the northern region of Pakistan, located at the foothills of the Himalayas, lies the famous Khewra Salt Mine. The mine was discovered around 320 BC by the horses of Alexander the Great’s troops, who started licking the rocks they found lying around.
However, the salt had been there for many years before it was discovered, and Himalayan salt was actually formed around 200 million years ago when the crystallized salt formations were created out of dried sea-bed which were subsequently submerged by lava eruptions.
Today around 800 million tonnes of pink Himalayan Sea salt are mined every year and shipped off to be made into bath salts, cooking salt, and salt lamps, all with supposed incredible health benefits.
About salt lamps
A Himalayan salt lamp is a chunk of crystallized salt that has been chiseled out in the center to accommodate a light bulb or heat lamp. They have grown in popularity over the past few years due to the health benefits they are thought to bring, including:
The release of negative ions
Salt lamps release negative ions into the air which can help create the feeling of euphoria we would naturally get in nature. The more negative ions we have in our home, the better we are reported to feel. Negative ions are found in abundance next to waterfalls and oceans, and it is believed that the process of the salt warming slightly because of the heat from the light creates the same feeling you would actually get if you were to stand next to the ocean or a waterfall.
Feeling more refreshed
As well as a feeling of euphoria, the negative ions released are said to leave you feeling more refreshed – especially if you use the salt lamp at night whilst sleeping.
Salt is hygroscopic, meaning it attracts water from the surrounding air (more on this later!) Large blocks of salt like salt lamps are especially attractive to water vapour and pollutants that are attached to this vapour.
Once the vapor and microscopic allergens have attached to the surface of the lamp, they are no longer circulating in the air where you could breathe them in, which is great news for anyone who suffers from respiratory issues such as asthma.
Himalayan salt lamp safety precautions
Whilst salt lamps are generally considered very safe and are purported to have a multitude of health benefits as detailed above, there are a few important considerations you should consider before investing in one.
Here are some of the most common salt lamp leaking dangers:
All devices and appliances have the potential to become fire hazards if not used correctly or if the wiring is damaged or defective.
This issue is particularly pertinent for the owners of salt lamps due to the risk of the dimmer switch and/or outlet plug overheating and igniting, posing a shock and fire risk. In January 2017 the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled around 80,000 Lumière brand lamps for this exact reason, and a further 3,900 in May of the same year.
If you own a salt lamp that was made in 2017 or earlier, check to see whether it fits the Lumiere salt lamp description, the lamps were sold in black cardboard boxes with a picture of the lamp displayed on the front.
Danger to young children
Genuine Himalayan salt lamps can be extremely heavy, some weighing over 600lb which is the equivalent weight of a vending machine or baby grand piano! When placed on a shelf, these lamps pose a danger to children who may pull on the cable and pull them off the shelf, injuring themselves or anyone else sitting beneath the lamp.
In order to prevent any accidents like this, be sure to place your salt lamp on a shelf that is away from inquisitive little fingers or pets, on a piece of furniture or shelf that is stable and secure.
Danger to pets
Both dogs and cats can become seriously ill if they ingest too much sodium chloride (salt), making Himalayan salt lamps potentially dangerous for your furry friends.
Although clinical signs can vary between species and between acute and chronic exposures, Symptoms of salt toxicosis in pets include:
- Ataxia, which means a lack of coordination within the nervous system
- Muscle tremors
- Seizure-like activity
Salt toxicosis is much more likely to occur when there is limited access to fresh water, and cats are much more at risk of this due to the fact they can jump onto higher ledges. In order to prevent incidents involving salt ingestion, you should make sure your salt lamp is placed as far away from pets as possible, and always insure there is a fresh supply of water available at all times.
Corrosion of furniture
Remember the hygroscopic process we talked about earlier? Meaning, they attract and absorb water molecules from the air, which are then evaporated due to the heat from the light. This process is evident if you leave your salt lamp unlit for long periods of time, when it will begin to ‘cry’ because of water collecting on the surface of the lamp.
Excess water on your cold, unlit lamp may trickle down onto the base of the lamp or the furniture it is sitting on. If the furniture or base is wooden, the water could warp or stain it, and whilst this isn’t necessarily a health risk it’s an unwanted side effect that you should be aware of, and over time could damage the cable and bulb fitting.
Take steps to avoid excess water collecting on your lamp by checking the position of the bulb inside to make sure it isn’t touching any part of the rock crystal.
A list of dos and don'ts for your salt lamp
- Do NOT place your lamp in an area that is naturally high in moisture, such as a bathroom or laundry room. These areas will make your lamp more prone to dripping which could lead to corrosion and consequential damage to the furniture, cord, and bulb fitting
- Do NOT position your lamp on top of electrical appliances such as microwaves, music units, or TVs as again any excess moisture could create a fire hazard or risk of electric shocks
- Do NOT wash your lamp under a running tap or submerge it in water, your lamp is made of salt which will dissolve if exposed to lots of water.
- Do NOT place your lamp next to speakers as the vibrations could displace the bulb inside or damage the fuse
- DO keep your lamp switched on for at least 16 hours a day (all day and night would be even better!) as this will ensure as much moisture as possible is absorbed and evaporated by the heat. It costs around $10 to power a salt lamp for an entire year, so don’t be too concerned about energy costs
- DO get a dimmer cord for your lamp. In addition to being able to control the light levels to suit your better, it makes it easier to keep the light on for the ideal time of 24/7.
- DO try placing four tea light candles around the base of the salt lamp, these not only look great but the extra heat from the flame will help to absorb more of the moisture
- DO pat your lamp dry with a clean cloth if you notice it is starting to drip with water
How to determine a real Himalayan salt lamp from a fake one
Due to the rise in popularity of Himalayan salt lamps, there has been a raft of profiteers and scammers trying to make a quick buck by selling cheap imitation lamps for profit.
Genuine salt lamps are more likely to provide some of the health benefits we have mentioned in this article, but a fake lamp is nothing more than an attractive light!
Learning how to identify an authentic salt lamp is essential to ensure you avoid low-quality, sub-par lamps that could be dangerous.
Here are a few pointers to help you spot the diamonds in the rough:
The salt lamp is very cheap
Whilst more expensive doesn’t always mean better, any lamps being sold for less than $40 should be an immediate red flag, especially if they’re being sold on online stores like Amazon or eBay
The lamp is very bright
Authentic Himalayan salt lamps produce a warm, muted glow as opposed to bright incandescent lights. The light should also be a little uneven due to the structure of the salt crystal, test this by rotating the light slightly to see whether you can spot any differences either on the lamp or the light patterns on the wall.
It’s very durable
Salt lamps are extremely delicate and fragile and need to be handled carefully to avoid chips and bumps. It’s likely your lamp will already display a couple of small areas of damage when you remove it from the box, just from the shipping and handling process. If your lamp feels solid and indestructible, this is a sign it may not be 100% genuine.
It doesn’t ‘cry’
No one wants a sad salt lamp, but the absence of any moisture on the surface of your lamp is a definite signal that it’s not the real deal. Try switching your new salt lamp off for a couple of hours to test it.
The color isn’t right
Genuine salt lamps are a soft orangey-pink color that varies very slightly from lamp to lamp. If your lamp is bright pink, red, or overly shiny, this could indicate that it hasn’t been mined from a true Himalayan salt mine.
The ‘lick’ test
One final, slightly unorthodox test for your salt lamp is to give it the lick test! Your lamp should taste extremely salty if you give it just a teeny-weeny lick. Clean a very small area with a slightly damp cloth before lightly resting your tongue on the surface, the taste should be evident immediately.
Aside from being an extremely attractive accessory for your home, there are a huge number of health benefits that may be associated with owning a genuine Himalayan salt lamp, including a feeling of euphoria and well-being and a reduction in respiratory illnesses. However, owning a beautiful piece of crystalized sodium chloride comes with a few additional responsibilities to ensure they can be enjoyed safely for years to come.
Salt lamps are hygroscopic which means they attract and absorb water molecules from the atmosphere. Water and electricity carried a risk of fire and shocks, and therefore salt lamps should be treated with care. They are also extremely heavy and should be placed in a position where small children and pets cannot knock them over.
Whilst there is no scientific evidence to prove any of the health claims, there are thousands of reports from satisfied consumers who claim salt lamps have improved their health and general well-being.
Is it safe to turn on a leaking salt lamp?
Your salt lamp is hygroscopic which means it will attract and absorb moisture from the air, which is evaporated by the heat of the lamp when it is switched on. Turning your lamp off for any length of time or placing it in a humid room will make your lamp leak excess water which could cause damage to your furniture and create a small risk of fire or electric shocks.
Before switching a leaking lamp on, pat it very gently with a dry or slightly damp cloth to remove as much of the water as possible, and leave the lamp switched on 24/7 to avoid this happening again.
Are salt lamps poisonous?
Whilst salt lamps cause no ill-health from being switched on and enjoyed, they could cause harm to your pets who can become seriously ill if they ingest too much sodium chloride (salt) with an illness called salt toxicosis. Symptoms of this include vomiting, muscle weakness, and seizures.
Place your lamp as far away from pets and small children as possible.
Can salt lamps melt?
In theory, if a Himalayan salt lamp was left completely submerged in water for a long period of time, it would melt, but it will not melt whilst being used in normal conditions. The water that can sometimes drip off the lamp isn’t a sign of it melting, but the release of water vapor that your lamp has absorbed. This can be avoided by leaving your lamp switched on 24 hours a day and not placing it in overly humid rooms such as the kitchen or bathroom.
Can I leave my salt lamp on 24/7?
Yes! In fact, this is the ideal way to use your salt lamp to ensure it doesn’t leak water, instead evaporating it by the heat of the lamp.
If you’re worried about the energy cost of having your lamp switched on for so long, rest assured that it costs around $10 to have your salt lamp turned on 24/7 for an entire year.
How long do salt lamps last?
Himalayan salt lamps can last indefinitely if properly cared for and maintained. The salt itself does not wear out, but the bulb will need to be replaced from time to time. Ensure that you follow the care tips mentioned above to prolong the life of your lamp.
Do salt lamps help with anxiety and depression?
Although there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that salt lamps directly help with anxiety or depression, many users report a sense of relaxation and improved mood when using salt lamps in their homes. The warm, ambient light emitted by salt lamps may create a calming atmosphere, which can indirectly help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
Can salt lamps help with sleep?
Some users report that using a Himalayan salt lamp in their bedroom helps improve sleep quality. The warm, soft light emitted by the lamp may help promote relaxation and create a peaceful environment conducive to sleep. However, it's important to note that individual experiences may vary, and there is no scientific evidence to support these claims.