Wood stove steamers help boost the humidity in the home and can help ease a variety of common winter ailments; chapped lips, sore throats and dry skin are all blamed on dry heated homes.
Very simply, stove top steamers are pots filled with water which sit directly on top of your wood stove. The heat from your wood burning stove evaporates the water as steam which increases the humidity of the air in your room. They need refilling occasionally and come in a wide variety of styles, colours and designs.
In the winter months outside air temperature is very low and cold air simply cannot carry as much water as warm air. Wood fires draw air from outside the building as they burn and send flue gases up the chimney. As this external air enters the building it warms up and can carry more water than before - this makes it feel drier than it did before. As a result people suffer from chapped lips and other winter maladies.
While people blame wood stoves and fires in particular ANY boiler or furnace which uses air from within your building will contribute to reduced humidity, including your central heating and hot water boiler. While we can't do much about those causes we can use a stove top steamer to increase the humidity around our wood fire.
Stove top steamers come in a weird and wonderful array of designs - from simple yet classic pots, to stylised dragons, sleeping cats or ornamental kettles. What ever suits your taste there is likely to be a stove top steamer to match. Literally thousands of types are available if you take the time to search for them.
Even a battered old kettle has a certain charm about it, and will be just as effective as an ornamental design. You can even use it to make tea if the power goes out!
If you are planning on using one routinely you should look for one with a larger volume so that it doesn't need filling so regularly.
Wood stove steamers really shine when you start using them to add some fragrance to your room. You could try adding orange peel and cloves directly to the water in your steamer, or experiment with some scented pot-pourri or essential oils. (A word of warning about essential oils - you should ALWAYS dilute them in water in your steamer, never use them 'neat'. Oils are very flammable and in large amounts pose a significant fire risk. Just a few drops in your steamer should be sufficient)
If you do try adding scents try to remember not to let your stove top steamer run completely out of water. You risk burning the pot-pourri which at best would smell unpleasant and at worst may be a fire hazard.
Depending on the water quality in your area it may also be a good idea to use filtered water to prevent limescale gumming it up completely. If you need to remove limescale from inside the steamer then Coca-Cola is surprisingly effective.
A trivet is simply a spacer that lifts your steamer off the direct surface of your wood stove. They prolong the life of the steamer and reduce the chance of rust spots forming on top of the stove. Most trivets are simple cast iron and look elegant. They do reduce the effectiveness of the steamer, however, as with a gap between the pot and the stove there is less heat transfer, so solver evaporation.