It is vital to keep your vocal chords (or vocal cords) hydrated if you use them regularly. If the vocal chords dry out they dehydrate, the protective mucous on them becomes too thick and they lose their elasticity, inhibiting their ability to vibrate.
Water is important for all bodily functions, and if you speak or sing a lot the moisture on your vocal chords will evaporate quicker than normal. The first important step you should take to keep your voice hydrated is to drinks lots and lots of water. Not tea, coffee, soft drinks or alcohol (most of which are dehydrating for the voice) but pure, natural water. Even juices take longer to hydrate the voice than good old plain water.
First thing in the morning, make sure you drink a lot of water as soon as you get up as this is the time your body is most dehydrated and needs to replenish itself. Then drink water throughout the day, even just before going to bed to help prevent excessive dehydration over night. If you must drink tea and coffee then reduce the amount you drink and balance it out with more water.
Unfortunately, drinking water is not always enough. The body takes the water and transports it through the bloodstream to where it’s needed, beginning with the most important parts of the body. Your vocal chords are not considered a priority by your body. And, while water may help to sooth a sore throat, it is not automatically reaching your vocal chords everytime you drink.
If you imagine your body, liquid goes into your mouth, down your throat and into your oesophagus. It never reaches the larynx, which is in your airway – if the water went down that way you would drown yourself!
So, a simple way of hydrating your voice in addition to drinking plenty of water is to use a steam inhaler. Simply fill the inhaler with very hot water, pop on the lid, place the face piece over the nose and mouth and inhale the steam. The steam leaves tiny droplets of water on your vocal chords and warms them up (as well as opening up your lungs and helping to get any congestion moving).
You can buy steamers that heat the water for you, like this personal steamer from Amazon, which are very useful if you are on-the-road a lot and not sure if you will be able to use a kettle.
However, I tend to just buy these basic ones from the local chemist (drug store) which cost less than five pounds. I keep one at home and one at the studio: