- An excellent humidifier can make your home’s air much more comfortable to breathe, particularly when the air becomes too dry.
- There are a number of great humidifiers to choose from, but our top pick is the Pure Enrichment Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier because it’s stylish, inexpensive, and versatile enough to suit most people’s needs.
When the air gets too dry, it could lead to health issues like bloody noses, cracked lips, itchy skin, and more. Not only that, it can be uncomfortable to breathe in dry air. This is common during cold weather when a home is heated, and besides making our bodies feel discomfort, low humidity could also damage porous things like wooden furniture and framed art. Which is why an air humidifier can help.
A humidifier is an electrical appliance that uses water to humidify the air. Humidifiers come in different shapes and sizes, but for this guide, we focused on portable units that are affordable and can be easily purchased. Still, there are various types of portable humidifiers.
Hot or cold?
In general, humidifiers are divided into “warm mist” and “cool mist.” Warm-mist humidifiers release moisture into the air by heating it, which kills bacteria in the water. But, if there are children or animals in the house, warm-mist humidifiers can be hazardous because of how hot the appliance gets, as well as the potential for accidentally spilled hot water.
Within the cool-mist humidifier segment, there are three types:
- Ultrasonic humidifiers use high-frequency waves to split water drops into particles, which are then released into the room.
- Evaporative humidifiers take the room’s air and pass it through a filter with water in it, creating a mist. That mist is then blown out the other end of the humidifier.
- Impeller humidifiers are similar to ultrasonic humidifiers, but instead of using ultrasonic waves, they break-up water drops using a rotating disc. These humidifiers operate louder than the others.
Which option you choose depends on your environment. The Mayo Clinic recommends cool-mist humidifiers if you have children, because of the aforementioned safety concerns. It also said both cool-mist and warm-mist humidifiers are equally effective. However, cool-mist humidifiers require more cleaning because they have a higher chance of bacteria and mold growth. It’s also recommended that distilled or purified water be used instead of tap water.
As mentioned, warm-mist humidifiers disperse steam by heating water, rather than using a fan. They’re quieter and they can heat up small rooms, according to appliance maker, Luma Comfort. However, they also require more energy to operate. There are pros and cons to both, and the best option will depend on your needs.
We looked at a variety of humidifiers to find the best ones, at a variety of price points.
Here are the best humidifiers you can buy:
- Best humidifier overall: Pure Enrichment Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier
- Best warm mist humidifier: Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier
- Best humidifier for large rooms: Sunpentown SPT SU-4010 Humidifier
- Best germ-free humidifier: Honeywell HCM350W Humidifier
Updated on 12/11/2019: Updated pricing, links, and formatting. We are currently researching and testing new options for a future update.
The best humidifier overall
The Pure Enrichment Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier is stylish, has two levels of misting, and even lights up for ambiance.
The best humidifier is the Pure Enrichment Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier. Not only is this an excellent and reliable portable humidifier, but it’s also affordable.
This cool-mist model has a number of great features. It can humidify the air for up to 16 hours of continuous use, so you won’t need to worry about replacing the water too often, thanks to the 1.5-liter water tank.
The device also has choices of either single or dual-mist nozzles, so you can switch the humidifier to output different levels of mist. An automatic shut-off feature detects when the water level is getting low or the water tank has been removed. And, it can function as a night light (blue, green, or red).
Because it’s small and compact, it isn’t effective for larger rooms. The company offers an “XL” version with a larger water tank and longer continuous run-time, or you can check out our pick for large rooms.
Pros: Stylish design, relatively cheap, dual-mist control, automatic shut off, night light
Cons: Not great for larger rooms
The best warm-mist humidifier
Vicks’ Warm Mist Humidifier has a gallon-sized water tank and automatic shut-off feature, and it’s ideal for anyone who is sick.
While most people prefer cool-mist humidifiers, in some situations, warm-mist humidifiers are simply better – like, when you’re sick and trying to clear a stuffed-up nose. In that case, there’s one humidifier that stands above the rest: the Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier.
The device has a big water tank (1 gallon), which allows it to operate for up to 12 hours on a single filling. It runs quietly and there is a night light, which is helpful if you’re running it at night.
The high setting works great for larger rooms, while the lower setting will be a little calmer for small spaces. The way it works is that the tank feeds the water into a boiling chamber, where it’s then heated. The vapor produced is up to 95-percent bacteria-free, according to Vicks. The humidifier has an automatic shut-off, so it will turn off when the water runs out.
Pros: Warm mist is great for sinus issues, large water tank, two settings, relatively inexpensive
Cons: Device gets hot
The best humidifier for large rooms
The Sunpentown SPT SU-4010 Humidifier doesn’t just have a large tank, it also offers both warm and cool mist settings, and the ability to control the mist output.
If you’re looking for a humidifier to humidify a larger room, you’ll probably want something with a larger water tank that’s capable of outputting more mist. The best is the Sunpentown SPT SU-4010 Humidifier.
The humidifier has a gallon-sized water tank, but it’s powerful enough to humidify rooms as large as 500 square feet. Unlike our other recommendations, this device offers the option of cool-mist or warm-mist settings. It can run for up to 10 hours on the warm-mist setting or 12 hours if you opt for cool mist. You can also adjust the mist output.
Pros: Warm and cool mist settings, higher mist output for larger rooms, ability to adjust mist output
Cons: A little noisy, on the pricey side
The best germ-free humidifier
The Honeywell HCM350W Humidifier boasts the ability to kill 99.9% of all germs and bacteria and it’s quiet.
If you’re concerned about the bacteria that could be circulating in your room, then the Honeywell HCM350W Humidifier is the best option for you. Honeywell markets the device as “germ free,” and that’s thanks to the company’s patented germ-killing process, which Honeywell claims to kill 99.9% of all water-bred germs and bacteria.
The germ-killing technology isn’t the only great feature on the humidifier. It also offers three speed settings, which allow the user to adjust the moisture and sound level.
The humidifier comes in white or black, so you can choose the color to best suit your room. On top of that, it can run up to 24 hours per filling — as long as it’s set to a lower setting.
There are two maintenance requirements to consider. You’ll need to learn how to maintain the humidifier’s wick filter and you will need to remember to switch out the filters, which adds to the cost of the device.
Pros: Technology to kill 99.9% of germs, quieter than other humidifiers, can run up to 24 hours, different colors available
Cons: Requires some maintenance, pricey