The Honeywell was our top pick for humidifying large areas, and was rated “Amazon’s Choice” for Honeywell humidifiers. It covers up to 1000 square feet, one of the largest coverage areas out there, perfect for a living room, a large master bedroom, or a medium and small room combination.
We love all the extra “clean” features this unit has, such as a UV light to kill bacteria in the water before it gets pulled up the wick to be misted out into the room. According to the manufacturer, independent tests have shown that the mist this unit produces is 99.9% germ-free. Another great feature? Several of its components are dishwasher safe, making it easy to keep clean.
Its durability (several customers noted they’d had theirs for three years or more), choice of two colors, simple operation (high/medium/low setting for output), and ease of filling the tank made this model stand out.
This is evaporative humidifier earned high marks for its design—making this one of the easiest to clean humidifiers on our list. It also has a place for Vicks Vapopads for additional relief, and won’t leave a white coating of mineral dust in your home since it’s an evaporative unit. That also means less cleaning and maintenance, although the wicks will need to be replaced on a regular basis.
This unit runs up to 20 hours on one tank and offers two output settings, which many users appreciate for keeping things simple.
While not as versatile as our other picks in this category, this little humidifier still has a robust 2-year limited warranty, auto-shut off, and variable (dial) moisture settings, as well as an easy to clean tank. It’s designed for medium-sized rooms, which should cover most dining rooms, bedrooms, and living rooms.
On the lowest setting, it may be possible to get 24 hours’ use on one tank. However, the hassle of filling up the tank made this otherwise solid unit drop to runner up on our list.
In addition, customers noted that it was expensive to return the unit to Honeywell for warrantied repairs.
This little powerhouse is extremely functional, and was rated “Amazon’s Choice” for filterless humidifiers. It’s best for small bedrooms or any smaller area in your home, or small office spaces. It not only has an auto shut-off feature, but also has a timer with 4-hour, 8-hour, and 12-hour settings.
A whisper-quiet ultrasonic, it also features an LED-lit tank, though the lights aren’t as noticeable as those in our Best Optional Features winner below. The low/medium/high setting is easy to use, and the simple design makes the tank easy to clean.
This ultrasonic humidifier is Amazon’s Choice for “Vicks Humidifier.” It can run for up to 20 hours on one tank, has an auto shut-off feature, and comes in three colors: pink, green, or blue. It’s also easy to clean and refill, has variable (dial) moisture control, and can be used with Vicks VapoPads for additional relief. Most users reported it was very quiet, but a few had issues with the noise increasing the longer the unit was used.
This ultrasonic humidifier also has an auto shut-off feature, one tank can last up to 20 hours on the lowest setting, and it has variable moisture control. It was generally easy to clean and fill and received positive reviews overall.
However, there were several user complaints about the machine only lasting a few months to a year even after following the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations.
The Crane Adorables line lives up to its name, with 15 cute animal designs and one train. It also has variable moisture control, allowing you to adjust how much mist is disbursed.
This whisper-quiet ultrasonic humidifier has a unique 360˚ lid, letting you choose where to aim the mist. It also provides coverage for up to 250 square feet, just right for nurseries and children’s rooms.
According to customer reviews, this is one of the easiest to clean humidifiers, and has the added safety of an auto shut-off feature when the water in the tank drops below a certain level—so there’s no worry about the unit burning out from a dry tank.
This humidifier was among the quietest we looked at, coming in around only 32 decibels, perfect for a nursery or child’s room. The compact size makes it good for smaller spaces, and it has an easy to clean tank. One tank lasts for about 25 hours on the lowest setting, outlasting almost every other competitor.
It also has controls that go completely dark after ten seconds, for a true zero-light unit at night when the nightlight is turned off. With a 360˚ nozzle and one-touch controls, this is one of the easiest units to use.
For added safety, the auto shut-off feature activates when the tank is removed from the base, not just when water drops below a certain level.
This humidifier won us over with all the extras it had, and for the same cost as many other less exciting models. For one thing, it’s practically noiseless, coming in at around 30 dB.
This unique cool-mist humidifier comes with auto-shut off when the water level drops below a certain point, a large 1.6-gallon tank that can last for up to 80 hours of use on the lowest setting, and a 360˚ nozzle allowing you to shoot the mist in any direction.
But, it really went above and beyond with the sheer number of moisture settings it allowed (17), the addition of an LED-lit tank with seven different color options, and if that weren’t enough, it comes with a special tray for essential oils.* You simply add a few drops of oil to the sponge housed in the tray at the unit’s base, and it will scent the air as the humidifier works.
This humidifier offers a lot of options, including the ability to provide either warm mist or cool mist. It has a digital display with touch panel controls, which are a bonus for many people but may be a bit complicated for others. The unit already comes with a demineralized cartridge, carbon-based filter, and descaler. Although rated for 600 square feet of coverage, it seems to perform best in rooms that are 400 square feet or less, according to the reviews. The number of filters/cartridges that needed to be used and replaced with the unit also placed it below our winner.
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This guide will help you choose the best cool mist humidifier for your specific needs as well as show you some great additional features you may not have realized existed.
Let’s get down to the basics of what humidifiers do and when you might need one.
A humidifier, as the name suggests, raises the humidity level in a space. It does this in several ways, which we’ll address in more detail later on. For now, it’s enough to know that there are cool mist humidifiers, aka cool mist vaporizers or cold-water humidifiers, and warm/hot air (or steam) humidifiers. Both add water to the air to increase humidity levels, although cool mist humidifiers don’t heat the water in their tanks, which is the main difference between the two.
Existing Humidity Levels: While extra humidity in dry climates and over the cold winter can be a blessing, don’t overdo it. Indoor spaces should always remain below 50 percent humidity; otherwise, you’re providing the perfect conditions to grow mold and bacteria in your home and providing a breeding ground for dust mites, which is bad for allergy sufferers.
Even if you live in a very humid climate, however, your indoor air could still be dry depending on how often you (or your officemates) run the heating and cooling system. The more often the system is run, the drier the air becomes as an HVAC system generally removes humidity from an enclosed space, like a home or office building.
Humidity testers (hygrometers) are widely available and inexpensive. You should do a quick humidity test before buying a humidifier to be sure the humidity levels in your home or office are currently below 50 percent, and to monitor your home’s humidity levels if you do add a humidifier to your home.
Seasonal Health Issues: The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends humidifiers to help alleviate congestion and coughs. For those who suffer from allergies, humidifiers have been shown to offer some relief, as well. On the flip side, people with certain health issues will struggle if more humidity is added to the surrounding air. Check with your health care provider to ensure it’s a good fit for you before running out to purchase a humidifier.
So why would you choose a cool mist humidifier over a “traditional” humidifier? What’s the difference anyway? There are several important distinctions between the two, which are examined briefly below.
A warm-air, or traditional, humidifier, has a heating element to create steam. This hot steam is what gets sent into the air to add humidity to your home or office. Heat has its pluses and minuses:
Cool mist humidifiers also have their benefits. They are safer around pets and children, since there is no heating element, and no hot steam or water to worry about. Plus, they’re fairly quiet. However, impeller and ultrasonic cool mist humidifiers have been shown to release harmful bacteria and mineral particles into the air.
Evaporative cool mist humidifiers, like warm-air humidifiers, do not appear to release harmful bacteria or minerals into the surrounding air. You can find more information here: EPA Humidifier Fact Sheet.
Now that you’ve decided on a cool mist humidifier, there are many wonderful features and fanciful options to choose from. Some of these may be more essential to you than others, so feel free to skip around to the items most important to you.
Range: small workspace to whole home
This is one of the most important considerations, as it determines what size humidifier you’ll use. Cool mist humidifiers have the upper-hand over warm-air humidifiers here as they generally tend to cover more area than their warmer counterparts.
While there are “whole home” humidifiers, those are usually integrated into the HVAC system of your home or office, so we do not touch on those here. Suffice it to say, if you need to humidify your entire home at the same time, this is the only humidifier that will do the job, since it uses the existing air vents to spread moist air.
Portable humidifiers are helpfully labeled with the square footage they cover, so you should be able to tell by reviewing the specifications how many rooms one humidifier could cover in your home/office space.
Cool mist humidifiers add humidity to the air in one of three ways: by using evaporation, an impeller, or sound waves. We examine each type in more depth below.
Which type you choose depends on how you feel about buying filters regularly, what your noise-level tolerances are, and how often you’re willing to clean your humidifier. (Impellers and ultrasonics require more intense cleaning than evaporative humidifiers.)
Range: 30 to 60 dB
Some models are noted as being “whisper-quiet”—meaning that they run around 32 decibels or less, about the same level as a whisper. Ultrasonic models generally fall into this category. Evaporative and impeller models, although not as quiet, could still be used in a bedroom for those who prefer white noise to sleep by.
Range: 0.5 to 5 gallons
Capacity refers to the humidifier’s tank size. The larger the tank size, the longer you can run the humidifier without having to refill the tank. However, if you don’t have a lot of space, or you plan on only running the humidifier for a short time each day, a smaller tank size may be a better option. In addition, smaller humidifiers often cost less than larger versions.
More intensive cleaning and maintenance is required for cool mist humidifiers since they don’t heat up the water to kill bacteria and mold. The tanks must be cleaned at least weekly, and the water changed daily, to reduce the risk of bacteria and mold particles building up in the unit and entering your home’s air.
To clean your tank, fill it with equal parts water and vinegar and let it sit for at least 30 minutes to allow the vinegar to work. Afterward, the tank should be rinsed twice to remove all vinegar residue. Bleach may also be used (see label directions for the correct amount of bleach to use), but the tank should be rinsed several times to ensure no traces of bleach remain.
Some cool-mist humidifiers have been designed to counteract the growth of mold and bacteria with additional features, such as using UV light to kill bacteria or being created with antimicrobial materials or given antimicrobial treatments prior to leaving the manufacturer.
Regardless of any additional features, your humidifier has that are designed to limit the growth of bacteria or mold, it is still crucial to clean your cool mist humidifier weekly, and replace the water daily.
Additionally, ultrasonic or impeller models with demineralization cartridges (to prevent minerals from escaping into the room’s air and leaving fine, white dust everywhere) need to have the cartridges checked regularly and replaced at least yearly. Evaporative cool-mist humidifiers do not need these cartridges as they do not expel minerals into the air.
Using distilled water, in which the minerals have been removed, instead of tap water in your humidifier can nearly eliminate the white dust issue.
If your humidifier has a filter, the filter will need to be replaced monthly, or more often if you notice discoloration of the filter or that your humidifier isn’t working as efficiently as it used to.
You probably never imagined that there were USB-powered humidifiers out there, but there are! They can also come with a cord (standard) or be battery operated (less common). Although the USB options are more of a novelty at this stage, they can be useful for office cubicles or even in vehicles on long winter road trips.
Cool mist humidifiers have several value-adding optional features, such as nightlights, timers, automatic shut-off, and a few even come in whimsical designs for children’s rooms which are all explored briefly below.
Range: none to 5 years
Because of the many parts in a humidifier, including some that cannot be accessed by the user, having a warranty makes sense. We noticed a wide variety of offerings here, from “lifetime support” to a five-year limited warranty. Most limited warranties were for one or two years. While humidifiers aren’t a huge financial investment, most of the internal parts can’t be replaced by the user, so a warranty is a good idea if you plan on using a humidifier for more than one year.
One of the most destructive myths (to your cool mist humidifier, that is!) is all over the internet, and the fact that many people don’t differentiate between warm-air humidifiers and cool mist humidifiers makes everything more confusing.
The first myth: “You can use essential oils in your cool mist humidifier tank.” No, no you cannot. Why? Because in ultrasonic humidifiers, the oils will clog up the nebulizer, making it unable to function, meaning no mist leaves the machine.
For other cool mist humidifiers, using essential oils can crack the tank, causing water to leak out onto whatever surface it’s sitting on. Any damage caused by using essential oils in a machine not designed for it will void your warranty.
Humidifiers that are safe for essential oils have a separate compartment for the oils and are specifically marked for that purpose, so unless the instructions for your humidifier state clearly how and where to use the essential oils, don’t do it.
The other myth we sometimes hear is “Wetter is better.” It IS possible to have too much humidity in your home or office. Don’t just run your humidifier day and night without checking your humidity levels. If you start creeping up to or above 50 percent, turn the humidifier off for a bit. You don’t want to make your home as inviting to mold, bacteria, and dust mites as it is to your family.
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