Humidifiers vs. Vaporizers: Which is Best for You? (2023)

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When you’re coughing, sneezing, or have an itchy nose, dry air can be extra aggravating. Air that’s dry can also flare eczema, trigger nosebleeds, increase dry eye and make any cold or flu feel more miserable. In winter months when you’re heating your home, and in drier climates, dry air can feel like a constant companion.

Fortunately, there’s an appliance for that. Humidifiers are gadgets that add moisture back into your air. As their name implies, they achieve this by increasing the humidity (a word for the level of moisture in the air around you) of your surrounding environment. A type of humidifier called a vaporizer does the same thing, but in a slightly different way.

Both humidifiers and vaporizers can help ease the discomfort of air that is too dry. Both can be purchased relatively inexpensively at your local big box store, pharmacy, or online. So how do you choose which type of appliance will work best for you? We took a deep dive into how these products work and the pros and cons of each so that you can make the best decision.

Health benefits of humidifiers and vaporizers

(Video) Humidifiers vs Vaporizers

A cool-mist humidifier or steam vaporizer may help equally with cold and flu congestion. Why? The benefit comes from the humidity reaching your irritated nasal passages and lungs. This may help reduce inflammation of your sinus tissue to make breathing feel easier. The case for this is mostly anecdotal, but the logic makes sense.

Humidifiers and vaporizers do the same thing. In fact, as you may have noticed, vaporizers are just a type of humidifier. They’re also used for the same reasons. By the time the water from these devices gets to your lower airway, it’s the same temperature, regardless of how the humidity was generated. The main difference is in their mechanism of action. In general, humidifiers work by creating mist from cold water, whereas vaporizers heat water to create steam.

Choosing the right machine for your household will depend on other factors, such as whether you have young children at home.

One type of cool-mist humidifier uses ultrasonic vibrations to disperse a cool mist of water into the air. Another uses a disk submerged in the machine that is rapidly turned. As it moves, it breaks up the water into tiny particles that can be inhaled.

Mold may also develop if humidity levels in your home are too high — over 50% — or if your humidifier’s filter isn’t clean. Consider purchasing a hygrometer to measure the level of humidity in your home to ward off common allergens.

Pros of humidifiers

  • safe for families with young children and pets
  • affordable and low electricity cost

Cons of humidifiers

  • a filter that isn’t clean can contribute to mold growth
  • air that is too humid can actually trigger allergies and breed mold

Cleaning a humidifier

You’ll want to clean out your cool-mist humidifier daily while it’s in use. The key is to keep ahead of any mineral and bacteria buildup.

The type of water you use may also make a difference. Consider using distilled or purified water versus tap water; treated water contains fewer contaminants.

(Video) What is the difference between a humidifier and a vaporizer (A detailed answer)

Try a simple cleaning schedule like the following:

  • Daily: Empty the tank and dry all surfaces. Refill with fresh water.
  • Every third day: Empty the tank and scrub all surfaces with mild dish soap and water to remove scale and other debris. Refill with fresh water.
  • If storing away: Follow cleaning directions in the manufacturer guide. Remove any dirty filters and toss them out. When all parts are dry, store in a dry place.

Purchasing a humidifier

Humidifiers are widely available and very easy to get, if you’re in a pinch. But if you do want to invest in a high-quality option for extended use, it helps to look into specific designs and brands for assistance.

Our top picks for best humidifiers:

What to know about humidifier safety

The main safety concern with cool-mist humidifiers is with the mineral deposits, mold, and other contaminants they may emit into the air. Inhaling these things over time may irritate airways and create further breathing issues.

Using distilled or purified water and cleaning your unit thoroughly and regularly can help lessen these concerns.

A steam vaporizer, or warm-mist humidifier, uses electricity to power a heating element. It boils water and creates steam. The steam cools down before it leaves the machine, enters the air, and reaches the body through your breathing. Some people feel that since the air is boiled before it is condensed into a vapor, that makes this type of appliance more hygienic.

The vapor produced by steam vaporizers doesn’t contain as many contaminants, possibly making it a better choice for those dealing with indoor allergies. Check with your allergist or immunologist for specific recommendations.

You can also add inhalants to this type of humidifier, though this should not be done for babies or young children.

Pros of vaporizers

  • you can boost the vapor with an essential oil or inhalant
  • steam vapor is distilled, so it may have fewer contaminants

Cons of vaporizers

  • hot water is not safe for use around children or pets
(Video) What's the Difference Between a Vaporizer, Humidifier and Diffuser?

Cleaning a vaporizer

Similar cleaning rules apply to steam vaporizers, but the risk of mineral buildup and mold is less of an issue.

Here’s a simple cleaning formula to try:

  • Daily: Empty the tank and dry all surfaces. Refill with fresh water.
  • Weekly: Empty tank and fill with 3 1/2 inches of white vinegar for 10 minutes. Clean any residue off the unit with a mild detergent.
  • If storing away: Follow weekly instructions and make sure all parts are dry before storing away in a cool, dry location. Discard any dirty filters before storing.

Purchasing a vaporizer

As we noted with purchasing humidifiers, be sure to do your due diligence with selecting one that works for you. Brand reviews and customer feedback can help you narrow down the large field.

Our top picks for best vaporizers:

What to know about vaporizer safety

Steam vaporizers don’t emit as many harmful contaminants into the air. That’s because they boil water and release pure steam. The main safety concern with these machines is risk of burns from steam or spilled water.

Try sitting 4 or more feet from a steam vaporizer when it’s in operation to avoid these risks.

Humidifiers vs. vaporizers comparison

(Video) Humidifers vs Vaporizer 🌬️: Top Option Reviewed | HVAC Training 101

Adds moisture back into the air?yesyes
Requires frequent cleaning?yesno
Safe for families with children and pets?yesno
Lots of affordable options?yesyes
Uses less electricity?yesno

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about vaporizers and humidifiers.

Who should buy a humidifier?

Humidifiers are appliances that infuse the air you breathe with moisture. This may lubricate irritated nasal passages (or respiratory passages), which can be comforting during cold, flu, and allergy season. Anyone who experiences discomfort from dry air might benefit from a humidifier.

Who should buy a vaporizer?

A steam vaporizer is a type of humidifier that heats water to the point of steam before diffusing it through the air. Vaporizers have the same potential benefits of humidifiers. People who are sensitive to irritants in the air might like vaporizers better since water that is boiled before being released into the air might be more pure. People who don’t have pets or little kids who might tip over a vaporizer might be interested in this type of humidifier.

Are vaporizers and humidifiers expensive?

Vaporizers and humidifiers are both relatively inexpensive and can vary in price. There are plenty of humidifier options to choose from and most cost less than $100. There are comparatively fewer vaporizer options available, but the ones that you can buy are generally pretty affordable.

Are vaporizers and humidifiers dangerous?

Vaporizers contain a heating component, so they can be dangerous if a pet or child tips the container over. Humidifiers and vaporizers can also cause issues if they are not cleaned frequently and correctly. Beyond those caveats, these appliances are safe for most people to have in their homes.

Can humidifiers cause mold?

Humidifiers add moisture to the air for the purpose of comfortable breathing. Too much humidity in the air can create an ideal environment for mold. Mold can cause health problems and be difficult to get rid of. The EPA recommends keeping the absolute humidity in your home below 50%. You can purchase a hygrometer to easily track what the humidity level is while you run a humidifying device.

Can vaporizers and humidifiers treat asthma?

Vaporizers and humidifiers can help ease discomfort from dry air. They may make it more comfortable to breathe if dry air tends to trigger your asthma. However, the evidence we have about how these devices impact asthma is mostly anecdotal at this point. A vaporizer or humidifier is not a replacement for asthma treatment prescribed by your doctor.

Both cool-mist humidifiers and steam vaporizers can add moisture to the air in your home and help ease your respiratory symptoms without medication. The type you ultimately choose comes down to your personal health, budget, and family considerations.

Whatever the case, be sure to monitor the humidity levels in your environment to avoid aggravating indoor allergies. And clean your machine each day while it’s in use to keep it running safely.


Do you use a vaporizer or humidifier for stuffy nose? ›

Used correctly, vaporizers and humidifiers are equally effective,” he says. Both humidifiers and vaporizers can get moisture into your nose and sinuses when they get dried out. The key to using humidity as part of your sinus treatment is to use your equipment properly and keep it safe and clean.

Are humidifiers good for your lungs? ›

Increased humidity may ease breathing in children and adults who have asthma or allergies, especially during a respiratory infection such as a cold. But mist from a dirty humidifier or increased growth of allergens caused by high humidity can trigger or worsen asthma and allergy symptoms.

What is the healthiest type of humidifier? ›

The type you choose is ultimately up to you, but in general, cool mist humidifiers are the safest option (especially if you have children or pets around), according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Warm mist humidifiers, meanwhile, run hot and have the potential to cause burns if you get too close.

What helps you breathe better humidifier or dehumidifier? ›

Asthma: A humidifier can help moisten dry air that can dry out your airways and increase your risk of infections. A dehumidifier can reduce excess moisture and make it easier to breathe as well as keep airborne pollutants from remaining suspended in the air.

What are the benefits of using a vaporizer? ›

A warm steam vaporizer provides multiple benefits, especially when you feel sick: The moisture of the steam helps relieve your cough and reduce congestion in your chest and sinuses. Proper humidification with a vaporizer can also reduce the irritation in your nose, eyes and throat, triggered by a cold or allergies.

Is it OK to sleep with a humidifier every night? ›

The short answer is yes: it is healthy to sleep with a humidifier in your room. Sleeping with a humidifier can have several health benefits, even if you don't have asthma.

Why do doctors recommend cool-mist humidifiers? ›

Cool mist can help shrink swelling in nasal passages, making breathing easier, the Food and Drug Administration says. By contrast, warm mist can cause nasal passages to swell, making breathing more difficult—another reason the FDA doesn't recommend their use for infants with coughs and colds.

Does a vaporizer help with breathing? ›

Health benefits of humidifiers and vaporizers

A cool-mist humidifier or steam vaporizer may help equally with cold and flu congestion. Why? The benefit comes from the humidity reaching your irritated nasal passages and lungs. This may help reduce inflammation of your sinus tissue to make breathing feel easier.

What are the negatives of a humidifier? ›

Other risks. While using a humidifier can help with dry sinuses, it can also cause harm. Dust mite and mold growth is promoted more in humid environments, so if people are allergic to dust and mold, or if they have asthma, using a humidifier could aggravate these conditions.

Do dermatologists recommend humidifiers? ›

This alternating of dry hot and cold air can strip the skin of its natural oils, says dermatologist Gary Goldenberg of Goldenberg Dermatology, who regularly recommends the use of humidifiers to patients suffering from eczema, psoriasis, and dry skin.

Do humidifiers cause poor air quality? ›

The results are striking. Air quality is severely degraded when ultrasonic humidifiers emit minerals and the risk of inhaling PM is substantial.

Which is better cool mist or warm mist humidifier? ›

When should I use a cool-mist humidifier versus a warm-mist humidifier for a child with a cold? Answer From Julie Baughn, M.D. For safety, always use cool-mist humidifiers for children. Hot water or steam from a warm-mist humidifier or steam vaporizer can burn a child if he or she gets too close.

Can you use tap water in a humidifier? ›

Tap water contains mineral deposits, microbes, and germs that you don't want to risk breathing in. Overtime, these contaminants can also build up on your supplies and damage your CPAP tubing and motor. Distilled water should be the only water placed in the water chamber for use.

Is using a vaporizer healthier? ›

1: Vaping is less harmful than smoking, but it's still not safe. E-cigarettes heat nicotine (extracted from tobacco), flavorings and other chemicals to create an aerosol that you inhale. Regular tobacco cigarettes contain 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic.

How many times a day can you use a vaporizer? ›

If your vaporizer has a timer then use it to have proper steam inhalation. Generally, 10-15 minutes twice or thrice a day is sufficient or as mentioned by your doctor.

Does vaporizer affect lungs? ›

Lung disease: Vaping can make asthma and other existing lung diseases worse. Breathing in the harmful chemicals from vaping products can cause irreversible (cannot be cured) lung damage, lung disease and, in some cases, death.

Do you close the door when using a vaporizer? ›

To reduce excess condensation in the room, always leave the door slightly open during use and air out the room in the morning.

Does vaporizer make you cough more? ›

If you are an experienced smoker and have just turned to vaping, Vapers Cough is one of the only side effects that you may experience. This is an irritating, prickly cough which you will get after inhaling on your vaping device. You may also experience a sore throat or irritated respiratory tract.

Should I put humidifier next to bed? ›

It is best to place the humidifier at least 3 feet away from your bed. This is to avoid being directly exposed to too much moisture and to allow the moisture to be distributed evenly around the room.

How far should a humidifier be from your bed? ›

Specifically, we recommend that you keep your humidifier at a distance of around 3 feet from your bed – although there's no inherent harm in placing it closer, if you're restricted on room. This distance is recommended for a variety of reasons.

How long should you run a humidifier in a bedroom? ›

In general, an average bedroom is well served by a 700–900 square foot unit. A 2- or 3-gallon humidifier will usually run from 11 to 16 hours between fillings, depending on the setting.

What is the best humidifier to buy for a bedroom? ›

Best Humidifiers for Bedroom 2023:

Best Overall: Dyson Pure Humidify+Cool, $820. Best Humidifier for Large Rooms: Vitruvi Cloud Cool Mist Humidifier, $229. Best Quiet Humidifier: Honeywell Designer Series Cool Mist Humidifier, $64. Best Humidifier and Oil Diffuser Combo: Asakuki Essential Oil Diffuser, $25.

What is better for allergies humidifier or air purifier? ›

While they both have their merits, a good air purifier is the better solution when it comes to allergies. Humidifiers can alleviate symptoms and help your body cope during allergy season. Air purifiers, on the other hand, can actively remove allergens from the air you breathe at home.

Is a humidifier good for sinus drainage? ›

According to sinus experts, adding moisture to the air with a humidifier is generally good for your sinus health. Moist air can help thin out and loosen mucus. And the water vapor in the air can moisturize and calm irritated airways and ease dry eyes caused by sinusitis.

Why do I feel worse after using a humidifier? ›

Although useful, humidifiers can become a household health hazard and actually make you sick if they aren't maintained properly or if humidity levels stay too high. If you use humidifiers, be sure to monitor humidity levels and keep your humidifier clean. Dirty humidifiers can breed mold or bacteria.

Can humidifier be toxic? ›

"Bacteria, chemicals, minerals, mold — they aerosolize all that stuff to the right particulate size that you breathe it right into your lungs, and it can be toxic," says Dr. Deterding. "One of our patients developed chronic lung disease symptoms. We eventually figured out it was the humidifier."

Are humidifiers good for anti-aging? ›

To sum it up, a humidifier is the anti-aging skincare product you never knew you needed. It tackles dryness better than anything else, thus diminishing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines while also plumping skin and giving it a dewy glow.

Why do hospitals use humidifiers? ›

Benefits of humidification in hospitals include:

Elevates patient and staff overall comfort and virus protection. Lowers employee absence rate. Reduces premature drying and formation of scabs from coagulated blood. Prevention of electrostatic damage to medical equipment.

Do all humidifiers cause mold? ›

An unregulated humidifier can raise the indoor moisture level to an unhealthy amount causing things such as mold to appear. With that being said, this is only when it's left to its own devices. If you're monitoring it, then there will be little to no chance that you'll experience this problem.

Are humidifiers full of bacteria? ›

CPSC has found that bacteria and fungi often grow in the tanks of portable and console room humidifiers and can be released in the mist. Breathing dirty mist may cause lung problems ranging from flu-like symptoms to serious infection.

How humidifiers keep you from getting sick? ›

Fortunately, a humidifier can help to lower your risk of getting sick or developing severe symptoms. Humidifiers add moisture back into the air, which plays an important role in controlling germs. Virus particles die quicker when relative humidity is higher, and the added moisture can help limit their spread.

Should you run a humidifier in the winter? ›

A humidifier is a necessity during the winter because the heated air from a furnace is dry. That dry air has a low humidity level that will absorb moisture from you and everything inside your home.

Do you need to empty humidifier every day? ›

Empty, rinse, and dry the base and tank every day. Once a week, get rid of any mineral buildup with vinegar or another solution suggested by the manufacturer, and disinfect the humidifier with a 10% bleach solution (follow the instructions for your specific model).

Are cool-mist humidifiers good for lungs? ›

Dry sinuses, bloody noses and cracked lips — humidifiers can help soothe these familiar problems caused by dry indoor air. And cool-mist humidifiers also may help ease symptoms of a cold or other respiratory condition.

What style of humidifier is best? ›

The Best Humidifier for Your Room Size

For small and midsized rooms, tabletop humidifiers are the least expensive option, but their small tanks require frequent refills. For large spaces, console models are best because they generate lots of moist air. They also have larger water tanks, so they need fewer refills.

Are humidifiers good for COVID? ›

In a new study, researchers observed a connection between intermediate relative humidity and lower transmission rates of COVID-19. Relative humidity affects the mucociliary system, which removes pathogens before they reach the lungs. A humidifier can help stabilize the relative humidity in your home or office.

Where is the best place to put a humidifier in a room? ›

With a whole house humidifier, choose the most central room in your home, which is usually the living area. The idea is to get the unit where it can distribute the most humidity into the largest areas of the house. Placing the unit near a cold air return will help distribute the humidified air more thoroughly.

Is boiled water same as distilled? ›

No, they aren't the same. Boiled water is simply water that has had the temperature increased until it reaches its boiling point. This kills a host of bacteria that can make a person sick. Distilled water is water that has been stripped of all impurities, including minerals and microorganisms.

How do I keep my humidifier mold free? ›

To prevent the growth of mold and other contaminants, we recommend rinsing, towel-drying, and refilling your humidifier's tank with fresh water daily. Once a week the tank and the base's well need a deeper cleaning and sanitizing. Replace filters and wicks according to the maker's recommended schedule.

Is warm mist or cool mist better for stuffy nose? ›

Cool-mist humidifiers may help ease coughing and congestion due to a cold. But more research is needed. Some research has found that heated humidifiers don't help cold symptoms.

What is better for stuffy nose humidifier or dehumidifier? ›

Both systems help reduce ailments like chest congestion, allergies, and asthma. For example, a dehumidifier can help treat asthma that is triggered by humid air. Or, if you are suffering from a cold that has caused nasal passage blockage or sinus congestion, using a humidifier will help break that up.

Does Vicks vaporizer help with nasal congestion? ›

Vicks VapoRub — a topical ointment made of ingredients including camphor, eucalyptus oil and menthol that you rub on your throat and chest — doesn't relieve nasal congestion. But the strong menthol odor of VapoRub may trick your brain, so you feel like you're breathing through an unclogged nose.

Is cool or warm mist humidifier better for skin? ›

Bottom line: Warm and cool mist humidifiers are equally effective at adding moisture to the air in your home, so both are helpful at relieving dry skin and cracked lips, and also reducing static electricity around the house.

Will a humidifier clear my stuffy nose? ›

Using a humidifier in the home can help relieve a stuffy nose and can help break up mucus so you can cough it up. Humidified air can relieve the discomfort of colds and the flu.

Which is better for allergies humidifier or air purifier? ›

While they both have their merits, a good air purifier is the better solution when it comes to allergies. Humidifiers can alleviate symptoms and help your body cope during allergy season. Air purifiers, on the other hand, can actively remove allergens from the air you breathe at home.

How do you tell if your house is dry or humid? ›

First try a hygrometer, which is like a thermometer, except it measures moisture levels rather than temperature. Your home should sit somewhere between 30 and 50 percent humidity. If it's measuring below 30 percent, you may need to invest in a humidifier to remedy the dry air symptoms.

How close should a humidifier be to your bed? ›

Specifically, we recommend that you keep your humidifier at a distance of around 3 feet from your bed – although there's no inherent harm in placing it closer, if you're restricted on room. This distance is recommended for a variety of reasons.


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