Whether you're trying to soothe a cough that just won't quit or keeping a winter's worth of dry air from freeze-drying you like astronaut food, a humidifier can help. It uses warm and cool mist to create a climate of comfort in your home or office.
But when looking to purchase one, the sheer number of makes, models, and extra features can feel overwhelming. Do you need a warm humidifier or a cool-mist humidifier? Should you go with the model that has a night light and sleep mode, has oil-diffusing properties? Or is your most important need, an easy-to-refill water tank? Is it better to purchase one combined with an air purifier?
It's often difficult to tell what's the best humidifier you can buy. So, my colleagues Julia, Kyle, and I decided to test the best-selling humidifiers on the market. We covered everything from fan-driven evaporators to ultrasonic misters, evaluating them for ease of use, moisture creation, and efficiency.
After turning our purpose-built temperature control chamber into a muggy jungle for a month, we found that the Vicks V745A Warm Mister(available at Amazon) warm mist humidifier provides the most value, mist, and power for your money. If you're looking for a cool mister, we'd recommend the upgraded version of the TaoTronics TT-AH0001 for your house.
These are the best humidifiers we tested, ranked in order:
TaoTronics TT-AH0001 (Upgraded Version)
Pure Enrichment MistAire
Honeywell Mistmate HUL520B
Safety 1st 170906SM
VicTsing Cool Mist
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Quick facts: Retails for around $35, designed to work with medicinal oils, three-year warranty
The Vicks V745A is the poster child of the humidifier world. With its one-gallon tank, we estimate you can run the V745A for about 10 hours on the medium setting, and about six hours on full tilt. So, if you're getting a humidifier to tackle a snoring problem, this humidifier has the capacity to run all night.
In our five-hour test run, the V745A brought the humidity of our testing chamber up 34 percent, to a staggering 80 percent relative humidity. To put that in perspective, that's the same as a hot shower that fogs up your mirrors but using half as much water and energy.
Also of note, a medicine cup sits right over the exhaust, where it can mix with the warm mist generated by the V745A's heating element. The manual says to place Vicks Vaposteam, but we're sure you can get away with other types of medicinal inhalants as well.
Quick facts: Retails for around $56, nightlight mode, exact humidity levels
When we first tested the older Taotronics TT-AH0001, its performance landed it in the middle of the pack. Now there’s a new and improved model and it passed all our tests with flying colors. The AH0001 uses ultrasonic technology to created millions of tiny water droplets that form its cough-soothing mist. While in operation, it’s virtually silent. Over a five hour run time, it raised the humidity of our testing chamber over 23 percent, more than any other cool mister.
Aside from bringing the humidity, the Taotronics had a pleasant user experience. You can control the exact level humidity in 5 percent increments, perfect for room preservation needs. It also has a nightlight and dark running modes so you can find it in the middle of the night or make it go dark when you want to sleep. If you want a humidifier that won’t heat up your room, this is the one to get. However, if you want a more streamlined user interface, check out the Crane.
Hello, I'm Jon Chan, senior lab technician at Reviewed. The testing team–Kyle, Julia, and I–wanted to find out which humidifier is worth your money. Between the three of us, we have more than a decade of testing experience. Together we've reviewed everything from space heaters to shop vacs.
Before the testing even began, we knew we had our work cut out for us. We started by collecting tap water samples from across the state of Massachusetts. Using the Honeywell Mistmate, we tested these samples against distilled water to ensure there would be no variations during the testing. We decided not to use distilled water because it would change how we interacted with the humidifiers–filling up from a bottle is not how the typical consumer would fill from a sink.
When testing started in earnest, we filled each model to full and weighed them. We then placed the humidifier in a climate-controlled chamber so that each model started at the same temperature and relative humidity. Each humidifier was placed on its highest setting and left to run for five hours. Sensors placed at varying heights and distances recorded the changes in the environment.
After that, we evaluated each model of how easy it was to use, move, fill, and clean (note: many are not dishwasher safe).
What You Should Know About Humidifiers
When we talk about humidity, we're actually describing relative humidity. This number is calculated based on the amount of water in the air, the amount of air pressure, and the temperature. To put it in perspective, at 68°F, relative humidity under 30 percent will cause your skin to dry out. Most people sit comfortably at between 45% and 55%. Anything above 55% and the air starts to feel muggy.
What Are Different Types Of Humidifiers?
We tested basic types of humidifiers, including warm misters, ultrasonic, and evaporators. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Warm Misters: Warm mist humidifiers are pretty basic. They boil water, and the resulting steam is piped out through the top via a fan. Warm misters tend to be the most effective humidifiers, covering more square footage and outputting more moisture. However, this high-powered method makes them unsafe around small children and they can increase a room's temperature to uncomfortable levels.
Ultrasonic (Cool Misters): Virtually silent and efficient, ultrasonic cool mist humidifiers are among the most popular on the market. They work by vibrating a ceramic plate very quickly. The high frequency turns the water into a fine mist that is cool to the touch. Ultrasonic humidifiers work best as personal units. They tend not to be powerful enough to cover a lot of square footage.
Evaporators: As the name suggests, evaporators work by evaporating water into the air. A fan circulates air over the reservoir. These models make a bit of noise, but if you like white noise while you sleep, you may find it soothing. If you have mineral-rich water in your area, you might want to get an evaporator. The models we tested had filters to prevent white dust from forming.
What Is The White Dust In My Humidifier?
White dust forms when you put hard water into a humidifier without a filter. The minerals get pulled up into the mist and come back down again as dust. You can prevent white dust from forming by using distilled water that can be found at any large supermarket.
Does Capacity Matter?
As you might guess, smaller humidifiers will generally run out of steam (pun intended) faster than those humidifiers with larger tank capacities (although it depends somewhat on the settings you choose on the humidifier itself). However, if you're looking for a more portable humidifier, those with smaller tanks can be refilled faster and are easier to carry. If you just plan on making a humidifier a fixture in a larger room or an open area, a larger humidifier with a higher capacity will probably be a good fit. For those times when you plan on sharing a humidifier between multiple bedrooms, though, consider getting a smaller humidifier (or even multiple smaller humidifiers).
Other Humidifiers We Tested
Type: Warm Mist Humidifer
Quick facts: Retails for around $35, one-gallon capacity, three-year warranty
The Honeywell HWM705B came in third in our rankings. As a humidifier, we found that the HWM705B edged out the Vicks by a single percentage point. In its five-hour run, this Honeywell raised the testing chamber's humidity by 35 percent. As a warm mister, the HWM705B has a spot to place inhalants, just like the Vicks model.
However, unlike the Vicks, the HWM705B is a power hog. Even though the Honeywell is a little bit cheaper initially, the Vicks is a better deal in the long run.
Quick facts: Retails for around $45, one-gallon capacity, one-year warranty
The Crane EE-5301 took the top spot for cool misters. It works by vibrating a tiny ceramic disk extremely fast, flinging millions of microscopic droplets into the air. Using ultrasonic technology results in a humidifier that is virtually silent and produces a fog that is cool to the touch. On average, the Crane raised the humidity of the room by 20 percent, the second-highest of any of the cool misters. Placed on its maximum setting, we estimate that the EE-5301 can run for over 15 hours.
While its design doesn't lend itself to easy storage, we appreciated that the Crane can be placed on a desk and not look amiss. Better yet, this Crane model comes in a variety of colors, including red, green, blue, and orange.
Quick facts: Retails for around $40, nightlight function, lasts for up to 16 hours
The Pure Enrichment MistAire is a moderately powerful cool mister that’s perfect for a desk. The design is simplistic to the point of elegance. There’s only one button that you tap to turn the unit and to cycle through its various power levels.
We ran it in our test chamber for five hours and the Pure raised the humidity in the room by about 15 percent. As far as a personal humidifier goes, that’s acceptable.
Quick facts: Retails for around $70, built-in UV light, requires filter
Coming in fourth, the Honeywell HCM-350 turned out to be our favorite evaporator humidifier. The HCM-350's ability to add moisture to a room landed it in the middle of the pack. On average, it raised our testing chamber's humidity 17 percent.
While the performance did not impress us, we found the extra features thought-provoking. If you're worried about bacteria in your water supply, this Honeywell has a built-in UV light that will kill up to 99.99 percent of microorganisms. To be even more hygienic, there is also a replaceable water filter that will help prevent white dust in hard water areas.
However, its higher price and lower output kept the Honeywell HCM-350 from claiming the top spot. Some online reviews are also less than favorable, mentioning that users may find this humidifier somewhat difficult to clean.
Quick facts: Retails for around $37, half-gallon capacity, comes in four colors
The Honeywell HUL520B is one of the smallest humidifiers we tested. Its tiny footprint makes it ideal for desks and nightstands. However, its stature also led to a weak performance. When it came to humidifying a room, it came in second to last.
Quick facts: Retails for around $30, can aim in two directions, 24-hour runtime on lowest setting
The people at Safety 1st clearly designed the IH304 for parents with small children. It's one of the few humidifiers out there that can send moisture in two different directions–for beds side by side. While the IH304 lived up to its promises of quiet operation and it's easy to clean, our test results showed that it wasn't a great humidifier. Raising our testing chamber's humidity by only about 13 percent.
Quick facts: Retails for around $30, filter contains baking soda, designed to handle aromatherapy tablets
We found the Sunbeam SCM1100-WM to be the strangest of the humidifiers in our roundup. It's an evaporator model with a filter lined with Arm & Hammer baking soda. Also, if you look on the underside of the cap to the tank, you'll find a spot to place aromatherapy tablets. Sunbeam sells these tablets for under $10, but they have middling reviews on Amazon. Gimmicks aside, the SCM1100-WM did not humidify well, raising our test chamber's moisture levels by only 12 percent.
Quick facts: Retails for around $30, BPA-free design, made from anti-bacteria materials
The VicTsing Cool Mist Humidifier turned out to be a bit underwhelming. In the five hours we left it on, our sensors only picked a two percent increase in humidity. While it isn’t a great humidifier, it does have a few specs that make it noteworthy. VicTsing makes its cool mister out of BPA-free plastics that are also anti-microbial.
Made from BPA-free plastic
Not very powerful
Type: Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier
Quick facts: Retails for around $25, three-year warranty
There's not much to write about when it comes to the PureGuardian H920BL. Designed for use in nurseries, other models on this list outclass the PureGuardian at every turn. The Safety 1st model, which is also designed for use around children, has more than double the H920BL's 10-hour lifespan. Every other model has more humidifying power. The only thing of note is that PureGuardian backs this model with a three-year warranty.
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Lab Manager at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it's likely that Jon oversees its testing. Since joining the Reviewed in 2012, Jon has helped launch the company's efforts in reviewing laptops, vacuums, and outdoor gear. He thinks he's a pretty big deal. In the pursuit of data, he's plunged his hands into freezing cold water, consented to be literally dragged through the mud, and watched paint dry. Jon demands you have a nice day.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.