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A mist humidifier adds moisture to dry air, alleviating problems with cracked skin, chapped lips, and irritated nasal passages. They're especially popular during the winter months when humidity levels dip and you begin to feel the effect of the drier air around you.
Humidifiers range in size and type, with both cool mist and warm mist models available on the market. Warm mist humidifiers use steam to moisten the air, and the heating process eliminates some concerns about distributing bacteria that may have grown in the water holding tank. Cool mist models, on the other hand, are quieter. They're either evaporative or ultrasonic humidifiers. Evaporative humidifiers draw air through a moist filter to saturate the air, while ultrasonic humidifiers use high-frequency vibration to create water droplets that are distributed via a fan into the air.
What to Look for in a Mist Humidifier
The size of the humidifier you choose will largely be based on the size of the room you’re looking to add moisture to. There are basically three sizes of humidifiers on the market: Portable (also called Tabletop), Console, and Whole House.
Portable humidifiers are small and have limited water tanks, meaning you’ll need to refill them more often. They’re also less expensive and can be easily moved from room to room. You’ll often see tabletop humidifiers on a nightstand or desk. The smallest portable humidifiers are personal or travel-sized models. With similar dimensions to a water bottle, these humidifiers can be taken anywhere.
Console humidifiers are larger units that sit on the floor and have increased-capacity water tanks that will require less frequent filling than portable humidifiers. Console humidifiers are the best choice for spaces up to 1,000 square feet (depending on the model).
Whole-house humidifiers attach to your home’s ductwork and can add humidity throughout your home. They’re best for adding moisture on a large scale and can handle spaces greater than 1,000 square feet. Since this type of humidifier connects to your home’s plumbing, you also won’t need to refill the tank.
Water Tank Capacity
Closely related to the size of the humidifier you choose is the water tank capacity. Look at the estimated run time from the manufacturer to see how often you’ll need to refill the tank. If you want to use the humidifier all day or all night—or both—make sure you pick a model with a large enough capacity.
Other considerations are whether the tank is removable to easily fill with a kitchen or bathroom faucet and how heavy it will be when you carry it back. If that’s not practical, you may have to bring the water to the humidifier with a pitcher or jug.
Since moist, humid conditions can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and pathogens, some humidifiers are equipped with UV light. The specialized light filtration system eliminates microbes that may be growing in the humidifier's tank and prevents them from being released into the air with the mist.
For an optimal level of humidity in the air, look for a model with a built-in humidistat. This feature will monitor the room’s humidity and shut off the appliance when the air's moisture level hits a set target. While this isn’t an essential feature, it does take some of the guesswork out of operating a humidifier. It can also prevent excess moisture in the air from fogging up windows or creating a musty odor in the room. If you skip a built-in humidistat, you can still monitor the humidity level in your home using a hygrometer, a small and inexpensive tool.
Since most humidifiers are considered small home appliances, warranty coverage is generally limited. Many models include one-year limited warranties that cover defects in manufacturing or workmanship. Some more advanced models, including some ultrasonic humidifiers, increase the warranty period to three years.
Warranties for professionally installed whole-house humidifiers will vary considerably when compared to portable models. Some models offer five years of warranty coverage. Be sure to examine the manufacturer’s warranty on a whole house model carefully to ensure that your investment is covered if a problem arises down the road.
No matter which type of humidifier you're shopping for, these models will make your home more comfortable.
Best Overall: Levoit 6-Liter Warm and Cool Mist Ultrasonic Humidifier
Easy to use
Stream tube cap isn't very secure
Users must refill often
With plenty of options and a spacious water tank, the LEVOIT Ultrasonic Humidifier is a solid performer to keep any room comfortable. This humidifier is capable of producing 500 mL per hour of either cool or warm mist. You can adjust the humidity levels using the digital control pad on the humidifier, or use the remote to control the machine’s operation. In addition, an Auto setting lets the machine target an optimal humidity level and cycle on and off to maintain humidity levels, without the need for user intervention until the water tank runs dry.
One common complaint with mist humidifiers is the need to constantly refill the water tank. However, the 1.5-gallon water tank on this model is large enough for the machine to run for about 60 hours on the low mist setting—meaning you’ll only need to refill the tank every few days. Designed for minimal distractions, the LEVOIT LV600HH operates very quietly and you can disable all lights from the control pad, making it suitable for use as a mist humidifier in the bedroom.
Suitable for use in rooms up to about 750 square feet, you’ll find that this popular mist humidifier blends in while enhancing any room’s humidity level. The unobtrusive white housing with silver accents keeps the look of this machine simple and neutral enough for most décor.
"In our 12 x 12-foot bedroom, the effect was immediately noticeable, especially when we ran it on Auto through the night."—Justin Park, Product Tester
Best Budget: Magictec Cool Mist Humidifier
Difficult to clean
Not as quiet as other models
Add moisture to the air without draining your budget by choosing an affordable humidifier like this version from Magictec. This ultrasonic cool mist option has a 2.5L water tank (that's 0.66 gallons) and runs for up to 24 hours on a medium mist setting. If the tank runs dry, the humidifier will automatically shut off.
Operating at less than 30 decibels, it's a good choice for any room in the house, including bedrooms, home offices, or living spaces. The 360-degree nozzle allows you to angle the cool mist output to suit your space and needs.
Best Splurge: Dyson Pure Humidify+Cool PH01
Easy to clean
Remote or app required to run
A spendy but high-tech option, the Dyson Pure Humidify + Cool is one of the most advanced mist humidifiers on the market. Equipped to humidify, cool, and purify the air in any room, this model is a true multi-tasker. Taking advantage of its tall profile, the Dyson Pure Humidify + Cool has a water tank that will last for up to 36 hours of use on a single fill.
Dyson is known for producing both hygienic and quiet appliances, and this splurge-worthy mist humidifier is no exception. The humidifier is hard to hear during normal operation and only produces a soft white noise when on high. Night mode transitions the machine’s operation and light display to settings that won’t disturb your slumber. A UV light for the water tank eliminates 99-percent of bacteria, while activated carbon and HEPA filters capture particles—including viruses or bacteria—as small as 0.3 microns in size. In addition, this Dyson humidifier features a self-cleaning cycle which sets it apart from the competition.
An air multiplier causes the purified, humidified air to be more evenly distributed through the room. This ultra-fine mist also reduces the chances of a powdery-white mineral residue being deposited around the room, which sometimes happens with cheaper mist humidifiers. This model is recommended for spaces up to 400 square feet in size, which is not as large as you might expect for a humidifier with such a hefty price tag. At the same time, it’s quiet, efficient, and versatile operation makes this mist humidifier worth the splurge.
Best for Nursery: Frida Baby 3-in-1 Humidifier
Takes longer to clean
Cool mist humidifiers are generally considered the best choice in a mist humidifier for nurseries since they lack a heating element and the potential for injury due to steam. The Frida Baby 3-in-1 Humidifier is a great option if you’re looking for a quiet, safe humidifier for a baby’s room. This model stands out for its simple design and multi-functional abilities—it operates as a humidifier, nightlight, and optional diffuser. Ultrasonic condensing technology results in a quiet, steady production of cool mist. Adjust the amount of mist released with a simple turn knob.
Designed for rooms up to 320 square feet, the 0.5-gallon water tank operates for up to 12 hours and you can choose to add essential oils or aromatherapy drops to the water for a soothing sensory experience. Unlike some larger mist humidifiers, the water tank on this model features a smaller opening that makes the necessary task of humidifier cleaning more tedious. At the same time, the ability to have both a nightlight and mist humidifier all in one makes this product a popular pick for parents.
Best for Bedroom: Levoit Smart 4L Cool Mist Humidifier
Separate diffuser tray
Sleeping with the right humidity in the air can impact how you feel the next morning and help you avoid scratchy throats and dry nasal passages. Even light sleepers will be able to benefit from the use of a bedroom humidifier, as long as you pick a quiet model. The Levoit Smart 4L Cool Mist Humidifier is a compact ultrasonic humidifier that is exceptionally quiet and best suited for rooms up to 376 square feet.
This humidifier for bedrooms uses a patented silencer and an ultra-quiet DC hydraulic fan to keep its sound rating to 25 decibels. To put that number in perspective, 25 decibels is just above a whisper and about as quiet as an isolated, rural area. With a 1-gallon water tank, this humidifier operates for up to 40 hours on low or 10 hours on high before needing a refill. An added bonus is that you can monitor or program the humidifier through the Vesync app.
Best for Large Rooms: AIRCARE Aurora 1-Gal. Ultrasonic Humidifier
Large water tank
Light can be a bit bright
Keep even large rooms moist and comfortable with the Aurora Ultrasonic Humidifier. This model is ideal for use in oversized living spaces, up to 750 square feet in size. At the same, this is a tabletop humidifier that won’t take up much space in any room. The 1-gallon water tank ensures up to 24 hours of run time.
Using ultrasonic high-frequency oscillation, this evaporative humidifier distributes cool mist according to the setting chosen with the simple knob on the front of this machine. In addition, you can choose from 7 LED colors for ambiance, or turn off the light function altogether. The directional mister at the top of the Aurora humidifier lets you adjust the mist output. In addition, you can enhance the room by adding essential oils to the aroma diffuser tray at the base of the unit.
Best Portable: Fancii Cool Mist Personal Mini Humidifier
Maintain ideal humidity no matter where you are with the small, portable mist humidifier from Fancii. Designed to be used with a standard 16 to 20-ounce water bottle, this mini humidifier is simple to operate and compact to travel with. Featuring an 8-hour shut-off timer, you can also set shorter timers of 2, 4, and 6-hour intervals.
It operates using three AA batteries, and admittedly, has a relatively short battery life of about 18 hours according to the manufacturer. However, this portable humidifier can also be powered using the included USB charger—eliminating the need for batteries, or serving as a back-up in case your batteries run dry.
Best Whole House: AIRCARE 5 Gal. Evaporative Humidifier
Covers large area
This supersized mist humidifier is designed to regulate the humidity levels in your whole house, up to 4,000 square feet. About the size of a large space heater, the AIRCARE Valiant Humidifier measures 22.75 x 24.25 x 15 inches. Two individual water tanks make it easy to refill the tank and keep the humidifier pumping out cool mist and moisture, up to 12.81 gallons per day.
This whole-home mist humidifier keeps the controls simple, and feature a basic digital display and several buttons that turn the machine on or off and control target humidity levels and output speed. Keep in mind that this evaporative humidifier will require regular filter replacement, although your first filter is included in the box.
The best overall mist humidifier is the Levoit Warm and Cool Mist Humidifier. It’s an efficient and versatile humidifier that’s suitable for use in rooms up to 750 square feet. Also, the water tank is generously sized at 1.5 gallons, so it won’t need to be refilled quite as often. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, the Dyson Pure Humidify+Cool PH01 is a high-tech option that combines three functions in one (it cools, humidifies, and filters air).
What does a humidifier do?
Humidifiers are appliances that add moisture to the air by producing and releasing mist or steam. They help you maintain a set humidity level in your home and prevent it from getting dry. There are both warm and cool air humidifiers (some are capable of both), but how your humidifier operates will depend on the type. However, all humidifiers take in air from their surroundings and add moisture to it. A fan typically disperses the air into the room to increase the humidity level.
What are the benefits of a humidifier?
Humidifiers are often used to soothe issues caused by dry air, which include itchy skin, chapped lips, and even nose bleeds, as well as respiratory symptoms from a cold or allergies. People in especially dry or cold climates often find humidifiers to be a helpful remedy that can help them breathe, sleep, and feel better overall. If you’re dealing with specific respiratory problems, you should ask your doctor for a recommendation on a type of humidifier.
How do you clean a humidifier?
In addition to draining and drying a humidifier’s reservoir before refilling each time, the water tank should also be cleaned regularly to ensure that harmful bacteria and microbes don’t grow. It's usually recommended that you clean and descale your humidifier with vinegar and sanitize with bleach or a specially formulated humidifier cleaning agent. Some humidifiers can actually go in the dishwasher, but different types of humidifiers have special requirements, so it's best to follow the manufacturer's instructions. Using distilled water is often recommended. And models with a filter will need to get replacements every few months or as suggested by the manufacturer.
Why Trust The Spruce?
With more than 3 years of expertise covering home appliances large and small, Erica Puisis has an eye for the features and benefits of essential home devices like humidifiers. She learned firsthand the importance of a mist humidifier while living in Colorado, where the dry, arid air makes these small machines essential.