Indoor air can be pretty finicky. Either it’s too humid or too dry, too cold or too hot. Particularly during the winter, people trying to keep warm at home often have to deal with very dry air caused by low humidity levels. This causes an array of problems, ranging from irritated sinuses to nosebleeds to cracked lips. Fortunately, a humidifier is an affordable solution to add moisture to any indoor environment. There are quite a few things to consider when picking out a humidifier, such as ease of cleanup (bacteria growth can be a problem for these devices), type (evaporative, ultrasonic, or warm-mist), and size.
The most traditional type, evaporative humidifiers, use a reservoir, porous wick, and fan to put moisture in the air. The wick absorbs water from the reservoir, and the fan then aids in evaporation by blowing on the wick. Ultrasonic humidifiers use high-frequency sound vibrations to create mist and are quieter than other types of humidifiers. Often there’s no filter, which can lead to mineral scale deposits. For smaller areas, warm-mist models are often preferred, as they’re quiet as well. They boil water via an internal heating element, killing bacteria and mold in the process, before dispelling the warm mist into the room.
Some machines help individuals who need a desktop offering for the workplace, while others represent full-home solutions and come loaded with antimicrobial features designed to limit bacteria growth. Below are five of our favorite models.
Best overall — Pure Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier
The Pure Ultrasonic is one of the most popular humidifiers, and for good reason. With a 1.5-liter tank, it’s perfect for bedrooms, offices, and medium-sized rooms. The top-mounted clear tank allows you to easily see its water levels, allowing you to keep track of your next refill time. However, considering Pure designed it to last 16 hours on a single tank, you shouldn’t need to replenish the humidifier very often.
The 360-degree nozzle offers quick and convenient speed and directional mist adjustments. The unit also shuts off automatically if it runs out of water, so you don’t have to worry about wasted energy if the humidifier empties while you’re out. The device doubles as a nightlight, too. Simply activate the nightlight, and the Ultrasonic produces a gentle blue glow which serves as a perfect nighttime ambiance in the bedroom. However, if you need a humidifier for larger rooms or the entire home, you’ll need a more powerful device. Due to its shape, the device can be difficult to clean if you don’t stay on top of the recommended weekly cleaning, though it comes with a brush. That said, for under $40, the pint-sized Pure Ultrasonic remains a good option for those desiring a tabletop model.
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Best antimicrobial — Honeywell HCM350B Germ Free Cool Mist Evaporative Humidifier
The Honeywell HCM350B is another solid option. This unit boasts three separate speed settings, allowing you to more aptly control not only humidity levels in your home but also the noise level of the device. The Honeywell HCM350B also has a handy QuietCare Performance setting that minimizes the annoying drone often associated with humidifiers.
With this device, the antimicrobial design is the real selling point. Unlike many humidifiers, the Honeywell HCM350B uses a wicking filter to remove impurities such as germs, bacteria, and mold from the water it dispenses. The tank holds enough water for up to a full day of use between refills, too, and uses a wide opening for easy, spill-free refilling. Despite its antimicrobial design, you’ll still want to regularly and thoroughly clean it. The water tray and reservoir are dishwasher safe, making maintenance much easier than a lot of the competition.
While its matte-black finish and gentle contours represent nice design touches, the Honeywell HCM350B is still rather cumbersome for a unit not suited to humidify your entire home. That said, if you need a humidifier for the whole house, we’d recommend shelling out an extra $30 for a more powerful unit.
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Best design — TaoTronics Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier
The ability to produce quality and consistent humidity should be the primary focus when choosing any new air humidifier. However, seeing as the unit might prominently display in your home or office, design is certainly something to consider. Fortunately, the TaoTronics Ultrasonic sees function and Feng shui converge.
The 5-liter tank allows the unit to run for 13 hours, and lower power settings result in longer runtimes. With that in mind, the TaoTronics Ultrasonic also has four adjustable mist settings for greater control.
A clean, backlit LED display illustrates operational status, allowing anyone to easily adjust all functions — including preset humidity levels, the auto-timer, and sleep mode — via the surrounding six buttons. The unit fails at humidifying larger rooms (or your entire home), but handles on both sides of the unit offer convenient portability. Its ceramic filter doesn’t need to be replaced, but you should clean it regularly.
The unit also isn’t excessively wide or deep like many humidifiers on the market, enabling the TaoTronics Ultrasonic to fit discreetly around the home or office. The real drawback rests with the price and the fact its tank needs refilling daily. Other units come standard with larger tanks; however, with power and design in mind, the TaoTronics Ultrasonic is our top choice in the category of design.
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Best for the whole home — Aircare MA1201 Evaporative Humidifier
The AirCare MA1202 is the no-frills, all-business humidifier on our list. The device isn’t going to take home any design awards anytime soon, but when it comes to efficiently humidifying the air in your entire home, the AirCare Ma1201 is our utilitarian choice.
This device offers humidity control for 3,600-square-foot homes, and a set of wheels lining the bottom allow you move the unit around with ease. A digital readout on the top of the device incorporates refill and “check filter” indicators, too, helping to eliminate any operational guesswork. The 4-gallon tank humidifies your environment for up to 36 hours. This particular humidifier also adds moisture to the air by circulating dry air through a saturated wick filter. As an added bonus, this filter also traps mineral deposits.
Let’s be frank, the AirCare MA1201 isn’t the sexiest device on the market. In fact, the unit looks better suited for an infirmary than a living room. For under $100, however, there exist few units capable of humidifying your entire house without daily refills.
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The Walkas Mini Cool Mist Humidifier is a great option for those seeking a budget humidifier. With a cute design and small footprint, it’s ideal for desktops. In fact, it won’t do much for a bigger environment, so consider this a personal humidifier. It has a USB charger, so you can plug it into your computer, and it comes with a cotton wick that you’ll want to replace to keep it mold-free.
The tiny tank humidifies a small room or cubicle space for up to four hours, though it auto-shuts off in three. With seven colors to choose from, you’re sure to find a hue to enhance your mood and match your nighttime lighting preferences.
Sure, there are more powerful humidifiers on the market, but this unit is a decent pick to humidify the air around your desk.
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Best multitasker — Dyson 303117-01 AM10 Humidifier
Looking for a humidifier that does double duty? This one by Dyson works to humidify your home year-round, but it can also release high-velocity cold air to keep things cool in the summertime. The device also utilizes Ultraviolet Cleanse technology to destroy 99.9 percent of the bacteria in the air, keeping your home clean and helping you breathe easier.
After killing the bacteria, the device releases hydrated air, and the long-range mist projection feature helps to distribute the mist evenly throughout the room. This Dyson humidifier is also ideal for asthma and allergy sufferers, as the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has deemed this unit “Certified Asthma and Allergy Friendly.” It received the Quiet Mark accreditation from the Noise Abatement Society. Want to monitor the temperature of your home as well? This humidifier has Intelligent Climate Control that can measure the temperature and moisture in the air, helping to ensure your living environment is comfortable and not too humid or too dry.
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