The Best Humidifier
Relief for a dry nose and cozy home
All humidifiers are designed to achieve the same goal: add moisture to the air. The best humidifier will not only do this quietly and efficiently, but will offer precise humidity controls and easy cleaning. We scoured consumer reviews, consulted doctors, and pulled in 14 humidifiers to see, and feel, how well they could take a room from dry to comfortable without slipping into jungle mode.
A quiet workhorse, the Evap3’s humidistat monitors moisture in the air and automatically adjusts to maintain ideal humidity. With three fan speeds and easy cleaning, it works for rooms up to 700 sq. ft -- all for under $100.
Sleek design, an intuitive touchscreen, and the most accurate humidity meter we tested. At $450, it’s not cheap, but it comes with some nice extras, like air purification and a fragrance diffuser.
The Best Humidifier
If you suffer from dry skin, sinus pain, or cracked lips, chances are the air in your home or office is too dry. Humidity levels will also naturally drop as winter approaches -- cold air holds less moisture than warm and heaters further dry out the air. A good humidifier can add the right amount of moisture to the air to alleviate pesky symptoms and maintain an optimal humidity level (30-60%).
Our pick for the best humidifier is the Vornado Evap3 ($88). It’s an evaporative humidifier, meaning increased moisture levels in the air cause evaporation to automatically slow, which reduces the risk of under- or over-humidification. With a built in humidity sensor, a humidistat, the Vornado can also be set to specific humidity levels. It has a modern design, offers three different fan speeds, and can humidify rooms up to 700 sq. ft.
If you want the benefits and luxury of some high-tech humidification, our choice is the Stadler Form Robert ($450). A touch screen provides intuitive, precise control of the humidity settings and the built in humidistat was remarkably accurate during our tests. The Robert earns its big price tag with a superior humidistat, user-friendly controls, and some seriously sleek style. It’s powerful enough to humidify rooms up to 860 sq. ft. and offers some deluxe extras, like an integrated fragrance diffuser and air purification.
How We Found the Best Humidifier
We researched different humidifying methods to find the most effective.
We looked at best-of lists from reputable sources such as Consumer Reports and Health.com, and consumer reviews on sites like Amazon, Target, and Bed, Bath & Beyond. We wanted to find humidifiers that were not only effective but which also offered an intuitive interface and hassle-free cleaning. We found that the most highly regarded humidifiers fell into four categories:
Evaporator: Uses wick filters and a built-in fan to release moisture as a cool mist.
- Pros: Has a lower risk of over-humidification as evaporation naturally slows when the air has more moisture. The filter also prevents “white dust” or mineral deposits from using tap water.
- Cons: Generally slower to humidify and a bit louder.
White dust is inconvenient but not harmfulWhite dust is caused by minerals in water that can’t turn into water vapor. The minerals are a natural byproduct found in water and are not harmful. The white dust simply means more clean up.
Ultrasonic: Vibrates a diaphragm using sound waves to create water droplets released as mist.
- Pros: Incredibly fast, easy to clean, and some have the ability to produce both cold and warm mist.
- Cons: Prone to producing white dust and run the risk of over-humidification even with built-in humidity controls.
Airwasher:Variation on evaporator that uses slowly rotating discs instead of a wick filter.
- Pros: Makes less noise and requires less-frequent cleaning (although we still recommend weekly cleaning just to be safe). Also purifies air to remove larger particles like pollen and dust mites.
- Cons: Slightly harder to clean and typically expensive (starting around $300).
Warm mist humidifier: Uses an internal heater to boil water and produce steam.
- Pros: Warm mist can be soothing in colder months and some, like the Vicks V750, have medicine holders so you can infuse menthol for added comfort.
- Cons: Safety concern due to hot water tank and risk of spilling. Not recommended if you have young children or pets.
We curated a list of 14 contenders to represent the best of each type of humidifier.
Impeller humidifiers were excluded from our list because they received too many negative reviews on sites such as Amazon. Impeller humidifiers use discs that spin quickly to fling water at a diffuser that sends water droplets into the air. In theory they should work, but consumers report low moisture output and excessive white dust. Simply put, the other styles were far more popular, and impeller humidifiers didn’t show up on any best-of lists during our research.
- Honeywell HCM-350 Germ Free Cool Mist Humidifier
- Sunpentown SU-9210 Digital Evaporative Humidifier
- Vornado EVAP3
- Boneco 7135
- Sunpentown SU-4010 Dual Mist Humidifier with ION Exchange Filter
- Honeywell Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier HUL535
- Optimus U-31001 1.5 Gallon Cool Mist Ultrasonic Humidifier
- Crane Ultrasonic Drop Shape
- Dyson AM10
- Stadler Form Robert
- Venta LW25 Plus Airwasher
- Winix AW600
Warm Mist Humidifiers
- Honeywell Filter Free Warm Moisture Humidifier, HWM705B
- Vicks V750 Warm Mist Humidifier
We tested whether machines could identify and maintain safe humidity levels.
Humidifiers need to keep levels within the 30-60% humidity range to prevent under or over-humidification. If your humidifier is stuck below 30%, you won’t escape those dry noses and staticky sweaters. On the other hand, if you exceed 60% humidity you can end up with mold and mildew that can be harmful to your health and your home. In extreme cases, people can develop respiratory disease and even heat stroke, because there’s too much moisture for sweat to evaporate. It’s clear that the ideal humidity range is no small matter, so our next step had to be checking for safe humidity control.
Air quality expert and CEO & Co-founder of Airboxlab, Jacques Touillon, told us "you need to be able to read what's in the air to protect yourselves from excessive or scarce humidity [and] appliances that monitor the humidity level" are a good idea. So we gave preference to humidifiers with humidistats and made it a note to assess how well they worked. Then, we evenly spaced six AcuRite hygrometers around our testing room to ensure changes in humidity weren't just limited to our humidifiers' comfort zones, and powered up our machines.
We looked for machines with intuitive controls and easy cleaning.
We quickly realized that measuring which humidifier sprayed out moisture the fastest wasn’t super helpful. Not only was it likely to be an ultrasonic (they’re celebrated for adding moisture to the air quickly), but it wouldn’t help us identify the key features that would affect the user experience: usability, safety, and maintenance. So we shifted our attention toward testing key characteristics that make the experience of owning one humidifier better than another.
We wanted useful, intuitive features and an easy process. A humidifier shouldn’t be a pain to use. We considered control inputs, which ranged from dials to touchscreens and remote controls and automatic features, like continuously adjusting humidity settings and auto-off mechanisms. Precision of humidistats was also important, so we gave preference to machines that had them and assess how well they worked. We also filled each humidifier from both a large gallon bottle of distilled water, recommended for optimum performance and minimal white dust, and our kitchen sink to see how easy the tanks were to fill.
We looked for features that reduced the risk for accidents, such as burns or electric shock. Sturdy, low-profile design and rubber grips got bonus points. We expected humidifiers to remain sturdy and spill free when we jostled them on different surfaces.
To reduce the spread of germs and bacteria, humidifiers need to be cleaned regularly and well. The best humidifier offers easily detachable parts for cleaning and, hopefully, doesn’t require daily attention other than a refill.
Our Picks for the Best Humidifier
The Vornado Evap3 impressed us with its efficient self-regulation that maintained the ideal humidity range and intuitive button interface. The Evap3 includes a built-in humidistat — a sensor that measures water vapor in the air — and automatically adjusts to the moisture levels in the air. When a target humidity level is reached, the machine turns itself off. If the level then dips below the target, the Evap3 will turn itself on and get back to work.
With an overall humidity of 46.8% in our testing room, the Evap3 promptly shut off when set to 40%, although it did still humidify away when set to 45%. After repeated tests, the Evap3 humidistat’s margin of error was less than 5%. Not perfection, but for $88, almost a quarter of the price of our luxury pick the Robert that has a 2% margin, we’re satisfied with close enough. Competitors like the ultrasonic Boneco undershot the real humidity level by as much as 20%. Meaning, the Boneco can read 50% humidity when your room may be well past 60%. Moist walls? No thanks.
The Evap3 has a continuous mode that lets it run without stopping. This mode relies on the natural safeguards of evaporation to prevent over-humidification. But we love that the Evap3's custom humidity levels are 5% increments ranging from 35%-60%. These generous limits mean you can choose the level that works for you without worrying about reaching unsafe humidity levels. In comparison, the Sunpentown SU-9210 humidistat allows you to set a whopping 85% humidity level. We understand giving people options, but we couldn’t help but feel it was a careless design choice with dangerous potential. Humidity levels above 60% can lead to mold which can cause health problems and damage to your home. Strangely enough, the Sunpentown is also an evaporator, so the option forces the humidifier to override a natural safeguard. Stranger still, the Sunpentown SU-9210’s manual even states that 60% is the maximum recommended humidity level. We appreciate the Evap3 for committing to a design that keeps our well-being and homes in mind.
The Evap3’s 1.5 gallon easy-fill tank only needs to be refilled every 12 hours, meaning you won’t have to constantly refill the machine. Cleaning and replacing filters were both quick and painless. The Evap3 requires two filters, but they are sold as a pair and last a standard 1-2 months, and are only $13.
Despite its resemblance to a Keurig coffeemaker -- the Vornado Evap3 is actually pleasantly unobtrusive in a room. You won’t be distracted by any wafting from one corner of the room, unlike the Sunpentown SU4010, which dramatically sprays vast amounts of mist. The Evap3 is incredibly quiet when set on low, and although it does get a little noisy when set on high -- think table fan on high, not wind tunnel -- this was true of every evaporator we tested and is sort of par for the course for max settings. Switching between settings felt intuitive, and we didn’t have to consult the manuals to figure them out. Coupled with its sleek yet sturdy design, which survived our borderline obnoxious jostling, we could easily picture the Evap3 in our living rooms. Not something we took for granted when compared to the circa-1998 iMac vibe we got from the Boneco or the rice cooker lookalike, Sunpentown SU-9210.
Best Luxury Humidifier
If you’re looking for a reliable humidifier with a few more bells and whistles, you want the Stadler Form Robert. With touchscreen controls and a built in air purifier, the Robert is an air washer that takes moist air to a whole new level. Our favorite thing about the Robert? It has the most accurate humidistat of all our contenders, with only a 2% margin of error during testing. Not only will the Robert create and maintain ideal humidity levels, but it will react quickly to the changing conditions in the room and adjust accordingly.
The Robert’s auto mode is set to 45% which is the exact midpoint of the safety range for humidity levels, and a good place to start if you don’t have specific humidity requirements in mind. The max humidity setting tops out at 65%, which is slightly over the recommended limit of 60%, but nowhere near as bad as the Sunpentown SU-9210’s 85%. We also like that the Robert’s touchscreen display shows humidity as a percentage rather than a series of sequential lights, like our top pick the Vornado Evap3, or the color-coded bar of the Winix AW600. While we didn’t test it, we also like that the Robert has an integrated fragrance dispenser. Others, like the Venta LW25, incorporate fragrances as well, but you just put a few drops in with the water, meaning more residue to clean from the machine’s parts. The diffuser is yet another thoughtful design aspect that gives this humidifier its edge.
The Robert was easily the most usable of our high-end contenders. Even the popular Dyson AM10 ($500) couldn’t compare, and we had high hopes for the Dyson. Filling the 1.7 gallon tank (which will last for about 12 hours of use) on the Stadler is a breeze thanks to a large hole that’s about as wide as a soda can. In contrast, filling the Dyson is like trying to refill a gallon juice bottle. Not impossible, but it requires some focus. One tester claimed it felt like whoever designed the Dyson never actually tried to use it. And although we were initially delighted by the Dyson’s magnetically attachable remote control, we wouldn’t pick it over the Robert’s fixed (read: unlosable) touchscreen. That’s right -- you lose the Dyson remote, which is little bigger than a fun-size Snickers, and you lose access to the controls (until you shell out another $30 for a replacement). We wanted to like the Dyson, but compared to the intuitive controls and accuracy of the Stadler, the Dyson felt more style than substance.
What’s our least favorite thing about the Robert? The $450 price tag. We’ll just come out and say it -- Robert is expensive. But what he offers is precision, good looks, and a little purification for good measure. Full disclosure: In terms of air purification, air washers will remove large pollutants like pollen but won’t be as effective as a dedicated air purifier. When measuring the amount of air pollutants removed by airwashers, sites like Consumer Reports and Allergy Buyers Club obtained conflicting results. We like that the Robert is “washing” our air as it humidifies, but that said, if you’re really interested in air purification, we recommend a dedicated air purifier like the Winix 5500-2.
We could easily picture the Robert’s modern black and white design in our own homes, and weren’t surprised to learn it was the winner of the international Red Dot Design Award in 2014. But it isn’t without flaws. Cleaning air washers requires more steps than other styles. The Robert is also tall and slim, meaning it isn’t as sturdy as our more heavyset top pick and there’s a chance a small amount of water will spill with a forceful tip. Not a dealbreaker for us, as the Robert was still fairly steadfast during our safety testing, but something to be aware of if placing the humidifier in a room with children or pets.
Others to Consider
We excluded warm mist humidifiers from our top spots due to the risk of burns. For those with their heart set on one, we recommend the Vicks V750 ($40) for a single reason: It is the least likely to tip over. The addition of grips on the feet prevent it from wobbling like its competitors. The Vicks comes with a reasonable $40 price tag, an accessible tank hole for refilling, and a simple base for cleaning. Bonus: it provides a medicine cup for menthol as well, which can further soothe stuffy noses during colder months. You’ll probably want to buy a hygrometer to keep an eye on humidity levels. The biggest draw card of a warm mist humidifier is also its Achilles heel. It boils water in order to release steam, making a bad scalding just one accidental table bump away. So if your home has pets or children, you should definitely go for the Vornado instead.
If you’re looking for fast humidity, and are willing to sacrifice some key features, like an internal humidistat, we recommend the ultrasonic Sunpentown SU-4010 ($85). Compared to their evaporator counterparts, the ultrasonic humidifiers we tested were simply less reliable and not recommended by our experts. Touillon explained "technology that simply sprays water in the air is not as good as the technology that uses airflow on a water surface, which avoids heavy droplets of water in the air." He explained that pollutants can stick to heavier water droplets, but it's not cleaning the air. On the contrary, it can actually help mold and microbes to grow.
Boiling water doesn’t mean fewer germsAccording to Consumer Reports, evaporative humidifiers are the only models that consistently emitted no bacteria. The temperature of the water makes no difference to the spread of germs, although regularly cleaning your humidifier can.
Our tests confirmed that ultrasonic contenders were great at producing moisture quickly, but the at times the heavy mist simply fell to the ground instead of staying in the air. That said, if you're committed to cleaning your humidifier and carpets, they are known for humidifying quickly. The Sunpentown Su-4010's split nozzles allow you to direct the copiously produced mist in two different directions. It consistently produced the most moisture out of the ultrasonic models we tested, but you’ll need a hygrometer on the side, as it has no internal humidistat and a frustratingly vague low/high control dial.
Did You Know?
Humidifiers won’t cure an illness, but are great for comfort
Dr. Sarah Kohl, a clinician with over 25 years of experience, told us that manufacturers will promise a lot of health benefits from using a humidifier, but “there are no real good scientific studies to support these claims.” She explained that humidifiers “are going do what they’re designed to do — humidify the air. They’re just going to make you feel more comfortable.” That’s not to say humidifiers aren’t useful. Dr. Kohl revealed that while you’ll still have to wait for any cold or flu to pass, but there’s no harm in a little extra relief from dry noses and skin while you recover.
More importantly, Dr. Kohl recommends parents use humidifiers instead of over the counter cold medicine for their children. Although humidifiers won’t cure a fever or cold, she explained that “"over the counter cold products are not recommended for children because they often don’t work and some have adverse effects on the heart that could harm the child by accident.” Her advice is to use humidifiers to make kids comfortable during their short illness. Of course, you should always consult your own doctor or pediatrician to determine the best treatment plan.
You need to clean, but you don't have to pay for it.
Dr. Kohl told us “bacteria are everywhere...if people don’t clean their humidifier, it can spew mold or bacteria into the environment. Cleaning your humidifier regularly will take care of any health risks.” You can pick up a humidifier cleaner for around $10, but most manufacturers suggest a DIY method in their manuals. Common solutions use a teaspoon of bleach or vinegar mixed with a gallon of water that is poured into the base tray.
As filters in evaporative humidifiers gather minerals, they will naturally turn brown. To extend filter life, manufacturers suggest turning the filter upside down if one side is particularly brown. This should help your filters last a bit longer. When your filter is hard and doesn’t soak up water, that’s the time to replace it.
Controlling humidity levels is important for your pets.
It’s important to stay within the target range of 30-60% humidity for the health of your pets. Not only does it prevent mold and mildew, but humidities above 60% can make it too hot for your dog or cat. We suggest keeping a hygrometer in your home when using any humidifier. Keeping humidity levels within the recommended range will keep you and your pets happy and safe.