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You may want to try a humidifier if your indoor air is dry. Dry air occurs often in the winter months when the heat is on. Adding moisture to the air with the help of a humidifier can relieve cold and allergy symptoms and even nosebleeds and dry skin.

However, not all humidifiers are the same. Keep reading to learn about the different types of humidifiers, and how to safely use them, including around children.

Not all humidifiers release moisture into the air in the same way. There are several types. Some are installed in your home and others are portable. Here’s more information about the many humidifiers available.


Warm mist (steam vaporizer)Ultrasonic
not portableportableportableportableportable
installed in your home with your heating and air conditioning unitinexpensiveinexpensiveinexpensiveinexpensive
can control your entire house’s humidity levelblows air with an internal fan through a moistened wick or filterreleases a cool mist from fast-moving disks rotating within itemits water that’s been heated and then cooled within the machineemits cool mist from ultrasonic vibrations
releases moisture into a room invisiblyproduces a large number of microorganisms and minerals if not operated with distilled water and cleaned regularlycontains hot water that may burn children if touchedmore likely to spread bacteria and other harmful elements into the air if not used with distilled water and cleaned with soap regularly
disperses fewer pollutants into the air than other humidifiersgenerally free of bacteria or other harmful minerals or chemicals because the water is boiled before being released into the airquiet
recommended by Consumer Reports as the least likely to spread unwanted bacteria
requires frequent cleaning and filter changes to stay safe

Before operating a humidifier in your home, you should be aware of some of the risks and safety precautions of these devices to avoid adverse health reactions.

Manage humidity

Don’t add too much moisture to a room. You don’t want the humidity in a room to be at more than 50 percent. When the humidity exceeds this percentage, bacteria and mold can grow. This can trigger respiratory conditions like allergies and asthma.

Ideally, the humidity of a room should be between 30 and 50 percent. You can purchase a hygrometer to measure the moisture in your home.

Only run your humidifier when you need it, not all of the time, to keep humidity levels down.

Use distilled water

Another health risk when operating a humidifier relates to the particles other than water emitted into the air. Unhealthy mineral particles can be released by a humidifier, particularly with cool mist machines.

Distilled water has fewer minerals in it and can be purchased for use in your humidifier.

Purchase distilled water for humidifiers.

Keep your machine clean

You should always clean your humidifier after every use and make sure the water tank gets completely dried before using it again.

Rinse and replace the water in your humidifier’s tank each night to avoid using old standing water that may contain molds or other bacteria or fungi.

You may notice white buildup within the humidifier. This is known as scale and could be emitted into the air and cause particles to enter the lungs, leading to health problems.

To avoid or remove scale or mold, clean your humidifier out every few days with a water and vinegar or hydrogen peroxide mixture or with another cleaning solution recommended by the manufacturer.

You should consider replacing an older humidifier if it hasn’t been cleaned regularly.

Replace filters regularly

Some humidifiers require filters or have other parts that need to be cleaned or replaced. For example, replace the filter in your central humidifier regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Keep interior doors open

To avoid over-humidifying a room, make sure to keep the room’s door open to allow air to flow in and out of the space.

Use good judgment when using a humidifier in a child’s room

Not all humidifiers are alike, so you should consider the safest option if it’ll be operated in your child’s room at night.

A humidifier that boils or heats the water inside of it might pose a safety risk. On the other hand, cool mist humidifiers can emit more harmful elements into the air, so you need to keep it clean.

Safe use of a humidifier should reduce risks, but keep the following in mind:

  • Too much humidity in a room can be dangerous.
  • Unclean humidifiers can emit harmful elements that can lead to respiratory problems.
  • Warm mist humidifiers may burn children if touched.
  • Cool mist humidifiers may disperse hazardous minerals and other particles that irritate the lungs.
  • Distilled water is the safest type of water to use with a humidifier.
  • An older humidifier may contain harmful bacteria or mold that you can’t clean or remove.

There are several types and brands of humidifiers available. Before you purchase one, decide what type of humidifier best meets your needs.

Here are a few tips to consider when shopping for a humidifier:

  • Decide what type of humidifier works best in your space. Cool mist humidifiers may be best if you plan to use the unit in your child’s room or in a space where the machine could be touched accidentally. Warm mist humidifiers may be preferable because they heat the water before releasing it, making the air safer, but they shouldn’t be used around children.
  • Read humidifier reviews and ratings before purchasing one. A good humidifier will work well and be easy to clean and maintain.
  • Consider the settings available on the humidifier. Do you want to be able to adjust the humidifier for your needs?
  • Measure the room where the humidifier will run. Purchase a machine that’s appropriate for your space.

Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping tested many humidifiers and recommended several units manufactured by Vicks. These included the Vicks V3700 and Vicks V745 Warm Mist Humidifier.

Crane’s Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier made Good Housekeeping’s humidifier list as the best humidifier for infants.

You can purchase these products online by clicking these links:

Humidifiers can help you add moisture to a dry room and relieve unwanted health symptoms. But not all humidifiers are the same.

Make sure to purchase a humidifier that works for your needs, run it only when needed, and keep the machine clean and in good working order to avoid triggering certain health conditions.

Contact your doctor if you suspect your humidifier is causing any breathing problems.