Dry Skin and Chapped Lips Have Nothing on the Best Humidifiers
Our top pick even has an essential oil tray.
Updated Feb 16, 2022 11:20 AM
Whatever ails you during winter’s more brutal months—dry skin, chapped lips, eczema, seasonal allergies—one small, simple item may be the solution: a humidifier. “Skin is extra dry in the winter due to the lack of moisture in the air as well as our heating systems, which pull additional moisture out of the air,” says Dr. Morgan Rabach. The board-certified dermatologist explains that people who stand to benefit the most from a humidifier are those with dry skin, eczema, or symptoms like a dry nose, dry cough, or dry eyes. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Anthony Rossi agrees: “More humidity means more moisture in the air, and this helps to soften the nasal passages and nasopharyngeal tissues,” he adds.
Restoring your home’s moisture levels is a worthy endeavor for everyone inside, from adults to children. And while there are myriad options to consider, the best humidifiers are those that make the process a low lift (think: auto functions and technology features). Read on for our edit of the most useful and best-designed humidifiers to help you exit winter unscathed and keep your space at optimal hydration levels all year round.
- Best overall: Honeywell Cool Mist Humidifier HUL430
- Best value: Crane Drop Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier
- Best easy-to-clean: Orgtoy 4L Cool Mist Mumidifier
- Best splurge: Dyson Purifier Humidify+Cool PH03
- Best smart: Levoit Classic 300S Ultrasonic Smart Humidifier
- Best quiet: Homech Cool Mist Humidifier 6L
- Best sculptural: Objecto W4 Hybrid Humidifier
Best Overall: Honeywell Cool Mist Humidifier HUL430
Weight: 5 lbs | Color: White | Number of Settings: Variable | Capacity: 1.25 gallon
What we like:
- Essential oil tray
- Two-year limited warranty
- Variable output settings
- Filter free
Why we chose it: Easy to use (and clean), plus essential oils feature.
The variable output setting on this easy-to-use option, which our digital designer Michaela Klein loves, lets you adjust the mist via a metal control wheel; leave it on low, and one water fill-up lasts a full 24 hours. There’s a window with three lighting options so you can see when your reservoir is ready for a refill, and the unit will automatically shut off when empty, which is quite handy. Plus, the design comes with an essential oil tray for those who want to add a calming aroma to the room.
There’s also no need for a filter, and while this eliminates tedious filter maintenance, it also means you’ll need to use filtered water and be diligent about cleaning your water tank to avoid mold and air contamination. (Note: If you use tap water, it’s possible that white dust will form on surfaces around your humidifier due to the minerals in the water.) Klein tosses one of these cleaning balls in to help with the process.
Best Value: Crane Drop Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier
Weight: 4 lbs | Color: White | Number of Settings: Variable | Capacity: 1 gallon
What we like:
- Comes in several colors
- Adjustable 360-degree mist lid
- “Whisper quiet”
- Green light inside humidifier
Why we chose it: Affordable and compact with an adjustable top.
A small humidifier that packs a punch, this ultrasonic option from Crane is beloved by many (including our deputy editor Julie Vadnal) for what the brand calls its “whisper quiet” effect and multiple color options, making it a strong choice for kids’ and adults’ bedrooms alike. The process of refilling and cleaning the water tank is pretty turnkey, but it’s the air nozzle that’s particularly useful: It’s an adjustable 360-degree lid that allows you to choose where to direct the mist flow.
Worth considering, though: There is a small green “on” light that might bother those who prefer a pitch-black room or kids who might find it distracting while falling asleep.
Best Easy-To-Clean: Orgtoy 4L Cool Mist Mumidifier
Weight: 4.3 lbs | Color: White | Number of Settings: Variable | Capacity: 1.05 gallon
What we like:
- 360-degree rotating nozzle
- Quiet and no lights—appropriate for the bedroom
- Included brush to clean hard-to-reach nooks
- Not digital, manual adjustments
Why we chose it: Designed for quick and thorough cleanings.
As a devoted humidifier user, there’s one thing Domino’s deputy photo editor Andie Diemer could not enjoy less: the inevitable cleaning routine. Enter the Cool Mist Mumidifier. “This one has been a game-changer for me—not only does it hold more water than any other humidifier I’ve owned (which means fewer refill trips), but it’s also designed with an inlet that is large enough to put your hand into, so you can actually clean the inside.” She adds that it’s silent and has no lights, so a safe bet for the bedroom, and it has an outlet that can point mist in any direction.
The kicker, she says, is “a small brush that lives inside the base, which is clutch for thoroughly cleaning all the nooks, and it never gets lost since you can stick it back in the unit until the next cleaning.” Sign us up.
Best Splurge: Dyson Purifier Humidify+Cool PH03
Weight: 18 lbs | Color: Black/Nickel | Number of Settings: 10 | Capacity: 1 gallon
What we like:
- Purifies and humidifies
- Auto and manual mode options
- Live information on LCD screen
- Voice control
- Requires filter changes
Why we chose it: This is the Cadillac of humidifiers.
It doesn’t fall under the umbrella of affordable, no, but it’s a home investment with a whole lot to offer. A purifier, humidifier, and fan all in one, this Dyson model has integrated sensors that analyze your air in real-time and displays these live diagnostics on an LCD screen. The HEPA filter captures 99.97 percent of particles 0.3 microns in size and also removes odors and gasses. As far as the humidifier goes, there’s an ultraviolet cleanse technology inside that gets rid of bacteria in the water, and you can get up to 36 hours of humidification off of a one-gallon tank.
The machine has a monthly deep-clean cycle that can be activated by pressing a button and following the step-by-step process; it also signals when it’s time to change the combination filter. Other smart features include voice control, so you can use it with services like Amazon Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant.
Best Smart: Levoit Classic 300S Ultrasonic Smart Humidifier
Weight: 4.3 lbs | Color: White/Gray | Number of Settings: 4 | Capacity: 6 liters
What we like:
- Up to 60 hours of mist
- Smart control
- Auto mode
- Optional aromatherapy and night light
- Square-shaped tank
Why we chose it: Fun features galore.
At its core, a humidifier is meant to add moisture to the air. But this model takes it up a notch with a broad swath of features, including smart control, voice command, auto and sleep modes, aromatherapy, and optional night light. The top-fill design makes adding more water especially effortless, and the cool mist can cover an approximately 500-square-feet room. Also, thanks to ultrasonic humidification technology, it’s very quiet.
The only potential drawback is the square-shaped tank, which might be harder to find a location for than a rounded model.
Best Quiet: Homech Cool Mist Humidifier 6L
Weight: 5.24 lbs | Color: White | Number of Settings: Variable | Capacity: 6 liters
What we like:
- Reduces noise to 26 decibels
- Easy to refill
- For rooms 215 to 430 square feet
Why we chose it: A silent pick well-suited for kids and light sleepers.
If you’re worried about a humidifier keeping you up at night, this cool mist option uses patent-pending technology that reduces noise to 26 decibels. The water lasts for 20 to 60 hours on a full tank and can humidify rooms between 215 and 430 square feet. There’s a dial that allows you to control the mist levels, and when it’s time to refill the water, a 3.54-inch “water inlet” makes that process all the easier.
More potentially useful details? The optional night light, plus a water gauge LED light that can be turned on and off (the light will turn red when the tank is empty and automatically shut off).
Best Sculptural: Objecto W4 Hybrid Humidifier
Weight: 2.4 lbs | Color: Light Grain | Number of Settings: 4 | Capacity: 2.3 liters
What we like:
- Modern design
- Aroma tray
- Different colors to indicate mist output settings
- Matching remote control
- Up to 20-hour run time
Why we chose it: Looks more like art (and not at all like an appliance).
You wouldn’t be the only one to mistake this well-disguised humidifier for a hand-carved wooden vase: Its streamlined design looks right at home on a shelf beside favorite decor pieces. This evaporative cool-mist humidifier comes with a matching remote control and also features an aromatherapy option for those who appreciate a soft scent.
While its small size and lightness make it a versatile (and portable) pick, the 2.3-liter tank capacity allows for up to 20 hours of mist per water fill.
How We Chose These Products
First, we consulted with two medical experts to get more context on why humidifiers are important and compiled a list of the various characteristics that can make this purchase particularly useful, including smart technology, auto features, mist run time, and even the option to use essential oils. After researching dozens of models and doing a final quality check, we edited our list down to the options that also offered the sleekest, least clunky design. If a humidifier is going to be a daily fixture in your room, you’ll want it to blend in well, right?
Our Shopping Checklist
The design for most humidifiers involves a water tank and a base of some kind. Beyond those basics is where function and form can hit their stride. Beginning from the top, a couple of design details to look out for include wider openings (to make water refills more effortless) and spouts that can rotate (to allow more flexibility when choosing where to direct the mist). As for water tanks, shapes can range from the standard round and rectangular to bolder silhouettes resembling water drops or even animals for the kid set. Generally speaking, these water tanks hold around one to one-and-a-half gallons of water. Finally, LCD screens and other settings are located on the base of most machines to help you personalize your humidification process.
Cool vs. Warm Mist
Many of the humidifiers in our list are cool-mist ultrasonic humidifiers. However, there are models that offer warm mist and models that offer cool mist through ultrasonic or evaporative technology. Warm mist can be good for reducing bacteria and an overall quieter experience since there’s no fun. However, warm steam can pose a burn threat, particularly for young children. As for cool mist, ultrasonic is the quieter of the two, and cleaning is typically very easy. However, these models are more likely to contaminate the air if not cared for properly, so cleaning regularly and using distilled water is key. Evaporative humidifiers use a wick or a filter with a fan to pump water vapor into the air; they’re usually not quite as quiet and require more filter maintenance, but they’re better at preventing bacteria growth.
To figure out what size humidifier to get, consider how large your room is and how much space you have for the actual unit. Most options store around a gallon of water and can be conveniently placed somewhere like a bedside table or bookshelf, while others—like the Dyson model—are larger and can be positioned in the corner of a room.
Adjustments & Settings
As mentioned above, some humidifiers have LCD screens, while others function with a settings wheel or switch. These typically allow you to choose how little or how much mist to humidify your room with, and some designs also have an auto option that analyzes your room’s humidity levels in real-time. Another component to look out for is run-time per water refill. The options above range from 24 to 36 hours, usually when the humidifier is running at its lowest speed. If you don’t want to constantly refill your water tank, opt for a humidifier that’s more efficient and only leave it on when your room’s humidity levels are lacking.
Cleaning & Maintenance
Cleaning is non-negotiable when it comes to using a humidifier. “Anytime you have stagnant water, this can breed mold, mildew, and bacteria,” Dr. Rossi explains. As a rule of thumb, you should be cleaning your humidifier about once a week. Consult the manual for your humidifier’s specific cleaning instructions, but a generally good method is to unplug the device, empty any remaining water, fill the base with a cup of distilled water and a cup of white vinegar, and allow this mixture to sit for around an hour. Meanwhile, fill the water tank with undiluted white vinegar (a couple of cups should work), seal it closed, and rigorously shake for a few minutes. Empty both base and tank, rinse with water and allow them to air dry.
Q: What size space can a regular humidifier cover?
Humidifiers are used in an enclosed space. Each model will indicate what room size it’s best suited for, but most standard-size humidifiers can cover up to 400 or 500 square feet.
Q: My walls are pretty thin. Are humidifiers loud?
They shouldn’t be. Many humidifiers on the market use ultrasonic humidification, which tends to be quieter than evaporative humidification. Some brands will list the sound dB (decibel), while others might include a sound patent that illustrates how quiet their products can be—all good details to look for when researching your options.
Q: Is it okay to leave a humidifier on all day?
Maybe take some breaks. While it’s not dangerous, per se, to leave a humidifier on all day, there’s a chance you could increase the humidity above desired levels (which is between 30 and 50 percent humidity, Dr. Rabach notes). Doing this increases the chance of things like mold and mildew and can actually make it more difficult to breathe. Plus, the longer you leave your humidifier on, the more frequently you’ll need to refill the water.
The Last Word
As Dr. Rossi puts it: “Humidifiers are a best-kept secret” for all sorts of winter woes. Whether you have dry skin, seasonal allergies, or year-round eczema, these devices are effective at moisturizing the air and aiding with the above symptoms, he says. We love the idea of improving our skin and breathing better, and this small ritual of flipping on a humidifier each day (or auto-programming it to turn on just before bedtime) feels like a supremely soothing form of self-care.
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