The 10 Best Humidifiers, According to Lab Testing
Whether you have seasonal allergies, are dealing with a common cold, or just want to remedy your dry skin, a humidifier is a small yet helpful appliance that can help with all of it. And while it may not seem like it, there are a variety of humidifier options available for your home, each with its own benefits.
"Humidifiers can have benefits for several dermatologic conditions, including dry skin and eczema, and conditioning the nasal passages and throat when the air is dry," says Dr. Erum Ilyas, MBE, FAAD, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group.
To find out which styles are the best, we purchased 27 humidifiers and put them to the test at our lab in Des Moines, Iowa. Over the course of two days, testers evaluated each option based on six categories: setup, effectiveness, design, size, ease of cleaning, and overall value. We also consulted Dr. Erum Ilyas, MBE, FAAD, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group.
Overall, we recommend the Levoit Classic 300S Ultrasonic Smart Humidifier. The best humidifier, which received a perfect score during testing, is easy to use, effective, and has a design you won't mind having on display in your home.
Here are the best humidifiers for your home.
- Best Overall: Levoit Classic 300S Ultrasonic Smart Humidifier
- Best Budget: Pure Enrichment MistAire Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier
- Best Evaporative: Stadler Form Oskar Humidifier
- Best Air Purifier & Humidifier: Dyson Purifier Humidify+Cool Formaldehyde
- Best for Bedrooms: Levoit Ultrasonic 2-in-1 Humidifier and Diffuser
- Best Warm Mist: Levoit 6L Warm and Cool Mist Humidifier
- Best for Easy Cleaning: Honeywell Designer Series Cool Mist Humidifier, White/Silver
- Best for Plants: Elechomes SH8830 Humidifier
- Best for Large Rooms: Lasko LA10008 UH300 Warm and Cool Humidifier
- Best Portable: Geniani Portable Small Cool Mist Humidifier
What We Recommend
Best Overall: Levoit Classic 300S Ultrasonic Smart Humidifier
Best Budget: Pure Enrichment MistAire Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier
Best Evaporative: Stadler Form Oskar Humidifier
Best Air Purifier & Humidifier: Dyson Purifier Humidify+Cool Formaldehyde
Best for Bedrooms: Levoit Ultrasonic 2-in-1 Humidifier and Diffuser
Best Warm Mist: Levoit 6L Warm and Cool Mist Humidifier
Best for Easy Cleaning: Honeywell Designer Series Cool Mist Humidifier
Best for Plants: Elechomes SH8830 Humidifier
Best for Large Rooms: Lasko LA10008 UH300 Warm and Cool Humidifier
Best Portable: Geniani Portable Small Cool Mist Humidifier
The Bottom Line
Overall, we recommend the Levoit Classic 300S Ultrasonic Smart Humidifier because it's easy to set up, effective, and has a design you won't mind leaving on your nightstand. Testers, who gave the unit a perfect score, appreciated the humidifier's multiple mist settings and that it was essentially silent when in use. For a less expensive option, consider the Pure Enrichment MistAire Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier. The humidifier has two distinct mist settings and has a compact design that's easy to display as well as store.
Our Testing Process
Over the course of two days, five product testers went to our lab in Des Moines, Iowa, and put 27 humidifiers to the test. The testers set up each humidifier and timed themselves assembling the products based on the included instructions. From there, the testers used a predetermined methodology to score each humidifier between one and five in six categories: setup, effectiveness, design, size, ease of cleaning, and overall value. The final rating was determined by averaging each pick's scores across categories.
What to Know About Humidifiers Before Shopping
Ultrasonic Vs. Evaporative
When it comes to humidifiers, you'll need to choose between an ultrasonic or evaporative model. Though both are effective, the difference comes down to how they produce humidity. Ultrasonic humidifiers, which make up a majority of this list, produce moisture through a vibrating metal diaphragm. As the diaphragm vibrates at a high frequency, the sound propels the moisture into the air. Typically this style, which doesn't have a filter, is more likely to produce dust in your space. Ultrasonic humidifiers typically ring in at a lower price point compared to evaporative models.
"Ultrasonic humidifiers are popular as they are cool to touch and use vibration to create water droplets," says Dr. Ilyas. "Although safer from a temperature perspective, bacteria in the water may be released into the air on use."
On the other hand, an evaporative humidifier uses a fan to speed up the natural water evaporation process. They're also less likely to emit bacteria and other airborne contaminants in the air, so they're safer as far as air quality is concerned. You will, however, tend to pay more for an evaporative humidifier.
Humidifiers will dispense either warm mist, cool mist, or both, each of which is beneficial depending on your needs. Warm mist options are said to add more moisture to the air, so it's a great pick if you have dry skin. They'll also reduce bacteria and germs in the air as well as add warmth to a space—just keep in mind they can run hot, so you'll want to be careful with small children and pets.
A cool mist humidifier removes the risk of children and pets burning themselves by touching the unit. Like a warm mist option, it can also help with seasonal allergies or any symptoms you're experiencing from dry air. However, it'll also add a refreshing mist in warm temperatures.
A humidifier's tank capacity refers to how many liters (or gallons) of water the tank can hold. The amount varies by unit, with the average being anywhere from 2 to 6 liters. Those with higher tank capacities will also have longer running times, a detail to keep in mind if you want to use your humidifier for long periods of time, such as overnight.
Though there are a few product certifications out there, Intertek's ETL-tested is perhaps one of the most popular options you might come across. Intertek is a testing, inspection, and certification company. If a product has the company's ETL certification, that means the product is proven to be in compliance with North American safety standards.
Other Humidifiers We Tested
Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier
Overall, testers felt they would recommend the compact Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier because it has a reset light that will let you know when you need to refill the tank so you won't have to worry about monitoring it. Testers also appreciated it was very easy to set up and that the water tank is dishwasher safe, so you'll be able to clean it thoroughly, especially if you use it while you're sick.
Boneco Hybrid Humidifier and Air Purifier
During testing, Boneco's Hybrid Humidifier and Air Purifier received high scores for both setup and effectiveness. Testers liked that even though there is no mist you could immediately feel the air movement once the unit was turned on. Plus, the model was easy to clean, with some parts even being dishwasher safe.
Magictec Cool Mist Humidifier
The Magictec Cool Mist Humidifier earned a 4.3 overall score, with testers giving high scores for its setup, effectiveness, and design. Testers like that there were only two pieces to attach for assembly and noted that even once the water tank was full, it was still easy to carry. Once in use, testers appreciated that you could see a visible increase in mist as they changed the settings. They also liked that there was an attachment that allowed you to change the direction of the output.
Your Questions, Answered
What are the benefits of using a humidifier?
A humidifier adds moisture to the air, which can benefit you in many ways. Perhaps one of the most common uses is for those who are sick with a common cold, allergies, or another respiratory issue, as well as those dealing with dry nasal passages overall. As moisture gets added to the air, it'll help relieve some discomforts, like nasal congestion, which in turn may help reduce coughing and sneezing.
"Extended windows of time in one location, as with sleeping, can dehydrate the nasal passages if there is a lack of humidity in the air. On waking, dried nasal secretions can feel uncomfortable and even lead to nosebleeds," says Dr. Ilyas. "The presence of these can indicate the need to consider a humidifier."
A humidifier can also provide some beauty benefits as well. Whether you have dry skin, cracked lips, a dry scalp, or all of the above, adding additional moisture to the air will help improve some of the effects of harsh winter weather. Plus, it can even help you have a better hair day in the winter according to Dr. Ilyas, who says lack of moisture can cause hair static.
"The friction of the clothing against your hair creates a static charge. Normally the moisture in the air can conduct this electric charge away, and you do not even notice it," she says. "However, when it's cold and dry, it will be hard not to notice. One of the secrets to trying to control this is to introduce moisture to your hair."
How do you clean a humidifier?
Since humidifiers use water, it's important to clean them often to prevent any mold or mildew from forming. According to Dr. Ilyas, it's best practice to clean out a humidifier at least once a week. When cleaning, be sure to check the unit's instructions to see what the preferred method of cleaning is. Some pieces might be dishwasher safe, while others might need a specific cleaning substance, like vinegar, to use.
If your humidifier has small nooks and crannies, you'll want to clean them thoroughly as well. Your model might come with a cleaning brush, but if it doesn't, you can always use a toothbrush.
"The entire device where water comes into contact should be dismantled and cleaned thoroughly," she says. "Wipe down surfaces to reduce mineral and residue buildup. Filters, if present, should be changed to avoid mold overgrowth. There are many reports of hypersensitivity pneumonitis from the use of humidifiers."
In regards to cleaning, Dr. Ilyas also recommends using distilled water if you're able. "Tap water can have more minerals that can deposit or build up on the sides of a humidifier. These minerals can serve as breeding grounds for bacteria and mold to overgrow."
Who We Are
Jamie Weissman is a commerce editor with two years of experience covering home products. To make this list, she considered insights from product testers who rated each humidifier's setup, effectiveness, design, size, ease of cleaning, and overall value. She also consulted Dr. Erum Ilyas, MBE, FAAD, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group.