SPT SU-4010
SPT SU-4010

Best ultrasonic humidifier

The SPT SU-4010 is an ultrasonic tabletop humidifier that can produce either warm or cool mist -- enough to humidify 500 square feet of space. The moisture output can be adjusted with a manual dial, but there is no built-in humidistat. It does well in expert tests, and users say that this humidifier produces plenty of good, fine mist, and it runs quietly.
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Air-O-Swiss AOS 7135
Air-O-Swiss AOS 7135

Ultrasonic humidifier for a large room

The Air-O-Swiss AOS 7135 can produce enough warm or cool mist to humidify a 650-square-foot room. Its digital humidistat maintains a preset target humidity level, though accuracy may be an issue. High moisture output, ample features and quiet operation are all pluses. However, like all ultrasonic models, it can release minerals dissolved in the water, producing a white dust that can settle on furniture.

Honeywell HCM-350
Honeywell HCM-350

Best cool-mist humidifier

The Honeywell HCM-350 cool mist humidifier is an evaporative tabletop humidifier with sufficient output to handle medium sized rooms -- 400 to 500 square feet, depending on who you ask. This humidifier is a little bit louder than some ultrasonic humidifiers, and can only output cool mist, but it is effective, easy to clean, and there's no white dust residue from minerals in hard water to worry about.
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$54.99
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Crane Adorable Ultrasonic Humidifier
Crane Adorable Ultrasonic Humidifier

Best humidifier for a child's room

Upon first look, the Crane Adorable Ultrasonic Humidifier may seem more like a toy than a home appliance, because of its cute animal designs (there are 10 available). However, its straightforward, easy-to-use design, quiet operation and ability to nicely humidify a small space makes this machine well regarded among many experts and users. This 1-gallon tank humidifier can regulate the moisture level of a space of around 250 square feet, perfect for a child's bedroom.
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$39.99
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Safety 1st Ultrasonic 360
Safety 1st Ultrasonic 360

Ultrasonic cool mist humidifier for a small room

Compact and cute, the Safety 1st Ultrasonic 360 humidifier is another excellent choice for a nursery or a child's room. With a small, three-quarter-gallon water tank, you won't see as much moisture output as larger machines. Still, reviewers say that thanks to its quiet operation, variable mist settings and easy-to-use design, this is a nice option.

Essick AirCare MA1201
Essick AirCare MA1201

Whole house humidifier

The Essick MA1201 is an evaporative humidifier that can put out up to 12 gallons of moisture per day, enough to humidify 3,600 square feet of space. Its humidistat allows you to adjust the humidity in 5-percent increments, and its double-fill tank system reduces the number of trips you must make to the sink. Professional tests indicate that the AirCare MA1201 produces very good moisture output, although it is much louder than most humidifiers. Users say this machine is easy to fill, and that its value is terrific.
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$109.99
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Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier
Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier

Warm mist humidifier

Although experts generally say cool-mist humidifiers are better for most purposes, the Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier is an option if you want to make a room feel warmer during the winter. The Vicks humidifier has two vapor settings and, while some noise complaints are seen, others seem not to be bothered. The Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier has an automatic safety shut-off (though some say this feature can be unreliable) and a nightlight. One caution: We read several reports of leaks with this model and some users find this humidifier difficult to clean.

$27.49
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See a side-by-side comparison of key features, product specs, and prices.

Picking the right humidifier

Humidifiers can help restore the balance of moisture in your home, particularly in dry climates and during the winter. They also can alleviate discomfort and symptoms associated with colds, asthma and other ailments by keeping the air moist.

The two main types of humidifiers are cool-mist humidifiers and warm-mist humidifiers

Ultrasonic humidifiers, which use high-frequency sound waves to vaporize water, are the most popular type of cool mist humidifier. They are also the quietest. Some ultrasonic humidifiers can also emit warm mist.

Evaporative humidifiers are exclusively cool mist humidifiers. These soak up water into a wick and use a fan to expel the moisture. These types of humidifiers can be inexpensive, but replacing their wicks or filters is an ongoing cost. In addition, evaporative humidifiers can be noisy.

Some cool-mist humidifiers use impellers to force (impel) water into the air as a fine mist; however, we found no positive reviews for those humidifiers, so we do not recommend any of those models.

Warm-mist humidifiers (sometimes called vaporizers) boil the water before expelling it as steam. This can eliminate bacteria that's present in the water if it's heated to a true boiling point of 212 degrees Fahrenheit, but it also means that minerals can build up in the tank and on the heating element over time, and vaporizers are not always easy to clean.

Some people prefer warm-mist humidifiers, saying the heated vapor is easier to breathe (especially if you're congested) and that it gently raises room temperature. But experts say the difference between cool mist and warm mist is minimal, and doctors, such as those at the Mayo Clinic caution that warm-mist humidifiers pose a safety hazard because they can be tipped over by young children, scalding them. They are also less energy efficient. Expert reviews are generally neutral to negative for this type of humidifier, and users aren't that much more pleased. In general, if you want a humidifier that can emit warm mist, we recommend an ultrasonic model that can produce both cool and warm moisture.

Finding the best humidifiers

In selecting the best humidifiers we weighed several factors, including performance (moisture output), ease of use, noise and the ownership experience, looking for both the best performers, and those that deliver the best bang for the book.

Both expert and user reviews s were evaluated. On the expert side, it's tough to find a better resource than ConsumerReports.org, which tests more humidifiers than anyone else. However, not all of the humidifiers listed on the site are current models (though many are) and the results of its hands-on tests can only be viewed by subscribers. TheSweetHome.com also consults ConsumerReports.org and other experts and reviewers, but then conducts its own testing to find the best choice. BabyGearLab.com conducts its own hands-on evaluations, and, while that review is aimed at someone looking for a humidifier for a nursery, anyone looking for a single-room humidifier will find the insights there useful.

While experts often -- but not always -- agree on which humidifiers are best, we found a sometimes startling divergence of opinion when it came to user reviews. This is likely because issues that don't always manifest during the short time experts have to evaluate a humidifier do show up after weeks or months of use. In some cases, issues apply to one user -- hard water, for example -- but don't apply to others. As a result, user ratings for humidifiers as a class are often mixed. Be that as it may, we consulted the user reviews at Amazon.com, HomeDepot.com, Lowes.com, Sears.com and others in compiling these recommendations.

Elsewhere in this report:

Best Ultrasonic Humidifiers | Best Cool-Mist Humidifiers | Best Whole House Humidifiers | Best Warm Mist Humidifiers | Buying Guide | Our Sources

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