Humidifier Buying Guide

Adding moisture to the air in your home can assist breathing and even help to lower your winter heating bills. This humidifier buying guide describes the different models and their essential features.

Humidifiers 101

Humidifiers do more than just create a more comfortable atmosphere; they can also help preserve wood furniture and prevent wallpaper and paint from cracking and peeling. Portable humidifiers can provide welcome relief when you or a family member is ill or experiencing breathing issues due to allergies. Quiet ultrasonic humidifiers and vaporizers can help relieve flu and cold symptoms so you can sleep. Cool mist and console models regulate room humidity year-round, preventing dry skin, itchy eyes, and sore throats. Larger humidifiers, like whole house models, distribute moisture throughout your home and can help you save on winter heating costs.

Types of Humidifiers


Tabletop Humidifier

Portable and affordable, tabletop humidifiers are meant to humidify a single room. They’re lightweight and compact as a temporary supplement to regular moisture control, and easy to move from room to room. They’re easily stored when not in use and ultra-compact models can be packed along on business trips and vacations.

Console Humidifier

A free-standing appliance that sits on the floor, a console humidifier can disperse mist over broader areas and has a larger reservoir that requires refilling less often than smaller humidifiers. Because of their extra size, console humidifiers usually have added features, like timers and displays, for more convenience and control. These models are not very portable and designed to remain stationary for extended use in one area. When buying a console humidifier, balance the size of the space with the features and capacity you need.

Warm Mist Humidifier

Warm mist humidifiers disperse warm water vapour into the air that can help ease flu or cold symptoms. They work by boiling the water to produce steam, which then circulates throughout your room. You’ll breathe easier in cool rooms with a warm mist humidifier, and they’re essential if you plan on adding medicinal ingredients to the water. The boiling process also kills impurities and bacteria in the water for a cleaner, healthier mist. They tend to be noisier than ultrasonic humidifiers and should also be kept beyond the reach of small children.

Cool Mist Humidifier

Unlike warm mist humidifiers, cool mist models use a spinning disc and diffuser to fill rooms with moisture. Since cooled and moistened air is easier to breathe, these models are recommended for people with asthma, allergies, or general breathing difficulties. Unlike warm mist humidifiers, these models don’t have a heating element, so they’re safer for children’s rooms. The lack of heating element also makes cool mist humidifiers cheaper to operate and easier to clean.

Ultrasonic Humidifier

Ultrasonic humidifiers are known for their near-silent operation. Rather than pushing water through a wick filter like traditional humidifiers, ultrasonic models use high-frequency sounds to vibrate the water, which is then dispersed with a quiet fan. These models are recommended for rooms that need both moisture and quiet operation, like bedrooms and family rooms, so you can fall sleep or watch TV without annoying background noise.


Small and compact, vaporizers are warm mist humidifiers designed for occasional use in smaller rooms. These humidifiers are easily stored when not in use and quiet enough to let you get your rest. Most vaporizers are best used for short-term relief of cold and flu symptoms rather than humidifying an entire room on a regular basis. They may have a reservoir so you can add medicinal products to the water.

Whole House Humidifiers

Humidify your entire home while reducing maintenance and operating costs with a whole home humidifier. Rather than having multiple devices sitting in individual rooms, a central humidifier is attached to your furnace ductwork and adds moisture to your airflow when your air is reheated. A single humidifier filter generally lasts for months and the device usually connects directly to the water supply so there is minimal maintenance until the end of the heating season. The humidity level can be dialed up or down depending on the outdoor temperature and your personal preference.  

Humidifier Buying Tips:

• Note the recommended room size for each humidifier for best results
• Ultrasonic humidifiers are quieter than warm and cool mist models
• Lower-maintenance humidifiers have easy-to-replace wicks and removable parts for easier filling and cleaning
• If you’re using a humidifier for medical reasons, consult your physician for the type best-suited to your condition
• Since humid air feels warmer, a furnace humidifier or multiple console units can allow you to lower the thermostat
• If your home has hard water, look for cool mist humidifiers or models with filters to trap minerals and deposits

Humidifier Features

Humidistat +

Stay better informed and in control of moisture levels with a humidistat. Most humidifiers have an internal gauge that measures a room’s humidity level, but a humidistat will display that information to you. That way, you can experiment with different settings to find the humidity level that’s best for you.

Timer +

Timers let you come home to a properly humidified room without leaving the machine on all day. Just set the timer to when you want the humidifier to turn on and it will start automatically. Humidifiers with timers are perfect for working households, where the family is gone for most of the day, so your machine is on only when it’s needed.

Transparent Reservoir +

With a slightly transparent water reservoir, you can easily see when the water levels are low and refill as required. This helps prevent your humidifier from running without water, which can damage the device, and keep your home more consistently humidified.

Running Time +

Running time dictates how long your humidifier can run on a single tank of water. Larger models generally have a longer running time because they feature a larger reservoir. Look for long running times so you don’t have to constantly refill your humidifier, but bear in mind that this means a bigger and heavier machine.

Speed Control +

Customize the moisture levels and noise with speed control. Humidifiers with this feature let you control how aggressively the machine operates, so you can get a room to the desired moisture level quickly and turn it down when you want some peace and quiet.

Multifunctional Humidifiers +

While most humidifiers are dedicated to keeping your home at the right humidity, some models can purify the air, act as traditional fans, and even dehumidify if need be. Look for multifunctional humidifiers if you live in an area with varying humidity levels, or if you want your humidifier to provide all-season comfort.

Filters +

Filters prevent unwanted bacteria and minerals from being redistributed in your home. Filterless models are becoming more common and require regular cleanings instead of filter replacement.

Medication Cup +

While humidifiers are most often used when the climate is too dry, they can also help relieve symptoms when you’re sick. Medication cups are a special reservoir for inhalants that can help alleviate sore throats, itchy eyes, and congestion.

Display +

Some humidifiers come with a digital display so you have more information and can stay in control of moisture levels, water levels, and more. Look for an easy-to-read display with intuitive controls for easy operation. Many models also come with indicator lights that tell you when they need refilled or serviced.

Top-Fill Tank +

Most humidifiers have a removable reservoir you take to the sink to refill, but top-fill tanks bypass this step entirely and let you refill them with your own water container. Choose a top-fill model if your humidifier will be located some distance from a sink or other water source.

Night Light +

If you’re child needs a humidifier and also needs a little nighttime security, look for a model with a night light. This will help your child to feel safer and sleep easier with the light’s gentle glow.

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Humidifier Maintenance Tips:

  • Thoroughly clean your humidifier between uses to prevent bacterial and mineral build up
  • Always use fresh or distilled water in your humidifier: stagnant water can breed harmful microbes
  • Keep warm mist humidifiers away from windows in the winter to reduce window condensation
  • Extend the life of your humidifiers by turning them off in the summer, when the air is generally more humid anyway
  • Expect to replace your humidifier’s filter annually, depending on how often it’s used
  • Avoid putting salt or other substances not designed for humidifiers into the reservoir
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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