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Humidifiers Vs. Vaporizers: Which One Do You Need and Why?


So you're in the market for a humidifier because your doctor recommended you put one in your home. But when you get to the store and walk onto the humidifier aisle, you see another, similar looking appliance called a vaporizer and wonder to yourself, 'Well, what the heck does that do?'. These two appliances may look the same, but they produce different types of humidity. This article breaks down what each does, and recommends which will be better for your humidity needs.

How Does Each Work?

As air quality appliances, both humidifiers and vaporizers carry the same basic principle: to disperse moisture into the air in order to increase the humidity of a dry room. It is recommended that humidity levels in a home should remain between 40% - 50%, and anything less than 30% is too dry. You can measure the humidity level in your home using a hygrometer, a small instrument that will run you between $20 - $40 and can be found in most department stores or supermarkets.


Humidifiers release cool moisture into indoor air.

The difference between humidifiers and vaporizers involves the type of humidity each releases. Humidifiers release cool moisture into the air by breaking up cool water particles using a rapidly turning disk submerged in water, dispersing cool mist into the air. These units are typically more expensive than vaporizers, and require more maintenance as well. Mold and mildew can develop because the unboiled water in the tank is consistently sitting. This is usually indicated by brownish, black marks appearing on your ceilings and walls. Although molding can be a risk with humidifiers, they are still recommended for children who are ill or experiencing problems with breathing.

Vaporizers differ in that they contain a heating element and boil water to disperse steam into the room. Inhalants such as plant extracts, herbs, and other medicinal vapors can be used with vaporizers to help with coughs and colds. Similar to humidifiers, vaporizers should be cleaned repeatedly every 1-2 weeks, but have a smaller chance of accumulating mold and mildew because of the use of boiled water. Vaporizers are not recommended for homes with children because of the risk of accidentally bumping and spilling the boiling water water.

Why Would You Need Either?


The air in your home, especially during the winter time, can become low in humidity, making the air dry and hard to breathe. Low humidity levels can increase skin and sinus dryness, and eventually lead to colds, bronchitis, and nosebleeds. Having low humidity levels can also eventually result in damage to your home by cracking furniture or peeling wallpaper and paint from your walls.

Vaporizers provide warmer, cleaner air that makes breathing easier and can also act as a source of heat in a small bedroom through the cold winter months. Any germs or bacteria present in the water are vaporized in the process. This allows for the use of tap water from your kitchen sink, making vaporizers less expensive to operate.

What Are Your Options?


  • Cool Mist- Most common, also referred to as "evaporative" or "wick" humidifiers. Disperse a thin mist of cool air into the room using a small fan. Usually inexpensive, need to be cleaned often for mold and mildew.
  • Impeller - Work the same way cool mist humidifiers do, using a spinning disk to insert water into a diffuser that breaks down water and emits it into the air.
  • Ultrasonic- Use a metal diaphragm that vibrates at a high frequency, propelling the moisture into the air. Very quiet operation and typically do not use filters. Recommended for use with distilled water.
  • Warm-Mist- Typically the least expensive. Boil water which in turn produces steam. Before the steam is released into the air it is cooled. Usually very quiet, yet costly to operate. Not recommended for people with asthma.


  • Steam or Warm-Mist - Boil water and release the steam into the air releasing moisture. Many times include medicinal inhalants to aid colds, flus, and breathing. Lesser risk of germs and bacteria because water is boiled. Should be used with caution around children and pets.
  • Waterless - Use pre-moistened pads, typically infused with menthol and oils. Do not use water and operate very quietly. Require replacement pads which can be expensive. Safer than regular vaporizers.

Which One Should You Buy?

Most often, humidifiers are recommended for children and adults suffering from a flu or cold. While humidifiers typically cost a bit more than vaporizers and require more cleaning, they are safer and will do a better of job of keeping your room's humidity higher. Vaporizers are great for including medicinal remedies into the vapor being emitted and are a great use of warmth during the wintertime.

They should be kept away from children and pets because of the high temperature of the boiling water. Regardless of whether you decide on a humidifier or vaporizer, always be sure to clean it out every 1-2 weeks to reduce the chances of accumulating mold, mildew and bacteria. It is recommended to clean the tank of your unit using white vinegar, tap water, and bleach, allowing these liquids to soak in the tank for a few hours or overnight.

Also, always be sure to keep your humidifier or vaporizer in a safe place that will not be hazardous to children or pets. Prices of humidifiers often range from $20 - $200, while vaporizers usually range from $10 - $100. Each can be found at your local department store or drug store.

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