Very dry air can cause the airways in your nose and throat to become irritated or inflamed, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM). A humidifier puts more moisture into the air, which may help soothe inflamed passages and break up mucus to relieve stuffiness and congestion.
Video of the Day
Only problem is, the number of choices on the market is downright dizzying. Luckily, we've narrowed down your choices with these top-rated picks.
The Best Humidifiers for Colds, Dry Skin and Allergies
- Best Overall: Levoit Classic 300S Humidifier ($79.99, Amazon)
- Best on a Budget: Vicks Mini Filter-Free Cool Mist Humidifier ($35.94, Amazon)
- Best Warm- and Cool- Mist Humidifier: ENPULY 6L Top Fill Warm and Cool Mist Humidifier ($107.99, Amazon)
- Best for Extra Dry Spaces: Levoit Hybrid Ultrasonic Humidifier LV600HH ($98.99, Amazon)
- Easiest to Clean: Safety 1st Stay Clean Humidifier ($63.99, Amazon)
- Quietest: Carepod Stainless Steel Humidifier ($225, Hellocarepod.com)
- Best Ultrasonic: AquaOasis Cool Mist Humidifier ($29.97, Amazon)
- Best Desktop: MOVTIP Portable Mini Humidifier ($17.99, Amazon)
How We Chose
We tapped some allergists and combed through customer reviews to find the best humidifiers in each category. Our criteria for this list include:
1. Best Overall: Levoit Classic 300S Humidifier
- Auto shut-off
- Connects to your phone
- Large size
This award-winning cool-mist humidifier has an easy top-fill tank and minimal parts for easy cleaning.
It can run continuously for up to 60 hours, but it also has a smart sensor and auto shut-off function to prevent your air from becoming too moist. You can even adjust the settings from your phone using the brand's VeSync app.
This humidifier gets up to speed quickly, so you don't have to wait long for your space to start feeling more comfortable. It's quiet, too, with an operating noise of just 28 decibels, making it ideal for bedrooms or nurseries.
2. Best on a Budget: Vicks Mini Filter-Free Cool Mist Humidifier
- Small design
- Can add scents
- Can't specify percentage of moisture
Found: An effective and affordable ultrasonic humidifier for small bedrooms. This tried-and-true model, which comes in at just under $40, has a half-gallon tank that can run for up to 20 hours.
The budget model allows you to control your desired humidity level, though you can't specify the exact percentage of moisture that you want. (So try it on a lower setting first, to avoid potentially adding too much moisture to the air.) The fact that it's filter-free with a wide tank makes it easy to clean.
Also nice: You can run the humidifier with just water or use Vicks VapoPads to add soothing, aromatic vapors like eucalyptus, rosemary or lavender to the air.
3. Best Warm- and Cool-Mist Humidifier: ENPULY 6L Top Fill Humidifier
- Sleek design
- Many temperature settings
Not sure whether you'd prefer a warm- or cool-mist model? ENPULY's humidifier gives you the best of both worlds. The large 6-liter tank can moisturize spaces as large as 861 square feet for up to 75 hours, and it can produce three levels of cool mist and nine levels of warm mist.
And unlike many clunky humidifiers, this one won't be an eyesore in your space. The sleek design, easy-to-read screen and simple touch buttons have a clean, modern look. Plus, it's ultra-quiet and comes with a remote so you can change the settings from your bed, the couch or your desk.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $107.99
4. Best for Extra-Dry Spaces: Levoit Hybrid Ultrasonic Humidifier LV600HH
- Built-in humidity sensor
- Aromatherapy diffuser
- Large size
- May have to clean often
With a 6-liter tank designed for rooms up to 753 square feet, this workhorse can make even desert-like spaces more comfortable.
It can be used on warm- or cool-mist settings and is loaded with features, like a built-in humidity sensor, filter-free design, aromatherapy diffuser and ultra-quiet operation that won't disrupt your sleep.
It's simple to use, too. The wide tank opening makes filling and cleaning the machine a cinch. And you can adjust the settings with the easy-to-read display panel or the remote control.
5. Easiest to Clean: Safety 1st Stay Clean Humidifier
- Neutralizes mold/mildew growth
- Great for kids' rooms
- Small size
- Limited temperature settings
Especially when using a cool-mist humidifier for a baby or child's room, you want to make sure it's squeaky clean. This filter-free model gives users a helping hand with continuous LED antimicrobial sanitizing light technology, designed to neutralize mold and mildew growth. You'll still need to give it a thorough cleaning by hand, but the wide design and lack of crevices makes wiping and scrubbing that much easier.
Size-wise, it's ideal for a small- to medium- bedroom or nursery. The tank holds up to a gallon of water and will run for 24 hours, so your little one will stay comfortable through the night.
6. Quietest: Carepod Stainless Steel Humidifier
- Sleek design
- 1-year warranty
This doctor-designed humidifier might be powerful enough for a 500-square-foot room, but it's so whisper quiet, you may not notice it running.
It's also easy to keep clean: The three inner parts of the Carepod are made of corrosion-resistant stainless steel, so you can sterilize them by popping them in the dishwasher or submerging them in boiling water.
Also good: The Carepod comes with a 1-year warranty. If anything happens to the humidifier during that timeframe, you can simply send it in for a replacement.
7. Best Ultrasonic: AquaOasis Cool Mist Humidifier
- Easy to clean
- 360-degree rotation
- Not super stylish
- Limited temperature settings
Here's an ultrasonic model that's inexpensive but still powerful enough to humidify a bedroom for 24 hours, thanks to a generous 2.2-liter tank. The 360-degree rotation nozzle ensures that vapor is evenly dispersed throughout the room, and the simple dial setting and auto-shutoff make it a cinch to operate.
The filter-free design means that the humidifier is relatively easy to keep clean. In fact, it comes with its own cleaning brush aimed at helping you scrub every nook and cranny.
8. Best Desktop: MOVTIP Portable Mini Humidifier
- Sleek design
- Can run on USB cable
- Can only run for six hours
At five inches tall and three inches wide, this mini humidifier is a compact option that can fit on your desk or easily be tucked into a suitcase for traveling.
It holds 500 milliliters of water and can run continuously for up to six hours. You'll need to plug it in, but it can run on a USB cable.
What to Look for in a Humidifier
Must-have features? Warm-mist or cool? And do you really need to clean your humidifier every day? Here are all the details you need to know before making your purchase.
1. Customizable Controls
Humidifiers aren't one-size-fits-all. The best options have variable settings that allow you to customize the moisture level to your preferences, so your space doesn't get too soggy, says Carlyle Stewart, MD, an internist with Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano.
Auto shut-off functions are also important, so the machine won't keep running after the air has reached your desired humidity level.
Make sure the humidifier is the right size for the room you plan to use it in too, Dr. Stewart says. While an oversized humidifier might seem more powerful, it could end up over-saturating the air and lead to mold growth.
3. Cool-Mist vs. Warm-Mist
Consider whether you'd rather use a cool-mist humidifier or a warm-mist one. Both are equally effective at getting moisture into the air, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Cool-mist humidifiers have the benefit of being safer, because warm ones can cause burns if a person accidentally touches it or bumps into it. For this reason, warm-mist models should never be used in children's rooms, per the NLM.
On the other hand, warm-mist humidifiers may be less likely to transmit fungi or other harmful materials that can form in standing water. "They appear to generally remain free of bacteria and fungi systems because the water is essentially boiled before being released into the air," Dr. Stewart says. So if you opt to use a cool-mist model, you'll need to be scrupulous about cleaning it.
4. Ultrasonic vs. Evaporative
Ultrasonic humidifiers use ultrasonic vibrations to disperse water vapor, while evaporative humidifiers use a fan to push moisture through a filter, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Ultrasonic options tend to be smaller and quieter, and they have the benefit of not having to deal with changing or cleaning a filter.
Safety Tips for Using a Humidifier
1. Keep Humidity in Check
More moisture isn't necessarily better. The ideal humidity for an indoor space is between 30 and 50 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Higher humidity levels, especially above 60 percent, can set the stage for mold growth. "That can exacerbate symptoms of allergy and asthma," Dr. Stewart says. Very humid air can also encourage dust mites and even pests like cockroaches, the EPA notes.
2. Use Distilled Water
Can you use tap water in a humidifier? Distilled water is safer, according to the NLM. Tap water contains minerals that can build up in a humidifier and be dispersed into the air in the form of white dust, which could make it harder to breathe.
3. Clean It Often
Regular cleaning is key for keeping minerals, fungi and bacteria from building up in humidifiers, especially cool-mist models, Dr. Stewart says. You should drain your humidifier and clean and dry all of the parts thoroughly every one to three days, according to the manufacturer's instructions.
"The use of peroxide or vinegar or the manufacturer's recommended cleaning solution may be quite effective in keeping the unit clean," Dr. Stewart says.
If your humidifier uses a filter, be sure to replace it at the recommended intervals, too.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.