Best Car Humidifiers

Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for Best car humidifiers

If you do a fair amount of winter travel by car, you may have noticed that the air in your vehicle can be extremely dry. Hot air from your heater can contribute to this. The conundrum is, you need the warm air from your heater to stay comfortable when the temperature plummets. For people with dry skin issues or respiratory problems, however, commuting in a car with dry air can be downright uncomfortable.

What you need is a car humidifier, sometimes known as a portable humidifier. These compact humidifiers are designed to moisten the air in small areas such as cars, offices, and nurseries. The moisture can provide much-needed relief for those who suffer dry skin, itchy eyes, and other related symptoms.

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Warm air holds water much better than cold air. As such, a car humidifier is highly beneficial in cold and dry months.

Key considerations

Size

The average car humidifier is 7 to 8 inches tall with a base narrow enough to fit inside a cup holder. However, you should measure your space (including your cup holder) before ordering to visualize how a new humidifier would fit inside your car.

Durability

A quality car humidifier should be able to handle the heat, cold, and any other abuse that a car ride might throw at it. Closely linked to durability is the stability of a car humidifier. Will it stay upright, or will it topple over with each corner you take? A car humidifier that fits snugly inside your cup holder provides good stability.

Capacity and runtime

The more water a car humidifier can hold, the less often you will need to refill it. Runtime can also be influenced by mist rate. Car humidifier reservoirs range in capacity from under 100 milliliters to over 300 milliliters. (Note that a larger reservoir will take up more space in your car.) This range in capacity translates to runtimes from under five hours to over 20 hours.

Cool mist vs. warm mist

There are two basic types of humidifier mist: cool and warm. Each has its pros and cons. Cool mist is advisable for vehicles transporting small children and pets in order to minimize the chance of an accidental burn. However, because cool mist tends to attract bacteria, a cool mist humidifier needs to be cleaned regularly. Bacteria growth is not as problematic with warm-mist humidifiers, and warm mist can feel delightful on a cold day. However, warm mist humidifiers cost more to purchase and run.

Power source

A car adapter is a common power source for car humidifiers. However, USB-powered car humidifiers are often preferred because you can actually use the humidifier anywhere with a USB port. Another possible power source is battery power. This can be convenient, but you will need to keep a stockpile of batteries on hand.

Aromatherapy

Some car humidifiers can accommodate essential oils, so they basically become aromatherapy diffusers. Not all car humidifiers accept essential oils, however. In fact, some humidifiers will sustain serious damage if you try to use any type of oil with them.

If you wish to use essential oils with your humidifier, be sure to select one that is compatible with them.

If you travel frequently, consider purchasing a car humidifier for use in your vehicle as well as your hotel room.

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Features

Materials

Car humidifiers are made primarily from plastic. Many of the best humidifiers on today’s market are advertised as BPA-free.

Reservoir

The reservoir holds the water that the car humidifier converts to a mist. The majority of car humidifiers have a built-in reservoir, but some are designed to use disposable water bottles.

Mist modes

Two mist modes, continuous and intermittent, are fairly standard with these small humidifiers. In continuous mode, the humidifier is always misting. In intermittent mode, the humidifier mists for a time, rests, then mists again. While intermittent mode creates less mist, it also uses less water, allowing the humidifier to run for a longer period of time.

Lighting

Some humidifiers feature LED lighting, which serves as both a “working” indicator and, if used in a bedroom, a night-light. The LED lighting may feature a single color (blue is common) or the ability to change colors.

If you don’t wish your humidifier to light up, you should note that some of these products do not provide you with an option; if the humidifier is on, so is the light.

Controls

One-button on/off control is common, but some humidifiers also feature controls that allow you to change colors or switch mist modes.

Automatic shutoff

Humidifiers with an automatic shutoff feature turn themselves off after a set period of time or when the humidifier runs out of water. Timed shutdowns can range from four to nine hours or more, depending on the humidifier.

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DID YOU KNOW?
For health and comfort, the optimum relative humidity for home and car should be between 40% and 50%.
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Car humidifier prices

Car humidifiers do not span a wide price range. They start under $15 and can reach $20 or slightly higher. The majority sit in the $15 to $20 range.

Under $15: Car humidifiers under $15 tend to have a smaller capacity; 50 milliliters is common. They also have few, if any, advanced features.

Over $15: For $15 to $20 car humidifiers with more advanced features, such as multiple colored lights or aromatherapy. If you travel frequently or need a whisper-quiet humidifier, aim to spend over $20. The priciest humidifiers offer the best in durability and capacity (300 milliliters or greater), and they are often ultrasonic for low-noise operation.

Running a humidifier without water could damage it. For this reason, it’s a good idea to invest in one with an automatic shutoff feature.

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Tips

  • A humidifier powered by USB can be used in a car via USB car adapter or USB AC adapter.
  • Some humidifiers change color when the reservoir is empty or nearly empty to let you know it’s almost time to fill it.
  • To cut down on dust created by the minerals in tap water, consider using distilled water in your car humidifier.
  • If you plan to take your car humidifier overseas, go with one powered by batteries or USB. AC outlet sizes and voltages vary considerably from country to country, but batteries and USB ports are pretty standardized.
  • The power cords that ship with car humidifiers are typically quite short. To increase range, consider picking up a USB or AC extension cable.
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Don’t let water sit and stagnate in a car humidifier reservoir, as this can lead to bacteria growth.

FAQ

Q. Will I need to clean my humidifier?

A. Periodic cleaning is usually recommended, but the details vary from product to product. Some require little cleaning; others require regular cleaning or even the replacement of filters or other parts.

Cleaning the reservoir of your humidifier helps cut down on bacteria growth. Some reservoirs are dishwasher safe, but others must be washed by hand. Check the manufacturer’s care and use instructions for the best way to clean and maintain your car humidifier.

Q. How loud are car humidifiers?

A. Noise may be a concern if your humidifier is in an office setting, baby’s room, or other space where you’d prefer it to be quiet. In these instances, look for a humidifier with a noise rating of fewer than 35 decibels. Humidifiers marketed as “ultrasonic” produce far less noise than other types of humidifiers.

Q. How can I decide between cool and warm mist?

A. It comes down to personal preference. Both types of mist, cool and warm, will provide the humidification you require to moisten the air you breathe. Humidifiers that produce cool mist do so through evaporation or ultrasonic methods. No heated elements are used to make the mist. The majority of car-size humidifiers are cool mist humidifiers. Warm mist feels delightful, especially in cold weather, but a humidifier producing warm mist requires more energy to run.

 

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