Best Cool Mist Humidifiers

Updated September 2021
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Buying guide for best cool mist humidifiers

Do you suffer from dry sinuses in the winter? Are you or your family prone to colds? A humidifier may relieve both conditions. A cool mist humidifier adds atmosphere and comfort to your home by quickly putting moisture into the air without heating up the room. It may use less electricity than a warm mist humidifier, too, because there’s no need to power a heating element.

The two main types of cool mist humidifiers are evaporative and ultrasonic, which use different methods to disperse water droplets into the air. In addition, cool mist humidifiers may be designed for handheld use, for an entire room, or even for adding humidity to the air in your whole home.

Because of the variety of models available and their range of features, picking the best cold mist humidifier takes a bit of thought. What size should you choose? How much output will be comfortable? Is the humidifier easy to clean? Read on for our guide to cool mist humidifiers and get the facts you need to help make the best decision.

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Cool mist humidifiers are safe to use around kids. Unlike warm mist humidifiers, there is no risk of being burned if you get too close to the steam.

Key considerations

Types of cool mist humidifiers

Cool mist humidifiers add moisture to the air without resorting to a heating element. They do this in one of two ways: through evaporation or ultrasonic vibration.


An internal fan blows air across a wick that extends from the reservoir tank. The water, which is at room temperature, evaporates after being forced through the air filter and is dispersed as mist into the room via the unit’s airflow.


Ultrasonic vibration creates smaller “atomized” water droplets that are blown into the room by a small fan. Surprisingly, ultrasonic humidifiers tend to be quieter than evaporative humidifiers.


Cool mist humidifiers come in different sizes and offer different levels of output.

Handheld: This newer type of cool mist humidifier can be held close to the face so that users get humid air directly to their dry sinuses.

Tabletop: This small humidifier fits on an end table and delivers a cool mist to the immediate surroundings. To get the full effect of this size of humidifier you’ll need to sit within a few feet of it. This is the most popular variety for its compact size and low price point.

Room: Often a freestanding unit, a room humidifier can blow cool mist through most of a room, raising the overall humidity of the space. If you are looking to turn an entire room in your house into a personal spa, this is the way to do it.

House: This type of humidifier can raise the humidity of the entire house and may be attached to the air conditioning or heating system. House humidifiers are not as popular as tabletop and room humidifiers as they are a more significant financial commitment.

Parts of a cool mist humidifier

Water tank: The reservoir for the water that will become a humidifying mist varies in size, though most tanks hold around 4 liters of water. The smallest tanks are around 1 liter, with the largest reaching 8 liters or more.

Control valve: This controls the flow of water from the tank to the wick or ultrasonic vibrator. Larger humidifiers often use a combination float valve and solenoid that electronically controls the flow of water from the water tank or line, while small humidifiers rely solely on a float valve that is part of the gasket assembly between the tank and the humidifier base.

Air filter: In evaporative systems, an air filter screens out dust particles and allergens before the mist is blown into the room. Filters often require frequent replacing, so you should factor this into the total cost when comparing models. Filter-free models are generally lower-maintenance.

Fan: Situated between the water tank and the air outlet, the fan’s job is to blow the water droplets into the air. This determines the noise level of the humidifier. Many models are advertised as being quiet by the manufacturer, but reading customer reviews is the safest way to find a model that won’t be noisy.

Additional features

Aroma pad

Some brands have a location near the air outlet where users can put a drop of either essential oil or a menthol-containing medication. This can give the room a pleasant smell or aid users suffering from congestion.

Water filter

The water filters in some cool mist humidifiers are usually charcoal-infused foam filters that water from the tank passes through before reaching the ultrasonic vibrator or the fan. This helps further reduce the minerals in the water.

Humidity level control

This feature allows users to set the desired humidity higher or lower. If you plan to leave your cool mist humidifier running for long periods, this is a great feature to have as you won’t need to turn the unit on and off to get the perfect level of humidity.

Some models also have a humidity sensor, which detects the amount of humidity in the air and turns the humidifier on or off as needed.

Essential accessories

Essential oils: Lagunamoon Essential Oils Gift Set
Humidifiers that include a feature or attachment for essential oils can infuse a room with some truly soothing scents. This essential oil set pairs nicely with any cool mist humidifier with an aroma pad.

Humidifier cleaner: Pure Guardian Aquastick
Insert this convenient cleaner into an evaporative or ultrasonic humidifier’s water tank every 90 days to reduce the amount of bacteria and mold in the system.

Hygrometer: ThermoPro TP50 Digital Hygrometer
Keep an eye on the humidity level and temperature of a room by placing this digital hygrometer on a table near your humidifier.

Cool mist humidifier prices

Cool mist humidifiers are configured for use from single-person handhelds to whole-house humidifiers, and their prices range accordingly.

The most affordable units are low-end handheld and smaller tabletop evaporative humidifiers, available in the $16 to $45 range.

For between $45 and $85, you can find larger evaporative and ultrasonic humidifiers without extra bells and whistles that can handle an entire room.

From $100 to $200 are ultrasonic humidifiers with greater tank capacity, humidity sensors, and other features, as well as freestanding home humidifiers. Integrated whole-house cool mist humidifiers fall in the $350 to $435 range.


  • After each use, empty the humidifier water tank and let the unit dry completely to prevent the growth of mold or bacteria.
  • Use only distilled or purified water to reduce buildup of mineral deposits in the humidifier.
  • Replace the filter regularly, as molds and bacteria tend to grow quickly on the filter material.
  • Unplug the cool mist humidifier before filling or emptying the water tank.
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Avoid adding essential oils or other aroma enhancements to a cool mist humidifier unless the manufacturer specifically allows it; these oils can damage a humidifier.


Q. I think my ultrasonic humidifier is blowing some kind of white dust around my room. Is this possible?
This can happen with ultrasonic humidifiers when the water tank is filled with tap water that has a high mineral content. The ultrasonic system agitates water droplets, making them very small, and it can also separate tiny mineral flakes from the agitated water. These flakes are blown into the air along with the mist and quickly settle on surrounding surfaces. Over time, they become quite noticeable. This mineral dust is harmless, but it can be annoying to clean up. To prevent this, use only distilled water in your humidifier. Drain and clean the unit frequently and change the filter on schedule according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Q. The windows of my room fog up on the inside when I run a humidifier in the winter. Is this okay?
Condensation on the inside of the windows is an indicator that the room is humid enough — and perhaps too humid. This is more noticeable during cold, dry winter days. The trouble is that a room that’s too humid can encourage mold growth, which puts more spores in the air and doesn’t help your breathing at all. A good rule of thumb is to decrease the humidity in the room as the outside air temperature drops. Interior humidity can be as high as 20% to 30% without any problems on cold days. If your humidifier doesn’t have a sensor or an intensity setting, then simply use less water in the tank or run it for a shorter time.

Q. How do I clean my humidifier?
The manufacturer always has a recommended way to clean specific humidifiers, which can be found in the manual that came with the unit or on the manufacturer’s website. Using distilled or purified water only and changing the filter as recommended is the best way to minimize bacteria and mold. Periodically, you should empty the tank, wash it with mild dishwashing soap, and rinse it thoroughly. Wipe down the base with a damp towel.

If the humidifier smells musty during use, shut it off and empty the reservoir. Put the humidifier outside in the sun and fill the tank with a solution of 1 cup of vinegar to 1 gallon of water; let it run outside for an hour. Then run it again with a tankful of water for another hour to rinse out the vinegar.

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