The Best Humidifiers to Ease Sinus and Respiratory Discomfort

·8 min read
Photo credit:  VicTsing
Photo credit: VicTsing

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It's best to keep indoor humidity levels between 30-50%, so if the air in your home is too dry or if you're suffering from respiratory issues, then you'll definitely benefit from a humidifier. Dry air can be problematic for both babies and adults with asthma or sinus problems, but using a humidifier can help get the balance just right by adding moisture back into the air. In fact, they can help relieve sinus congestion symptoms, which could lead to better sleep at night — for you and your partner due to no more congestion-related snoring!

How we test humidifiers

When the Good Housekeeping Institute reviews humidifiers, our experts look at criteria like how easy they are to set up, fill, clean, and transport, the intuitiveness of the controls, sound level, and energy consumption. We also look at features like the tank capacity, output capacity (gallons/day), and how long a single tank fill will last. Perhaps most importantly, we measure the time it takes to reach set humidity levels in our Lab's humidity-controlled chamber.

Our best overall pick is the Levoit Classic 300S Smart Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier. The biggest selling point? It's easier to fill than most other humidifiers thanks to its large water tank opening. It also humidifies the air quickly and it isn't loud while running. Bonus for households with smart home devices: It's compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Our picks for the best humidifiers are based on our comprehensive testing and knowledge within this category for reviewing specifications and documentation. That said, these are the best humidifiers:


Levoit Classic 300S Smart Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier

The brand claims this cool mist humidifier can last up to 60 hours on one tank set to the lowest mist levels, and it's quiet enough to run throughout the night. (It also has an optional built-in nightlight.) This machine can connect to an app or work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for remote and hands-free controls, and offers scheduling options as well as auto mode to prompt it to adjust mist levels according to your desired humidity levels.

The transparent tank can easily be refilled through a large opening at the top. Plus, if you want to use for aromatherapy, this humidifier also has a tray for essential oils.


Levoit Ultrasonic Humidifier

The larger 1.5 gallon tank on the Levoit means you can service a larger space (up to 753 square feet) or that it won’t have to be refilled quite as often (up to 60 hours on the lowest mist setting!). It operates with both ultrasonic warm and cool mist so you can get the benefits of both.

The handy humidity readout means you can easily know the status of the room without an additional meter. You can operate it with the panel's touch controls or the remote, adding a layer of convenience most lack. Even better, it has an automatic mode to choose the mist level without your interference.


Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier

If you’re looking for a warm mist humidifier, we like this one from Vicks. It's quiet while operating, and it includes a convenient tank handle for easy transportation when filling and cleaning. Thanks to the transparent tank, you can easily see when water levels are low. If running for a full day, you’ll likely have to refill mid-day as the one-gallon tank lasts for about 12 hours.

There is an auto shut-off so if it does run out and you’re not there, it won’t keep trying to operate. You have the option to add an inhalant, like Vicks VapoSteam, into the device's medicine cup to help relieve cough symptoms.


Taotronics Cool Mist Humidifier

There's no need to worry about replacement filters with this humidifier since it comes with a built-in ceramic filter. This cool mist model is perfect for bedrooms under 400 square feet, and it has a tank capacity of just over a gallon.

Our favorite feature about this humidifier is the humidistat. It will inform you of the humidity level in your room, and turn on or off based on your desired level. There is also a sleep mode setting that will turn off all lights — including the LED screen! — for an uninterrupted night of sleep.


Dyson AM10 Humidifier

If you have asthma, then look no further than this Dyson humidifier that has been certified asthma- and allergy-friendly by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

With its ultraviolet light technology, this humidifier claims to kill 99.9% bacteria before it disperses cool mist into the dry air of your room. The intelligent climate control feature helps maintain a steady level of humidity without over-humidifying, which can be bad for people with asthma.


Crane Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier

Sure, it's an adorable and fun addition to your baby’s nursery, but this machine will also add moisture to the air to help your child breathe easier. It comes in 16 different kid-friendly designs, including unicorn and alien themes. It's very quiet when operating, so it won't wake up your baby.

With a one gallon tank, this humidifier for babies adds moisture to the air for rooms up to 500 square feet, and the base is also easy to clean. It has an auto-shut off sensor for when the water levels are low so you don’t have to worry about monitoring it constantly. If you prefer a simpler design, try the Crane Drop Cool Mist version.


Pure Enrichment MistAire Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier

With its compact design and shockingly quiet operation, you might forget you are using a humidifier. That's why the auto shut-off feature comes in handy when the water level is low or the tank is misaligned — in case you actually do forget.

The one-button operation makes this humidifier very intuitive to use and its backlight makes it easy to see in the dark (in case you need to turn on the built-in night light or adjust the mist setting). While it may not be the easiest to clean since it has a medium-size tank opening, this humidifier comes with a cleaning brush to help make maintenance a little less arduous.


Air Innovations Clean Mist Digital Humidifier

The sleek design and nozzle extension in this humidifier is perfect for discreet humidifying. It comes in a few shiny colors to match your decor (or blend in!), like black, platinum, and wine. It claims to humidify rooms up to 600 square feet for 96 hours continuously, and it has five different mist settings.

The oil diffusing aromatherapy tray is perfect for adding some essential oils into the air along with some extra moisture. Using the built-in humidistat, you can easily monitor the humidity levels. Bonus: it comes with a remote control!

What to look for when shopping for humidifiers

Cool mist vs. warm mist: Both cool and warm mist humidifiers effectively add moisture into the air, but cool mist options tend to be better for homes with children and pets since there's no burn risk associated with a heating element, while warm mist options are best for zapping more germs and bacteria.

Size: Depending on factors like the tank size and discharge rate, your humidifier is designed for a certain room size. The manufacturer usually lists the square footage it's sized for on the humidifier's packaging and marketing materials. And while this article focuses on portable, tabletop humidifiers for small to medium rooms, if you need humidity help throughout your home you may want to consider an entire-home humidifier.

Run time: Beyond selecting the type of humidifier that’s right for you, there are other attributes to think about. Some can only operate for a few hours before needing refilling, while others can go a full 24 hours. For ones that require more frequent refilling, an auto-off feature is good to have so that the humidifier won't try to continue running when the water runs out.

Tank design: For most humidifiers, the tank design will be critical to you having a good experience. Look for ones that have large openings to make refilling and cleaning easier. Translucent designs are also helpful because they allow you to see how full the tank is, so you know when it’s time to refill.

Ease of cleaning: Cleaning your humidifier at least once a week is extremely important to prevent the growth of mold, bacteria, and microbes (the last things you need flying through the air when dealing with respiratory issues). Make sure the unit is easy to disassemble and scrub since you'll be doing so often.

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