Steam vapor coming out of white square humidifier [Vaporizer vs Humidifier]

A common concern about indoor air is low humidity. Humidifiers are a great solution for low humidity, but there’s another product to consider: a vaporizer. Today we’ll discuss the difference between a vaporizer vs humidifier to help you determine which option is best for your home.

Maintaining high indoor air quality is essential for protecting yourself and your family. While pollution is a key concern outside, there are things inside your home that have the power to harm. 

Indoor air can harbor pathogens like bacteria and viruses that might make your family sick. Second-hand smoke and allergens like mold and dust can cause respiratory irritation. The good news is that there are plenty of home air quality products designed to help you keep your family safe. The trouble is that there are so many options it can be difficult to determine what you actually need and then which model is best for you.

What is a Humidifier? 

A humidifier is a convenient solution to problems with low indoor humidity. Low humidity levels can contribute to dry skin and may exacerbate issues with allergies, asthma, and other respiratory concerns. Humidifiers turn water into steam or vapor and release it into the room to increase the moisture saturation of the air.

Humidifiers are typically divided into two categories, though there are various subcategories in each. Warm mist humidifiers use a heating element to boil the water, creating steam which is then released into the air. Cool mist humidifiers produce room-temperature mist, typically using a fan with a moisture-wicking filter or ultrasonic technology.

A humidifier is a portable device (unless you choose a whole-home model) that can be used in individual rooms. Larger models are available, but a single humidifier might not evenly humidify a very large, open space. Humidifiers are generally simple to operate, many requiring nothing more than the turn of a knob to set the fan speed. There are, however, smart models that you can control remotely. These may even allow you to set the desired level of humidity and the humidifier will adjust automatically as needed. 

What is a Vaporizer? 

A vaporizer helps resolve low indoor humidity as well, but it produces warm mist or steam. These appliances use electricity to power a heating element which boils the water from the reservoir and turns it into steam. Most models cool the steam to some degree before releasing it to prevent burns. 

Like humidifiers, vaporizers come in a variety of sizes with both standard and smart models available. Some are even designed for use with inhalants like Vick’s VapoPads which are infused with soothing ingredients like menthol to ease coughs and colds. You can also find models that double as an essential oil diffuser. 

Vaporizer vs Humidifier: What’s the Difference? 

The primary difference between a humidifier and vaporizer is, of course, that one uses a heating element and the other does not. A vaporizer is more effective in killing germs and bacteria because it heats the water. Cool mist humidifiers can harbor bacteria if you don’t empty and clean the water tank between uses. You should also let the tank completely air dry between uses to help further reduce the risk of bacteria growth.

Given that a vaporizer uses heat and produces warm mist, there’s some risk for burns. This might make humidifiers a more appropriate choice for use around children and pets. Vaporizers also tend to have fewer problems with mineral deposits than humidifiers. 

You may also find some difference in pricing. Vaporizers tend to be the cheaper option – you can find simple models under $30. Humidifiers are a little pricier, but you should still be able to find a variety of options under $50. In both cases, smart models range toward the higher end of the price spectrum. 

One area in which vaporizers and humidifiers have little difference is in cleaning. The basic process is the same; you remove and empty the water tank, clean the tank and the interior of the unit, then let it air dry before use. It’s wise to use distilled water in a humidifier to reduce mineral deposits which helps make cleaning easier and may extend the longevity of the device. 

When shopping, just pay attention to the opening of the tank. Top-fill models are usually easiest to clean because they have large openings. Devices with small openings can be tricky to clean because you might not be able to fit your hand or a brush inside.


Vaporizer vs Humidifier

Vaporizer vs Humidifier: Which One is Best for You? 

Now that you know the difference between a humidifier and a vaporizer, you have the information you need to decide. If you’re still unsure, here are a few simple points to help lead you in the right direction.

A humidifier might be right for you if: 

  • You plan to use the device around children or pets. 
  • You have a little more to spend or need a bigger device.
  • The space is larger or open.
  • You plan to use distilled water (which can be pricey).
  • A quiet machine is preferred.

A vaporizer might be right for you if: 

  • You want a device that helps kill germs and bacteria. 
  • The air can be warmed in addition to moisture
  • You want something to help reduce symptoms of colds and coughs.
  • You want to increase humidity to a significant degree.
  • There are no pets or children around.
  • You’re working with a limited budget and just want something basic.

If you’re not using the humidifier around children or pets, either option might work equally well. Both can help resolve issues with dry skin and respiratory problems and they come in different sizes to accommodate a variety of spaces. These appliances are available in any price range with smart models typically being the most expensive.

Bottom Line

Both humidifiers and vaporizers releasing moisture into the air to help increase indoor humidity levels. A vaporizer is actually a type of humidifier, but it’s a little different than the cool mist humidifiers that have become very popular.

Vaporizers use heat to produce steam which may pose a risk for children and pets, but by boiling the water they also do a better job killing germs and bacteria. Humidifiers (specifically cool mist models) don’t come with a burn risk and they are designed for use with distilled water, making mineral buildup less of an issue.

In either category, there are plenty of options to choose from. Take into account the details you learned above to decide whether a vaporizer or a humidifier is right for you.