warm mist humidifier in focus on industrial kitchen counter

When shopping for humidifiers you’ll find that they generally fall into one of two categories: cool mist or warm mist humidifier options. It’s obvious enough that one produces a mist that’s warm and the other cool, but there’s more to it.

In this guide, we’ll briefly touch on how humidifiers work in order to determine the differences between warm and cool mist models. You’ll also learn some simple tips for using and properly maintaining a warm mist humidifier.

Humidifiers are a dime a dozen, but they’re not all the same. As is true for any home appliance, humidifiers come in all shapes and sizes with various features. Before you go shopping for one, it’s wise to learn the basics about what a humidifier is and how it works. Looking at what features are available is the best way to find the one that’s truly right for you.

How Does a Humidifier Work? 

A humidifier is simply a device that releases moisture into the air to increase indoor humidity. The term absolute humidity refers to the level of moisture in the air. More specifically, relative humidity is the amount of moisture in the air related to temperature. A relative humidity of 80% in warm temperatures is much higher than 80% humidity in cold temperatures, simply because warm air can hold more moisture than cold air. 

By releasing moisture in the form of vapor into the air, a humidifier increases the relative humidity in your home. They do so using various technologies. Evaporative humidifiers use a fan to blow air through a moistened filter and expel the vapor into the air. Ultrasonic humidifiers create vibrations that turn water into droplets that are expelled into the room. 

While there are many types of humidifiers to choose from, it’s easiest to divide them into two types: warm mist and cool mist humidifiers.

Warm Mist Humidifier vs Cool Mist Humidifier

warm mist humidifier

A cool mist humidifier releases room-temperature vapor into the air. The two most common types are evaporative and ultrasonic humidifiers. Cool mist humidifiers – especially ultrasonic models – tend to be fairly small and compact. This makes them a great choice for small rooms, though you can find larger models that have big reservoir tanks. Larger tanks are more appropriate for bigger rooms or longer periods of use.

Ultrasonic humidifiers are generally one of the quietest options. This makes them appropriate for nurseries and bedrooms. They’re a little smaller than evaporative models which need space for a fan and they don’t require a filter that needs to be changed. Evaporative humidifiers do a better job trapping mineral scale which makes then a little easier to keep clean.

Warm mist humidifiers utilize a heating element to warm the water that turns into steam that is released into the air as water vapor. These humidifiers are often considered a healthier, more hygienic option. Because they boil the water, that helps kill germs and bacteria. Distilled water is recommended for cool mist humidifiers to help with this problem.

In the cooler months, a warm mist humidifier might be better because in addition to adding moisture it also adds warmth to the room. These humidifiers have a the ability to reach higher levels of moisture saturation as well. This can be particularly helpful for people who struggle with dry skin, sore throats, and seasonal colds. 

On the downside, warm mist humidifiers are less energy-efficient and they aren’t as effective as cool mist for large spaces. They might also be unsafe for use around children and pets given the fact that they use a heating element.

Who Should Get a Warm Mist Humidifier? 

Anyone who feels the negative effects of low humidity can benefit from a humidifier. It’s wise, however, to consider the options before you buy. A warm mist humidifier might be more appropriate for certain situations than a cool mist model.

A warm mist humidifier might be right for you if: 

  • You want a model that helps warm the air in addition to humidifying it.
  • You’re concerned about hygiene and want a model that kills germs and bacteria.
  • You struggle with seasonal colds, coughs, and sore throats in the winter.
  • Your skin becomes dry, especially during the winter.
  • You need to raise indoor humidity to a significant degree.

If you’re concerned about energy efficiency, need to humidify a larger space, or are concerned about safety around pets and children, a cool mist humidifier might be a better option.

Tips for Cleaning and Using a Warm Mist Humidifier

Warm mist humidifiers kill germs and bacteria more effectively than cool mist models, but that doesn’t need they don’t need to be cleaned. Routin maintenance is essential for the function and safety of any humidifier. 

Here are some tips for cleaning your humidifier: 

  • Unplug the humidifier before removing the tank and cleaning it.
  • Remove the filter (if your humidifier has one) before cleaning.
  • Rinse the water tank then swish with a 10% bleach solution – make sure to rinse it thoroughly with clean water afterward.
  • Clean the internal parts in the sink using dish soap and water.
  • Wipe down the exterior of the humidifier and remove any mineral deposits as needed. 
  • If you prefer not to use bleach, you can clean your humidifier with vinegar

It’s wise to empty and rinse the tank before use and to let the tank air dry completely before refilling it. You should do a more thorough cleaning about once a week. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions before using your humidifier the first time so you know how to do it right. Pay attention to the assembly instructions in particular so you know how to put the parts together and take them apart for cleaning.

Bottom Line

With so many options out there, you’ll have no trouble finding a humidifier that perfectly suits your needs. Having such a large selection to choose from can be overwhelming, so it’s wise to arm yourself with knowledge before you shop.

A warm mist humidifier might be a more hygienic option than a cool mist model because the heating process helps kill bacteria. These humidifiers also warm the air and have the capacity to produce higher levels of moisture saturation.