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Cool Mist Or Warm Mist Humidifier?

Whilst humidifiers don’t really fit into the category of “diy products”, we are big fans of them, and they also belong in the same category as air conditioners (which can be considered diy products). With this in mind, lets talk about how to choose your ideal cool mist or warm mist humidifier. This is often a confusing choice for many people, since they both add moisture to the air, but do so in a different way. Hopefully we can point you in the right direction, and help you to find which one will work best for your needs.

Let’s start off we will talk about the differences between cool and warm mist humidifiers.

What is a warm mist humidifier?

First off lets talk about warm mist humidifiers. A cool mist unit works by creating a cool mist from water, whereas a warm mist unit works in almost the opposite way by boiling water and releasing steam. We should also mention at this point warm mist models are also known as  or “vaporizers” or “steam humidifiers” to avoid any confusion further on.

The intended usage of these two items should be your main consideration, as both can have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, if you intend to use a warm mist model with children, you must be very careful in regards to where it is placed. Since this product emits hot steam, you could burn a child if it is placed too close to them. Another thing to worry about is that the unit could get knocked over when it is in use, and cause some major burn injuries.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean a warm mist unit is a poor choice for kids. A warm mist model will kill any germs or chemicals present in the water by boiling them, hence it can be considered quite safe to use. In addition to this, warm mist models are designed to be used with certain kinds of medical inhalants and oils. This provides a quick and easy means to help get these vapors into your system to provide some relief. Warm mist models also tend to run much quieter than certain types of cool mist models (except for the ultrasonic kinds), so this is another advantage to consider.
More on ultrasonic models below.

Warm mist models should also be cleaned on a regular basis to help prevent any buildups in the unit. When you use a warm mist humidifier, most manufacturers suggest adding some salt to the water. This helps to soften the water, and enables it to run a little easier. Over time these bits of salt can add up and solidify, causing the machine to get blocked up. So regular maintenance on these machines is also something you will need to do to keep them in top shape. Adding a bit of salt is also quite confusing, since you don’t really know how much you need to really get your water to the ideal softness. Adding too much or too little can cause issues, which is why many people simply go for the hassle free option of a cool mist model instead.

What is a cool mist humidifier?

A cool mist unit on the other hand simply spits out whatever is in the water reservoir, which means that any bacteria or chemicals present in the water may be distributed into the air, which isn’t a good thing. At the same time, this doesn’t mean a cool mist unit will necessarily distribute bacteria or chemicals, assuming you take proper care of it. If you decide to get a cool mist model, then you should empty and refill it every day to remove the old water. Most manufacturers also suggest you clean it at least once a week (assuming it is in daily use), and this is often done with vinegar or bleach to get rid of any potential bacteria.

What are the different types of cool mist humidifiers?

There are a variety of different types to consider. As we explained above warm mist models simply boil water, while cool mist models come in a few different designs. The first main design is the traditional evaporator type, which are the cheaper variety. These consist of a reservoir, a fan and a wick. The wick absorbs water from the reservoir, which is then evaporated by the fan which blows onto the wick. This is a simple design which works ok, but it is dependent on the current humidity of the room. If the room is already humid then the humidifier won’t provide much output, whereas in a low humidity environment it will work quite well. The wicks tend to get encrusted with mineral deposits over time if you live in an area with hard water, so care must be taken to ensure they are properly cleaned and dried or replaced to keep them in optimal shape.

The other popular choice are ultrasonic humidifiers. These work by means of a metal diaphragm, which runs at ultrasonic frequencies. This in turn creates very fine water droplets which rise into the air. This will turn everything in the water into vapor, including any impurities, so care should be taken with this. Distilled or filtered water are ideal for these types, and they should be cleaned frequently like the wick types above. A major advantage of these types is that they are virtually silent, which is ideal for anyone who needs peace and quiet to fall asleep!

Warm And Cool Mist Humidifier

A third option is to get a combination warm and cool mist humidifier, otherwise known as a dual model. These are a little on the pricey side, but can emit both warm and cool mists. This is the optimal solution, but these models do cost a fair amount, generally at least double the cost of a ultrasonic humidifier

Pricing and maintenance costs

When it comes to pricing differences between warm or cool mist humidifiers, you will notice that warm models are often a little cheaper. Most warm mist units cost in the range of $15-$25, while cool mist units tend to cost a little more for a quality unit. Warm mist models are cheaper to produce, hence the lower price. However, there also tends to be a larger failure rate on the cheaper units, which is often reflected in customer reviews. Some people buy a cheaper warm mist unitfor a season, throw it out, then buy another one the next year. There is nothing wrong with doing this, but it does seem a bit wasteful considering that you can get a quality cool mist unit that will last many years for around double the price. This would save you money in the long run.

If your mind is set on a warm mist unit, then make sure you go for a well known quality brand. Both warm or cool mist humidifiers need cleaning to keep them in top shape, so there is no avoiding that. However a quality cool humidifier will last for many years, and there are no safety aspects to worry about (as long as you follow the recommended maintenance instructions). In our experience a cool humidifier is the most cost effective and reliable solution, but you should always read some user reviews to make sure that you are getting a worthwhile product before you make any purchases.


So that is a look at some of the differences between the two types, hopefully helping you to pick between a cool mist or warm mist humidifier. If you still can’t make up your mind at this point then you might even consider a warm and cool mist humidifier. This way you can switch between the two modes when necessary, and get the benefits of both types.

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