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Difference Between Warm and Cool Mist Humidifier

Choosing a Humidifier: Warm or Cool Mist?

Jack Frost is nipping at many of us with his chilly temps, and we're fighting back by turning up the heat. It keeps us warm, but completely dries out the air we breathe, so we end up with dry skin, chapped lips, a sore throat, dry cough, or congested sinuses. You can get relief by running a humidifier, which will add moisture back into the air. Many people use them while they sleep — the gentle whirring sound can be so relaxing.

When buying a humidifier, you'll be presented with two different types — warm mist and cool mist. To choose which one would be best for you, decide what type of air is easier for you to breathe. If you inhale well in a sauna, then a warm mist might be best. If you have allergies or asthma, opt for a cool mist humidifier instead.

How they work and are maintained may also be a factor, so to learn more about the difference between the two, keep reading.


Warm mist humidifiers heat up the water inside, and the hot steam is released into the air. These are great if the room is cold, but the warm moist air can also encourage the growth of mold, which is why allergy-prone people might want to shy away from this kind. These types also need to be cleaned often, since the warm water encourages bacterial growth inside the humidifier. This type is also not great if you have kids, since there is a possibility of burns.

Cool mist humidifiers tend to make a little more noise than warm mist units. Instead of heating up the water inside, the water is passed over a wick and vapor is expelled. These can cool down the overall temperature of the room, and also need to be cleaned frequently. If you have children or mischievous pets, these might be the best option, since the vapor won't burn the skin when touched.

For both types, some models require the use of filters, which will need to be replaced. Find out how much filters cost, their availability, and how easy they are to change. Filters will collect the mineral deposits in the water that would otherwise form a white dust on the furniture in your room. If you don't want to deal with filters, look for a humidifier that doesn't use them. Also consider the noise factor. If the humidifier is being used in your bedroom and you're a light sleeper, you may want to spend the extra dough on one that has a low or silent option.

When running a humidifier, you'll also want to use a hygrometer. This simple device measures how much humidity is in the air. You don't want the humidity to go above 50 percent, since that will encourage the growth of mold spores, bacteria, and dust mites. A humidity of 35 to 45 percent is optimal.

Tell me, do you use a humidifier in the Winter?

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Sheila Gim
Join The Conversation
Phyllis-Chase Phyllis-Chase 4 years
Make sure it's a WARM mist humidifier. Not cool. That is what Dr. Sears recommends in The Baby Book. They are more expensive but worth it! IMO and just keep an eye out for mold growing in the room it is in...i ran one while my daughter had whooping cough and my entire back wall, mattress and bedframe got moldy. granted it was the rainy season here (and it was the best humidifier), but i don't think i will use one again....
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 7 years
I need to get one of these, even my dogs have dry skin this winter.
NurseKimberly NurseKimberly 7 years
Yes, I use a warm mist...
hokiepokie hokiepokie 7 years
Huh. Every other article I've seen says a cool mist humidifier isn't good for people with allergies/asthma because it's so easy for bacteria to grow in it and it doesn't filter the water at all so it can release a lot of bad stuff into the air. I was told to get a warm steam vaporizer because it boils the water to purify it and it clears up my sinuses and makes it easier for me to breathe.
Spectra Spectra 7 years
We don't have on per se, but we have a big kettle of water that sits on top of the woodstove in the winter. The water gently evaporates all day to moisturize the air so it doesn't get SO dry in the house.
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 7 years
I had a crazy bout of super dry skin a few winters ago and bought one, and it changed my life.
wackdoodle wackdoodle 7 years
I use a warm mist humidifier all year long. I use it to keep my sinus moist during the night and sometimes during the day. Been using warm mist for about 7 years and haven't had a mold problem triggered by its use. I tried a cool mist humidifier but it was aggravating to my sinuses.
Hello890 Hello890 7 years
I just bought one last week and use it every night. However, I wish I would have read this article, before I bought it, because my husband suffers from severe allergies and that's one of the reasons I bought it! According to this article, I should have bought the cool mist one. :(
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