What Is a Cool Mist Humidifier?

A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet. Does this mean that any kind of humidifier will work for your home?

Not quite.

At their core, all humidifiers have the same goal: To add moisture to the air. Yet, there are different kinds of units available, and each one has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Whether you're purchasing one to use in your bedroom, home office or living space, you want to invest in the right design for your family. 

Today, we're taking a closer look at one of our favorites: the cool mist humidifier!

Economical, practical and safe for children and pets, it's our go-to and best-seller. Read on to discover why.

Why Use a Humidifier?


With so many investments to make in your home, why should you add a humidifier to the list?

The short answer is that they keep your indoor air at a comfortable humidity level so you can rest easier, breathe deeper, and find much-needed relief from allergies, asthma and a host of other health conditions. 

girl in lotus position with a kitten sitting on the floor

A few of the top reasons to buy one today include:

  • Decreased exposure to viruses and bacteria
  • Softer, moisturized skin
  • Cleared, unswollen nasal passages
  • Smooth, lubricated eyes and throat
  • Comfortable sinus cavities
  • Quicker recovery after illness
  • Better, more restful sleep

To be the most comfortable, your home should maintain a relative humidity level of between 30% and 60%. Yet, especially during the wintertime, it's easy for those levels to wane. 

When that happens, you'll feel the effects almost immediately. From dry, brittle nails and chapped lips to clogged sinuses and chronic congestion, the symptoms of dry air can run the gamut.

A humidifier can make a world of difference from the first time you use it. However, which type should you buy?

What Are the Different Types of Humidifiers?

In your quest to find the best humidifier for your home, you'll likely encounter dozens of different brands and models, each promising to deliver more bells and whistles than the next.

Yet, it's important to understand the basic mechanisms behind each one before you start comparison shopping. Let's review the different types of humidifiers available and the distinguishing characteristics of each.

Warm Mist Humidifiers 

Also called steam vaporizers, warm mist humidifiers work as their name suggests. When you pour water into the tank, an internal heating mechanism heats it until it reaches its boiling point.

Then, that boiling water travels upward and out of the unit as visible steam. The steam can be an effective approach if you're suffering from seasonal allergies or sinus congestion. You can even find models of warm mist humidifiers that include compartments for medications (such as vapor rubs), as well as essential oils

However, these types of units can also be a safety hazard.

If you have children or hyperactive pets in your home, they could knock the humidifier down. If this occurs and the boiling water is released, it could pose a significant burn risk.

In addition, warm mist humidifiers can also be costlier to run.

Consider how it would impact your utility bill to keep water on your stove boiling for eight hours straight! While a humidifier operates on a much smaller scale, the premise is still the same. The unit has to function at top capacity to maintain a constant boiling temperature to be effective. 

Especially if you're planning to keep your humidifier on for a large portion of the day or night, we recommend cool mist humidifiers. 

Cool Mist Humidifiers

There are three different types of cool mist humidifiers available on the market today. These include:

  • Evaporative 
  • Ultrasonic
  • Impeller

Let's take a closer look at how each one operates.

Evaporative Humidifiers

When most people think of cool mist humidifiers, they're thinking of evaporative models.

Long considered the standard design, these include a built-in fan that pulls warm air from your room and uses it to evaporate the water in your tank. Before it's emitted, the water is held inside of a wick. When the warm air from the fan hits that wick, it creates water vapor that's released into the air around you.

Over time, the air will become more humid as the water naturally evaporates. 

Ultrasonic Humidifiers

While evaporative cool mist humidifiers are tried and true, their integrated fan can be loud. This can become an issue when you're running your humidifier at night and trying to sleep.

Ultrasonic cool mist humidifiers solve this problem.

Instead of using a fan to turn liquid water into vapor, they move the water around in the tank using high-frequency, ultrasonic vibrations. This creates water droplets that escape from the humidifier nozzle. 

As expected, these ultrasonic units are much quieter to operate!

Impeller Humidifiers

Impeller cool mist humidifiers come equipped with a disc at the bottom. When your unit is turned on, the disc rotates and flings water through a diffuser.

From there, the diffuser works to break up the water into fine droplets, which are then released into the air as a fine mist.

While these units can get the job done, the rotating disc can make an audible noise as it moves. Like evaporative models, these could keep you up at night, especially if you're a light sleeper.

Cool Mist Humidifier vs Warm Mist Humidifier

We've covered the basic features that set a cool mist humidifier apart from its warm mist counterparts.

Now, let's take a closer look at the benefits you can expect to reap when you purchase one for your home. 

girl after sleep stretched

1. Increased Safety

As mentioned, these units are safer to operate than warm mist models. If a child or pet is sitting too close to the unit and it happens to spill over, the boiling water inside could come into direct contact with their skin.

Even the steam emitted from the unit could burn someone sitting or sleeping too closely. With a cool mist model, there is no heating involved at all. The water vapor that's released is cool and completely safe to breathe in and enjoy.

This makes them ideal for a baby's nursery. In fact, you can find myriad models of cool mist humidifiers designed just for children!

2. Wider Room Reach

Warm mist humidifiers tend to be limited in the amount of square footage they can reach. This is because the steam they produce cools quickly when it comes into contact with the indoor air.

When this happens, that steam turns back into a liquid (water droplets), and falls to the ground or surface below. That said, you can only humidify a certain amount of space with this type of unit.

With a cool mist humidifier, you don't have to rely on temperature to keep the water vapor suspended in the air. Instead, the fan inside of the unit projects the droplets outward. This allows them to travel further and makes them more appropriate for larger spaces.

3. Cost

Without the inclusion of a heating element, these humidifiers use less electricity to run than warm mist models. This makes them more inexpensive in the long run.

4. Noise Control

Although they don't include a noisy fan, warm mist humidifiers are far from quiet. The sound of the heating element working and the water boiling are both louder than you'd expect.

For the quietest operation possible, you can't beat an ultrasonic cool mist humidifier. These are nearly silent when on and can lure you into a great night's sleep!

Choosing the Right Cool Mist Humidifier

Have you decided to buy a cool mist humidifier? Before you decide on a particular unit, there are important considerations to keep in mind, all of which can affect your purchasing decision. Let's take a look.

The Room

First, think about the room in which you intend to run your humidifier the most frequently. While a portable unit is a cinch to move from room to room, it's unlikely that you'll play musical chairs with yours.

In most cases, homeowners set up a certain unit in one room and tend to leave it there for the most part. If you find that you need one in your office and your bedroom, you can always purchase a second unit!

Cool mist humidifiers come in a range of sizes. If your bedroom is particularly large or has high ceilings, a larger-capacity model might work best.

The Humidity You Want

If you don't know the exact humidity levels in your home, you can purchase a tool called a hygrometer to measure it in seconds.

Available at most hardware stores, it can provide a reading of your relative humidity so you always have the most up-to-date data. If you find that yours aren't too low (around 40%), then you might not do best with a smaller unit that doesn't produce a ton of moisture.

Or, you might find that your room is hovering at an arid 20% relative humidity. In this case, a larger unit might be most appropriate, even if your room is standard size. Look for a unit that allows you to adjust the flow of the unit so you can ensure you don't wake up to a room that feels clammy and uncomfortably humid.

The Model You Prefer

We've covered the three different types of cool mist humidifiers available. Weighing the pros and cons of each one, which sparks your interest the most? If noise-free operation is high on your list, an ultrasonic humidifier fits the bill.

Or, you might be a sleeper who prefers soothing white noise as you drift into dreamland. In this case, the repetitive whirring of the fan inside of an evaporative cool mist humidifier could be just what you need.

Filter vs No Filter

One of the selling points of warm mist humidifiers is that the boiling water they produce helps kill off any bacteria or germs present in the air around you.

While this isn't the case with a cool mist model, many include a built-in filtration system that essentially performs the same job. Using a carbon (or similar) filter, these help to cleanse the water before it enters your environment.

How to Care for Your Cool Mist Humidifier

It's always best to refer to the manufacturer's instructions when cleaning and maintaining your humidifier.

The most important thing is to create and stick to a regular cleaning schedule. When your humidifier is properly sanitized, you can rest assured that the air you're breathing is safe and clean.

Once a week, tackle a deep cleaning using natural materials such as white vinegar, rather than harsh chemical solutions. In addition, make sure to change the water in your humidifier every time you use it and keep it wiped down between uses.

If you leave old water sitting in the tank for too long, it can turn into a breeding ground for mold, mildew and other dangerous microorganisms. Even if your humidifier is unplugged or turned off, these particulates can still escape into your indoor air.

If your unit comes with a filter, be sure to rinse it thoroughly and invest in replacement filters as required. Other easy ways to care for your new humidifier include:

  • Not filling up the tank to full capacity
  • Drying all surfaces when cleaning
  • Using distilled, purified or demineralized water

These steps might take some time each week to complete. Yet, they're critical to ensuring that your humidifier operates at top capacity for years to come. 

water flows from the tap in the bathroom

Buy the Best Cool Mist Humidifier Today

You've done the research and you've read the reviews. You know that a cool mist humidifier is the best choice for your family and you're ready to bring one home.

We'd love to help.

We offer a range of home comfort items designed to turn your house into a haven. In addition to ultrasonic humidifiers, you'll also find seat cushions, neck pillows, foot rests and more in our online collection.

Feel free to take a look around today and find your next must-have item! If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

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