Winter’s chill means drier air, indoors and out. Cold air tends to hold less water vapor than warm air, and that can make the air drier, even indoors. An effective humidifier can restore moisture and stave off a host of problems.
For one, a humidifier can prevent or relieve dry skin. If you have a cold, a humidifier that emits cold air can help shrink swelling in your nasal passages and make it easier for you to breathe, according to the Food and Drug Administration. And higher humidity helps reduce static electricity, so you can avoid those annoying shocks you feel when crossing a carpet.
Humidifiers also can help keep the things you own in good condition. Without enough moisture in indoor air, leather goods can crack, wood floorboards can shrink and creak, and guitars and other musical instruments can quickly go out of tune.
Our tests have found that some humidifiers are much better than others at pumping out the amount of moisture the manufacturers claim they produce. And some humidifiers are quieter, more convenient to use and clean, or use less energy.
Another factor in how well a humidifier works: matching the unit to your room size. “Ensure that the humidifier you choose can handle the area of your space,” says Misha Kollontai, the engineer who leads Consumer Reports’ humidifier testing. Keep in mind, for instance, that open-plan rooms may require larger units. “Living spaces often have open doorways that effectively increase the square footage,” Kollontai says.
You’ll see dozens of models in our humidifier ratings. Most are cool-mist, the more widely used type. A handful are warm-mist, also known as steam vaporizers, which shouldn’t be used around children. (The humidifier tank contains hot water that can burn a child if they get too close or if the hot water spills.) And avoid warm-mist humidifiers if you have a cold. The warm moisture can cause your nasal passages to swell, making breathing more difficult.
Here’s a look at five top-rated humidifiers, one for each size we test. For more shopping advice, see our humidifier buying guide. For test results and more options, CR members can check our complete humidifier ratings, which include units that range from personal size all the way up to consoles that can humidify 1,000 square feet or more.