The 6 Best Humidifiers of 2024 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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We’ve updated our Other good humidifiers section to include two new models from Safety First, the Stay Clean Humidifier and the Connected Smart Humidifier. We still stand by our other picks. Small Space Dehumidifier

The 6 Best Humidifiers of 2024 | Reviews by Wirecutter

The best humidifier releases gradual, consistent moisture throughout a room, making you feel healthier and more comfortable. And it doesn’t require constant maintenance or leave dank puddles of dew to dapple everything you own. Sounds simple, right? You’d be surprised how hard it is to find.

After testing dozens of humidifiers over the years, we think the Wi-Fi–enabled Levoit LV600S Smart Hybrid Ultrasonic Humidifier is close to that ideal: It’s quiet, durable, and easier to deal with overall than any other humidifier we’ve tested, with a 1.5-gallon tank that will last all day.

The Levoit LV600S is powerful, quiet, and easy to clean, and it offers Wi-Fi connectivity and warm-mist capabilities. Plus, it’s the rare ultrasonic model that won’t over-humidify your room.

The Levoit Classic 300S is just as powerful and reliable as our top pick, but you need the app to use its features to the fullest. It does come with a nice built-in night-light, though.

A simple, straightforward humidifier with smart-home capabilities and a built-in night-light, the Dreo HM311S is also one of the rare ultrasonics that won’t over-humidify your room.

This energy-smart evaporative model isn’t quite as easy to use as our top pick, but it’s great at keeping the humidity consistent and distributing it around the room.

A self-regulating ultrasonic with an extra-large tank and warm-mist capabilities, the Vornado UH200 is a great choice for larger spaces that need even humidification.

The Venta LW25 is pricey, but it’s an exceptional performer with a unique design that requires less-frequent cleaning and refilling than competitors.

The Levoit LV600S is powerful, quiet, and easy to clean, and it offers Wi-Fi connectivity and warm-mist capabilities. Plus, it’s the rare ultrasonic model that won’t over-humidify your room.

The Levoit LV600S Smart Hybrid Ultrasonic Humidifier does everything right: It’s low-maintenance and easy to clean, and it humidifies the air quickly and (almost) silently. It’s also one of the only ultrasonic humidifiers we’ve tested that can stop itself before it turns your room into a dangerously murky haze. The top-filling tank is large enough to last all day, and it doesn’t have any annoying corners or crevices for funky things to fester in. The onboard controls—including warm-mist capabilities—are simple and straightforward, and the robust smart-home features offer more-customized control. This machine is still susceptible to some of the usual ultrasonic flaws, however, including a tendency (if you have hard or well water) to leave a trail of fine mineral dust on the furniture or floor. But this is harmless and simple to clean.

The Levoit Classic 300S is just as powerful and reliable as our top pick, but you need the app to use its features to the fullest. It does come with a nice built-in night-light, though.

The Levoit Classic 300S Ultrasonic Smart Humidifier performs nearly as well as our top pick. And it also has a lot of the same features, including a top-filling tank (which holds 1.5 gallons of water) and smart-home capabilities that help prevent it from over-humidifying the room. It also adds a pleasant night-light feature (which is also easy to turn off when you need to). But the user interface isn’t quite as intuitive, and we’ve also heard some complaints about the tank leaking when it’s lifted off the basin.

A simple, straightforward humidifier with smart-home capabilities and a built-in night-light, the Dreo HM311S is also one of the rare ultrasonics that won’t over-humidify your room.

The Dreo HM311S Smart Humidifier is a simple and attractive humidifier that does the job well without costing too much. The top-fill tank and basin are both streamlined, with smooth surfaces that make them easy to clean. And its basic “auto” setting actually works to prevent it from over-humidifying the room. The rest of the onboard controls are also easy enough to figure out—including the built-in night-light (a nice touch that makes this model a particularly good choice for a children’s nursery). If you need more-customized control, the Dreo HM311S offers smart-home capabilities as well. The 4-liter tank is slightly smaller than those of our other picks, however, and the overall construction doesn’t feel quite as durable (a 30-month warranty is available).

This energy-smart evaporative model isn’t quite as easy to use as our top pick, but it’s great at keeping the humidity consistent and distributing it around the room.

The Vornado EVDC300 Energy Smart Evaporative Humidifier is the most energy-efficient humidifier we’ve ever tested, thanks to its unusual DC motor. It’s also the most consistent, with a powerful fan that keeps the humidified air circulating evenly around the room. Unlike our other picks, the EVDC300 is an evaporative model, which means it’s better at self-regulation. But it also requires a little more maintenance, including regular replacement of the wicking filter. It’s louder than our other picks, too, though we find the fan’s white noise to be rather pleasant. If anything goes wrong, this model has the best warranty we’ve seen on any humidifier—five years for the basic machine, plus 10 years for the motor.

A self-regulating ultrasonic with an extra-large tank and warm-mist capabilities, the Vornado UH200 is a great choice for larger spaces that need even humidification.

The Vornado UH200 Ultrasonic Humidifier is a self-regulating ultrasonic that provides more consistent humidification than any of our other picks (with the exception of the Vornado EVDC300, which is just as good). The UH200 is specifically designed for larger rooms (up to 900 square feet), with a 1.75-gallon tank—nearly twice the size of the tanks on our other picks. So you won’t need to refill this one as often. But it works just as well—and just as evenly—in smaller spaces, too. It’s also one of the only models we recommend with warm-mist capabilities. However, this one is louder than our other ultrasonic picks, thanks to the powerful fan that makes it so good at moving humidified air around the room. If anything goes wrong, the UH200 is backed by Vornado’s five-year warranty, one of the longest we’ve seen for any humidifier.

The Venta LW25 is pricey, but it’s an exceptional performer with a unique design that requires less-frequent cleaning and refilling than competitors.

The Venta LW25 Original Humidifier is the most low-maintenance humidifier we’ve found, requiring less-frequent cleaning and refilling than our other recommendations. It uses significantly less energy, too, and it has a larger tank than any of our other picks. It is notably more expensive, however. And despite the “air washing” claims in the packaging, this machine doesn’t actually wash or clean the air in any meaningful way. (If that’s a concern for you, consider getting an air purifier.)

Since 2013, we’ve spent nearly 500 hours researching and testing dozens of humidifiers in enclosed home spaces, using Lascar data loggers. The earliest versions of this guide were written by John Holecek, a former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researcher who has studied atmospheric physics and chemistry everywhere from the continental US to the Arctic to the remote island nation of the Maldives. Senior staff writer Tim Heffernan took over in 2017, building on that earlier research. Tim has also written guides to air purifiers, water filtration systems, and more. Since 2019, the guide has been shepherded by staff writer Thom Dunn, whose other work includes guides to space heaters, portable air conditioners, and window air conditioners.

Do you frequently find yourself with dry sinuses or nosebleeds? Do you wake up coughing at night, with cracked and sore lips? If so, you might have a humidity problem. And a good humidifier can help with that.

The ideal home should have relative humidity levels between 30% and 60%. That’s according to most medical research as well as the EPA. This will alleviate the symptoms listed above while discouraging mold and mildew growth (which can happen in excessively humid conditions). Proper humidification has also been shown to help slow the spread of airborne viruses, including influenza and SARS-CoV-2. It won’t exactly prevent infection or disease, but it will help your immune system while also impeding the viral particles in the air, all while making you more comfortable in general. If you want to measure the humidity in your space before you buy a humidifier, or if you want to monitor the performance of a humidifier you already have, you can get a basic hygrometer on Amazon for about $15.

But humidifiers also require a lot of work. Standing water attracts all kinds of funky microbial growths. Even the most low-maintenance humidifiers still require your attention at least once a week, or else you’ll find yourself facing some serious health risks, like dreaded “humidifier lung,” a type of hypersensitivity pneumonitis that involves some nasty fungal wheezing. At that point, your humidifier might be doing more harm than good. Some humidifiers can also release harmful particulate matter into the air along with the moisture, depending on the quality of your water. You can reduce the risk of this by using distilled or demineralized water, and by cleaning them regularly.

Cleaning is an issue with all types of humidifiers. Evaporative, ultrasonic, cool mist, warm mist—they’re all annoying to clean, and they all get disgusting if you don’t maintain them correctly. This is another scenario where distilled or demineralized water can help to mitigate the risks. But either way, you’ll have some work to do. So before you commit to buying a new humidifier, you need to ask yourself honestly whether you’re ready to be a “humidifier parent.”

Here’s a plan for the daily care, weekly cleanouts, and long-term maintenance of your humidifier.

Here’s what we’ve learned while spending hundreds of hours testing dozens of humidifiers since 2013:

Even the worst humidifiers can pump moisture into the air. The difference between a good humidifier and a lousy one is not in basic functionality but in the full user experience. The standouts are the easiest to live with: easy to clean, simple to fill, and able to maintain the desired humidity level without constant monitoring. Most people using a humidifier regularly interact with it every day, and even the smallest frustrations stand out.

Other details are less important. We aren’t too strict on selecting a type of humidifier—evaporative or ultrasonic, cool mist or warm mist—having found they all have their perks, and they all have their flaws. Similarly, we don’t have much of a preference for digital or analog controls, as long as you can easily figure out how to make it do its basic tasks. Smart-home features are a nice bonus as well; they won’t make or break our decision, but they can aid in accessibility or just help avoid over-humidifying the room.

To keep frustration to a minimum, we seek the following things in a humidifier:

To test a humidifier’s performance, we measure:

We also test subjective factors, like setup and installation, as well as overall user experience, including onboard controls, remote controls, and smart-home controls. Plus we did a lot of cleaning—like, a lot of cleaning—and took notes on that, too.

We made one other observation: Humidifiers can trigger quite a bit of ire (and also satire).

The Levoit LV600S is powerful, quiet, and easy to clean, and it offers Wi-Fi connectivity and warm-mist capabilities. Plus, it’s the rare ultrasonic model that won’t over-humidify your room.

The Wi-Fi–connected Levoit LV600S Smart Hybrid Ultrasonic Humidifier offers the best combination of powerful humidification and quiet, consistent performance, yet it’s still easy enough to clean. It’s about as low-maintenance as a humidifier can get, too, with user-friendly controls and a sleek, attractive design that will blend into almost any room. We’ve been recommending the non-smart version of this Levoit since 2018, and this new model addresses every minor gripe we had with the old one and more.

The LV600S stands out not only for its ability to humidify a room but also its ability to not humidify. The LV600S is one of the most powerful humidifiers we’ve ever tested, able to increase the relative humidity in a small room by about 24% over the course of two hours. Running on high, this model also turned the air into a dank, clammy fog—a frustratingly common problem with all ultrasonic humidifiers. So we ran another test using the built-in “auto” setting on the LV600S to keep the relative humidity level at 60%. To our surprise, this humidifier kept the room within 5% of that target … for three whole days. That’s something that almost no other ultrasonic humidifier can do.

The top-filling water tank is easier to carry, open, fill, and clean than the tanks on other humidifiers, too. The LV600S comes with a 1.5-gallon tank, which should be enough to last an entire day. When it comes time to refill, there’s a lid resting on top that lifts right off—no need to deal with latches or those frustrating (and potentially leaky) screw tops. The built-in handle makes this tank more portable than other tanks, too. The fill hole beneath the lid is large enough that most people should be able to reach inside and scrub the limescale or whatever other gunk inevitably accumulates. Gone are the nooks and crannies that plagued us for so many cleanings; instead, the LV600S boasts straight lines and smooth surfaces, and any corners that might look hard to reach should be made more accessible with the help of the included cleaning brush.

(To be clear: You still need to clean this humidifier every couple of days. But at least that process won’t be any more annoying than it has to be.)

Like other ultrasonic humidifiers, the LV600S is essentially silent. The word essentially here is key. Though the sound was too quiet to accurately measure, some people might still notice a slight whirring around 200 Hz, especially if you live somewhere that’s already pretty tranquil. Those with more-sensitive hearing might also find it more irritating. But otherwise, most people probably won’t even notice it running.

The LV600S offers some surprisingly robust smart features, too. In addition to the basic remote controls, Levoit’s VeSync app (named for Levoit’s parent company) also lets you do things like create a schedule, customize the auto setting’s Target Humidity (set to 50% by default), or design personalized “if this, then that” scenarios for your home. It will even give you weekly cleaning reminders, if you want them. Once you’re logged in, the VeSync app does an impressive job of automating most of the setup process for you, too; it will even search your phone (with your permission) to automatically sync with Alexa or Google Home (assuming you have those apps installed). Plus, the app will tell you what kind of voice commands to use, so you’re not desperately trying to figure out the exact syntax that gets your humidifier to start and stop.

The LV600S also has a warm-mist setting and a tray for essential oils. We don’t think either feature is crucial (or even necessary), but we know that some folks are keen to have them. It’s also important to remember that warm mist does carry some potential health risks, thanks to the heating element that turns the water vapor into steam. As such, the Mayo Clinic recommends against using warm-mist models in homes with children.

Some users have complained about the onboard humidistat. In our own tests, the humidistat on the LV600S was impressively accurate (and it helped to prevent this machine from over-humidifying the room, like other ultrasonic models). But we have heard from readers, Wirecutter staffers, and even some Amazon reviewers that the humidistat can become increasingly unreliable or erratic over time. Most of these complaints seem to have resolved themselves with a simple reset—the classic “turn it off and then turn it back on again” school of troubleshooting. Still, we plan to keep an eye on this as we continue long-term testing.

A smart humidifier might still seem sort of silly, especially if you have privacy concerns. The VeSync app (named for the parent company of Levoit) is designed to work with several other brands, such as Etekcity and Cosori, and it also serves as an online store and a customer service hub. While the company has somewhat simplified its sprawling privacy practices, it can still be difficult to parse, let alone verify, exactly what the app will track and collect. (Although we were comforted to know that the company instituted a bug bounty program in 2021, which allows security researchers to report bugs they find for cash rewards.) In our long-term testing, we also found that the humidifier’s auto-setting can fumble or fail when it can’t find a familiar Wi-Fi network to connect to. While this shouldn’t be an issue if you’re buying a new humidifier, it can complicate things if you’re traveling with it or looking to sell or buy a used one.

It’s still a humidifier. That means you need to clean it. A lot. And there will still be a risk that it will end up over-humidifying your room, which is not only uncomfortable but also potentially dangerous, since over-humidifying encourages mold and other nasty things to grow.

Here’s a plan for the daily care, weekly cleanouts, and long-term maintenance of your humidifier.

The Levoit Classic 300S is just as powerful and reliable as our top pick, but you need the app to use its features to the fullest. It does come with a nice built-in night-light, though.

If the Levoit LV600S isn’t available, or you don’t think you need as many robust features, the Levoit Classic 300S Ultrasonic Smart Humidifier is a similar machine from the same company, and it works almost as well—both in its ability to humidify the room and to not over-humidify it. This model has the same smart-home features, and it comes with the same two-year warranty, as well.

The Classic 300S comes with a built-in night-light, as well as all of the same basic controls our top pick has. You can control the light with the onboard controls or through the app. We think this makes the Classic 300S a particularly good choice for a children’s nursery or any other room that might need a little extra illumination.

The onboard buttons are more streamlined, but they’re also harder to navigate. The Classic 300S has four buttons—night mode, night-light, mist level, and power—that are labeled only with images, rather than with words (like on our top pick’s buttons). This can be a bit jarring if you don’t have the instruction manual handy; it doesn’t help that the order of the buttons is a little counterintuitive as well. If you need more fine and detailed control, you can always use the app.

It also has a 1.5-gallon top-filling tank, like our top pick, though it’s not quite as easy to clean. While this model’s tank opening is similarly large and easy to fit a hand inside, it can still be tricky to scrub the awkward area around the water-vapor chimney, even if you do have a bottle brush or use the included cleaning tool. This tank is also a little trickier to balance in the sink when you’re trying to fill it up, and the notched side handles make it a bit more difficult to carry back across the room.

The water basin on the Classic 300S is harder to clean, too. Like a lot of ultrasonic humidifiers, this one has a complex water channel in the basin, which can be a little tricky to clean. Although it’s not as labyrinthine as those of other models we’ve tested, you may still need to get in there on occasion and really scrub for a while.

Some people have had problems with a leaky tank. Several of the reviewers on Amazon, as well as a few Wirecutter staffers, have complained that the tank on the Levoit Classic 300S started leaking after a few months of regular use. Some Amazon reviewers have specifically pointed out an issue with the rubber stopper on the float valve, which is supposed to close when the tank is full and then push up to fill the base with water as needed. Though we didn’t encounter this specific problem ourselves, we still noticed the tank dripping when we lifted it to refill—though it’s also not clear whether this a slow leak or just the result of lifting the tank out of a basin full of water.

A simple, straightforward humidifier with smart-home capabilities and a built-in night-light, the Dreo HM311S is also one of the rare ultrasonics that won’t over-humidify your room.

If you just need a basic, affordable humidifier that’s quiet and easy to use, and that won’t turn your bedroom into a fog, go for the Dreo HM311S Smart Humidifier. It also has a built-in night-light, which makes it great for nurseries, as well as smart-home integration.

The Dreo HM311S has a slightly smaller tank, but it’s just as easy to clean. This humidifier’s 4-liter tank still meets our 1-gallon minimum, so it should still be enough to last most of a day. Plus, the tank fills from the top, with a wide opening and no weird corners or crevices to scrub around.

The controls are simpler, too. The Dreo HM311S has four onboard controls—auto, night-light, power, and mist level—plus an LCD screen to show the current relative humidity level. The smart app offers a little more control, if you need it, and the setup process is remarkably easy.

The “auto” feature actually works to stop the Dreo HM311S from over-humidifying the room. Again, over-humidification is a common problem with every ultrasonic humidifier. But we were surprised to find that this affordable little Dreo was able to maintain a consistent humidity level for three days straight, without turning the room into a dank pit of fog.

And if anything goes wrong, Dreo offers a 30-month warranty. The Dreo HM311S comes with a one-year warranty by default, and the company offers an option to extend it up to 30 months by registering your product; this is six months more than you get with our Levoit and Venta picks. Dreo is still a newer company, however, so we can’t vouch for the quality of its customer service in the same way we can for Vornado’s and Levoit’s.

The tank doesn’t have a handle. This model is still small enough that most people should be able to carry it back and forth without a problem, but the lack of a dedicated handle or other carrying nook does make the Dreo HM311S slightly less portable.

This energy-smart evaporative model isn’t quite as easy to use as our top pick, but it’s great at keeping the humidity consistent and distributing it around the room.

If you want a humidifier with better circulation that won’t over-humidify the room, or you simply want something that uses even less energy than our ultrasonic recommendations, the Vornado EVDC300 Energy Smart Evaporative Humidifier is a reliable choice. Though it is slightly louder than our ultrasonic picks, the sound is not unpleasant; we think it’s a fair trade-off to end up with a more-even distribution of humidity throughout the room.

The EVDC300 had some of the best circulation of any humidifier we’ve tested. Vornado makes some of our favorite fans, and this humidifier uses a similar design to help move the humidity around the room. When we measured the air coming out of the EVDC300, it was moving four times faster than the air of any other humidifier we tested. The result was a room with a relative humidity level that varied within a range of 2% only, depending on where you measured. (By comparison, every other humidifier we tested left a difference of at least 5% to 10% across the room.) This helps make the room feel more pleasant overall, with a gentle, constant waft of freshly humidified air.

It also uses significantly less energy, thanks to its DC motor. On its standard setting, the EVDC300 uses about 8 to 9 watts of energy—roughly one-third as much as our other picks. And yet it also has a separate Energy Smart Mode, which uses as little as 1 watt of energy. Yes, 1 watt. You could run this humidifier 24 hours a day for a full year, and it would barely cost you a dollar (based on average US electricity costs in October 2023).

You don’t have to worry about over-humidification, either. Unlike our other picks, the EVDC300 is an evaporative humidifier, which means it uses a replaceable wick or filter and pushes the freshly dampened air out through a fan. This also means that it’s naturally self-regulating, and it will automatically slow the humidification as the room hits that sweet spot between 50% and 60%—unlike ultrasonic models, which sometimes keep cranking out humidity until the room feels like it’s ready to rain inside.

The EVDC300 comes with the most impressive warranty we’ve ever seen on a humidifier. If anything does go wrong, the unit as a whole is supported by Vornado’s impressive five-year warranty; the motor itself is guaranteed for a whopping 10 years. By comparison, all of our other picks have only a two-year warranty at best.

But it is louder than our other picks. Thanks to that impressive fan and evaporative humidification process, the EVDC300 does make more noise than our other picks, which are all ultrasonic. We measured the EVDC300 at about 51 decibels on its lowest fan setting; this is 9 decibels quieter than what’s considered an “average” conversation tone. The noise is slightly more pronounced on the higher settings, but even then, it still measured only 55 decibels. We personally find that kind of white noise tolerable, even pleasant, and it easily blends into the background. But it may be jarring if you’re accustomed to ultrasonic humidifiers or if you have more-sensitive hearing.

It doesn’t offer any smart-home compatibility, either. You might consider that a benefit rather than a flaw, but we figured it was worth mentioning either way.

You’ll also need to replace the wicking filter every couple of months. You will need to periodically replace the wicking filter. The company does offer a subscription option.

A self-regulating ultrasonic with an extra-large tank and warm-mist capabilities, the Vornado UH200 is a great choice for larger spaces that need even humidification.

The Vornado UH200 Ultrasonic Humidifier feels (and sounds) like an evaporative one, and it’s particularly great for larger spaces. It offers the same steady humidification as our other Vornado pick, along with a larger tank and warm-mist capabilities, and it has one of the best warranties we’ve seen.

The Vornado UH200’s huge, streamlined tank leads to less maintenance than other humidifiers. The 1.75-gallon tank is large enough to last for more than a day, even in bigger spaces; the company claims it works in rooms up to 900 square feet. And because it’s just a smooth cylinder with a simple screw-on top, it’s also incredibly easy to clean. It comes with a convenient carrying handle, too, so you don’t have to worry about spilling the water everywhere after you refill it—which can be trickier with a lot of standard top-fill lids.

The onboard controls are great at preventing over-humidification. The Vornado UH200 is another one of those rare ultrasonic models that won’t turn your room into a fog. It has the same controls as its evaporative counterpart, which limit your humidification expectations to somewhere 40% and 60% (though there is also an option for “continuous” humidity). It doesn’t self-regulate like an evaporative, but in our tests, it performed just as well.

The Vornado UH200 also offers warm-mist capabilities. It’s worth reiterating that warm-mist humidifiers have the potential to cause some serious burns, which is why the Mayo Clinic recommends against using them around children. They also use a lot of energy—more than 10 times as much as cool-mist models do. But we know some people still like the option (and even we admit that it can be nice sometimes).

The built-in fan is better at spreading the humidity around, too. The UH200 has a similarly impressive fan as our other Vornado pick, and it creates more-consistent humidification throughout the room (yes, even on warm-mist mode). The fan is similarly loud as well—between 51 and 55 decibels—but we found the bubbling white noise to be rather pleasant. Your mileage may vary.

Like most Vornado products, the UH200 has a five-year warranty. This is one of the best warranties we’ve seen on any humidifier, and it’s more than twice as generous as the warranties that come with our top and runner-up picks, both from Levoit. Anecdotally, we’ve found Vornado’s customer service to be reliable and responsive as well.

The Venta LW25 is pricey, but it’s an exceptional performer with a unique design that requires less-frequent cleaning and refilling than competitors.

The Venta LW25 Original Humidifier is a little different from your traditional humidifier, but there’s a reason we’ve been recommending it since 2014. In the right circumstances, we think it’s worth paying more upfront for lower power consumption and less-frequent refills and cleanings—something that will free up your mental bandwidth a lot more in the long run.

The Venta LW25 is the most low-maintenance humidifier we’ve tested. The Venta is basically just a big cube, about one foot in each direction. That makes it easy enough to clean and fill on its own. But it also comes with a bottle of the company’s proprietary antimicrobial additive, which is specially designed to help keep the funk down. Instead of having to do a twice-weekly cleaning, as most humidifiers require, you have to rinse down the Venta and add more cleaning formula only once every two weeks. 

It’s also larger and more energy-efficient than our other picks. Not only will you have to clean the Venta less often, but the 2-gallon tank means you won’t have to deal with refilling it as frequently, either. (The company still recommends topping it off regularly to maintain maximum efficiency—in other words, it works better when it’s full.) Despite its size, the Venta uses about a third as much energy as our other picks (with the exception of the Vornado EVDC300), providing powerful and consistent humidification on just 7 watts of power.

The water-treatment additive does add to the cost, however. A 35-ounce bottle of Venta’s water cleaning formula should last you for about four months. But it’s usually around $30 per bottle, so that still adds up to an extra $100 per year—even more than the cost of replacement wicks on a standard evaporative humidifier. Even so, we think this additional upcharge could be worth it for the relief it brings from the unrelenting albatross of having to scrub your humidifier every few days.

It doesn’t actually clean or purify the air, though. The Venta LW25 is sometimes advertised as an “air washer.” While proper humidification can certainly discourage bacteria and viruses from spreading around your home, this humidifier should not be confused with an actual HEPA-certified air purifier, like the Coway Airmega AP-1512HH Mighty. If you want air purification, get an air purifier. If you want low-maintenance humidification, get the Venta LW25.

The Levoit Classic 200 Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier, our former budget pick, has a simple, one-button design, but it also tends toward over-humidification. We still think it’s a pretty good choice overall, however.

The Levoit OasisMist 450S Humidifier also worked well enough, but it didn’t offer anything to set it apart from our other Levoit picks, either.

The 6-liter Dreo HM713S is remarkably similar to our top pick, all the way down to the tank design and warm-mist capabilities. It performed decently in our tests, too, but it just didn’t feel as nice as the Levoit models. The same goes for the slightly smaller Dreo HM512S.

The CarePod One is simple and sleek, and it’s absolutely the easiest humidifier to clean of any we’ve ever tested. There were some manufacturing issues with the oscillation wand, which prevented us from making this a pick in the past, however. And even though the company has addressed the problem, we still think this one is too expensive.

The dishwasher-safe Honeywell HCM-350 Cool Moisture Humidifier was our top pick from 2015 to 2021, largely because of its simplicity. But we also heard from a lot of readers who struggled with the non-dishwasher-safe parts. It’s still pretty good overall, though.

The Canopy Bedside Humidifier is an attractive model with a lot of thoughtful design choices, all the way down to the packaging. But none of that can justify the hefty price tag, especially when the too-small tank has a too-small opening that makes it too hard to clean.

The Safety 1st Stay Clean Humidifier is simple but effective, with a single knob to control the mist levels, and an antimicrobial blue LED system that doubles as a pleasant nightlight. It’s typically marketed as a friendly-family option, and we agree that it’s a good choice if you’re concerned about cleaning or curious kids. The company also sells a WiFi-enabled model, the ultrasonic Safety 1st Connected Smart Humidifier, which has more customizable child controls as well as an onboard hygrometer that actually works. The night light looks just as nice, too, although it doesn’t have the same germ-killing capabilities.

The 3-gallon Honeywell HEV685W and the 4-gallon Vornado Evap40 both performed well enough in our tests, but they just seemed way too large for our purposes. Still, if our current upgrade picks are not big enough for your needs, these could be decent alternatives.

This is a common DIY suggestion for those who live with steam radiators: Just put a pot of water on it. The theory goes that the water will heat up as the radiator runs, eventually releasing steam. The steam can humidify the space without all of the usual care and maintenance of a standard humidifier. Right?

We tested this in a Brooklyn apartment using Lascar data loggers, to track the humidity changes over time as the radiator heated up a pot of water. We compared the fluctuations with the performance of our budget pick and with the alternative option of doing nothing at all.

The results were mixed. Compared with doing nothing, the pot method was marginally better, raising the relative humidity by about 5% when it was on the radiator. But that humidification rate was easily eclipsed by the performance of our budget pick on its lowest setting, which increased the humidification by double digits. The pot method also had the downside of working only at the whim of the radiator’s heating cycle (and in our tester’s case, the radiator didn’t really kick on until 9 or 10 p.m. each night).

We also tried adding multiple pots to the radiator, as well as a shallow baking pan, hoping that the larger surface area would lead to more evaporated water in the air, but we saw no difference in performance.

You need to clean your humidifier at least once, if not twice, per week (PDF). That’s according to the EPA. Do a deeper, more-detailed disinfecting every month or so. If a humidifier is left uncleaned, the standing water will soon become a breeding ground for any number of nasty bacteria, amoebas, and fungi, triggering allergies, low-grade fevers, or even the dreaded humidifier lung—a form of hypersensitivity pneumonitis that can be nearly indistinguishable from a bad case of COVID-19. To avoid that, you should follow the specific cleaning instructions that came with your humidifier. We’ve also written a separate, dedicated cleaning guide to help you out. Here are some basic things you can do:

Use a water treatment additive. To discourage nasty things from growing, use a bacteriostatic treatment, such as Essick Air, or an antimicrobial cleaning cartridge, like the fish-shaped Protec, in your humidifier tank. We tested both. Even doing something as simple as using distilled or demineralized water, instead of tap, will help reduce the amount of mineral deposits that get left behind, and that ultimately means less scrubbing.

Once or twice a week, give your humidifier a basic rinse and dry. This is the easy part. Simply empty out the humidifier, take it all apart, and rinse or wipe down all of the pieces, to get rid of any biofilm that may have started growing. Then let the pieces air-dry before you put the humidifier back together again.

Scrub away any buildup, using a weak acidic substance and a bottle brush. When rinsing out your humidifier, you may notice the chalky white buildup of limescale. This is normal, but you still need to get rid of it. Go at it with a sponge, brush, or cloth, along with a weak acidic substance (like distilled vinegar or citric acid) and a little elbow grease. If the limescale still won’t budge, try soaking it in a mixture of water and your weak acidic cleaner.

Do a deeper disinfecting clean, before things get really nasty. Some companies suggest doing this at least once a month. But, as a general rule, if things start smelling sort of dank, it’s time to disinfect. This will help ensure there’s no mold or invisible microbes making a home in your humidifier. We recommend making a cleaning solution using bleach or hydrogen peroxide (following CDC guidelines). Then use that solution to scrub all of the parts, including those hard-to-reach corners of the basin. If your humidifier is really gross, you can try soaking those parts in the same solution for 20 to 30 minutes.

You can also run the humidifier with a bleach or peroxide solution. If your humidifier is extraordinarily disgusting, you might want to take it outside. Pour that same bleach or hydrogen peroxide solution into the tank, and let it run for an hour or so, to allow the cleaning agents to work through the entire system. Again: Be sure you do this outside. Humidifying an indoor space with bleach fumes is really not a good idea.

The SPT SU-9210 Digital Evaporative Humidifier was our runner-up pick for many years, thanks to its reliably quiet evaporative performance. We still think it’s a choice—if you can find it in stock somewhere, that is.

The towering 10-liter Levoit OasisMist 1000S was the first Levoit model to really disappoint us. It was barely able to move the humidity more than 3 feet, leaving it to sit there in a puddle of its own making.

The fill hole on the Vicks V3900 is much too small to actually be able to scrub the inside of the tank. It also might be too small for some people to get a hand back out after trying (which is how I ended up smashing it against the support beams in my kitchen to escape).

The Vicks VUL600 performed decently in our tests, but the tank was only slightly less frustrating than the one of the V3900. Which is to say, at least we didn’t have to smash this one; we just couldn’t clean it, either.

The Carepod Cube X50 has all of the same perks and flaws as the original Carepod, with the added bonus of warm-mist capability. Unfortunately, this feature doesn’t actually do anything. After running for four hours on high during our testing, this humidifier raised the temperature of the water vapor by just 1 degree, while consuming four times the energy.

The Elechomes UC5501 is a smart ultrasonic model that looks nearly identical to our top pick, the Levoit LV600S. Unfortunately, looks aren’t everything, especially since it has one of the worst humidistats and slowest fans of any machine we’ve ever tested.

The Lasko UH300 Quiet Ultrasonic is fine overall though not particularly good in any way. It (over-)humidified the room a little faster than any of our Levoit picks. But the humidistat was about 10% off, and the fill hole on the 5-liter tank was too small for even my toddler to fit his hand inside. Pass.

The Honeywell HUL430X is a streamlined and stylish-looking ultrasonic humidifier that’s frustratingly difficult to regulate or clean. It also has a tank that’s sort of like a USB plug, in that no matter what you do, you always end up putting it in the wrong way the first time you try.

The Dyson Purifier PH03 Humidify+Cool is both a humidifier and an air purifier, and it performed well enough in our tests. But honestly, you’re better off buying one of our other humidifier picks, plus a separate air purifier. They’ll do both jobs better and still save you money.

The Vornado UH100 performed just as well as our other Vornado picks. It was also the loudest ultrasonic model we tested, and it lacked the large capacity, self-regulation, and warm-mist capabilities that made the larger UH200 so appealing.

A former budget pick, the Vicks V750 just feels cheap in every sense of the word. On the plus side, it will continue working even after you accidentally snap half of the pieces in half during the cleaning process.

The Honeywell HCM-710 looks like a plastic casserole dish with a fan on top. And it was somehow both the quietest evaporative model we tested on medium and the absolute loudest on high. Worse, it sounds like someone’s leaning over your shoulder from behind and gurgling water in your ear.

This article was edited by Harry Sawyers.

Thom Dunn is a staff writer at Wirecutter reporting on heating, cooling, and other home-improvement topics. Sometimes his curiosity gets the best of him, such as when he plugged a space heater and a Marshall guitar amp into the same power strip. Pro tip: Don’t do that.

Tim Heffernan is a senior staff writer focusing on air and water quality and home energy efficiency. A former writer for The Atlantic, Popular Mechanics, and other national magazines, he joined Wirecutter in 2015. He owns three bikes and zero derailleurs.

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Steam Humidifier Wirecutter is the product recommendation service from The New York Times. Our journalists combine independent research with (occasionally) over-the-top testing so you can make quick and confident buying decisions. Whether it’s finding great products or discovering helpful advice, we’ll help you get it right (the first time).