You may have heard that you need to get a humidifier in preparation for your new arrival. But what exactly is a humidifier – and why do you need one? In this article, we explore the topic of the best baby humidifiers from top to bottom, and help you work out whether this is something you need for your new baby.
What are humidifiers?
A humidifier is a machine that adds moisture to the air to prevent dryness that can cause irritation to the skin. These machines are filled with water and switched on to add humidity to the air in a room or a closed space.
Adding humidity to the air may be beneficial but too much humidity can cause health issues. High humidity levels can worsen respiratory problems and create uncomfortable dampness in the air. This also encourages the growth of dust mites, mildew, molds, and other harmful bacteria.
An air humidity level of between 30% to 50% is considered healthy or harmless, and this can be measured using a hygrometer. Hygrometers are sometimes fitted into the humidifier but if not, they can be bought in hardware stores. It is best to test air humidity daily especially if someone in the household has allergies or asthma.
Why use a humidifier?
A humidifier acts as a natural moisturizing agent that can help minimize or prevent dryness. The humidifier can also relieve conditions that are exacerbated by an arid environment, such as dry skin and throat, sinus congestion, headache, nose irritation, bloody noses, irritated vocal cords, dry cough, and cracked lips. This is especially common during the winter months when the air is dried from heating units, or during the summer when the air conditioner is being used.
Studies even show that a humidifier can reduce the risk of catching influenza. Researchers found that humidity levels above 40% rapidly deactivate virus particles, making them less likely to be infectious.
Increasing the amount of moisture in the air by using a humidifier also reduces snoring and makes a cough more productive, helping it to resolve faster. If the air is dry, the airways are less likely to be sufficiently lubricated, which could make snoring worse and exacerbate a cough. Running a humidifier at night may alleviate these symptoms.
Plants may also enjoy the presence of a humidifier as moisture-loving houseplants bask in the additional dampness given off by a humidifier. Wood floors and furniture may also last longer. Moisture from the humidifier can also prevent wallpaper from cracking and avoid the buildup of static electricity.
What is the difference between a diffuser and a humidifier?
A diffuser is generally a smaller device designed to be used for aromatherapy purposes while a humidifier is typically larger and designed to regulate the moisture level in the air. Diffusers are designed to vaporize a fine mist of essential oils in water, spreading the aromatherapy vapor throughout the room.
Because most humidifiers in the market right now have plastic components, this makes them incompatible with essential oils. The oils, particularly citrus ones, may break down the plastic components of the device.
When purchasing a humidifier that has aromatherapy capability, ensure that the model distributes the oil into the air while controlling the humidity level of the house. Some units have an essential oil tray and some brands have dedicated scent pad heater which will both be discussed further in this article. Be mindful that some oils are harmful when used around young children like peppermint and clary sage. Others are safe to use for children 2 years and under including lavender, lemon, tea tree, and cinnamon leaf, provided that the device works well with the above-mentioned oils too.
Humidifiers by Size
A whole-house humidifier, or central humidifier, is generally an install-it-and-forget-it appliance. It is integrated into the air system of the house and draws water directly from the house water supply. There are some different types to choose from, including a sprayer that injects mist into the airflow inside the duct passages and a foam cylinder that rotates in a water tray with air blowing around it.
The ultimate advantage of this humidifier system is its ease of use: it requires no effort or thought on a daily basis, and keeps the house at a fixed humidity level following a one-time setup. Because it draws water from the plumbing system as needed, no refilling is required and there’s no need to worry that the humidifier might run dry. It is also usually soundless, and the initial cost is a fraction of the cost of portable units. These whole-house humidifier units literally cost pennies per year to operate.
A disadvantage of these large units, however, is that they tend to collect mineral deposits over time. It requires annual cleaning, usually with diluted white vinegar, to refresh the system and avoid complications brought about by unclean unhealthy air circulating in the house or office.
Console units, or room units, are often very large but usually have wheels for ease of movement from one room to another. They are meant to add moisture to a room or several closed spaces. Room units are freestanding, with their own water supply and plug into standard electrical outlets. They are simple to operate and powerful enough to provide moisture for 1 to 2 rooms. Larger console units can keep several rooms comfortably humid.
Manageability and convenience are the main perks of a room unit. These console humidifiers can be moved easily to the space where the little one may need it – a bedroom at night or a living area during the day. It is also perfect for renters who cannot install whole-house units. When it is time to move, it can be easily packed and transported to a different location.
High-quality portable units are generally more expensive than whole-house units as they must include their own blower. Keep in mind that there may be some noise too, sometimes at a similar level to a window-type air conditioner.
Portable, or personal, humidifiers are the best choice for someone for whom mobility is key. Small desktop models are available but they cannot affect a large area. Their range tends to be around the size of a work cubicle.
Maintenance is the biggest pitfall to the portable units. Depending on the settings and how large an area is covered, the water supply might require refilling almost daily. Most units have removable tanks for filling, but with others, the water must be brought to the unit itself.
These units also need regular cleaning to make sure they stay sanitary. Standing or stagnant water in the portable humidifier encourages growth of bacteria and might result in releasing germs into the indoor air if the humidifier is not properly maintained.
Humidifiers by Type
These units are like central humidifiers built directly into the home’s air conditioning or heating unit. They are the largest type of humidifier but, like the whole-house type, they are the best choice for adding humidity throughout the entire house.
The only difference between the two is that central humidifiers do not emit steam. Traditional ones pose risks for burns and other burn-related injuries from the steam they emit.
Evaporators blow moisture through a moistened filter. Fans power the unit and expel the humidity into the air from a single-unit system. These are more affordable than the traditional ones, but the downside is that they only work in one room at a time. They may also expel too much moisture into the air, and the humidity level needs to be checked regularly. If the humidity is too high, this could be problematic for people with respiratory problems like asthma, as it raises the likelihood of mold growth.
Cool mist humidifiers
A cool-mist humidifier, or impeller humidifier, works with the help of rotating disks that run at high speeds. These cool mist humidifiers are often less expensive than other types and are also among the most child-friendly devices because they pose no risk of burns. Some cool mist humidifiers have ultrasonic technology that creates water droplets and pushes them to the mist chamber to form both mist and humidity helping relieve dryness in the baby’s room.
The downside of these cool mist humidifiers, like evaporators, is that they only work for single rooms. They can potentially cause breathing difficulties for people with allergies and asthma when they are overused and/or not maintained properly.
Steam vaporizers, sometimes called warm-mist humidifiers, are electrically powered. They heat water and then cool it before expelling it into the indoor air. These warm mist humidifiers can get dirty quickly, but they are the easiest to clean. They are the most portable, but also the most expensive of humidifiers. They can be purchased retail at drugstores.
Steam vaporizers, because they heat water, can cause burns so warm-mist humidifiers are not the most kid-friendly.
Factors to look for in Finding the Best Humidifier
When shopping for a humidifier for your little one, you may want to consider the following aspects:
Ease of cleaning
Keeping the humidifier clean and free from molds ensures that the moisture the machine is generating will be safe for the infant to breathe. Looking for a humidifier that is easy to use and easy to clean will help as it will only take a few minutes to drain, rinse and dry every day without too much hassle.
Automatic Shut-off Feature
Most models include an automatic shut-off function that activates when the water tank starts to become empty. This will avoid drying out of the humidifier that may otherwise result in early machine deterioration and failure.
Some models come with a filter, which can help trap mineral deposits in the water tank, but this is not typical for the cool mist style humidifier. Know that when choosing a humidifier with a filter, it will require replacing from time to time according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, which can be inconvenient.
As parents or caregivers, you want to find a quality humidifier that doesn’t break the bank. Some units may be as low as $30 while others are as high as $100. Consider your budget and the quality of the humidifiers available in your price range, without compromising on your infants’ health.
Best Baby Humidifiers on the Market
Crane Drop Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier
This cool mist humidifier is sure to catch everyone’s attention because its favorite feature is its fun, functional animal shape. With 15 colors to choose from, it has a night light so parents can adjust the humidity level in the dark. It uses ultrasonic technology to push moisture into the air using sound vibrations, and has no filters to replace. It is easy to clean and works best in rooms up to 500 square feet. It also features an automatic shut-off when it runs out of water.
FridaBaby 3-in-1 Humidifier, Diffuser and Night light
This innovative cool mist humidifier provides moisture, as well as allowing the use of aromatherapy-grade essential oils so it can work as a diffuser. It is easy to clean, extremely quiet and compact but it has a 12 hour run time before the water runs out. Other features include automatic shut-off and a mist adjuster to control the room moisture level to the little one’s liking.
Vicks Filter-Free Humidifier
Vicks large capacity cool-mist humidifier is a great choice for medium size rooms. The tank holds 1.2 gallons of water and has a run time of 30 hours before the water dries out. No need to replace the filter because of its filter-free feature, easy to clean, and the best part is that they have a Mini Filter-Free model for smaller rooms on a budget too.
Babymoov Hygro+ Humidifier
Complete with a touchscreen, programmable humidity sensor, and nightlight, this cool mist humidifier is one of the most expensive ones in the market today. One great feature is that the humidity sensor can be programmed in the baby’s nursery and the device will automatically shut down once it reaches that level, and powers up again when the humidity level decreases. It has a 22 hour run time and can also be used as a diffuser so parents can get their money’s worth on this all-in-one.
Safety 1st 360° Cool Mist Ultrasonic Humidifier
For families with two kids sharing a room, this is an excellent choice for a cool-mist humidifier because of its two fully rotating mist outlets, making it easy for kids to have their own humidity directed towards them. It can run up to 36 hours and moisten rooms measuring 300 to 500 square feet. Safety 1st also has an automatic shut-off feature and does not require a filter.
Honeywell HCM350W Germ-Free Cool Mist Humidifier
This cool-mist humidifier works by pulling in dry air and blowing moisture-balanced air out through a fan. It is perfect for medium size rooms and kills 99.9% of mold and bacteria in water in the baby’s nursery. It is also 25% quieter than most units and is dishwasher safe. Its filter, however, needs to be replaced on a regular basis to keep the device germ-free.
Making the Most of the Humidifier
- Burns are the most common injuries associated with humidifiers. Never let children handle these devices and do not place a warm-mist steamer in a child’s bedroom to avoid accidents.
- Allowing a humidifier to eject too much moisture can create condensation in the walls. This can result in molds growing and spreading throughout the house.
- An unclean humidifier can cause bacterial growth and can promote coughs and colds instead of preventing them. Rinse out all the used water between uses. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, clean the humidifier regularly to prevent bacterial growth. Wash the bucket and filter system after every 2-3 days of use.
- A humidifier can sometimes emit minerals and microorganisms together with moisture. They are not necessarily harmful, but the residue can bother people with asthma. Make sure to use distilled water in the humidifier to avoid this problem.
Although it is not a necessity, many parents see using a humidifier as an easy, practical way to keep the baby’s nursery comfortable and conducive to sleep especially during cold and flu season. Always consider the ease of cleaning, noise level, mist output and automatic shut-off functions when deciding which baby humidifier is right for you.