In-depth reviews guided by a Pediatrician

The Hunt for the Best Humidifier

Sunday September 16, 2018
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Which humidifier is the right option for your baby's nursery? To determine which products are the best and why we purchased 12 popular humidity options using scientific measurements and real-life side-by-side testing to find out which models perform better than the competition. During testing, we considered effectiveness, ease of use and cleaning, noise, and additional features designed with baby's comfort or your convenience in mind. We also tested any filtration features that help reduce mold, bacteria, and the dreaded "white dust." Continue reading to see which products impress and which to pass by.


Compare Top Products

Displaying 1 - 5 of 12
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Best Overall Humidifier


Boneco U300


Editors' Choice Award

$159.99
at Amazon
See It

Capacity: 1.3 gallon | Filter: Yes
Very effective
Easy to use
Easier to clean
Internet instructions for cleaning
Rubber stopper part could get lost

The Boneco U300 is a high-end ultrasonic product you fill without removing the tank. This easy to use humidifier has a sleek look and comes with a cleaning brush to reach the smaller spaces. We like that you can refill this option silently while little ones sleep and that it has a simple dial adjustment you can use right out of the box without a learning curve. The Boneco is the most efficient option in the review creating more mist faster than the competition.

The Boneco is the most expensive option in the review making it a bad choice for families on a budget or those who plan to use a humidifier only occasionally. It is also one of the loudest ultrasonic humidifiers in our tests, though it is still relatively silent and far quieter than evaporative technology where the fan can be really loud. Despite these minor missteps, we think the Boneco is a great choice for families looking to raise humidity levels efficiently and quickly where price is not a concern.

Read review: Boneco U300

Money-Saving Top Performer


PureGuardian H1250


Editors' Choice Award

$67.40
(25% off)
at Amazon
See It

Capacity: 1.5 gallon | Filter: No
easy to read display
Easier to clean
Less expensive
Bottlebrush doesn't reach all parts
Little bit loud

The PureGuardian is an ultrasonic option that features a programmable digital interface and a compact design. We like the additional features that allow you to set a timer, limit humidity levels, and comes with auto shutoff. While the user interface may take some manual reading, it is easy to read and fairly intuitive. This unit is less expensive than our other Editors' Choice winner and it holds more water so it can run longer.

This unit is harder to clean with a smaller opening to the tank and parts we couldn't reach with our bottlebrush. It is also somewhat louder than most of the ultrasonic competition, but it is still quiet and definitely silent compared to evaporative technology. If you are looking for a high capacity programmable product but you aren't ready to spend the big bucks, the PureGuardian could be the right option for you.

Read review: PureGuardian H1250

Budget-friendly Humidity Maker


Honeywell HUL520


Best Value Award

$27.88
(7% off)
at Amazon
See It

Capacity: 0.5 gallon | Filter: No
Inexpensive
Small space saver
Easier to clean
Small capacity
Small tank opening

The Honeywell HUL520 is a very compact ultrasonic choice that fits almost anywhere. we like that this basic option is easy to use and works straight out of the box with no learning curve. While the tank is small it can hold enough for a full night at high mist volume with no need to refill. When the tank runs dry, the machine shuts off automatically. This unit has a dial adjustment, stands to fill on its own in the sink, and is efficient enough to keep humidity levels on track in smaller spaces. This unit is also budget friendly with a low price that works for most families.

This Honeywell has a small tank opening so you'll need a bottle brush to reach all the internal parts. The base is easy to clean, but the float will be easier to reach with a small straw brush. This humidifier is somewhat loud compared to other ultrasonic options, but it isn't loud enough to keep little ones awake. It also isn't the most efficient unit we tested, but if your goal is to humidify a smaller area then you'll find it does the job well enough.

Read review: Honeywell HUL520

Top Pick for Larger Rooms


Air Innovations MH901D


Top Pick Award

$99.95
(9% off)
at Amazon
See It

Capacity: 1.6 gallon | Filter: Yes
Larger capacity
Programmable features
Refill in place
Digital interface has a learning curve
Mist tube challenging to clean

The Air Innovations ultrasonic is a large capacity unit that has more bells and whistles than the competition. This unit is a good pick for families planning to humidify larger spaces or who want the convenience of monitoring humidity levels or using a timer. This humidifier has a digital interface with easy to understand icons and menu options that we were able to figure out without using the manual. This unit can be refilled in place with a flip lid or you can remove the tank and it sits by itself in the sink. The Air Innovations has the largest tank in the group, the longest run time and comes with a demineralization filter to keep down the white dust production. It has an auto shutoff, variable mist output with tall mist diverter and can run up to 100 hours between refills on the lowest setting.

This unit is a little more expensive than some other options so your budget could be a concern. It also can be challenging to clean as the bottle brush we use couldn't reach all of the surfaces. This unit is also not as effective as the competition with a slow start to mist product and lower overall humidity at the hour mark. However, we think the added features will be what some families are looking for and the fill in place design will be a big draw.

Read review: Air Innovations MH901D

Cutest Nursery Accessory


Crane Adorable



$39.97
(20% off)
at Amazon
See It

Capacity: 1 gallon | Filter: No
Super cute animal designs
Very effective
Quiet
Small tank opening
Can't reach all parts for cleaning

The Crane Adorable is a cute ultrasonic product that comes in a variety of animal options with one being more adorable than the next. We like that this option can be a standout in any nursery where it can go on display as a focal point. This unit has a nice sized tank, it's ultra quiet and one of the most effective options in the group. If all this weren't enough, it is inexpensive at a lower price than much of the competition.

The tank of the Adorable has a small opening and has trouble standing on its own to fill. It can be harder to clean if you don't have the right tools and out bottle brush couldn't reach the far end of the tank. The Adorable also lacks features beyond variable mist control with a single knob and it has an internal light that is always on if the unit is in use. However, if cute is what you want, it is hard to find anything more adorable than the Adorable and test show it is more effective and quieter than the competition making it worth the average list price.

Read review: Crane Adorable

Low-cost and Quiet Operation


TaoTronics TT-AH002



$38.99
at Amazon
See It

Capacity: 1 gallon | Filter: Yes
Very quiet
Lower price
Wipes clean
Won't stand on its own to fill
Limited features

The TaoTronics is an ultrasonic product with a smaller footprint and a lower price. This option is notable for being very quiet compared to the other lower cost options. The unit is easy to clean and simple to operate.

The TaoTronics has limited features and the tank won't stand on its own to fill. It isn't as effective or efficient as the competition so it could be a bad choice for families looking to humidify larger spaces or increase humidity quickly in a smaller space. Despite these minor issues, this unit could be an economical choice for anyone looking for a cheap choice with silent operation.

Read review: TaoTronics TT-AH002


Analysis and Test Results


For this review, we tested 12 great humidity competitors side-by-side during everyday use and with scientifically measured analysis to determine how effective each product is at creating humidity while remaining easy to clean and use, with low noise and dust. Our testing provides the details you'll need to make the best buying decision for your family based on your needs and wants with an emphasis on effectiveness and how hard they are to clean.

The competition is steep in this battle for the best humidifier.
The competition is steep in this battle for the best humidifier.

The products are shown in the table above in ranking order from highest scoring to lowest. Award-winning options create adequate humidity in a reasonable timeframe and have parts that are easy to keep clean to avoid exposing your little one to the bacteria and mold that can build up inside the unit.


Value


The list prices of humidifier range from close to $20 to over $160. While our testing shows that you get what you pay for, to a certain degree, there are still effective top performing options that won't break the bank as well as options that cost a little more but have features and functionality that could bring value to some families. The Honeywell HUL520 has a list price of $30 and third place rank out of 12 products. This product is easy to clean and relatively effective for such a small space saving product. For around $90, the PureGuardian H1250 offers more effective performance that is also easy to clean, quiet, and easy to use. While this option is $60 more on average than the Honeywell HUL520, the additional capacity and features could make it worth the added expense depending on your humidity goals.

The base of the HUL520 has few small spaces making it easier to clean to avoid mold  bacteria and mineral buildup.
The base of the HUL520 has few small spaces making it easier to clean to avoid mold, bacteria and mineral buildup.

Ease of Cleaning


We gave the Ease of Cleaning category the most weight in our overall score calculations because regular cleaning is essential to make sure that the humidifier helps your baby instead of causing harm. When water sits in the tank base, it naturally accumulates bacteria and fungi. Although there are ways to reduce the accumulation and presence of these organisms, there is no healthy way to permanently eliminate them. As the protector of your child's health, you will need to clean the internal workings weekly or daily to keep mold and bacteria from spreading into the air.


You may be surprised to learn that descaling, or reducing mineral deposits on the surfaces of the base is considered a necessary part of the cleaning routine to reduce the presence of unhealthy pathogens. The need to descale can be reduced by using distilled or filtered water. To learn more about descaling and how improper maintenance can open the door for mold, mildew, and other unwanted yucky things in your baby's environment, read our article on How to Choose the Best option for your Baby.

Only a few areas of the Adorable base are challenging to clean. It is easier if you invest in a straw brush that will let you reach in the float and mist output vent.
The tank opening on the Adorable is much too small for any hand to fit inside. It is a good idea to add a bottle brush to your cleaning kit so you can reach inside to ensure no mold or bacteria buildup occurs.

The Honeywell HCM-350 and the Honeywell HUL520 are the easiest products to clean with scores of 9 and 8 of 10 respectively. These units have large tank openings for easy access and few nooks and crannies where bacteria and mold can hide and you can't reach. The HCM-350 top and bottom are dishwasher safe which is a plus. The hardest options to clean scored 5 of 10 and include the Crane Adorable, Crane Drop, Safety 1st 360, TaoTronics TT-AH002, and the Vicks Filter-Free V4600. These products either have lots of nooks and crannies (above left), limited access to parts (above right) or were difficult to sterilize or descale. Some come with their own little brushes to reach the small spaces, but even the manufacturer's little brushes couldn't ease the cleaning pain.

We test each unit for effectiveness in how much humidity it can generate in the beginning as well as over time.
We test each unit for effectiveness in how much humidity it can generate in the beginning as well as over time.

Effectiveness


We tested effectiveness by measuring the humidity levels in a room with an average size of 150 sq ft. Award winners put out a lot of mist in a short period of time to bring humidity levels up quickly and keep them there.


During testing, we kept conditions as similar as possible to focus on each unit's mist output. Keep in mind that the effectiveness of each product may not be as important to you as noise or ease of cleaning if your goal is to humidify a very small room or only a portion of a room such as an area around the crib. All of the products are able to raise the moisture level adequately in the vicinity immediately around the unit.

The Boneco ultrasonic humidifier is a high producer of mist but somewhat noisy compared to the competition.
The Boneco ultrasonic humidifier is a high producer of mist but somewhat noisy compared to the competition.

The most effective unit in the group is Boneco U300 with a score of 9 of 10. The Crane Adorable, frog edition, is right on its heels with an 8. The least effective option that took longer to raise humidity levels and struggled to raise the humidity in the entire room is the Honeywell HCM-350, the only evaporative style product in the review. However, if you don't want a vaporizing product, it has other appealing features.

The TaoTronics is one of the quietest options in our tests.
The TaoTronics is one of the quietest options in our tests.

Noise


The noise from these machines can range from barely there to distracting depending on your sensitivity level or feelings about white noise. We considered both the measurement on a decibel sound meter placed 1 meter from the unit operating on its highest setting, as well as the type of sound produced by the unit.


We feel that options that produce more of a "white noise" sound are more conducive to catching 40 winks than units that produce noise at a single specific pitch.

The Honeywell HCM-350 is the only evaporation humidifier we tested for this review and the fan operation is loud compared to the ultrasonic products.
The Honeywell HCM-350 is the only evaporation humidifier we tested for this review and the fan operation is loud compared to the ultrasonic products.

Five of the 12 products earned 9 of 10 for relatively silent operation during testing. Each rated less than 40 decibels on the monitor and none have offensive or annoying noise that might keep a sick baby awake unnecessarily. These options include the Crane Adorable, Crane Drop, Safety 1st 360, Vicks Filter-Free V4600 and the TaoTronics TT-AH002 which we feel is a notable consideration for parents looking for a quiet, budget-friendly option. The loudest choice is the Honeywell HCM-350 with sound over 60 decibels during testing. This excessive volume is likely the result of the fan operation required for the evaporative functionality to work properly. However, if you enjoy the sound of a fan running and your baby does too, the louder noise may not be a problem for you.

The flip top lid on the Air Innovations allows you to fill the tank without removing it from the base.
The flip top lid on the Air Innovations allows you to fill the tank without removing it from the base.

Ease of Use


Products were compared for ease of user interface, intuitive features, and design, and additional functionality compared to the competition. Ideally, a product should be "plug and play" where you don't need to spend excessive time reading the manual or configuring it for use.


However, you may not want it to be so simple that it lacks the features and options to meet your needs. Some products have a simple turn dial that controls on/off and amount of mist. Others have digital interfaces that have more features that can control the percentage of humidity in the air or a shut off/run timer. Depending on how you plan to use your humidifying device, a simple dial may be all you need.

The single variable moisture control dial on the TaoTronics is easy to use but lacks real control over the amount of moisture being produced.
The single variable moisture control dial on the TaoTronics is easy to use but lacks real control over the amount of moisture being produced.

Air Innovations MH901D earned a 9 of 10 for ease of use in large part thanks to its programmability which provides lots of features with a user interface we managed without the aid of the user guide. This option can be programmed with a delayed start time, run timer, humidity level, on an easy to see a digital display. It is also easy to fill without removing the tank. The Boneco U300, PureGuardian H1250, and Levoit LV600HH earned second place scores of 7 for ease of use. The TaoTronics TT-AH002 earned the lowest score with a 4 of 10. This unit has a simple dial to turn it on and off, but the tank is harder to fill (can't stand on its own in a sink), carry, and place on the base.

A nice variety of humidifiers round out our favorites so there should be something for everyone in this group of winners.
A nice variety of humidifiers round out our favorites so there should be something for everyone in this group of winners.

Conclusion


Selecting the right humidifier for your baby's room is an important decision. Adding extra moisture to the air can make all the difference when your baby is sleeping or not feeling well. With so many different products available, with a variety of features to consider, choosing the right product for your family can be daunting. To help you with this decision, we used each product to determine the overall performance and functionality of additional features. While we believe the award-winning products are the best of the bunch, other top scoring products may have the features or functionality you are looking for. With all the insider details, you can make the best decision for your family and your budget. If you're still unsure which competitor is right for you, or you aren't sure which features are most important to meet your goals, learn more by reading How to Choose the Best Humidifier for your Baby.


Juliet Spurrier, MD and Bob Wofford