In-depth reviews guided by a Pediatrician

Best Baby Humidifier of 2020

Tuesday July 7, 2020
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Looking for the best humidifier for your baby or kid's room? We purchased 10 popular humidifiers for scientific testing using real-life side-by-side comparisons to determine which options outperform the competition. We considered effectiveness, ease of use and cleaning, noise, and additional features for convenience or a child's comfort. We also tested any filtration features that help reduce mold, bacteria, and the dreaded "white dust." Read on to see which competitors impress and which fail to meet the mark.

Top 10 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 10
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Best Overall Humidifier


Boneco U300


Editors' Choice Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

$159.99
at Amazon
See It

71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Cleaning 7
  • Effectiveness 9
  • Noise 5
  • Ease of Use 7
Capacity: 1.3 gallon | Filter: Yes
Very effective
Easy to use
Easier to clean
Internet instructions for cleaning
Stopper 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, making it a good choice if your goal is a quick increase in humidity.

The Boneco is the most expensive option in the review, making it a poor choice for families on a budget or those who plan to humidify only occasionally. It is also one of the loudest ultrasonic options in our tests. However, it is still relatively silent and far quieter than evaporative technology, where the fan can be noisy. Despite these minor missteps, we think the Boneco is an excellent choice for families looking to raise humidity levels efficiently and quickly if the price is not a concern.

Read review: Boneco U300

Budget-friendly Humidity


Honeywell HUL520


Best Value Award
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  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

$31.52
(21% off)
at Amazon
See It

67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Cleaning 8
  • Effectiveness 6
  • Noise 5
  • Ease of Use 6
Capacity: 0.5 gallon | Filter: No
Inexpensive
Space saver
Easier to clean
Small capacity
Small tank opening

The Honeywell HUL520 is a 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 accessible for most families.

This Honeywell has a small tank opening, so you'll need a bottle brush to reach the inside. The base is easy to clean, but the float will be easier to reach with a small straw brush. This option is somewhat loud compared to other ultrasonic products, 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

Kid-friendly Cuteness


Crane Adorable


Top Pick Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

$41.25
(18% off)
at Amazon
See It

66
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Cleaning 5
  • Effectiveness 8
  • Noise 9
  • Ease of Use 5
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 each more adorable than the next. We like that this option is a nursery standout where it can be a focal point. This unit has a nice-sized tank, is ultra-quiet, and one of the most effective options. If all this weren't enough, it has 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 our 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 inner light that is always on if the unit is in use. However, if cute is what you want, it is hard to find anything cuter than the Adorable, and the tests show it is more effective and quieter than the competition.

Read review: Crane Adorable


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

Why You Should Trust Us


We've been testing humidifiers for over six years with our early testing, including humidity level measuring and white dust comparison not found in other reviews. The review process lead is our founder, Dr. Juliet Spurrier, a board-certified pediatrician and mother of two. Dr. Spurrier uses her background in infant health to choose products with baby well-being and safety in mind. The test team leader is Bob Wofford, father of 7 and Senior Review Analyst with BabyGearLab since 2013. Bob has developed testing procedures for the products in this review and previous humidity reviews. Senior Review Editor, Wendy Schmitz, rounds out the team with her experience analyzing humidifying products beginning in 2015. With over 17 years of combined experience choosing, testing, and analyzing humidifiers, we have the expertise to help you determine what is essential and what to look for in your next purchase.

Jump to: How We Tested Humidifiers

The Sunpentown comes with a small brush designed for easier cleaning. You may also find cleaning easier by adding a bottle and straw brush to your cleaning toolkit.

Analysis and Test Results


For this review, we tested 11 great humidity creators side-by-side during everyday use and with scientifically measured analysis to determine each product's efficacy at creating humidity while remaining easy to clean and use, with low noise and dust. Our testing provides the details you need to make the best buying decision for your family based on your goals with an emphasis on effectiveness and ease of cleaning.

Jump to: Buying Advice for Humidifiers

Award-winning options create adequate humidity in a reasonable timeframe, and they are easy to keep clean to avoid exposure to the bacteria and mold that can build up inside the unit.


Value


Our testing reveals that in the land of humidifying, you often get what you pay for. However, there are still effective options that won't break the bank and products that cost a little more but have features or functionality that bring value to some families with specific goals. The Honeywell HUL520 is affordable and ranks fairly high in the competition. This product is easy to clean and relatively effective for such a small space-saving design. If you are looking for something cuter, the Crane Adorable is economical, effective, and super duper cute.

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 view ease of cleaning as the most critical test metric because keeping your humidity maker clean is essential to ensure that it helps your child without doing harm. When water sits in the tank or base, it naturally accumulates bacteria and fungi. Although there are ways to reduce the accumulation of these troublemakers, there is no healthy way to eliminate them permanently. As your child's health protector, you must clean all parts of the unit weekly or daily to keep mold and bacteria from becoming airborne.


You might be surprised that descaling or reducing mineral deposits on the base is a necessary step in the cleaning routine to help reduce the potential for unhealthy pathogens. To start, you can reduce the required descaling effort by using distilled or filtered water with each use.

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 both super easy to clean with scores of 9 and 8 of 10, respectively. Both products come with large tank openings for whole-hand access and limited nooks and crannies for bacteria and mold to hide. The HCM-350 top and bottom are dishwasher safe, which is a unique plus that can make regular maintenance far more manageable. The hardest options to clean scored only 5 and include the Crane Adorable, Crane Drop, Safety 1st 360, TaoTronics TT-AH002, and the Vicks Filter-Free V4600. These options either have lots of nooks and crannies (above left), limited access to parts you must clean (above right), or are challenging to sterilize or descale. Some of these units come with little brushes for reaching the small crevices, but even the manufacturer's tiny brushes couldn't help ease all of the cleaning pain. We worry parents will hesitate or avoid regular cleaning of these products, which wouldn't be a good idea.

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 test effectiveness by measuring the humidity levels in a room that is about 150 sq ft. Award winners generate a lot of mist in a short time to raise humidity levels quickly and keep them there. This functionality is key for a worthwhile mist maker.


Throughout testing, we kept conditions as similar as possible so we could focus on each product's mist creation. The effectiveness of each option to create significant humidity may not be as relevant to you as the amount of noise it creates or how easy it is to clean if your goal is to humidify a tiny room or only the area around the crib. All of the options we considered can raise the moisture level adequately in the vicinity immediately around the unit, even if they didn't affect the entire room.

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 option in this review is the Boneco U300, with a score of 9 of 10. This product creates significantly more mist than most of the competition. The Crane Adorable, frog edition, is right on its heels with an 8 (other animal editions vary). The least effective option that took longer to raise the humidity in the room or struggled to raise the moisture in the entire room is the Honeywell HCM-350. This product is the only evaporative style in the group. However, if you don't want an ultra-sonic option, it has other attractive features like the lack of white dust creation.

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

Noise


Humidifier noise can range from barely audible to sleep disruptive, depending on your sensitivity or feelings surrounding white noise. We considered the decibel levels from a sound meter placed 1 meter from the unit operating on its highest setting, as well as the kind of sound produced. Is it high-pitched? Repetitive?


We feel that "white noise" is more conducive to restful sleep than a single specific pitch that could be grating over time.

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 options earned 9 of 10 with comparatively silent operation in our tests. Each resulted in less than 40 decibels on our reader, and none are offensive or annoying or might keep a sick child awake. These include the Crane Adorable, Crane Drop, Safety 1st 360, Vicks Filter-Free V4600, and the TaoTronics TT-AH002. The loudest product is the Honeywell HCM-350, with sound over 60 decibels in our tests. This volume is the fan required for evaporation to happen. However, if your baby or child enjoys the sound of a fan, the louder white noise may not be an issue.

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


We compare each option's user interface, features, and design, as well as additional functionality not found in all of the competition. Ideally, you want a product that is "plug and play," so you don't need to spend an excessive amount of time referencing the manual or setting it up.


However, you may not want a simple product that lacks the features and options to meet your needs. Some of the competition has a simple dial for on/off and the level of mist creation. Other options sport digital interfaces with more features to control the humidity percentage in the air or a shut off/run timer. Depending on your goals, a simple dial may be all you need or not enough.

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.

The Boneco U300 and Levoit LV600HH earned 7s for ease of use. The TaoTronics TT-AH002 earned the lowest score with a 4 of 10. This unit has a simple dial to operate, but the reservoir is challenging to carry, fill (it can't stand upright in the sink), and put on the base.

If you live in a dry climate, you may already be familiar with humidifiers. Dry air can wreak havoc on the skin and the well-being of the mucous membranes, particularly in the winter. If you live in a humid climate, you may have the opposite problem with too much moisture in the house relying on a dehumidifier to prevent mold and mildew.

Whatever your situation may be, when your baby gets his or her first cold, you likely enter the complex world of humidifiers. Humidifiers can help loosen the thick and sticky mucus that accumulates in your baby's nasal passages and upper airway during an Upper Respiratory Infection. Extra moisture in the air can be the difference between being up all night with your sick little one, and getting some much-needed shut-eye. In a dry climate, using a humidifier on a regular basis can also help keep mucous membranes moist which helps prevent nose bleeds and chapped lips. It is also a useful item to have if your little one develops croup.

A very dry climate can cause issues with respiratory health and general discomforts like dry eyes and skin. It can also cause problems inside the home like shrinkage of wood floors and furniture, cracked paint on wood trim, and static electricity. Alternatively, an indoor climate that is too humid can foster condensation, unwanted microbe growth, and mite infestation. How do you correctly use a humidifier to create a pleasant and healthy home? Turns out that is a loaded question. This article can help you understand how to buy a humidifier for your child's room, but more importantly, it can help you learn how to use it safely.

Safe Humidification Levels for the Home


Battles rage on between builders, physicians, and microbiologists regarding the proper indoor humidity for health and the prevention of microbial growth. A general rule of thumb is somewhere between 25 to 60%. However, outdoor air temperatures will dictate the safest spot in this range. In many parts of the U.S., this can also vary from season to season. Because understanding this information is essential if you use a humidifier in your home, we will discuss this topic before digging into the basics.

Fact: Did you know that cold air canNOT hold as much moisture as warm air?

Let's start with some helpful tips for creating a pleasant and healthy home environment.
Optimum zones for humidity as they relate to microbe growth and health.
Optimum zones for humidity as they relate to microbe growth and health.

  • Consider Allergies or Asthma — It is important to touch base with your child's doctor before using a humidifier if your child has a history of asthma or allergies. While increasing humidity levels can often be helpful, it can also exacerbate some conditions if not used properly.

  • Use a Hygrometer — A hygrometer is a handy device that measures indoor humidity. Year-round recommended indoor humidity should be between 25-60% (depending on the outdoor temperature). However, within this range, the majority of people cannot tell the difference. This inability is why a hygrometer or simple humidity monitor is helpful. With a list price as low as $10, a hygrometer is an invaluable tool when using a humidifier. Though lower cost hygrometers may have an error rate of +/- 3-5%, they provide adequate general information to observe household trends. In our day-to-day testing, we used the AcuRite Indoor Temperature and Humidity Monitor.

  • Adjust Humidity Based on Outdoor Temperature — Whether you live in a climate with one season or a climate with two to four distinct seasons that fluctuate between very cold and very warm, being educated and maintaining proper humidity levels within the home based on outdoor temperature is very important.

A general rule of thumb is to keep the relative humidity below 60% during the summer and between 25 to 40% during the winter. Most importantly, do not overdo it. Too much humidity will propagate mold growth in the home, often without being visible (i.e., insulation within walls).

This informal but informative 9-minute video produced by Building Science Laboratories interviews John Straube Ph.D., an internationally recognized expert on moisture control. We recommend that you watch it as it provides both education and answers to some common questions about indoor relative humidity and humidifier use in the home.


For those who desire further information on how condensation occurs, how high indoor relative humidity during the winter (with freezing outdoor temperature of 32F/0C ) can produce condensation inside walls, Chris Schumacher from Building Science Laboratories answers the question "how do relative humidity and dew point work?". Also, the table below represents various dew points for common air temperature/relative humidity combinations.
Dew Points for Common Relative Humidity-Air Temperature Combinations
Dew Points for Common Relative Humidity-Air Temperature Combinations

Types of Humidifiers


Competing products come in an array of types; we'd like to give you a brief understanding of what is available. While there are products for the entire house or only a part of it, our comparative review focuses solely on single room products for use in a baby's room.

Each product's output capacity determines how efficiently and effectively it can push moisture through space. Measures of room humidification are usually in square feet (sq ft). Maximum square footage for humidification can be an important factor when looking for a room unit, especially if the area you want to humidify is large. However, if you have a small nursery or you only want to humidify the crib area, then the humidification area may be less critical. So, a product listed for a 500 square foot room should easily meet humidification needs in a room with smaller square footage.

Depending on the total square footage of the area you want to humidify, a product with a high output capacity and effective mist dispersion can provide adequate moisture for more than one room or an area of your house. Although many of the products in our comparative review give an objective humidification coverage in square feet, we did not seek to determine how each company established this measurement. Instead, we consider it a general statement of output capacity, rather than a guarantee that it could provide consistent humidity in a specific square footage.

Central Humidifier


A central unit's purpose (below left) is to humidify an entire home. These units attach directly to a home's forced-air heating system and push moisture through the air vents to achieve an overall increase in humidity.
The Aprilaire 700 is an example of a whole-house humidifier.
The Essick Air 821-000 evaporative console humidifier can humidify up to 1 900 square feet of space and sits on rolling casters.

Console Humidifier


Console units (above right) are free-standing products designed to humidify a large portion of the home. However, they are not easily portable.

The Sunpentown SU-4010 is effective enough to cause moisture to accumulate on surfaces if run at full volume for extended periods.
The Sunpentown SU-4010 is effective enough to cause moisture to accumulate on surfaces if run at full volume for extended periods.

Single Room Humidifier


Single room products (above) are smaller (typically ultrasonic or evaporative, more on this below) that can increase the humidity in a room or a smaller area of your house. Single room units are particularly helpful during a respiratory illness when congestion makes it difficult for a baby to sleep. However, they can also be helpful year-round to maintain comfortable humidity levels.

Vicks Warm Steam Vaporizer V105SG with a claimed 1 Gallon capacity heats water into steam  so it comes out hot. As such  we do not recommend warm vaporizers for a child's room. This particular unit can be used in conjunction with Vicks VapoSteam or Kaz inhalant.
Vicks Warm Steam Vaporizer V105SG with a claimed 1 Gallon capacity heats water into steam, so it comes out hot. As such, we do not recommend warm vaporizers for a child's room. This particular unit can be used in conjunction with Vicks VapoSteam or Kaz inhalant.

Steam Vaporizer


Steam vaporizers humidify via warm mist. They use electricity to boil water until it turns into steam vapor. However, because they produce hot steam internally, they are not recommended for use with children to prevent burn injury. Many vaporizers also offer the ability to use medicinal inhalants or essential oils in a separate reservoir or on a pad and distribute them into the air during operation.

Air-O-Swiss Ultrasonic Travel Humidifier 7146
Air-O-Swiss Ultrasonic Travel Humidifier 7146

Travel Humidifiers


Travel products are nifty devices you can take with you on the go. Their size makes them easy to fit in a suitcase, but also limits their effectiveness. These units are great to place on a nightstand during a hotel stay but do not offer the power or features that are necessary for daily, continuous use.

Cool Mist vs. Warm Mist


Another consideration is cool or warm mist output. None of the products we tested refrigerates the water before putting in into the air, so "cool" mist only means that the mist is produced using room temperature water. It will feel cool due to the evaporation that occurs as soon as the mist reaches your warm skin. Cool mist products can be more cost effective because they do not require extra energy to run a heating element.

Warm mist models either heat the water enough so that it turns into steam and rises naturally, or heat the water to a set temperature well below boiling before using another process such as ultrasonic vibration to push the mist into the air. Some people prefer warm mist because they find it makes the air feel less chilly, but this tends to be more of a subjective feeling than an observable temperature difference. You may appreciate a warm mist product in, especially in a cold room.

Most products produce cool mist, some only warm mist, and a few models can do both. In our testing group, all of the products produced cool mist, and two models offered an added warm mist feature. These two models, the Levoit LV600HH and the Sunpentown SU-4010, created warm mist by heating the water to around 104 degrees before using ultrasonic vibration to generate the mist.

On the topic of warm mist units, a note of caution: we at BabyGearLab feel that using a true warm mist product (one that heats the water to boiling to create steam), is not a good idea when small children are involved. Boiling water around a curious baby or toddler creates a safety hazard that we don't think is worth the potential problems it could produce. Even with the options we tested, that only warm the water, we recommend keeping them out of your precious little one's reach to avoid the possibility of contacting the heating element.

The TaoTronics comes with a small detail brush designed to help clean the crevices and ultrasonic plate on the base of the unit.

Ultrasonic products are the current popular favorite in humidification technology. They work by vibrating a small plate at frequencies above what the human ear can hear (thus, the name ultrasonic) to break up water into tiny mist particles that float into the air. Ultrasonic units are quiet and efficient, but they produce white dust which you can read about below in the section on cleaning and maintenance.

Evaporative humidification is another technology that is less prevalent than it used to be. Evaporative products used to be more popular than they are today: check out this 1991 article from the New York Times when evaporative wicking products were the latest thing.

Luckily, evaporative units don't have problems with white dust, but they do have other issues. Evaporative products work by sucking air through a water-saturated wicking filter. This process requires a powerful fan (which can be noisy), and a filter with a large surface area (which requires more space than a tiny ultrasonic vibrating plate). Finally, the wicking filter on most evaporative units requires regular replacement. Evaporative wicking filters do a great job of trapping and collecting minerals from the water, so they don't go into the air, but over time, these mineral deposits prevent the filter from wicking properly and causes the product to lose effectiveness. Regular replacement of filters is part of the overall cost of these units. The Honeywell HCM-350 is the only evaporative product in this review.

Tap Water vs. Distilled or Filtered Water


Why does it matter what kind of water you use? It can make a big difference. Here's why: Tap water contains minerals like sodium and phosphorus. Water quality varies from region to region with some areas having soft water with low mineral content, some average mineral content, and others with hard water and high mineral content. Tap water tends to deposit hard minerals within the humidifier that are difficult to remove (much like a ring in the toilet bowl). More worrisome, however, is that the hard mineral deposits become breeding grounds for microbial growth of bacteria and fungus. Also, tap water minerals are dispersed by ultrasonic units in a fine mist into the air you breathe, and it often results in "white dust" on surfaces in the room. Remember that ultrasonic vibrating plate? Not only does it turn water into mist, but it also breaks up minerals in the water and invites them along for the ride. Although these mineral particles are tiny, research shows that they may affect respiratory health as seen in this case study. Furthermore, no one wants the extra job of cleaning white dust from furniture and carpeting.

There are a few ways to avoid problems with minerals in tap water:

  • Use a Filter — Evaporative units cannot operate without a wicking filter which requires regular replacement. Basic ultrasonic units do not require a filter for operation, but adding one is helpful in reducing white dust if you are using tap water. In turn, they also minimize mineral deposition in the product itself which over time can be very difficult to remove and provides a breeding surface for microbial growth.
The Boneco U7147 comes with two water-filtering devices. An ionic silver filter cartridge (left) and a Hydrocell using activated carbon technology (right). This unit also provides a small cleaning brush (center).
This is an example of how mineral deposits collect over time when using unfiltered tap water in a humidifier. They are difficult to remove and provide an easy surface for microbial growth.
Mineral deposition in the internal workings of a humidifier becomes very difficult to remove.

  • Use distilled or filtered water — To reduce the white dust, you should use distilled water or highly filtered water from a reverse osmosis or multi-stage filter system. Most manufacturers are aware of the white dust problem and encourage steps for prevention. In fact, all of the ultrasonic units we tested recommend the use of distilled or filtered water. Some manufacturers offer additional ways to reduce or avoid white dust by including a demineralization filter or offering one sold separately.

The Vicks Filter-Free V4600 has some of the highest amounts of white dust production in the group.
The Boneco has somewhat less white dust production than other ultrasonic options we tested.

We were concerned enough about white dust that we decided to perform our own in-house white dust tests. The pictures above show a side-by-side comparison of the white dust from the Vicks Filter-Free V4600 (above left), the most prolific white dust producer and the dust from the Boneco U300 (above center), a less prolific producer. In this test, we use hard tap water. We only used a filter if the unit had one included in the box. Some products have filterless designs. Others, like the Crane Drop and Crane Adorable, have filters available to purchase separately. Keep in mind that these photos use special lighting to capture and dramatize the amount of dust produced by each unit, making comparisons easier. To further emphasize our point, it is helpful to view the photo for the only evaporative unit in our testing group, the Honeywell HCM-350 (above right) which produces virtually no noticeable white dust due to the absence of ultrasonic vibrations.

Qualities to Look For


Choosing a unit that is not too big, not too small, works well, and is durable, stylish, and doesn't sound like a steam train blowing through your bedroom can be tricky. To help you with your decision, we considered the following areas:

Parts of the Crane Drop tank can be cleaned with a brush  but not all surfaces on the inside can be accessed.
Parts of the Crane Drop tank can be cleaned with a brush, but not all surfaces on the inside can be accessed.

How Easy is it to Clean?


For each product, we followed the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning and maintenance. For some models, this meant daily emptying and replacing the water. For other models, this meant a weekly cleaning using vinegar or bleach. Following the manufacturer's instructions will allow you to maintain your product's warranty and it will ensure you are doing the most you can to prevent microbe growth.

The base of the Crane Adorable should be emptied daily.
The base of the Crane Adorable should be emptied daily.

Daily Maintenance


Some products explicitly call for daily emptying and refilling of the water tank and basin in the instructions. When you are using a product continuously, this is not as demanding as you'd think. We at BabyGearLab think it is best practice to perform this task daily or at least every other day no matter what it says in the instructions. If you bring the entire unit to the sink with you during refills, it only takes a few extra seconds to rinse out the base. Daily rinsing allows you to inspect the surfaces for unwanted colors (meaning microbe growth) and alerts you when the product needs a little extra TLC.

Weekly Maintenance


In addition to a daily check-up, humidifiers need a thorough cleaning once a week. Weekly cleaning can require wiping down with a cloth, cleaning parts with a small brush, and using a cleaning solution like vinegar or diluted bleach. Some products require more specialized care than others during the weekly cleaning.

Effectiveness at Raising Humidity


When considering effectiveness, it is important to look at output strength, capacity, and duration.

Output strength


Output strength is a measure of the ability to raise and maintain humidity levels in a given space. You may not need a product with the highest output strength if your goal is to provide extra moisture to the air surrounding the crib. Some products can be too powerful for small spaces. On the other hand, a unit with weak output strength is unlikely to be able to compensate for periods of extremely dry air or provide adequate and consistent humidity to a larger area.

The Air Innovations has a large capacity tank and the manufacturer claims a run time of up to 100 hours.
The Air Innovations has a large capacity tank and the manufacturer claims a run time of up to 100 hours.

Capacity


Tank capacity becomes very important if you are operating it over extended time periods such as throughout the night. A product with a small tank capacity will require extra footwork for refillings. For continuous operation, large tank capacities are ideal.

Duration


Duration is somewhat related to tank capacity, and to the mist output setting. A product with a large tank capacity can operate for longer without running out of water. The ability to control mist output allows you to control duration as well. For example, if you select the highest mist output, you'll use the water in the tank quickly, and you might also encounter wet floors from the excessive mist output.

How Noisy is It?


Ultrasonic units are known for being very quiet, the majority of ultrasonic units we tested have a quiet machine-type noise with occasional bubbling sounds. Evaporative products aren't as quiet as ultrasonic because they require a fan. When considering the noise level, you'll need to think about whether or not you are okay with fan noise. Some people find that the added white noise of a fan helps some babies sleep.

Is it Easy to Use?


Ease of use includes careful consideration of weight, footprint, features, and design.

The Crane Drop ultrasonic is a compact option but it isn't as effective as other small units.
The Crane Drop ultrasonic is a compact option but it isn't as effective as other small units.

Weight and Footprint


A portable product should be easy to carry from room to room, and to the sink for refillings. The ideal portable humidifier should be lightweight, compact, and have a small footprint so that it can easily fit on a nightstand or dresser. The size and shape are also important when refillings. Can the tank fit under the faucet in a kitchen sink? Will the base fit in the sink for cleaning? We found that most of the products we tested did not fit in a typical bathroom sink and some tanks can't stand on their own.

Features


Features are extra perks in addition to the primary function. Through testing, we determined that some features are essential and some just "nice to have." Features that give you control over moisture output are essential. If you plan to use a product over different seasons and a wide temperature range, you'll need the ability to control the humidity level in the air. The products in our test group offer this through variable mist adjusting knobs, fan speed, and the ability to self-monitor and maintain a specific humidity level using an internal hygrometer.

Features like a night light, a warm mist option, and auto shut-off timers fell into the "nice to have" category. These features can make life more comfortable and add value, but they may not be a necessity. We also encountered some features of questionable benefit. For example, we are uncertain about the effectiveness of the UV light in some units.

The digital interface on the Innovations is easy to read and program without help from the manual.
The shape of the Drop's tank means it can't stand on its own and you'll need to hold it to fill the tank.

Design


For design, we consider how a product's overall package makes it easy or not so easy to live with on a day-to-day basis. A product with a lot of extra features may be complicated to use if the controls are confusing and require extra steps to access certain functions. Similarly, a product that doesn't offer the basic functions, or presents problems when attempting to use basic functions (such as a water tank that doesn't balance on its own during refills) will receive low marks for design.

Extra Features and Modes to Consider


Extra features to consider include a night light, warm mist option, and an auto shut-off timer. If you want to maintain humidity levels within a narrow range, you may want to look for a unit with an internal hygrometer.

The Munchkin Bottle and Nipple Brush
Dr. Brown's Natural Flow Cleaning Brush  4 Pack

Helpful Accessories


There are a few extra accessories that can be very helpful in your quest to maintain a clean and functional humidifier. A bottle brush with a foam tip works well to clean tank insides. For this task, we used the Munchkin Bottle and Nipple Brush. For tiny nooks and crannies, you will want a small brush designed to fit in tight spaces. We used Dr. Brown's Natural Flow Cleaning Brushes or the brush that came with the unit (some come with a brush). Based on each product's maintenance instructions, you may also need white vinegar and bleach for weekly cleanings. Finally, if you choose an ultrasonic unit that does not come with a demineralization filter, you will want to purchase distilled water or use a filtration system to reduce the mineral content in the water. If you are using tap water, look for a filter cartridge to purchase separately.

Choosing a humidifier can be more of a challenge than you think.
Choosing a humidifier can be more of a challenge than you think.

Our search for the best nursery humidifier started by considering single-room units that use cool mist technology. After selecting models with a variety of different features, we considered online reviews and user options as well as our own experiences and test results to choose the winners.

The mist diverter on the TaoTronics can be split in two to direct moisture in different directions  but the smaller openings can get mineral buildup and pink mold if you don't clean them regularly.
The mist diverter on the TaoTronics can be split in two to direct moisture in different directions, but the smaller openings can get mineral buildup and pink mold if you don't clean them regularly.

Testing Ease of Cleaning


We followed manufacturer cleaning instructions during our hands-on testing to compare daily and/or weekly maintenance tasks for each model. We considered the amount of time involved to keep each unit in tip-top shape, as well as the difficulty created by tight spaces, and the need for extra cleaning tools.

Testing Effectiveness


To judge how effective each humidifier is in raising the humidity level in baby's nursery, we placed each humidifier in a closed 120 square foot room and ran it at its highest setting for one hour. During that time, we continuously measured the humidity level, making sure to start each test at equal humidity levels for consistency. This test shows that all products can raise the humidity level to some degree in the small space. There was a wide performance range in this test.

As expected  the fan on the Honeywell 350 evaporative humidifier produced more noise than the ultrasonic humidifiers in our testing bunch.
As expected, the fan on the Honeywell 350 evaporative humidifier produced more noise than the ultrasonic humidifiers in our testing bunch.

Testing Noise


We measured noise levels during operation using a decibel meter placed 1 meter from each humidifier. We also test each unit subjectively during hands-on testing, placing units side-by-side to determine their order from quietest to noisiest. During hands-on testing, we consider the type of noise in addition to the overall noise level. Some humidifiers produced a distinct pitch, which tended to fatigue the ears more quickly than options that produce more of a fan or "white noise."

Including a handle in the design of the water tank on the Sunpentown SU-4010 made it easy to carry to and from refillings.
Including a handle in the design of the water tank on the Sunpentown SU-4010 made it easy to carry to and from refillings.

Testing Ease of Use


Ease of Use considers both features and design with options that offer programmability earning higher ease of use scores. Humidifiers earn extra points for auto shut-off, large tank capacity, internal hygrometers, timers, filters, nightlights, and anything else that gives the user extra control over performance. The design considers each humidifier's features in context. Humidifiers, with too many features, can be complicated to operate and require lots of extra maintenance.

Choosing the best humidifier for your little one's room can be a crucial decision. Increasing moisture in the air can be the difference between your child sleeping or continuing to feel congested. With so many potential options on the market, each with different features, finding the best product for your family can be challenging. To help you determine which humidifier is right for you, we used each option in this review to assess overall performance, ease of cleaning, and general functionality. While we feel the award-winning competitors are the best in the group, other top-scoring options might include the features you desire. Armed with our insider information from testing, you can find the best product for your little one and your wallet.

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.



Juliet Spurrier, MD and Bob Wofford