Increase your air quality, improve your health and get a good night’s sleep
The best humidifiers go a long way to making you happier, healthier and much less itchy. In our desperation to dry out our air with aircon and central heating, we’ve triggered all manner of malaises, from cracked lips and static shocks to asthma, eczema, sore throat and psoriasis.
Air that’s too humid isn’t exactly comfortable either, of course. No-one craves clammy summer days or damp winter mornings, and our homes certainly don’t benefit from being too soggy. The trick is to find the right level of humidity. Comfortable air quality has a relative humidity of around 40%, and anything over about 50% spells a damp, mouldy playground for harmful bacteria.
A decent humidifier will help you get that balance right. Humidifiers disperse an invisible mist – cold or warm – to keep the moisture in your home’s air at just the right level. In a moment, we will reveal the best models you can buy, but first here’s a quick buying guide.
How to choose the best humidifier for you
How can I check my home’s current humidity level?
Many humidifiers come with a built-in hygrometer that measures and displays the current humidity level. Otherwise, some of the best air quality monitors can measure and track the humidity in a room, or you could buy a stand-alone hygrometer or hygrometer/thermometer. They’re available from Amazon and other retailers for around £8 to £30.
Does using a humidifier have health benefits?
Humidifiers are commonly used to treat issues that arise when the air is too dry including dry and cracked skin, congestion, allergies and a dry throat. They can also help you to sleep while alleviating snoring.
On the other hand, using a humidifier too often can present its own problems when humidity levels become too high. As mentioned, 40% is optimum; but indoor humidity levels between 30% and 50% are considered fine for health and comfort. Lower than 30% is too dry, and risks causing short-term health problems and exacerbating long-term problems. Higher than 50 to 60% creates a welcoming environment for bacteria, dust mites and mould – not to mention a musty smell. If your humidity levels regularly rise above 60%, particularly in the winter, you might want to think about investing in a dehumidifier.
What features should I look for in a humidifier?
Different humidifiers use different technologies to create their streams of vapour. The most common now are ultrasonic, using vibrations to turn water into a cool mist. However, there are also steam humidifiers, or vaporisers, which heat the water to create a warmer steam, and evaporative humidifiers, which use a fan to push air through a damp wick or filter. These need more regular cleaning, since bacteria can build up within the system. Ultrasonic and steam humidifiers have the advantage that they’re practically silent, so ideal for rooms where you’re planning to sleep.
Humidifiers often have a choice of continuous or intermittent spray patterns, giving you a non-stop stream for six to 12 hours, or a longer running time with regular pauses. You may also get additional heat, mist or power levels, depending on the technology used.
Beyond the basic humidification functions, you’ll find oodles of clever optional features such as antibacterial UV lights, digital control panels, spill-proof tanks, and air-cleaning “pre-filters” that are designed to trap pet hair, dust and even some pollen. Perhaps the most important features in a humidifier are the following:
- Automatic safety shut-off, which means the machine turns itself off when it runs out of water.
- Warm mist or cool mist? Some humidifiers can handle both, but most are either/or.
- Timer, so you can set it to switch off after you fall asleep.
- Ease of use, with clear instructions and hassle-free setup.
Also consider the size of the humidifier you buy. Smaller models are easier to move, while larger ones cover a bigger area. Here are the three main sizes:
- Tabletop humidifiers are designed to humidify a single room. They’re lightweight and easy to carry around, and usually have a removable water container.
- Console humidifiers are larger, freestanding units, designed to deliver moisture for a whole office, flat or an area of a house. A good console humidifier can balance the air quality in a whole house, provided the house isn’t too big!
- Whole-house humidifiers do a better job of covering the entire home, but are more complex to install because they connect to a home’s heating and cooling system.
If you’re particularly concerned about air quality, or struggle with allergies or asthma, then you might want to look at an air purifier with a built-in humidifier function. This will filter out pollutants from the air and humidify it at the same time. However, it’s likely to be a bigger unit – not to mention more expensive.
Are humidifiers easy to maintain?
Humidifiers are generally low-maintenance appliances, but they do need regular cleaning to protect against mould and bacteria. You should also check the mist outlets regularly to keep the mist flowing smoothly, and clean or replace the filter if your machine has one.
How much should I spend on a humidifier?
For a decent and affordable humidifier, you need only spend between around £30 and £50. The Vicks and Aennon humidifiers that we’ve featured in our roundup are both decent, albeit basic, humidifiers that fall within this price range.
For extra features such as air purifying and other fancy tech to help with respiratory problems or allergies, then you should expect to pay much more. Dyson’s Pure Humidify and Cool, for instance, uses a UV light to kill bacteria, and will set you back around £850 – although that really is the top end of the spectrum. Unsurprisingly, these pricier machines also tend to be more aesthetically pleasing.
How we test humidifiers
We test humidifiers by setting them up in a small room with the doors and windows closed. We take baseline measurements of the humidity levels with an air quality monitor before turning the humidifier on, and again after 15 minutes and after 30 minutes. Whenever there’s any operating noise, we measure sound levels using a smartphone sound meter app and, if the unit is mains-powered, we measure power consumption using a passthrough power meter. Finally, we use the humidifiers around the house and/or in a greenhouse to find out how easy they are to use, fill, and clean, as well as whether any niggles that may annoy in the long term become apparent.
READ NEXT: The best dehumidifiers to buy
The best humidifiers you can buy in 2024
1. Aennon Cool Mist Humidifier: Best all-round humidifier
Price when reviewed: £48 | Check price at AmazonThis smart-looking machine is a great all-rounder for a fantastic price. It’s small enough to use for one room (including children’s, thanks to the auto turn-off), but powerful enough to improve the air quality of the whole house.
We found it really easy to control the strength of the flow of steam, and it barely makes any noise, which certainly isn’t the case with many similarly-priced humidifiers. It even lets you scroll through various colours until you find your ideal ambience, and add oils such as eucalyptus to give the room a lovely fragrance.
You only have to fill up the tank once a day and it’s a doddle to clean. The release of mist is much more consistent than with some cheaper machines (and even some more expensive ones), but be warned that the mist can cause dampness on fabrics, so keep it away from curtains and furnishings. That aside, this humidifier is hard to beat for the price.
Key specs – Dimensions: 20 x 21 x 29cm (WDH); Tank size: 2.8l; Running time: N/A; Automatic shut-off: Yes; Warranty: None
2. SmartDevil Humidifier 500ml: Best budget humidifier
Price when reviewed: £22 | Check price at AmazonYou’ll find several versions of this cheap humidifier on Amazon, but they’re all about as simple as humidifiers get. You have a choice of continuous and intermittent sprays, depending on whether you press the on/off button once or twice, along with a gentle LED night light on holding down the button. The unit is powered via a micro-USB connection to a powerbank or charger, and a full tank will last you up to 12 hours on continuous, or 18 hours on intermittent.
The good thing about this budget beauty is that it delivers a decent quantity of moisture; our small room saw its humidity rise by 18% in half an hour – and, where some cheap models coat the area with condensation, this one puts out a nice fine mist. It’s also virtually silent. If you’re not fussed about automatic settings or other features, the SmartDevil is a decent buy.
Key specs – Dimensions: 95 x 95 x 129mm (WDH); Tank size: 500ml; Running time: 12 hours (continuous), 18 hours (intermittent); Automatic shut-off: Yes; Warranty: 1 year
3. Vicks VH845 Warm Mist Humidifier: Best humidifier for winter
Price when reviewed: £46 | Check price at AmazonThis great-value machine could be your new best friend if you’re fighting a cold or flu, or feeling generally run down. It releases warm, moist air that helps relieve congestion, sore throats and other symptoms. You can even use Vicks VapoPads in the humidifier to release that comforting menthol aroma you probably remember from childhood.
The Vicks humidifier may not be ideal for everyday use in summer, given its air-warming properties. And even though it’s easy to assemble and clean, we don’t like that you’re supposed to clean it daily (who has time for that?). But it has a decent size water tank and auto shut off and the price is reasonable.
Dimensions: 14 x 20 x 30cm (WDH); Tank size: 3.8l; Running time: Up to 12 hours; Automatic shut-off: Yes; Warranty: 2 years
4. Levoit Dual 150: Best humidifier for bedrooms
Price when reviewed: £50 | Check price at AmazonThe Levoit Dual 150 is a definite step up from most budget portable humidifiers. It has a larger 3-litre tank that will keep it running for up to 25 hours. It’s incredibly easy to use, too: you just twist the central knob to turn it on, then turn it to the right to increase the level of mist. You can also adjust the angle by rotating the outlet at the top, and the lid just lifts off for easy filling.
You don’t get a sensor or any automatic controls – you’ll need the more expensive Dual 200S for that – but the Dual 150 puts out plenty of fine mist, raising the humidity in our test room by around 18% in half an hour. It’s also very quiet, measuring 28dB at most, which makes it perfect for a living room or bedroom. What’s more, you can add essential oils and aromas to the water without fear of damaging the ultrasonic mechanism. Compact, effective and affordable, it’s an excellent choice for a quiet bedroom or any smaller space.
Key specs – Dimensions: 183 x 206 x 294mm (WDH); Tank size: 3l; Running time: Up to 25 hours; Automatic shut-off: Yes; Warranty: 2 years
5. Stadler Form Eva Humidifier: Best humidifier for large rooms
Price when reviewed: £198 | Check price at AmazonAnother ultrasonic machine, this more expensive model boasts five humidity level settings and an easy-to-operate remote control. It looks fantastic and covers a larger area than the others in our lineup – up to 900 square feet, about the size of a large two-bedroom flat – thanks to a huge water tank that will require less refilling.
On top of that, the Eva gets brownie points for being easy to keep clean, and the LED lights can thoughtfully be dimmed or switched off. You can add a scent of your choice, and the auto-mode – which includes automatic shutdown when the room is humid enough – works a treat. The warm mode doesn’t seem to do much, however, and you will need to fork out for maintenance-related extras like filtration cartridges.
Key specs – Dimensions: 20 x 20 x 42cm (WDH); Tank size: 6.3l; Running time: Continuous; Automatic shut-off: Yes; Warranty: 2 years
6. Babymoov Hygro+: Best humidifier for kids’ rooms
Price when reviewed: £80 | Check price at John LewisThis cool-mist humidifier is our top tip for improving your tiny tots’ air quality – and it’s an excellent choice for grown-ups’ rooms too, especially on warm, dry summer nights.
The Babymoov gets full marks for clear instructions and easy setup. The touchscreen controls make it a doddle to monitor the ambient humidity and temperature, then adjust the settings as required.
A full water tank lasted us two nights – the timer can automatically switch off during daytime – and we love the fact that you can add essential oils, although the aroma doesn’t last all that long. It’s quiet and simple to clean, and the multicoloured night light is another nice touch. It may be a little bright for some sleepers, though, and there’s no dimmer. We also found it more restful to stick to one colour, as they change quite fast.
Key specs – Dimensions: 26 x 25 x 34cm (WDH); Tank size: 3.8l; Running time: Up to 22 hours; Automatic shut-off: Yes; Warranty: Lifetime
7. Sharp UA-HD40U-L: Best 2-in-1 air purifier and humidifier
Price when reviewed: £350 | Check price at AmazonAnyone buying a humidifier to help alleviate skin allergies or respiratory problems could probably benefit from air purification, too, which is where combo purifiers/humidifiers such as the Sharp UA-HD40U-L come in. It’s an effective purifier, complete with intelligent air quality and humidity sensors, and an anti-bacterial and viral Ion Shower mod; but it also provides humidification through an evaporative process and a removable 2.5-litre water tank. This unlocks when you push down the release lever and can be filled from a distilled water bottle or straight from the tap.
The humidification feature is automatic. As long as the unit is in Clean Air Humidify mode, it will kick into action when the humidity level drops below 65% at below 18°C, 60% at 18 to 24°C, or 55% at 24°C or more. This means you don’t need to worry about over-humidifying damp-prone rooms, and you can check the current level on the digital display. Just be aware that the fan can get pretty noisy, reaching up to 47dB at full power. In addition, you’ll have to clean the humidifying filter, tank and tray periodically.
This is our most expensive option, but there’s enough purifying and humidifying power here to take care of a 26m² space, while the larger UA-HD50U-L will handle rooms of up to 38m². Splash the cash, and your sinuses or skin will thank you.
Key specs – Dimensions: 399 x 230 x 615mm (WDH); Tank size: 2.5l; Running time: Not stated; Automatic shut-off: Yes; Warranty: 2 years
8. Stadler Form Oskar Little Humidifier: Best compact aromatherapy humidifier
Price when reviewed: £159 | Check price at AmazonThis evaporative humidifier is compact but packs a punch with two power levels that can improve air quality to a noticeable level in fairly large rooms.
It’s quieter than many, as well as more economical and environmentally friendly, boasting an eco-friendly filter made of plant and textile fibres. Its dimmable LEDs and slow release of essential oils will help you get to sleep, and it looks good, too. It also ticks all the boxes for ease of use – including refiling the water tank (and revealing when it needs refilling, thanks to the water level window). However, like the pricey Dyson, it’s not ideal for hard water areas and the tank size is rather small.
Key specs – Dimensions: 24.6 x 18.5 x 29cm (WDH); Tank size: 2.5l; Running time: N/A; Automatic shut-off: Yes; Warranty: 2 years
9. Dyson Pure Humidify and Cool: Best humidifier for modern homes
Price when reviewed: £749 | Check price at AmazonDyson’s products tend to be quite pricey and the Humidify and Cool is no different. At £749 you’re going to really have to want one to shell out but, in many ways, it’s unique. Not only is this a humidifier, but it also purifies the air, filtering out most common pollutants including pollen, and it’s a fan, too.
It’s also super stylish, very quiet, can be controlled via your smartphone or remote control, and it’s extremely easy to keep bacteria-free. There are no filters here; instead, Dyson uses a high-power UV lamp to kill off nasties before they’re pumped into the air. The only cleaning you have to do yourself is periodically to run a so-called “deep clean” which involves, essentially, descaling the parts that accumulate scale over time.
It’s also great at filtering out indoor air pollution and a mighty powerful fan to boot. Expensive, then, but it does a lot and looks exceedingly attractive, too.
Key specs – Dimensions: 280 x 280 x 925cm (WDH); Running time: Continuous; Automatic shut-off: Yes; Warranty: 5 years