Cool Mist VS Warm Mist Humidifier: Which Is Better?

Humidifiers emit water vapor into the air to increase the room's humidity. Everybody knows that. But not many people know there are few types of humidifiers in the market, mainly revolves around cool-mist VS warm-mist. As both devices function identically with little distinctions between them, there are still a few key elements you need to be aware of. Picking the right one will bring the best of a dry environment, especially during the winter season. So what is the difference is cool mist and warm mist humidifier? Which is ultimately the better choice?
Short answer
Cool mist for baby and warm mist for mold troubles.


Cool Mist VS Warm Mist Humidifiers

In terms of humidifying, Both cool mist and warm mist humidifiers will add moisture into the air through various technologies. By maintaining the humidity level between 30% to 50%, warm cool mist humidifiers will relieve cold and allergy symptoms caused by dry air. However, there are some differences between a warm mist and cool mist humidifiers. In general, cool mist humidifiers consume less electricity than a warm mist humidifier as there are no heating elements. Cool mist humidifiers also offer slightly better coverage and lower price tag. Perhaps more importantly, you will have a peace of mind with cool mist humidifiers as there is no burn risk compared with warm-mist hot steam. Best used with baby, children, pets at home, childcare or nursery center. On the other hand, warm mist humidifiers are perfect for winter use as it creates warmness in its surrounding air (VS cool mist in the summer). It is suitable for bedroom use with the fanless, silent ultrasonic operation. Warm mist humidifiers are better at reducing mold, germs, and bacteria with higher concentration levels of moisture saturation. Warm mist humidifiers support inhalants that can relax the airway and ease heavy congestion. It is also used in medicated products such as Vicks as cough relief. The heating nature of warm mist humidifiers means there are fewer mineral residues in the water tank. You will spend less time cleaning on mold, minerals, and white dust build-up on a warm mist humidifier VS cool mist humidifiers that require cleaning weekly.

So bottom line, it boils down to your own preferences. Both cool mist and warm mist humidifiers have their strengths and weaknesses. If you prioritize safeness and soothing comfort, a cool-mist humidifier would be the better choice. For winter use with less maintenance, go with a warm-mist humidifier.

The Differences Between a Cool Mist and Warm Mist Humidifier

FeaturesCool Mist HumidifierWarm Mist Humidifier
HumidificationRoom temperatureWarm temperature
Relieve Allergies (Cough, Cold, and Flu)BestGreat
Dry SkinBestGreat
Types• Evaporative  • Ultrasonic  • Impeller• Steam vaporizer/ Mist  • Ultrasonic
WeatherWarm, dry air (Summer)Cold, dry air (Winter)
Quiet OperationUltrasonic onlyUltrasonic only
Baby, Children, and Pet SafeChild-friendlyNot suitable with pets and children
Price Range$30-90$35-100
Cleaning Frequency3-7 days1-2 weeks
Power ConsumptionBest Great
Reduces Static ElectricityBest Great
Mineral ResiduesMoreLess
Disperses InhalantsNoYes

Honeywell HCM-710 Easy to Care Cool Mist Humidifier

Why Cool Mist Humidifier

Cool mist humidifiers disperse room-temperature mist that is safe and effective. The chill air will rehydrate dry skin, chapped lips, col allergies, flu, and asthma symptoms. Evaporative and ultrasonic are the two different cool-mist types with unique technologies to humidify the air.

Evaporative AKA wick humidifiers use a fan to pull air into the water-saturated wick filter in the reservoir. The air will then absorb the moisture from the filter and emit invisible, ultra-fine mist. The wick filter will trap and prevent allergens from releasing back out with the water vapor. Many people will go with evaporative humidifiers because of the strong moisture distributing rate with no over-condensation problem. The downside is the upkeeping where the wick filter needs to be replaced regularly to prevent mold or mildew growth.

Ultrasonic humidifiers use a small metal plate that vibrates at an ultrasonic frequency. The strong vibration will break down water particles inside the tank and convert them into water vapor before releasing a micro-fine mist. Ultrasonic humidifiers are much quieter than an evaporative model with only bubbling sound. It is also much easier to clean as there are fewer moving parts involved. However, ultrasonic humidifiers are less effective and will draw more white dust in the reservoir.

Cool Mist Pros and Cons

  • Cover more space yet use less electricity than warm mist humidifier.
  • Slightly cheaper in price compared with the warm mist counterpart.
  • Safe to use around baby, children, and pets as there is less hazard risk from water spilling or burning.
  • More mineral build-up thus higher chance of breathing to bacteria, mold, or mildew from the bucket.
  • Evaporative humidifier types come with a fan that can be loud during humidification.
  • Wick filter needs to be replaced and can be costly in the long-run.
  • Higher maintenance where the humidifier needs cleaning every 3-7 days depending on the usage frequency.

Why Warm Mist Humidifier

Warm mist humidifiers boil water and generate heat through its internal system to emit warm, visible steam. Warm mist like vaporizer is great in reducing airway inflammation, congestion, nosebleeds, sinuses, and sore throat. By heating the liquid in the tank to a boiling point, the water will vaporize and moisturize the air evenly. The boiling heat and pressure generated from the steam are enough to force the air out. Great for winter use as the heat will warm up the room slightly without affecting the dampness level.

Warm Mist Pros and Cons

  • Most warm mist humidifiers are quieter than cool mist due to the lack of an internal fan. Best for bedroom use.
  • Generates a little bit of warm that can be soothing during the winter season.
  • Fewer mineral build-up with the boiling heat kills waterborne mold, bacteria, and microorganisms.
  • Cover less space yet use more electricity due to the nature of heating elements.
  • Dangerous when placed next to children. The dispersed mist can reach a high temperature that would incur a burn when touched.
  • Slightly more expensive than the cool-mist counterpart.

Pure Guardian H4810AR Ultrasonic Warm and Cool Mist Humidifier

Warm And Cool Mist Humidifiers

There are hybrid humidifiers out there that come with both warm and cool mist capabilities. A warm cool mist humidifier will have a single water tank with 2 dedicated nozzles for different humidifying outputs. The biggest advantage of using a hybrid humidifier is you can switch to warm mist during the winter season where the air is cold and switch back to cool mist for wider and safer humidification. A warm mist and cool mist humidifier are also quieter as it uses ultrasonic technology to distribute water vapor. Let’s not forget the space-saving and less maintenance effort you will enjoy with a 2-in-1 humidifier. The disadvantage with a warm and cool mist humidifier is the higher price tag as there are extra parts involved. A weaker moisture output is expected compared with a single-mode humidifier as more features compressed into a single body.

Which is Better Cool Mist or Warm Mist Humidifier?

Warm-mist and cool-mist humidifiers are equally effective in humidifying the air but with a different approach. Even though there is a difference in water vapor temperature output, when the moist air reaches our airway, the temperature will be the same. Given both models have their pros and cons, we will stick with the more popular cool-mist humidifier. It is slightly cheaper with better humidification coverage. It is also much safer to use around the house if you have children or pets at home. Then again, getting a warm mist humidifier would have its own advantages mainly fewer minerals are discharged back into the air. It is also better at neutralizing mineral dust, mold, bacteria, and viruses in the water. A hybrid warm cool mist humidifier will have the virtue of both but comes at a cost. At the end of it all, both warm or cool mist humidifiers will add moisture into the air and you can’t go wrong picking on either one.

Whichever types of humidifier you go for, you will need to ensure the device is in tip-top condition. First thing first, the humidifier must be placed on a leveled surface to prevent water spilling. Ensure the cord or extension are not in the way that we might accidentally trip over. For safety measures, the humidifier should not be plugged in when filling the water. Regularly check and clean the water tank from mold and mineral residues. Lastly, only refill with demineralized, distilled, or filtered water that has fewer impurities in it.

Frequently Asked Questions FAQ

Cool Mist VS Warm Mist Humidifier for Babies

Cool mist humidifier is best for babies because it is safe and there are no hot parts on the machine. The hot steam released from warm mist humidifiers like vaporizer can cause a burn if the children get too close. Children might also be hurt when they accidentally knocked over the warm mist humidifier and spilled the hot water. Very dangerous as toddler or children tends to wander and fiddle around the house. Another worth mentioning point is when the water vapor reaches the child's airway, the temperature will be the same regardless if is coming from a cool mist or warm mist humidifier. Lastly, there are some research suggested that heated humidifiers don't ease cold symptoms according to Mayo.

Cool-mist humidifier will provide swift and dependable humidification. Baby has a narrow nasal passage and developing lungs thus are very sensitive to poor air quality. Unlike an adult, the baby nose doesn't have cartilage in the respiratory tract and the nostrils can easily get filled with mucus. This may lead to swelling of the nasal passages and when the air can't get through, the baby can't breathe properly and suffocates. Placing a cool-mist humidifier in the baby's room will help soften mucus, alleviate nasal congestion, and prevents germs from sticking around. Without any breathing difficulty, the baby can sleep comfortably throughout the night. Parents will also not have to deal with a cranky baby that can be energy-draining, to say the least.

Which Type of Humidifier Is Best For Winter?

Warm-mist and cool-mist humidifier can be used in the winter as both will add moisture into the dry air. Humidity is low during the winter as cold air holds less moisture than warm air. This leads to stuffy nose and itchy skin especially when we have to rely on our HVAC for heat throughout the cold season. Dry air will also increase inflammation within your nasal passages and make it difficult to breathe. A humidifier can alleviate stuffy nose and itchiness in dry skin by maintaining the home humidity level between 30 to 50 percent. For a more comfortable breathing pattern, use a warm-mist humidifier like a vaporizer that disperse hot steam to stimulates warmness in the room. A hybrid warm cool mist humidifier would be the perfect choice as you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

Is Cool Or Warm Mist Humidifier Better For Asthma?

A clean humidifier would be best for asthma regardless if is a cool-mist or warm-mist type. Asthma flare-up when air is too dry and filled with allergens like dust, dust mites, mold, pollen, bacteria. A warm-mist or cool-mist humidifier that is well maintained will distribute only clean water vapor into the air without adding asthma-linked allergens. Ideal for children or adults that have trouble breathing normally in dry air environment.

A dirty humidifier can be bad for asthma as there are mineral residues in the water tank. This happens when we refill with tap water instead of using distilled or demineralized water. A humidifier can become the tool that spread dust mites, mold, and bacteria when the contaminant water vapor is dispersed into the room. To ensure the humidifier can help an asthmatic person and not the other way around, clean the reservoir regularly from mineral deposits.

Most people will opt for warm-mist humidifiers like vaporizers for asthma. The dispersed hot mist will act as a natural expectorant that helps loosens the mucus in the respiratory tract and opens up the airways. Another reason is warm-mist humidifiers heating elements produce fewer mineral deposits compared with a cool-mist. This means there are less risk of allergens being released back to the air.

A humidifier can worsen asthma symptoms if is running nonstop and over humidifying the air. An extremely damp environment will encourage the growth of allergens like mold, mildew, bacteria, and trigger an asthma attack. Fortunately, most warm cool mist humidifiers come with auto humidistats that manage and prevent adding too much moisture into the air. The humidifier will automatically stop operating when an ideal humidity level is reached (between 30-50%) and resume back operation once the humidity level drops below 30%.

Is Cool Or Warm Mist Humidifier Better For Cough?

Warm mist and cool mist humidifiers are equivalently effective in easing cough due to dry air. The only difference between them is the former emits hot mist while the latter emits cool vapor. Breathing in dry air can worsen post nasal drip cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, and skin condition. It will also aggravate nighttime cough as mucus pool in the back of the throat when we lie flat in the bed. By adding enough moisture in the air, it will make the air easier to breathe, soothe the throat, alleviate dry cough, and nasal congestion. Just remember not to over-humidify the air as it encourages bacterial growth that itself will promote coughs and colds.

Is Cool Or Warm Mist Humidifier Better For Dry Nose?

Cool mist humidifiers are effective at relieving dry nose as with warm mist humidifiers. Breathing in dry air can disrupt the flow of the mucus and sinuses in your nose. Dry air will also lead to narrow upper airways, dry nasal passage, lung irritation, and breathing difficulty. Your nose will feel thin, dry, and itchy as the nasal mucus membrane dried out and becomes crusty. Without proper treatment and rest, dry nose symptoms can last for 7-10 days. Humidifier released moisture that helps lubricates and widens the nasal passages. This relieves pressure on the sinuses and adds a layer of protection fight against allergens in mucus. Alternatively, you can use saline spray that will moisten stubborn parts of dried mucus to fall off freely.

Moderation is the key to life. Improper use of humidifiers can make congestion worse and cause respiratory problems. By creating too much moisture in the air, it can actually transform the house into a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and fungi. Breathing in the microorganisms can make you sick, infect the lungs, worsen sinusitis, or asthma conditions.

What Are The Benefits Of a Humidifier?

When the air is stale and dry, using a humidifier can be beneficial to your health. A humidifier can ensure room humidity is at an optimal level. Whether it is a warm-mist, cool-mist, or warm cool mist humidifier, the benefits you reap will be the same. Here are the perks you will enjoy with a humidifier.

  • Stop morning cough and nose bleed
  • Alleviate sinus, sore throat, and other respiratory ailments
  • Moisturize skin and relieve itchiness
  • Prevent cracked lips
  • Recover faster from illnesses
  • Sleep better with less snoring
  • Reduce static shock
  • Reduce electricity bills
  • Improve air quality by limiting the volume of dust and allergens in the air
  • Prevent infection and the spread of the influenza virus
  • Help indoor houseplants blossom
  • Stop dry rot on wood floors and furnishings

Max Fernandez

A humidifier distributor with more than 11 years of experience in the field, Max Fernandez is no stranger to the moisture-capturing machine. You can catch him here reviewing humidifiers and preaching on the importance of perfect humidity.