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4 Insider Tips for Choosing the Right Humidifier for Your Baby
Updated on
September 11, 2023

4 Insider Tips for Choosing the Right Humidifier for Your Baby

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4 Insider Tips for Choosing the Right Humidifier for Your Baby.
4 Insider Tips for Choosing the Right Humidifier for Your Baby

Babies are like little mucus machines. So a nursery humidifier is often a must-have for new parents—that soothing moist air helps loosen mucus and soothe cold symptoms. Humidifiers are also really nice to have in those winter months when the atmosphere—and subsequently you and your baby’s skin—gets really dry. But how do you know which kind is right for your baby’s room, especially when there are so many different kinds? These four insider tips can help you make the right choice.

Humidifiers 101

But first, let’s talk terminology. Because there’s a lot of it. Humidifiers usually fall into one of three categories:

Ultrasonic Cool Mist: These humidifiers are filter-free and use high-frequency vibrations to break water up into a fine, cool mist that you can see. These are the most popular kinds of humidifiers because they are generally easier to maintain.

Evaporative Cool Mist: Evaporative humidifiers use a built-in fan to draw moisture up from the base, then blows that moisture off of a filter and into the air as a cool mist. You won’t necessarily see the mist coming out of these machines like you will with an ultrasonic humidifier, but it’s happening!

Warm Mist: Warm mist humidifiers use a heating element to boil water, releasing a warm, visible mist (if you’ve ever stuck your face over a pot of hot water to clear your nasal passages, it’s the same concept). Like ultrasonic humidifiers, warm mist humidifiers don’t require a separate filter to work.

They all do the job of adding moisture to your baby’s air (though with some differences we’ll get into shortly). But we generally recommend sticking with cool mist humidifiers around babies, since steam and boiling water can present burn hazards if your little one gets too close.

But beyond that, how do you know which kind is best for you?

Know Yourself

Humidifiers must be cleaned regularly (about once a week). If you skip this part, mold can grow inside the humidifier. So when choosing a humidifier, one of the most important questions you can ask is: which one am I more likely to keep clean?

Evaporative humidifiers feature a replaceable filter that removes minerals before dispersing moisture into the air. They can also be more resistant to mold growth than their filter-free counterparts, as long as you change the filter when you’re supposed to (if you don’t, that’s where trouble can start). And as an added bonus, evaporative humidifiers are the only kind that feature self-regulating technology, meaning they won’t over-humidify your room—preventing condensation on walls, windows, carpets and furniture.

The flip side is that filters need to be changed! Which is just one more thing to remember. It can also become expensive over time. So if you’re the kind of person who only remembers to buy more toothpaste three days after you’ve already run out, a filter-free humidifier like this ultrasonic model may be the best choice for you. In addition to being easier to clean and maintain, ultrasonic humidifiers are also smaller and quieter than their evaporative counterparts.

Check Your Water

Depending on where you live, you may have hard or soft water coming out of your faucets (hard water simply means there are more minerals like calcium and magnesium present). You’ll know if you have hard water if you battle white residue on your drinking glasses or if your shampoo and soap don’t lather well.

Hard water can also impact your humidifier, leaving a fine white dust on surfaces in your baby’s room (this is more common with ultrasonic humidifiers, thanks to the ultra-fine mist they output). While this residue is harmless, it can be annoying to clean. So if you know you have hard water, you may want to opt for an evaporative humidifier or get a demineralization cartridge that helps remove mineral residue from the water.

Bonus tip: minerals can also build up inside the humidifier, reducing its effectiveness. So regardless of which model you choose, you’ll want to descale your humidifier regularly with a vinegar and soaking method.

Size Matters

Humidifiers only work if you add the right amount of moisture into the air. Too little moisture won’t do much good. And too much can lead to moisture buildup on walls and surfaces. So when choosing a humidifier, measure your baby’s room and then compare the square footage to the humidifier’s coverage area. As a good rule of thumb:

  • Half Gallon Tank = Small Room (250 square feet)
  • One Gallon Tank = Small to Medium Room (250 to 400 square feet)
  • More Than One Gallon Tank = Large Room (400 to 600 square feet)

Most bedrooms are under 250 square feet, so a smaller humidifier should be plenty for a standard nursery. But if you’re planning to room share in a larger space, you may want to size up to the gallon tank.

And if you’re worried about too much humidity? Look for a model with a nob that lets you control the output. Start out on the highest setting and then adjust accordingly, keeping an eye out for condensation on windows and surfaces as a sign to turn things down.

You can also buy a humidity monitor that displays the room temperature and humidity levels in your room (the general recommendation is between 40% and 60% humidity in your home).

Baby Humidifiers Have Bonuses

Most humidifiers do one job: keep the air moist. But nursery humidifiers usually add a few bonus features that can make your baby’s room extra comfy and soothing for nighttime. For example, this one projects adorable scenes onto your baby’s ceiling. Meanwhile, this humidifier also has a built-in color-changing night light, essential oil diffuser and a spot for optional VapoPads that release a soothing scent. So keep an eye out for fun extras that might make your baby’s bedtime routine a little more delightful.

Congestion isn’t fun for anyone, especially for babies. But a humidifier can go a long way toward helping them feel better sooner and keeping them comfy during those dry winter months.

This article is sponsored by Vicks. Babylist’s free site, apps and emails are made possible by our sponsors. We limit our sponsored content to relevant partners that offer products and services we believe in and use ourselves.

Babylist Staff


Babylist editors and writers are parents themselves and have years of experience writing and researching, coming from media outlets like Motherly, the SF Chronicle, the New York Times and the Daily Beast, and the fields of early childhood education and publishing. We research and test hundreds of products, survey real Babylist parents and consult reviews in order to recommend the best products and gear for your growing family.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and review products, as well as the Babylist Health Advisory Board.