Best Humidifiers of 2021

In CR's tests, the top models—for every room size—come from CVS, Honeywell, Hunter, SPT, and Vicks

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Turning up the heat is a natural impulse when cold weather comes, but it can dry your indoor air. A good humidifier can restore that moisture—and prevent a host of problems.

For one, a humidifier can prevent or relieve dry skin. If you have a cold, a humidifier that emits cold air can help shrink swelling in your nasal passages and make it easier for you to breathe, the Food and Drug Administration says. And higher humidity helps reduce static electricity, so you can avoid annoying carpet-walk shocks.

Humidifiers also can help keep the things you own in good condition. Without enough moisture in indoor air, leather goods can crack, wood floor boards can shrink and creak, and guitars and other musical instruments quickly go out of tune.

Our tests of dozens of humidifiers found that some are much better than others at pumping out the amount of moisture the manufacturers claim they produce. And some humidifiers are quieter, more convenient to use and clean, or use less energy.

Another factor? Matching the humidifier to the room size. "Ensure that the humidifier you choose can handle the area of your space," says Misha Kollontai, the engineer who leads Consumer Reports' humidifier testing. Keep in mind, for instance, that open-plan rooms may require larger units. "Living spaces often have open doorways that effectively increase the square footage."

You’ll see more than 50 models in our humidifier ratings. Most are cool mist, the more widely used type. A handful are warm mist, also known as steam vaporizers, which shouldn’t be used around children. (The humidifier tank contains hot water that can burn a child if he or she gets too close, or if the hot water spills.) And avoid warm mist humidifiers if you have a cold. The warm moisture can cause your nasal passages to swell, making breathing more difficult.

Here’s a look at five top-rated humidifiers, one for each size we test.

For all the test results and more options, check our complete humidifier ratings, where you'll find personal units all the way up to consoles that humidify 1,000 square feet or more. And see our humidifier buying guide for shopping advice.

CR’s take: The portable Hunter QLS-03 cool mist humidifier, meant for an area up to 25 square feet, such as a very small office, is also great for frequent travelers. It earns an Excellent rating for output, meaning it meets its claim of humidifying a room that size. A water bottle serves as the tank, and the only feature is an automatic shutoff when the bottle runs out.

CR’s take: The CVS Health GUL540V1 cool mist humidifier is a CR Best Buy, combining impressive performance and an appealing price. The model is sold exclusively at CVS and CVS.com. It’s designed for a room up to 150 square feet, and it snags an Excellent rating in our noise tests, making it a good choice for a small bedroom. It’s basic, with just a night light and automatic shutoff, and there isn’t a humidistat, so you’ll have to buy one. That’s an inexpensive gauge, also known as a hygrometer, that measures relative humidity and will help you keep your room at the humidity level you want.

CR’s take: Another CR Best Buy, the Vicks V5100NS cool mist model can humidify a room up to 400 square feet. It garners an Excellent rating in hard-water output, something to consider if your water supply contains significant amounts of calcium and magnesium. They can clog a humidifier, decreasing moisture output. As for features, there’s automatic shutoff, but that’s it. And keep in mind that humidifiers can harbor bacteria, so it’s important to drain, rinse, and dry them daily.

CR’s take: The SPT SU-4010, a CR Best Buy, can humidify a large room of up to 500 square feet, earning a Very Good rating in our output tests. This ultrasonic model is also very convenient; it needs cleaning and disinfecting weekly, compared with other models that require daily maintenance. It earns top marks for its relatively low noise level, energy efficiency, and how well it emits moisture when filled with hard tap water. Unlike most of the models in our ratings, the SPT is a dual mist humidifier; that means it can pump out cool mist or warm, using more energy in the latter mode. When empty, the SPT shuts off automatically and an empty-tank indicator lights up. The model lacks a humidistat, though, so you'll need to buy one (around $10) to monitor your room’s humidity level.

CR’s take: The Honeywell HEV685W console cool mist humidifier is a CR Best Buy. It’s designed to cover up to 1,300 square feet, and earns a Very Good rating in our output tests. It earns Excellent scores for both energy efficiency and for how well it emits moisture when filled with hard tap water. Convenience is just so-so; it’s the only console humidifier in our tests that requires weekly maintenance, and it has a large and heavy tank that tends to spill when moved. For noise level, this models earns a Fair rating. The Honeywell HEV685W automatically shuts off when empty, and there’s an empty-tank indicator, a plus. The unit lacks a humidistat, though, so you'll need to buy one (around $10) to monitor your room’s humidity level.


Tobie Stanger

I cover the money side of home-related purchases and improvements: avoiding scams, making sense of warranties and insurance, finding the best financing, and getting the most value for your dollar. For CR, I've also written about digital payments, credit and debit, taxes, supermarkets, financial planners, airlines, retirement and estate planning, shopping for electronics and hearing aids—even how to throw a knockout wedding on a shoestring. I am never bored. Find me on Twitter: @TobieStanger