My general approach to electronic appliances is to do without them. Our coffee’s made in a French press. Milk is warmed on the stovetop. I’d go without a microwave if our apartment didn’t come with one. For years and years we suffered through hot and humid New York summers without an air conditioner. But as I’ve gotten older, I’m working on admitting when it’s a good idea to take advantage of at least some of the technological advancements made in the past century.
Growing up, my parents, bless their Yankee hearts, modeled a grin-and-bear-it attitude around physical comfort. Our hot water heater, by way of example, was utterly ineffective for the majority of my childhood. My sisters and I would wake up on frigid New England mornings, tiptoe across the wide floor planks of our upstairs hallway and across the tiled bathroom floor to hop in the shower before school. If we were lucky, we’d get a burst of warm water for one solid minute before the water turned cold again. We’d often shower in pairs—the better to share whatever hot water there was—and when the heat started to wane, we’d sing:
Oooh, it’s absolutely-dutely-dutely hot! Oh, it’s absoutely-dutely-dutely hot! Oh, it’s absolutely-dutely, oh, it’s absolutely-dutely, oh, it’s absolutely-dutely-dutely hot!
The heater remained unmoved. The water stayed cold.
As an adult, I often see myself falling into a similar pattern when it comes to comfort. A humidifier? Surely that’s not something I actually need. What’s winter, really, without some suffering? Dry skin? A persistent cough? Sleepless nights and a little bronchitis? Who isn’t sick? Only a few more weeks now! Any day the heat’s gonna click off and it’ll be smooth sailing!
I think I might really need a humidifier. One or all of us has been sick for the past month and my most recent case of bronchitis is particularly uncomfortable (though I still would’t trade it for last weekend’s stomach flu). Two years ago I came around to the notion that there might be a more comfortable alternative to suffering through the bone-dry nights in our wintertime apartment. We bought two small and attractive bottle humidifiers which worked reasonably well, but they’ve since gone out of production and we can’t buy any more replacement filters. Which leads me to my next point: Buying electronics stresses me right out. Even though I know that boiling water on my stove all day is no more of an environmentally responsible choice, the environmental impact of buying an electronic nags at me. The more complicated something is, the more likely some or all of it will conk out. And what happens when these things stop working? Or shows itself to be impossible to keep clean? Are they repairable? Are they recyclable? Read enough humidifier reviews and you might quickly start wondering where all of the rejected, pilloried humidifiers have found their final resting spot. Is it the bronchitis keeping me up at night or my existential worry about the state of the planet?
I’ve decided it might be best to crowdsource. Last night I asked folks on Instagram to share their favorites. There were a lot of different responses but there were also some clear winners. I’m sharing them here with annotations from folks who’ve used them in case it’s helpful to anyone else. And I’ll be digging in a bit to see what might end up feeling best for me. If you have experience with anything here, or anything else, please feel free to chime in!
+ hOmeLabs Cool Mist Humidifier Diffuser: My sister has had this humidifier for the past year and at the time of writing I’m taking it for a test-drive in our apartment. It’s pretty compact but still sizable enough to allow for extended use. I wouldn’t call it silent, exactly, but it’s quiet. It’s not terrible to look at, it’s easy to fill and clean, and it doesn’t have a filter which is something I’m hoping to avoid this time around. Also! It’s affordable. It can also be used with essential oils so right this minute it’s filling our apartment with the sweet scent of sweet orange and lavender oil. No complaints and I don’t think it’s entirely in my head that I can already breathe easier.
+ BONECO Travel Cool Mist Ultrasonic Humidifier 7146: Lexi recommended this one on Cup of Jo two years ago and wrote to tell me she still loves it. (A whole bunch of people also shared her enthusiasm!) It’s really small, doesn’t need a filter, and uses a recycled plastic water bottle as the vessel. Possible downsides? A bright light. (Though two different people wrote in to tell me they taped or painted theirs to solve the problem.)
+ Stadler Form O-020 OSKAR Humidifier: I think this one wins the prize as most recommended in my unofficial survey. It’s more expensive than others on this list, but it’s got a sleek—or at the least an innocuous—design and it’s also suitable for essentials oils, which is a nice bonus. Possible downside? It requires not-inexpensive filters.
+ Roolen Breath Smart Ultrasonic Cool-Mist Humidifier: A few different people pointed me toward the Roolen Breath saying it’s easy to fill and has a solid capacity (allowing it to run for ~24 hours) but doesn’t take up too much space. I like that it’s also filter-free and can be set to go into an automatic eco-friendly sleep mode when ideal humidity has been reached.
+ Muji Aromatic Ultrasonic Humidifier: Muji, long known for its small essential oil diffusers, now makes a larger model designed to humidify a bigger space. It can also be used with essential oils and doesn’t appear to require a filter. Like all things Muji, the design is simple enough and pleasantly unbranded.
+ Crane Ultrasonic Cool Mist: Many folks report using this tear-drop shaped humidifier, recommended for being quiet, affordable, and effective. It’s not my personal favorite design, but so many people mentioned it that I thought I should include it here.
+ VAVA Top Fill Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier and the VAVA Coolmist Bedroom Nightstand: A handful of readers recommended both of these VAVA humidifiers. The smaller of the two seems like it could make a solid choice for a small space like my kids’ room. Possible downside? I haven’t found information about these products on the manufacturer website which makes me somewhat wary that they’re no longer in production (even if they are widely available online).
+ Honeywell HCM-350 Germ Free Cool Mist Humidifier: This is the highest rated humidifier on Wirecutter and lots of people attested to its efficacy and how easy it is clean in reply to my query. It requires filters, which I’ve been hoping to avoid based on my last experience, and it’s not the most subtle design, but it was hard to ignore so many recommendations.
Any others you guys absolutely swear by (or have sworn off?). I’d love to hear.
This post includes affiliate links. Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links.
We have the Crane teardrop one. We refer to it, somewhat affectionately, as “the teardrop mother f***er”. It works fine, is nice and quiet, and we’ve had it for probably 4-5 winters. The only drawback is that the shape makes it tough to get clean. We replaced the tank after 2-3 years because it was just too irreparably yucky.
haha! “somewhat affectionately”!
We’ve had two of the Crane teardrop humidifiers – great output, but they grow mold so quickly and they’re impossible to clean! No thanks. Looking forward to checking out some of these other options – thanks for the round up!
I had a similar experience with the Crane. Even with antimicrobial additive. Also, it was loud and did a gulpy/gurgle noise every so often and it misted the varnish off my dresser! I use a vitruvi (which is gorgeous) but it’s more of an oil defussier and works more locally positioned. Mine is by my bed.
We find a large saucepan of water set to boil hydrates the air really quickly. I throw in slices of oranges sometimes to make it smell nice too.
Yes! I find that, too. But keeping that going all day isn’t very energy efficient—or very safe for the sleeping hours—so we’re on the hunt for alternatives.
I was a bit surprised – after the photo of the pan on the radiator, I thought that worked fine without switching on the stove and would be your solution and alternative to electronics?!
I, too, have resisted – a bowl of warm water (or in your case, that cute pan) with some essential oil is perfectly adequate, or in a spray bottle a few times a day. These plug-in devices are surely a trend that will pass and do nothing to help the environment whatsoever…on the contrary!
Oh! Maybe you didn’t have a chance to read the whole piece. I thought I was pretty clear about my own reservations about electronics generally, but also pretty clear that my pan solution really hasn’t been adequate, especially in a winter where I’ve been battling bronchitis! I don’t think there’s a unicorn here, but I am considering the idea that there might be an alternative to suffering through the winter.
We had the Crane for a while, and it broke after a couple of years, which is not long enough in my opinion!
We have two of that last one, from Honeywell. They are great. Easy to fill, they don’t get stinky, aren’t super loud, and they work without creating dripping walls (like some of the warm-mist ones we had previously). We only use ours in the bedrooms at night.
I don’t think the smaller/travel versions would get you through a full night and/or wouldn’t make much of a dent in the air dryness. Not the prettiest, but a solid choice.
Seconding the Honeywell rec! I use this now, though I’ve had a few Crane models before. It’s so easy to clean (just, uh, don’t look too closely at the filter when you replace it each month.)
I have a crane one, we’ve been using it for 3 winters or so. It works well enough but as others have mentioned, terrible to clean! Grows mildew like crazy. My house has also been very sick for over a month with back to back colds, coughs, ear infections, etc. Miserable. I also grew up in New England with parents with Yankee sensabilities, no ac, no microwave, limited amenities for sure. It’s taught me a lot about self sufficiency though and making due with what available.
I also have had the Honeywell a couple years and like(d) it, but they must have changed something about their filters bc this year I’m having to replace them all. the. time (they get moldy! Blech!) If anyone has found other filter options for it, I’d love to know!
We had been using something quite like that Crane humidifier in my kids’ room, but every time I needed to refill it (every few days) I found that gross orange/pink sludge in it. And then when I cleaned it with vinegar water I was never satisfied that I could get out all the sludge from the tank. I finally decided I didn’t want to risk my kids breathing in sludge mist, so I gave them the humidifier which I had been using in my bedroom, which is…the BONECO travel humidifier! I really like that there are so few nooks and crannies to clean. And the tank/bottle we use gets emptied and dried out every night. I’d much rather refill the bottle every day and clean it every once in a while and know that they’re not breathing in sludge mist. We’ve had the humidifier for over a year now and it’s held up just fine. And the blue light doesn’t annoy anyone in my family, but we’re not people who need pitch black darkness for sleeping. Good luck on your humidifier journey!
We’ve been using a different version of the Honeywell for several years for our kids’ bedroom. I find it annoying to buy new filters every year, but I take it all apart and dry it in the tub during the day when we aren’t using it and find it extends the life of the filters drastically. We’ve tried several different brands and this one has been the best for us.
Not sure if this would be an option for you, but my parents have metal covers on their radiators. The lid of the radiator cover flips up and there is a metal tray on top of the radiators for water. It was all we used growing up and it worked really well for us.
Once I went filterless, I never went back! I have the teardrop one, too. I use filtered water; empty it daily; and do a vinegar and water rinse once per week. No sludge or build-up and it has worked for years. Note that it’s not really built for a larger, open space. We use it in our bedroom, right beside our bed. We set it on a stool so the mist wafts up onto our bed, otherwise it has the tendency to pool on the ground (the mist is dense so it’s heavy? Is that science?). Note that the mist is cool, which feels less swampy to me, but I know many prefer a warm mist in the winter, so that’s something to consider.
Just say no to the Stadler Cube – it barely pumps out any steam and for the price of the filters definitely not worth it. It’s currently in my good will giveaway pile, which is exactly why I was excited to read this list for new options!
I feel “meh” about all humidifiers; I really don’t think there’s a unicorn out there. We have the honeywell one and it’s ok (we have a humidity meter in the room, and it indicates that this humidifier bring it up from 20 to 27%, I think, so not terrible but not really a game-changer). Our solution for this winter has been to run that as a baseline in our oldest kid’s room, and then we use the Crane in our room pointed at either us or the baby, depending on who is most congested (almost someone). And then we dry all laundry in our bedrooms, which is definitely the most effective strategy, as it can raise the humidity up to 40! This solution is working well for us this winter, as we are laundering clothes/diapers almost daily.
Cloth diapers to the rescue AGAIN!
We have the Crane humidifier and like it. It’s easy to use, quiet, and has a good range of flow so you can choose how much mist you want at any time. And it’s cool, so there’s no (or at least little) risk to grabby hands. We didn’t use it much with our first child, but our second baby has had round after round of cold this winter. The humidifier seems to really help him breathe when he’s trying to sleep. We (well, really I – my husband not so much) were worried about buildup inside the tank or the inner workings, but after doing some research, it seems that most of that buildup is due to minerals in the water you use. Running water through a charcoal filter like a Brita (or another filter) before adding it to the humidifier is supposed to help. And there are additional filters from Crane you can get to specifically help with minerals in water. We haven’t noticed any buildup, and we actually find it pretty easy to clean. Good luck!
I recall you posting about the bottle humidifier in this post (https://readingmytealeaves.com/2017/03/my-week-in-objects-mostly-138.html) last year…did it not work well for you? It’s so pretty.
I wrote all about it above!
We bought two of them after reading the initial post about and while I love the look and simplicity of them, they don’t really give off much most and more annoyingly shut off after I think 4 hours so never make it through the night or used more than a quarter of the water in the bottle. Just disappointing given how pricey they were.
Funny! We didn’t have the four-hour shut off or the water issue, but I’m so disappointed they don’t make them (or the filters) anymore.
The filters seem to be available here:
Unfortunately not. They’re all sold out and I contacted the company which let me know they no longer plan to sell them.
In France we use ceramic radiator humidificateur. I am leaving in Montreal since few months and couldn’t Find that anywhere (even antique). I will have to ask my parents to send some for me here. So sad…. For me, there are the best and it is so eco friendly ! The kids can Taking care of that too. Good responsibility, not too much water accidents 😉
You can find white ceramic ones that hang off the radiators on Amazon!
Just went down a little rabbit hole! I love the idea but I really wonder how this compares to water in an enamel pan on top! It’s takes days for the water in our little pan to evaporate.
try an old aluminum cake pan instead of enamel– and start with boiling water. We now have a 5-gallon, whole-house humidifier downstairs but for years I made do with aluminum pans on radiators. The wider they are, the better the evaporation, and the the thinner the pan, the faster it heats up.
Haven’t tried aluminum but used to always use our old loaf pans! I’ve never been able to get these guys to really heat the water enough or consistently enough to have it evaporate quickly.
One nice thing about the ceramic, radiator humidifiers is that you can hang more than one on each radiator if you need more moisture. I hang ours between the radiator and the wall, so our dogs don’t get into them, and they work well. I’ll look to see if I can find where I got them and will follow up with a link if so.
Easier said than done, but found it. Here they are. I find that many of the ones you find on amazon etc. are flat, but these work better if you have a traditional radiator.
Have you seen this: https://www.childrenscolorado.org/conditions-and-advice/parenting/parenting-articles/danger-of-humidifiers/
No, thanks for sharing!
Yikes. Thank goodness the return window for my recently purchased ultrasonic humidifier hasn’t closed yet because it’s going back. I should have done more homework. I wanted a filterless machine in hopes of eliminating waste and expense of continual filter replacement. However, the fastidious cleaning required for any type of humidifier and the added risk of aerosolizing potentially harmful particles is cause for concern and simply not worth it for me after all. Bacteria and mold is obviously gross, and the white dust issue is hard to dismiss. Even if it’s just natural minerals in tap water (because using bottled distilled water is a step too far for me—I mean, come on) I’m just not sold that it’s ok to breathe them in. Hopefully it’s fine and I’m just over thinking things. My level of discomfort in the dry times is just not proportionate to this level of maintenance and worry.
Thanks for posting this link. As a pediatric nurse I tell parents that sterile saline nose drops are the answer for children and adults. We have had children admitted with lung infections probably due to humidifiers. Also please don’t use any added drops to the water. It is hard to ensure that the drops are sterile after one use and there can also be problems with allergic reactions.
Sent you two on IG that I came to love in our apartment after many hours of research. Both can be taken apart completely and are fully washable! No filters and work well. Which means they can last for a long time 🙂
Don’t hold back! Would love if you could share details here! I had to sort through hundreds of replies and those links aren’t clickable so I’m sure I missed some gems!
Here are the two we’ve ended up with. We went through about 4 Cranes before hand and hated that I was basically buying new ones every year because even with vinegar (and bleach!) I couldn’t get them clean. Each of these two options is 100% cleanable (all parts), so I feel really good about that. The Bestek one is smaller but does really well for a small room: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00LM3C160/ref=oh_aui_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1. We turn off the light so it has the option not to do the big colorful stuff you see in the post (but there is always the little green light, which doesn’t bother us). It’s quiet. The other one is super powerful: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LYES1FS/ref=oh_aui_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1. The miro lasts a good 12 hours and has 3 settings (all pretty quiet, but as would make sense, they get louder the stronger the setting). I see the miro is sold out here, but you can find it other places on line, I think. We got ours at Sharper Image or something like that (yes, it appears they’re still in business!). Good luck, and most of all, feel better soon. Brooklyn these days is just filled with germs!! Looking forward to Spring.
Also, should have mentioned that neither of these humidifiers require filters 🙂
Honeywell is currently running in my room and I am quite fond of the very quiet background sound it provides. Also husband and I are happily congestion free! It’s a gem albeit a little ugly in my opinion. Wire cutter hasn’t taken me down a wrong road yet, they spend so so so many hours testing products.
We love this one. It doesn’t have to glow but can if that’s your thing. My kids love changing the lights. They are great for small rooms but probably one would be needed in each room.
InnoGear Upgraded 300ml Essential… https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0727RWBHK?ref=ppx_pop_mob_ap_share
The Muji one is really lovely. I have the smaller one that’s meant for just one room but there’s a larger one that’s meant for an apartment. It’s followed me to several countries over the past 5 odd years and it’s stood the test of time. During the heatwave that took over Europe this past summer, it also puffed enough cool air that saved me many nights. There’s also a soft light of two intensities that add a nice glow right before bedtime that you can set in on a timer.
Other than the functionalities, their service in regard to replacements are really helpful. When I lost a part, Muji kindly offered to send me the replacement for free.
The Crane teardrop was a no for me. The circular water tank is designed such that the opening is not large enough to put your hand through, so cleaning the bottom of it is impossible. I diligently ran vinegar cycles, dried the pieces, and even bought humidifier balls on Amazon (which claim to clean the thing), and I still ended up with so much sludge on the bottom of the water tank after two years that I had to get rid of it. (We have an electronics bin in our building where electronics are either recycled or otherwise properly disposed of.) I was also wracked with guilt about it, but neither was I going to use a sludgey humidifier for our new baby. I’m in Brooklyn so maybe our water has extra minerals, but we don’t use a water filter now and if a humidifier needs yet another appliance to function properly and cleanly… then it’s not the one for me. I do like the replacement we bought, an unobtrusive TaoTronics that is silent and much easier to clean, but if I had to do it over again, I’d go for one of these because they seem like the cleanest option (recommended to me by a neighbor): https://venta-usa.com/product-category/airwashers/. Most importantly, I hope you feel better soon, Erin!
I usse the Honeywell evaporative. It’s on it’s third year and does a good job. Cleaning it isn’t too awful and the filters hold up really well as long as I’m good about turning them over each time I refill the tank.
This is actually something I’ve been thinking about for a while, since I moved to a new apartment and I don’t have one yet, but I don’t think I would buy an electronic one. I’m from Italy and usually we would hang ceramic humidifiers to radiators with a hidden hook. Very old-fashioned, I know, but to me they are much more charming and (being in a tiny apartment myself) take way less space. Plus you avoid filters and they can be fully recicled. I actually found some cute ones on Etsy. I understand the charms of electronic ones though, so not sure this can be of help if you’re headed in that direction 🙂
Thanks so much! I feel like we’d probably need something quite a bit more robust to make a difference, but I love the concept.
We had the Crane – impossible to keep clean, big footprint, and I found it loud.
We moved to the small Muji and used it for years near the bed. Perfect.
Just bought an Asakuki – runs all night, small, fairly quiet, no filters, inexpensive, uses oils, easy to clean. I’d give it a 9!
Depending on your room size, Venta LW25 /or Venta LW45 are a great choice (minimal tech).
My husband and I really like this one: https://www.homedepot.com/p/PureGuardian-H3200WCA-100-Hour-Ultrasonic-1-5-Gal-Cool-Mist-Tower-Humidifier-H3200WCA/301754353. I haven’t had a bloody nose (from the dry heat in our condo) since we’ve gotten it.
The Stadler is easy to clean and doesn’t require using distilled water – just put water straight from the tap! I’ve found it most effective when you let it run all day or at least we’ll in advance of bedtime. The humidity will build up in the room that way. It might be pricey but the ability to clean it easily is worth its weight in gold. I was so sick of my husband complaining about cleaning other humidifiers.
Interesting to hear so many people having issues with cleaning the Crane. We’ve had ours for over two years and have had zero issues.
It’s been fascinating on my end, too! So many people writing in on Instagram to say it’s terrific and specifically noting that it’s easy to clean!
Agreed. No issues cleaning ours either but we do it every morning.
Frequent cleaning seems to be the ticket in all things humidifiers for sure!
In my childhood home in Brooklyn we had steam radiators and put an aluminum pan of water on top like your little pot.
Now I have baseboard heat that I hate.
We’ve used this humidifier for 10 years, maybe 11. for our kids. https://www.amazon.com/Slant-Fin-GF-220-Gallon-Humidifier/product-reviews/B000BY575S. I’ve not had to replace the UV bulb. You can also change how much moisture you want – I usually set it just more-of-middle amount. I get some mineral build up, but I think if I put more effort into it I could remove it all.
I used to boil water in a kettle on the stove, smug in my obviously superior old-fashioned habits. Until I needed to replace said kettle, so I did some research. Apparently turning on the stovetop to boil my kettle was using much more energy than a modern electric kettle would. Ultimately I figured saving the energy was worth bringing another electronic into my house. I found one with a stainless steel interior and it’s with me for the long haul. Not all modern solutions are inherently worse than their simple counterparts, when everything is considered.
As a person who feels kinship with your distaste for clutter and mess, Erin, I found the white dust produced by ultrasonic type humidifiers very distressing as it got EVERYWHERE. We did use the mineral filter that came with the unit and cleaned it very regularly, but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. The suggestion was to use distilled water, but purchasing plastic bottles of water was not a very good solution environmentally or financially. I returned that unit and have since switched to a Honeywell Cool Mist Evaporative humidifier. It doesn’t raise the humidity level as quickly or as high as the ultrasonic type, but it keeps it at around 30% when run at full fan speed all day (disclaimer: we live in an extremely dry climate where normal room humidity is around 15%).
So interesting! We don’t get any white dust at all here. From what I’ve read the white dust is a problem that depends a lot on the particulars of your water and the kinds of minerals and deposits that might be in it. So glad you found a solution!
We’ve had the Crane for five years. Can’t speak to cleaning as my husband is fastidious about about that so he’s handled it all these years. I’d imagine he’d complain if there was a problem with cleaning it, but I’ve never heard a peep. When we turn it on high enough to feel like its doing its job, it feels like a bit of a rain shower so we have to keep a towel around it in order to not dampen the cabinet it sits on. Also the light on the one we have is way to bright to have in a dark room- seems like an unnecessary feature. It does the job for us and was a nice shower gift but if we had to replace it, I would definitely choose another. Thank you for sharing a list of humidifiers that are pleasing to look at!
Hi Erin. I don’t know if someone already said this – many comments! After years of dealing with little ones with bronchial issues and using lavender and eucalyptus oil in our humidifiers, I discovered tea tree oil. It really seems to make a difference in helping with breathing and clearing up the muck! It also smells fantastic!
Yes! Have been using!
Just a note, in case any one else is taking this tip: tea tree oil (diffused or otherwise used) is toxic for cats! Not sure about dogs.
I bought this one for looks/capacity & quickly gave up because of filters. I now have the Ripken and am pretty happy. Moisture does accumulate on surfaces around it, but I appreciate all that you described and have no significant complaints. All humidifiers are a little fussy in the maintenance end but the regular vinegar cleaning someone described earlier should do the trick. I’m a little slack, so I use a vinegar soaked q-tip to reach nooks when I clean.
This Wirecutter has really useful reviews; here’s their take on humidifiers: https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/the-best-humidifier/
Yes! Linked to it in the piece!
We have been using Muji humidifiers for a few years now and they are easy to clean. I love adding essential oils (my favorite combination is orange and clove. They have two light settings if your littles use a night light. I was glad to hear from another commentor that Muji replaced a part for free.
So, what did you end up getting? 🙂
We use non-mechanical, non-electric humidifiers. That is to say, I hang huge wet towels over the laundry racks. They each hold four cups of water without dripping and are mostly dry after 12 hours.
The Miro humidifier is the only one I have found that is completely washable. There is no nook or cranny that can’t be reached. My main reason for doing away with humidifiers was the hidden areas that were uncleanable and hence held until mildew and mold. The Miro is fairly easy to clean and completely comes apart. It’s not cheap but will last a while. Other downside is it’s a bit large. Worthwhile to ensure no mold going into our air
Hi! Would you mind sharing which one worked for you in the end? I have had the Honeywell and Venta and still feel like it’s not humid enough. Thanks!
We ended up buying the same one I test-drove from my sister! (The first on the list.) It’s been great for us!
Comments are moderated.