Unlike other humidifiers that use a wick or rotating disc to send the water into the air, the best steam humidifier heats the water to boiling, so the water vaporizes, becoming a mist that is then sent through the output. This not only adds some moisture to the air, it also warms up the room a bit and eliminates static, making these models a great option for the colder months. The heating process also removes bacteria and germs in the water, so the mist is healthier to breathe. Some models also allow you to add some medicated liquid, which helps alleviate cold and flu symptoms.
If you happen to be in the market for a new steam humidifier, there are a few things you should consider before you pick one out. First is the tank capacity. The larger it is, the less often you have to fill it. You should also check the coverage area since a humidifier works best in rooms of a certain size or smaller. The dimensions of the humidifier is another feature to look at, so you know that it will fit in the space you have available. Warranty keeps you covered for unexpected issues with the machine, so check out how long it lasts and exactly what is covered.
To help you decide which model is the best steam humidifier for you, we have searched out the top brands, checked out their manufacturer’s information, and looked at the features each one has to offer. Then we chose the best ones, created a comparison table, added in-depth product descriptions, and wrote up a buying guide, so you know which features to look for.
- Editor’s Choice: TaoTronics Warm & Cool Mist Humidifier
“A high capacity humidifier with an attractive design, touch button control display, and a humidity sensor.”
- Best Whole House Steam Humidifier: Emerson HSP2000 Whole House Steam Humidifier
“A furnace model that is able to cover homes of up to 1,400 square feet in size.”
- Best Steam Humidifier for Essential Oils: LEVOIT LV600HH
“This model can operate up to 36 hours on one refill and boasts an aroma box to use with your favorite essential oils.”
- Budget Pick: Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier
“This compact device can also relieve your nasal congestion or headaches with the inbuilt Medicine Cup for use with liquid inhalants.”
- Best Humidifier for Large Home: Aprilaire 800 Residential Steam Humidifier
“Another furnace model for vast areas of up to 6,200 square feet in size.”
Top 5 Steam Humidifiers Review 2022
1. TaoTronics Warm & Cool Mist Humidifier
Water tank capacity: 5.5 L.
Mist time: up to 12 hours (warm mist); 18 hours (cool mist)
Coverage area: small and medium-sized rooms
Essential oils diffuser: no
Dimensions: 9.25 x 8.31 x 13.58 inches
More features: LED display; built-in cartridge; humidity sensor
There are a few reasons that this TaoTronics Warm & Cool Mist Humidifier is the best-rated steam model around. It has a stylish design and a compact size that fits well in the smaller rooms of your house. You can choose either warm or cool mist, each of which has three output options available for raising the humidity levels of your room or just maintaining the levels you prefer.
On the front is an easy-to-use LED touch panel, where you can control all the different settings and modes this steam humidifier has to offer. As well as the choice of cool or warm mist and output, you can also set a specific humidity level you would like to maintain. The humidity sensor on the cord keeps track of the room’s level, turning the mist off when the chosen level is reached.
A timer allows you to set a specific runtime for the device. Sleep Mode switches it to cool mist, turns off the light on the bottom of the machine, and quiets the motor, all designed to help you get some rest in a safe and peaceful manner.
Other handy features are the large 5.5-liter tank, the 360-degree rotating mist nozzle, and the convenient built-in handle for moving the humidifier or filling the tank. There is also a low water alert, which sounds when the tank is empty.
Why are we impressed?
- Decent price
- Three output levels of cool or warm mist
- Low water alert
- Lift handle
What negatives must you be aware of?
- Some internal areas hard to clean
2. Emerson HSP2000 Whole House Steam Humidifier
Coverage area: 1,400 sq. ft. min.
Max. output: 13 gallons/day
Dimensions: 7.6 x 12.5 x 12.6 inches
Weight: 18.1 pounds
Warranty: 2-year limited
More features: includes the stainless steel humidifier assembly, automatic flushing timer, automatic humidistat, water filter, saddle valve, fan control relay, blower safety switch and mounting frame
If you are looking for the best steam humidifier for a furnace instead of a portable one, this Emerson whole home device may be a good option. It is 120 volts and 1500 watts, with an output of up to 13 gallons of water each day, so you won’t ever have to worry about dry air in your home again.
This whole house humidifier has a stainless steel assembly, so it is durable, resistant to rust, and should last for many years to come. It can be mounted on your furnace in three different ways, depending on the duct configuration, so you can fit it in however you need it.
The Emerson humidifier includes all the parts needed to hook it up to your furnace, like the thermal fan interlock that lets it humidify the air without the furnace adding heat. Instead, the humidifier turns on the blower, so it can be used even when the furnace isn’t running. An automatic humidistat lets you set the level you want, and the machine will take care of it from that point on.
It also includes the saddle connector and needle valve for plumbing it right to a water supply. There are a few safety features for this process as well, including a low water safety cut-off switch and the built-in overflow protection to prevent leaks. The flushing timer and chlorine removal filter help reduce cleaning time as well.
What are its best features?
- Durable metal materials
- Auto-flush timer
- Low maintenance
What could be improved?
- Hard to clean
- May need professional installation
3. LEVOIT LV600HH
Water tank capacity: 6 L.
Mist time: up to 36 hours
Coverage area: up to 753 sq. ft.
Essential oils diffuser: yes
Dimensions: 11.3 x 7 x 10.5 inches
More features: built-in humidity sensor; remote control; ABS material water tank
The best warm steam humidifier is as stylish as it is useful. This one from Levoit fits both categories. It looks great, with a sleek design and an easy-to-use touch screen on the front with all your settings on display. It has a clear tank made of durable ABS plastic, which has a leak-proof design keeping the water in the tank where it belongs. The tank also has a considerable capacity, able to hold up to six liters of water for 36 hours of continuous misting. In a word, it’s a very powerful humidifier to use in large rooms.
The Levoit humidifier has both warm and cool mist functions, with three different misting levels to choose from and dual adjustable mist spout. This allows you to add the moisture as quickly as needed to combat your low air levels.
The control panel is touch sensitive, plus there is a handy remote control that gives you the ability to adjust the settings from anywhere in the room. There is a Smart Auto Mode that tracks the humidity level in your home and adjusts the output accordingly. The device also comes with an aroma box to add your favorite essential oils in. Two aroma pads are even included with the humidifier to start you off.
Another benefit of this model is that it runs quiet, so you can use it in any room of your house, even the bedroom, without disturbing your family.
What are our favorite features?
- Decent price
- Dimmer on lights
- Adjustable mist spout
- Aroma box
What could be better?
- Time-consuming to clean
- Tricky to fill
RELATED: 8 Best Humidifiers for Large Rooms — Reviews and Buying Guide (Spring 2022)
4. Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier
Water tank capacity: 3.8 L.
Mist time: up to 12 hours
Coverage area: medium/large rooms
Essential oils diffuser: no
Dimensions: 12 x 7.9 x 14.2 inches
More features: Medicine Cup for use with liquid inhalants such as Vicks VapoSteam
If you are in need of the best steam humidifier for a bedroom, this one from Vicks may be the right one for you. It has a sizeable one-gallon capacity, which holds enough water to run for a full 24 hours if needed. The water is heated high enough to get rid of 95% of the bacteria, so you don’t have to worry about breathing in any unsterilized mist.
Many customers have mentioned it as one of the best humidifiers for dry skin hydration. The benefit of a warm humidifier of this type is that it can also help relieve congestion, dry noses, chapped lips, and coughing, so the Vicks model can help you breathe and sleep better. This model also allows you to add the Vicks VapoSteam to the medicine cup, turning it into the best steam vaporizer humidifier for those dealing with cold symptoms. You can also use this cup with your favorite essential oils to add a lovely fragrance to the room.
The Vicks humidifier offers two output settings for you to choose from, depending on the humidity level in your home. There is also an auto shut-off that turns the machine off if the tank is empty, preventing damage to the device.
To make filling a bit easier, there is a translucent tank so you can always keep track of the water level, plus a handle on the top that you can use to carry and fill it when it needs it.
What stands out?
- Easy to fill
- Liquid inhalants compatible
- Great low price
- Two settings
What cons did we manage to find?
- Filler cap gasket is not attached to cap, so could be misplaced
- Small fill hole
RELATED: 5 Best Vicks Humidifiers to Forget About Sinus Problems and Coughs (Spring 2022)
5. Aprilaire 800 Residential Steam Humidifier
Coverage area: 6,200 sq. ft.
Max. output: 34.6 gallons/day
Dimensions: 21 x 11 x 8 inches
Weight: 23 pounds
Warranty: 5-year limited
More features: uses cold water, which may be hard, soft or softened; Automatic Digital Humidifier Control
The Aprilaire 800 model has a few features that make it one of the top steam humidifier models for your entire home. It has a vast coverage area of up to 6,200 square feet, perfect for desert climates or those dealing with dry, winter air. It has six output levels, adding up to 34.6 gallons of moisture into the air of your home.
The best feature about this humidifier is that it actually works well with any water, whether it’s hard, soft or distilled, so you don’t need to filter your water at all. This model uses electrodes placed inside a replaceable canister. These electrodes use the impurities in the water to transfer electricity and heat the water to create steam.
There is a dual sensor with an auto mode, which monitors the humidity levels in your home, as well as the outdoor temperature, to maintain the proper moisture levels inside your house.
A digital control can be placed anywhere in your home, showing you the humidity percentage of the air. It also tells you when the humidifier is running, plus lights up when it is in need of service. A Blower Activation switch on the bottom lets you run the humidifier all the time, or you can set it to come on only when the furnace does.
What do we love it for?
- Can be used with any type of water
- Digital control included
- Auto mode
- Easy to use
What were we disappointed with?
- Replaceable canisters add to the cost
Things to Consider
Steam humidifiers add moisture, just like other types of humidifiers, but they do so in a unique way, heating up the water instead of using fans, discs, or wicks. Many people prefer these warm mist options for the cooler months since they can heat the air while they add moisture, plus they can help reduce issues with congestion, dry nasal passages, and coughing at the same time. These types of humidifiers also come in both portable and whole home versions, so before you buy one, you need to decide which is one is the best option to meet your needs.
Why opt for a steam humidifier?
A steam or warm mist humidifier is the best choice for the winter months. The water inside is boiled to create the steam sent through the output, so the mist is warmer than that of other types of humidifiers. This helps keep the air in the room warmer while it is hydrated, plus the heating method kills any germs or bacteria in the water, so only a sterile mist is dispersed into the air. The warmer mist also adds moisture much faster than cooler mist.
Another benefit of the steam humidifiers is that some of them, like the Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier V745A, allow the use of medicated liquids, so they can be used when you’re sick to relieve the coughing and stuffy noses of cold sufferers. Essential oils can also be added to many models, adding a fresh scent to the air.
Features to consider while choosing a steam humidifier
When you’re choosing a steam humidifier, there are a few features to look for, regardless of whether you’re in search of a room or a whole home model.
Water tank capacity
The water tank capacity determines how long the humidifier can run between fillings. The larger the tank, the longer the humidifier can create the mist. Smaller tanks are fine for those who can’t lift a heavy tank to fill it, but will likely need to be refilled at least once a day, depending on how long your humidifier is running. A larger tank may only need to be filled once every day or two but will be much heavier to carry to the sink and back when you do need to add water. Whole home models can plumb right into your water supply, so filling them won’t be an issue, but they do need to stop and fill themselves now and then.
Mist time/maximum output
The best room steam humidifier usually has a mist time listed in its features. This shows you the maximum amount of mist the humidifier can create in one day. This timeframe will be for the lowest mist setting since higher mist levels require less time to humidify the air. The size of the room also factors into the mist time, as a room at the maximum coverage area will take more time to hydrate than a smaller space.
The maximum output is for a whole home steam humidifier. It tells you how many gallons of water will be added to the air in your entire home over the course of the day. For instance, the Aprilaire 800 Residential Steam Humidifier has an output of up to 34.6 gallons of water in a home up to 6,200 square feet each day.
No matter which type of steam humidifier you choose, the coverage area tells you the largest size the room or home should be for the humidifier to work at its optimal level. The small portable ones may not have an actual number, though they will have a room size recommendation. The whole home ones have a much larger coverage area since they are humidifying your entire house.
The larger the area you want to humidify, the higher the coverage area on the model you choose should be.
Since a humidifier is likely going to be running quite often to maintain the proper humidity levels, you likely won’t want a noisy model. Luckily, the steam humidifiers we’ve reviewed are all exceptionally quiet. The portable ones are almost silent, making them great options for your bedroom or other living spaces. The whole house models may click as they turn on or off, plus may make some noise as the tank fills, but since they will be located in a basement, you probably won’t even notice this bit of noise.
Essential oils compatibility
Though this likely isn’t an option with a whole home steam humidifier, the small portable models sometimes come with the option of adding essential oils for a lovely fresh-scented mist. The Levoit LV600HH is one of these options, with a separate aroma box for using with essential oils. Keep in mind, if you do use essential oils with your humidifier, do not put them directly into the water tank, as this could damage the heating system or other internal parts.
The dimensions of your chosen steam humidifier are essential to ensure it will fit nicely in the space you have to put it in. In small rooms, you don’t want a huge bulky humidifier. Smaller room models fit nicely in a corner or on a counter if needed. The whole home models are bigger, so you may need to measure the space near your furnace to ensure it will fit nicely. If it has multiple fitting options, like the Emerson HSP2000 Whole House Steam Humidifier, then it may be easier to find a place for it.
The main features are the reason you buy a steam humidifier, but the extras make them a bit more convenient. One of these extras is an auto shut-off, which turns the humidifier off if the tank is empty or if the set humidity level is reached. A timer allows you to run the humidifier for a specific amount of time. A remote control allows you to change the settings from anywhere in the house. If it comes with filters, this helps clean the water before it is heated up and misted, keeping the purifier cleaner. A sleep mode turns down the lights and switches to cool mist for a safer, more comfortable sleep. The warranty is also something to look at, so you know what is covered and for how long in the event of an issue with the humidifier.
How to prolong your humidifier’s life
- Freestanding models
- Add white vinegar to the tank to prevent bacteria
- Avoid tap water
- Follow cleaning instructions closely
- Clean it often
- If it has a filter, rinse it regularly
- Whole house models
- Check components regularly for scaling
- Use a chemical de-scaling solution for cleaning
- If it has a replaceable cartridge with electrodes, change it at least once a year
- Use softened water unless otherwise specified
- Flush it regularly
Which model is the quietest to put in a bedroom?
All three of the portable models we’ve reviewed are very quiet, even on higher mist outputs, so any of them can be placed in a bedroom without disturbing you. The TaoTronics Warm & Cool Mist Humidifier does have a sleep mode, which dims the lights, turns the mist to cool, and lowers the output for silent use, which makes it an excellent choice for a bedroom.
How long, on average, should a humidifier operate before reaching optimal room humidity?
If you’re using a room humidifier, the amount of time needed to reach optimal humidity levels depends on the size of the room. The larger the room, the longer it will take, but either way, it shouldn’t require more than 3-4 hours. The whole home models take a bit longer, up to a couple of days, to humidify your entire home to optimal levels.
Keep in mind that the current relative humidity levels in your home and outside will affect these times, as will the season since the air in the winter is much drier than the summer air. A lower relative humidity to start will increase the amount of time it takes the humidifier to bring the levels up.
Do I need a contractor to install a furnace humidifier?
Many of the whole home humidifier models come with instructions that make it easy to install them yourself if you have the skills needed for this, but it isn’t always recommended. Furnace humidifiers for your whole home require wiring and plumbing connections that not everyone knows how to do. Sometimes, the warranty doesn’t cover the parts and features of the humidifier if it isn’t professionally installed, so be sure to check this out before you try doing it yourself.
The best steam humidifier adds moisture to the air, gets rid of bacteria, and helps your family breathe better. All five of the room and whole home products in our reviews are great options, but a few of them rise above the rest.
Our top choice is the TaoTronics Warm & Cool Mist Humidifier, which has a huge 5.5-liter tank, with three output levels for both cool and warm mist. It also has a humidity sensor on the cord, an auto shut-off, a rotating nozzle, and a low water alert.
The Emerson HSP2000 Whole House Steam Humidifier is durable stainless steel with three mounting options. Its features include an automatic humidistat, a flushing timer, a chlorine removal filter, overflow protection, and a low water safety shutoff.
The LEVOIT LV600HH has a huge coverage area for a portable model, with a six-liter ABS plastic tank. It has touch controls and a remote control, three mist levels with a dual adjustable nozzle, and has a handy aroma box to use with your favorite essential oils.