Humidifier or Vaporizer?

The other day we found out that our youngest had the croup. Pretty nasty sounding cough accompanies the croup, but luckily, it didn't seem that there was much damage. Mostly just dried out from the lack of humidity in the winter air. Our heat pump is badly in…

The other day we found out that our youngest had the croup. Pretty nasty sounding cough accompanies the croup, but luckily, it didn’t seem that there was much damage. Mostly just dried out from the lack of humidity in the winter air. Our heat pump is badly in need of repair or else it might provide the needed humidity, but that’s another story for another time.

So we’re supposed to get a “humidifier”. Hmm. Seems to be lots of choices. Warm mist, cool mist, humidifier, vaporizer. How to choose? How indeed. According to the helpful lady at Wal-Mart, we should get cool mist (ie, a humidifier). From what I can tell, in the beginning there were only vaporizers. But as time wore on, dainty little hands were burnt from the warm mist produced. You and I both know that warm things don’t burn. That mist is downright hot. But I digress.

And so, with the advent of new technology, cool mist products were born. Now there are all sorts of selections and capacities. Auto-shut off, timed humidifying, you can probably even find a model that will brew coffee with that warm mist, too.

So after two nights of use, the cool mist clearance model we found at Target started smelling funny. Not bad funny, and not quite burning funny. It was more of that smoldering smell that electronics sometimes get funny. Which is to say that even if it doesn’t cause a fire, it’s likely to break soon. So back to Target I went.

But before buying another model, I pulled Google into the mix. Please be aware that if you should search on humidifiers vs. vaporizers, you’ll get a lot of hits on products for keeping your contraband moist. If you make it past those, you’ll find that generally speaking, there is little to no difference between the two products – except for that burning issue.

While I don’t want to seem callous, it occurs to me that a child who happens to learn this lesson the hard way will not be likely to have to learn it again. And our children are generally intelligent enough to at least not burn themselves severely even when they do test our advice. If you have very small children, however, you may want to keep this in mind. Close to the unit, the mist is hot. Try it yourself if you need convincing.

So with all that in mind, here’s my own opinion on the matter: Vaporizers are cheap. Ten bucks at Wal-Mart. Humidifiers aren’t. Water that is boiled is unlikely to harbor any bacteria of any sort. Warm air to me seems to hold water better than cold air. Normally I find warmer air to be more soothing than cold air. There are no moving parts on most vaporizers, as they just have a little heating element to do the boiling.

You’ll also not find a filter on the ten dollar model from Wal-Mart, for the aforementioned reason of not having any bacteria in the mist. And finally, because of the vaporizing action, you can add menthol or a similar additive to the warm mist to help even further. Guess which product we use now? And hey – someone else even agrees!

109 replies on “Humidifier or Vaporizer?”

I have a personal Vicks vaporizer which I clean after every use and I used it on my son twice. From sounding like a seal to sleeping comfortably within minutes. Warm mist helps relax the respiratory tract and open up the airway. So I believe I made a good investment into vaporizer, now a days we have info on our finger tips, it takes few minutes to check on Google which product is better by reviewing the reviews like this page.

I bought a Vicks warm mist humidifier and it’s works fine, but I have to perform daily and weekly maintainance such as emptying the water daily after use and cleaning mineral deposits with vinegar weekly.
It has fought off dry skin issues this winter and static build up on my clothing. It is only efficient at handling a moderate size room.

Warm mist makes it muggy and damp in a Childs room which if you have for the research– you would know that is makes bacteria linger. Not good if your child is already sick. Cool mist may have a funny smell but just like in a hospital where it is cold– to keep the bacteria down– it will do the same in your Childs room. So although you may not think it is better.. There is a reason your pediatrician recommends the cool mist.

Wow..thank you so much! I had humidifiers in all my kids rooms, my baby got RSV at 2 months old and still is having respitory issues. I thought I was helping things with the humidifiers..but wow…I can see I need to give the vaborizer a shot now and see how that helps him. That is what I had growing up..don’t know why I didn’t connect the dots..gonna chalk it up to too many sleepless nights with a coughing baby!! I am so glad I found this! going to walmart in the morning 🙂


Great comments everyone! I thought I’d share my find with you too, after three days of humidifier research!
My ten month old daughter had a cold…so it was recommended to get a humidifier. I decided, after much research, that I’d like to get a humidifier that has both cold and warm mist. I also worried about bacteria in water, mineral output etc… so it seems the best reviewed is the Air-O-Swiss model 7144 Ultrasonic Warm&Cool Mist. It is a little costly, but I’d rather buy once and keep it for years.

I have to say it really is true- you get what you pay for! – and it does everything it says…and so quiet! I especially feel good that it has a demineralization cartridge and Ionic Silver Stick which ensures the water and unit to be free of lime scale, mineral residues, bacteria, microbial growth-white dust- germ free (replace stick once a year). Anyway- just another option when sifting through the hundreds of humidifiers out there!

I agree it might be good to have a 10 dollar vaporizer handy too!

Vaporizer all the way! I wish i would have found this forum a year ago. We now have 2 kids under 2 who, of course, are constantly getting sick with something! To date I have gone through 4 cool mist humidifiers. Each time i bought one I would buy distilled water and be sure to only use it in the humidifers. Needless to say, I would run the humidifer all night in a smallish room and walk in to absolutly NO humidity! I was so sick of that. I could remember the humidifier my mom used just shooting out a thick visible mist and I was definitlely not getting anything close to that. (I couldn’t even see anything). So I kept trying more expensive and more expensive humidifiers thinking that was the only way to go.

Finally my husband said lets try the cheap vicks vaporizer that looks just like it did 20 years ago. We bought it and could not be happier. We add a little salt and there is TONS of steam bellowing out the top! Finally! After only being on in my daughters room for 20 mins I walked in to total humidification! I definitly wont be running it long term (more than a week) as I am sure it would mold my carpet. But as for using during sickness, a vaporizer is the only way to go.

As for the burning issue. I have taught my kids about things that are hot and they understand well. I also either turn it off when they are awake or put it out of reach if we are using it in the living room.

I want to know if you can use essential oils in a vick’s Vaporizer since it is plastic? If so, I’m confused on where to put them because some posts say the water and some say the medicine cup. I tried dropping oils in the medicine cup with a little water and it didn’t seem to work well.

Do the vaporizers really have the potential to raise the temperature in the room (they seem too small)? I was going to use my vicks vaporizer to raise the humidity in one of my rooms for the benefit of my Boston ferns. The ferns like to be cool though. What kind of heat increase have people experienced with the vaporizers?

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