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What Does a Humidifier Do?

Canopy Humidifier Being Turned On

The Internet can seem like a cosmic black hole of information. There are so many robust, detailed resources available at our fingertips that we often know detailed facts, stats, or results while lacking an actual foundation. 

Think of this blog as “Humidifiers 101,” a brief course with all the information you need to make your first humidifier purchase. 

We will answer the following questions:

  • What is a Humidifier?
  • What Does a Humidifier Do?
  • How Does a Humidifier Work?
  • Are There Any Risks?
  • If you are well-versed in the language of humidifiers, send this crash-course to friends, family, or loved ones contemplating a humidifier purchase or test your knowledge in the sections, below.

    Attention: class is in session.

    What is a Humidifier?

    A humidifier is a home appliance that increases the moisture content of the air otherwise known as “humidity.” A humidifier increases humidity by increasing the volume of moisture in a particular space.

    There are two categories of humidifiers: cool mist humidifiers and warm mist humidifiers. While both cool mist and warm mist humidifiers increase moisture content in your home, they have slight differences worth noting.

    Cool Mist Humidifiers

    Cool mist humidifiers release – you guessed it – cool hydrated air into your space. Ultrasonic and evaporative humidifiers are categorized as cool mist humidifiers. We will discuss exactly how these humidifier types operate in the section “How Does a Humidifier Work?” below.

    Warm Mist Humidifiers

    Warm mist humidifiers, otherwise known as “vaporizers,” release warmed mist into your space. Vaporizers can slightly elevate the temperature of a room making them a common winter staple. You can learn more about vaporizers in our blog Humidifiers vs. Vaporizers

    What Does a Humidifier Do?

    A humidifier increases the Relative Humidity of an isolated space. Relative Humidity (RH) is the actual amount of moisture in the air vs. the maximum amount of moisture the air can hold at a specific temperature. Higher temperatures can hold more moisture than lower temperatures. 

    Why is some humidity a good thing? Simply put: water is the essence of life. While consuming water is a surefire way of maintaining adequate bodily hydration, atmospheric moisture levels can help further hydrate the body in ways that may not immediately come to mind. 

    The Benefits of Using a Humidifier

    Regular use of a humidifier can have a myriad of benefits for your overall health and wellness. 

    The benefits of humidifier use include (but are certainly not limited to): 

    • Rehydrating dry, dehydrated skin
    • Rehydrating dry or cracked lips
    • Improving the appearance of skin aging including fine lines and wrinkles
    • Improving nasal congestion and sinus congestion
    • Easing throat irritation
    • Improving common cold symptoms
    • Reducing the rate of survival for airborne viruses
    • Reducing congestion and breathing impairments in babies
    • Rehydrating dry, dehydrated skin in babies
    • Improving dry, flaky and often itchy scalp

    How Does a Humidifier Work?

    As we mentioned earlier in this blog, a humidifier works by raising humidity levels in your environment. Before we delve into exactly how a humidifier device operates, you first need to measure the humidity levels in your home. 

    First: Measuring Humidity Levels

    Dry skin? Stuffy nose? Itchy eyes? You may have a humidity problem. 

    To effectively determine whether your health “symptoms” are related to low levels of humidity, you need to first measure the humidity levels in your home. A hygrometer is a very useful tool that measures humidity levels in any given location; you will need one of these tools to ensure safe use of your humidifier. 

    Before you head to Amazon to purchase a hygrometer, however, check your home thermostat. Most smart thermostats have a functional humidity reader, which can save you time and money. 

    The optimal humidity range for your home falls between 40% and 60%, depending on your personal preference. Use your thermostat or new hygrometer to measure the humidity levels in either your home or a particular room (like your bedroom) where you tend to spend most of your time. 

    Canopy Humidifier Top Face

    How Does an Ultrasonic Humidifier Work?

    An ultrasonic humidifier vibrates a metal diaphragm at sonic speed (hence “ultrasonic”) to create water droplets. These water droplets are then blown out into the room with the device fan in the form of cool mist.

    How Does an Evaporative Humidifier Work?

    An evaporative humidifier draws in air from the room into the device and fans the air through a moistened wick. The air is then fanned back into the room with newly contained water droplets. 

    Woman Sleeping with Canopy Humidifier

    How Does a Vaporizer Work?

    Steam humidifiers or “vaporizers” release warm mist into the room. This warm mist is created by boiling water from the water tank, which produces a fine vapor. The resulting vapor is fanned into the room, and as mentioned above, slightly elevates the temperature of the room. 

    Are There any Risks?

    As with most household appliances, humidifiers are safe if properly cared for in accordance with the user manual. 

    If not properly used and cleaned regularly, a humidifier tank can develop mold and bacteria that is subsequently released into the air. In addition, if your humidifier calls for filtered or distilled water and you use unfiltered water, your device may release “white dust” into the air that can trigger allergies or asthma attacks. 

    Mold & Bacteria

    Cleaning your humidifier is a crucial step to ensure proper function and safety of your device. 

    Sitting water in any capacity, whether in your bathtub, sink, or flower vase, can develop mold and bacteria if not properly cleaned. The same goes with your humidifier water tank. 

    To learn exactly how to clean your humidifier, you can read our blog “How to Clean a Humidifier.” You should always refer to your user manual for precise directions for cleaning your humidifier. As a general rule of thumb, you should: 

    • Wipe down your humidifier after each use
    • Deep clean your humidifier tank and water reservoir regularly depending on which model you have and frequency of use

    White Dust

    “White dust” is the result of minerals (like magnesium or calcium) in unfiltered water that are released into the air. If you identify small white specks or a thin layer of white residue on the counter beneath or next to your humidifier, your humidifier may be releasing white dust.  

    While nothing more than a nuisance on cleaning day for most people, white dust can affect asthmatics, those who suffer from severe allergies, or individuals with lung or sinus problems. 

    Most humidifiers require the use of filtered or distilled water to avoid polluting your home air with minerals that are harmful to inhale. With Canopy humidifiers, you need not worry about using filtered water in the tank since UV lights kill 99.9% of bacteria, mold, and viruses in the water and our paper filters stop any remaining contaminants from entering the air. 

    What Type of Humidifier is Best?

    On Button Location on Canopy Humidifier

    Adding a humidifier to your home or office may very well be one of the best decisions you can make for your health (aside from a healthy diet and regular exercise, of course). 

    Humidifiers have a myriad of wellness benefits that may pique your interest including: improved skin health, restored hydration to dry or itchy scalp, reduced survival of airborne viruses, improved cold and flu symptoms, and many more. 

    As with any health or wellness purchase, it is important to do your research. To give you a kick-start, we compiled a few helpful bits of information: 

    • The different types of humidifiers
    • Key differences between these types of humidifiers
    • Features you should consider when choosing a model 

    Now, let’s talk humidifiers! 

    Types of Humidifiers

    There are two primary categories of humidifiers: cool mist and warm mist. Sounds simple enough, right?

    Cool Mist

    Cool mist humidifiers diffuse water vapor into the air in two different ways: through the use of a metallic diaphragm (called an “ultrasonic” humidifier) or a fan (called an “evaporative” humidifier). 

    Ultrasonic Humidifier

    An ultrasonic humidifier releases cool mist into the air by the vibration of a metallic diaphragm. This diaphragm moves at sonic speed to create water droplets that are blown out of the device with a fan. The result: cool, fine mist. 

    Cool Mist Humidifier


    Evaporative humidifiers draw in air from the room and fan it through a moistened wick. The air that is blown back out into the room contains water droplets from the moistened wick and the result is released humidity. 

    Evaporative Humidifier

    Warm Mist 

    A warm mist humidifier releases heated water vapor into the air. The most popular type of warm mist humidifier is the steam based humidifier.   

    Steam Based Humidifier

    Steam based humidifiers boil water to a fine vapor, which is then fanned out into the room. The result of a steam based humidifier is a warmed mist, which can slightly warm room temperatures. 

    Warm Mist Humidifier

    Key Differences Between Humidifiers

    Whether you prefer a cool, refreshing mist or a warm, comforting mist, the result is the same: increased humidity levels. There are, however, a few key differences between warm and cool mist humidifiers that are worth noting. 

    Room Temperature

    While warm mist and cool mist humidifiers disperse an equal amount of humidity into a room, warm mist humidifiers tend to elevate room temperature. Warm mist humidifiers are often used during the winter months to increase both humidity levels and room temperature for heightened comfortability. 

    Energy Requirements

    Cool mist humidifiers require less energy than warm mist humidifiers, which must boil water to trigger evaporation, and may be the more practical choice for energy efficiency. 

    How to Choose the Proper Humidifier

    Now that you understand the difference between the types of humidifiers available for your personal use, how the heck do you go about actually choosing a humidifier? With a decent amount of options on the market, how do you make your selection?

    A humidifier can make a huge difference to your health and general wellness if the model you choose meets your lifestyle criteria. There are a few key features that should factor into your humidifier purchase including: output capacity, maintenance requirements, and filter type.

    Canopy Humidifier

    Output Capacity

    A few questions to guide your personal output requirements:

    1. In what room do you plan to place your humidifier?
    2. What is the square footage of that room? 
    3. Where would you like to place your humidifier? On your nightstand? On a dresser?

    Answering these questions will help to determine the output necessary to effectively humidify the room in which you plan to place your humidifier. 

    The optimal humidity for your home is between 40 and 60 percent. When choosing a humidifier, you want to select a model that has output equivalent to the square footage of your room. For example, if you have a 500 square foot bedroom, you want a humidifier with a 500 square foot output. 

    Proper output = optimal humidity. Optimal humidity = the healthiest you.

    Cleaning & Care

    Whether you have a jam-packed schedule with work, maybe a few kiddos running around, and errands up the wahzoo, or you created a more relaxed lifestyle with plenty of free time to for self-care and hobbies, you need a humidifier that aligns with your lifestyle.

    A humidifier generally requires a regular maintenance routine in order to prevent the formation of bacteria, mold or “white dust” that accompany sitting water. With some models, you will need to wipe down your humidifier after each use and deconstruct your machine once per week for a thorough clean. This may sound like a breeze to you, or, you may need a device that is more conducive to a busy schedule. 

    If you need an easy-to-clean humidifier, you should look for models that have fewer water-exposed parts or dishwasher safe components that can wash while you conquer your day. 

    Filter Type

    In the same vein as care requirements above, you need a filter that seamlessly fits your schedule. Before you make your purchase, make sure you are aware of the filter replacement frequency and have the capacity to commit to that filter replacement schedule. 

    If not replaced in accordance with the humidifier’s model requirements, you run the risk of releasing contaminated water into the air, which can cause flu-like symptoms if inhaled, especially if you suffer from asthma or severe allergies.

    Replacement Filter for Humidifier