Cool Mist versus Warm Vaporizer

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Cool or Warm, the Purpose is the Same

When deciding between a cool mist versus warm vaporizer there are many factors to consider; however, according to Dr. Robert W. Steele from St. John’s Regional Health Center in Springfield, MO, both are equally effective in relieving symptoms of chest and nasal congestion due to colds and allergies. Both cool and warm humidifiers work to moisturize the air. Moist air soothes inflamed nasal and throat passages and eases breathing.

Cool Mist Humidifier

Perhaps the biggest advantage of using a cool mist humidifier is the safety factor. Because there is no heating element in a cool mist humidifier there is no danger of being burned by hot steam or hot water if the vaporizer gets knocked over. This is especially important to consider when the vaporizer is being used in a child’s room. A disadvantage to using a cool mist humidifier is that it must be cleaned daily and meticulously to prevent mold and bacteria from breeding in the cool water. Breathing air-borne mold is a potential health hazard, especially to someone with a respiratory system that is vulnerable due to a cold, congestion, asthma or allergies. Another disadvantage is that cool mist humidifiers do not break down the minerals in water but instead, disperse them into the air. Depending on the mineral content of your tap water this can be another health concern and it is why distilled water is recommended. If you or your child unexpectedly needs the benefits of a humidifier late at night, locating distilled water could be quite inconvenient.

Warm Vaporizer

Though warm steam humidifiers are sometimes referred to as “vaporizers” because they create steam, which is a vapor, these units are still classified as humidifiers. One reason some people favor warm vaporizers is because medications such as mentholated decongestants can be placed in them. The warm steam disperses the soothing medication into the air and may provide more immediate relief from congestion and cough than humidity alone. Though warm vaporizers still require some maintenance, because of the heat there is not the same concern with mold and bacteria growth as there is with cold mist machines. In addition, the heat of a warm vaporizer does have the ability to break down minerals so tap water is safe to use. The greatest disadvantage of the warm vaporizer is the safety issue. Use caution when using a warm vaporizer around children. Put the vaporizer out of reach and secure the cords. If you cannot ensure safety with a warm vaporizer do not use one.

The Bottom Line

In the issue of cool mist versus warm vaporizer there are advantages to both sides. Households with small children may be best advised to use a cool mist humidifier. People who require a low maintenance option would be better served by a warm steam unit. Whichever style you choose, purchase a machine with updated safety features such as an automatic shut off which prevents the machine from running with a dry water reservoir or a humidistat. A humidistat regulates the amount of humidity in the area and prevents over-humidifying.


Allergy Relief 101: Humidifiers -

National Institute of Health: Humidifiers and Health -

IVillage: Mist Humidifier or Steam Vaporizer? -


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