Upon looking at different humidifier models for your baby, you probably stumbled upon the term “vaporizer.” Some units even consider themselves as vaporizers, which can be more confusing. But the bottom line is, which is better to use for your baby? What advantages and disadvantages does each device has over each other?
Let us first describe the two.
Are Vaporizers and Humidifiers the Same?
You might be scratching your head in confusion, thinking, “I thought you’re going to describe each device?” Well, we wouldn’t be able to do that without giving away a spoiler. And to answer the question, “Are they the same?” then, yes. They are the same in the sense where a vaporizer is a type of humidifier.
What is a Humidifier?
Humidifiers, from the name itself, are devices that can increase an area’s humidity. They do that by emitting a mist, which adds moisture to the air. Because of the added moisture, humidifiers are beneficial for relieving congestion and fighting the effects of dry air.
You can find humidifiers in varying sizes and capacities. For example, a central humidifier receives water directly from the house’s water line. And it also has the capacity to humidify an entire house. But there are smaller and more portable units such as tabletop humidifiers as well. Parents typically choose tabletop humidifiers for their nurseries since manufacturers have specially designed certain models to be baby-friendly (e.g., animal-themed, has a nightlight.)
You can also find evaporative and ultrasonic humidifiers. The former allows moisture to evaporate into the air, while the latter uses high-frequency sound vibrations to produce fine water mist before expelling it into the air.
While humidifiers release cool vapors to humidify the room, you can also find warm mist humidifiers. So what’s the difference between warm mist and cool mist types? This leads us to vaporizers.
What is a Vaporizer?
As we have mentioned earlier, you can classify vaporizers as a type of warm mist humidifier. The reason for this is because a warm mist humidifier creates hot steam by boiling water. Similarly, vaporizers heat the water themselves to produce steam.
Like humidifiers, you can find various types of vaporizers in the market. Some offer portability, while some needs to stay plugged into the wall. You can even classify them by the way they heat the water. For example, models can use thermal conduction, convection, or thermal radiation to do so.
You can also find units on the market that allow the addition of inhalants. And this resulting medicated vapor can soothe coughs and colds quicker. However, some humidifiers also have a similar feature, mainly by having a dedicated essential oil cap.
Can Vaporizers Add Humidity to the Air?
Vaporizer vs Humidifier for Baby
Usage and Purpose
Humidifiers aim to increase the moisture content in the air. Parents typically use a humidifier to alleviate congestion, as well as dry skin due to dry air. However, when it comes to usage, you have to stick with distilled water if you’re not sure with your tap’s mineral content.
These devices also act as white noise, which can be beneficial for babies who have difficulty sleeping. The slow, subtle hum is relaxing, and the addition of certain features (e.g., night light, essential oils) all work to create a soothing ambiance.
While vaporizers can increase the moisture content of the air as well, they’d do so using the steam from boiling water. They are also useful for alleviating certain symptoms similar to humidifiers. However, you can also create medicated vapors with particular vaporizers. The warmth from them even works as a heater replacement during winter.
Maintenance and Clean-Up
It’s a Tie: Both Units Need Daily Cleaning
Both humidifiers and vaporizers need daily cleaning. We will tackle their risks later but to give you an idea, both of them use water reservoirs. The stagnant water can potentially harbor contaminants such as bacteria if poorly maintained. Not to mention, mildew and mold also commonly invite themselves in the tanks.
Humidifiers commonly need scrubbing every third day to remove any scale and debris. Some models that utilize filters will also need filter replacement every month or so, depending on the model. Because just like the tanks, filters tend to accumulate nasty build-up as well.
On the one hand, minerals wouldn’t be problematic to a vaporizer. As we have mentioned earlier, you can use tap water with a vaporizer compared to a humidifier that requires distilled water. But if you want, certain humidifiers offer demineralization filters for those with hard tap water.
What we’re mentioning here are typical maintenance and cleaning considerations. However, you should also check your unit’s manual and stick to what the manufacturer requires you to do. This will lengthen your unit’s lifespan and help you avoid doing something that might affect its usability.
Cool mist humidifiers don’t boil the water they emit. This means, if the water is from a poorly cleaned tank, it can possibly spread contaminants such as bacteria or mold. And as you have been familiar by now, mineral build-up is also possible with humidifiers. But other than the consequence of meticulous scrubbing, you also run the risk of dispersing minerals.
If you used water with high mineral content, you might end up with a by-product called white dust. These mineral deposits can become an added chore once they dried up on furniture surfaces. Do they pose a health risk on babies? If your child has an existing condition such as asthma or any other respiratory-related concern, white dust can be problematic. And in some cases, it can even cause allergies.
However, another concern that you must consider with a humidifier is over-humidifying. A humidity level that is too high can cause mold growth and dust mite proliferation. It can also make you feel uncomfortable, which is the opposite of what you want for your baby.
Both humidifiers and vaporizers need monitoring to avoid over-humidification. It’s best that you stick to the recommended range by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is between 30 to 50%.
The advantage of vaporizers over humidifiers is their added “purifying” effect by boiling water. This eliminates the risk of emitting contaminants that can cause health concerns, especially to a baby. However, you should also remember that vaporizers will require regular clean-up as well.
The heating element of a vaporizer also allows you to use tap water without potentially causing white dust. Vaporizers use steam, which means minerals from tap water will not be able to tag themselves along with it.
Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Will you leave something hot and boiling in a baby’s room? First, hot steam can potentially cause burns, and spilling the boiling water inside the vaporizer is even more hazardous.
Risks for Both
Both devices use electricity and hold water inside. And the combination of two puts you at risk of electrocution. This is why you should always double-check every switch and wires of the unit that you have. And when you’re refilling or cleaning the device, make sure that it’s unplugged first. As a parent, our busy lives can cause us to be absent-minded at times, but extra vigilance is non-negotiable.
When choosing a baby must-have, we often overlook its costs. The reason for this is because we would rather pay for efficiency and safety than to buy something cheaper for low quality and safety hazards.
Nonetheless, if you have an allocated budget, you can still find ways to be practical. For example, right off the bat, we can say that humidifiers are going cost more than vaporizers. And when it comes to maintenance, the former is also going to be more demanding.
Humidifiers such as evaporative types, for example, utilizes wick filters. These will eventually need replacement after some time, depending on the usage. You can consider this a significant factor in the long run. However, when it comes to energy consumption, vaporizers consume more energy due to their heating element.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Humidifiers
Humidifiers can add moisture to the air. They can also alleviate certain symptoms that your baby might be experiencing. These include sore throat, difficulty in breathing, dry and itchy skin, colds, cough, and congestion. However, your baby can still use a humidifier even if he/she is not sick. This device can soothe his/her breathing and can add more comfort for a peaceful slumber.
While there are warm mist and cool mist types, choosing the latter does not pose a burn hazard. The mist they emit are “cool” (as the name implies) and they don’t have boiling water inside. However, cool mist humidifiers need meticulous maintenance. Their “cool” reservoirs can potentially harbor bacteria and mold which are no-nos for a baby’s breathing air.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Vaporizers
Some vaporizers are compatible with inhalants, which can hasten the health effects of the unit. And even if you don’t have distilled water at home, you can confidently use tap without worrying about contamination or stubborn build-ups.
The fact that vaporizers use boiling water means that they will purify the water themselves. This means the steam they emit is safe and clean to breathe for a baby. We all know how we always sanitize our baby’s belongings, so why not step it up and use “purified” air? However, their heating elements mean higher energy consumption compared to humidifiers. And their same advantage, somehow, also becomes their disadvantage.
If you’re looking for a device that can contradict the effects of dry air, it’s safe to say that both models are capable of such job. Humidifiers and vaporizers can alleviate congestion, skin dryness, and breathing problems. However, whichever model you pick, it is important that you consult a doctor beforehand. Using these devices alone won’t equate as a remedy, especially for babies that are more vulnerable than adults.
If you’re choosing a device for maintaining your nursery’s humidity, both devices are equally effective in adding moisture to the air. But of course, we recommend that you use them with a hygrometer and a humidistat.
A hygrometer will give you an accurate reading of the room’s humidity level. And a humidistat, on the other hand, can automatically regulate their output to avoid over or under-humidifying the room. Adding these two will help you keep an eye on the room’s humidity more efficiently. This way, you can make sure that your baby’s room stays at the recommended range, which is 30 to 50%.
Now, if you’re waiting for us to say which device won this battle, you have to know that the winner depends on personal preference. As we have discussed throughout this article, both have their own advantages and disadvantages. A lot of factors will come into play on which of their qualities are you willing to compromise over the other.
As long as you maintain the unit properly and have a consultation with your child’s pediatrician, either device works best for your baby.