There are different types of humidifiers for babies in the market. They vary from tabletop to in-duct and even evaporative to ultrasonic. However, the two “main” types that stick out the most are warm mist and cool mist humidifiers.
You have probably seen models that are labeled either as warm or cool mist humidifier for baby. And from the name itself, it’s easy to know on how they differ from each other. Cool mist humidifiers emit cool mist, and warm mist humidifiers emit the opposite, which is warm mist. However, there are other factors that can affect your decision when choosing one, especially for your baby.
What is a Warm Mist Humidifier?
Ever wonder how vaporizers differ from humidifiers? Well, a vaporizer is a type of warm mist humidifier. This type of humidifier emits warm vapor using the steam from boiling water. Warm mist humidifiers have a heating element inside for boiling the water themselves. However, the steam that they’ll emit to raise the room humidity still feels warm because they don’t use fans to force it out of the unit.
Benefits of Warm Mist Humidifier Over Cool Mist Humidifier
Cleaner Water Tank
The fact that warm mist humidifiers boil the water first means they are less likely to introduce potentially harmful germs to your little one. Babies have an underdeveloped immune system, which means they are more susceptible to illnesses. Therefore, this extra step of boiling water gives warm mist humidifier an additional advantage over cool mist models.
Additional Heat for Winter Months
Besides raising the humidity in the room, warm mist humidifiers also give a warming effect. And this can be beneficial during the winter months. In cold seasons, we often use a heater to keep ourselves warm and comfy. However, it can dry the air around us.
Dry air can worsen existing symptoms such as congestion and dry skin. And it can also generally make us feel uncomfortable. But sadly, our bodies get slightly more suppressed during winter months. Not to mention, the cold weather is even more favorable for viruses and germs to be more active. Combine these two factors with a young one’s underdeveloped immune system, and it’s going to be “flu season” for him/her every winter.
Option to Use Medicated Vapors
In the market, certain manufacturers such as Vicks came up with warm mist models that allow usage with decongestants. You can add them in the water tank to create a medicated vapor. According to them, this vapor will actively break down mucus, which will hasten the overall decongesting effect of the humidifier.
Simple Clean-Up and Maintenance
Lastly, warm mist humidifiers are going to be much simpler to clean compared to cool mist units. If you’ve been searching on different models, you probably know that cool mist models must use distilled water if they don’t use filters.
The reason for this is because cool mist models tend to accumulate minerals from hard water. This mineral build-up is tricky to clean, which can take your precious time as a busy parent. And since warm mist models emit vapor, they also have a lower probability of giving out white dust on surfaces.
What are white dust? They are basically the by-products from using water with high mineral content. You’ll often see them on surfaces and are a common drawback from using cool mist humidifiers. Hard water is a cool mist humidifier’s arch-nemesis, but we will discuss them in better details later on.
Back to warm mist models, you can safely use tap water with potentially high mineral content on them. Although this fact doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t clean these models as diligently. You must still clean and check your tank before each use.
Disadvantage of Warm Mist Humidifier Over Cool Mist Humidifier
Burn and Scalding Hazard
Obviously, the most significant disadvantage of warm mist humidifiers over their cool mist counterparts is the risks from boiling water. And if you think about it, leaving a vessel with a considerable amount of hot water inside a baby’s room is as scary as it sounds.
Higher Energy Consumption
While it is true that warm mist humidifiers will consume less energy compared to a heater, this type of humidifier consumes more than a cool mist model. The reason for this is because they boil the water themselves, and consequently, they will use more electricity to do so. The difference is not that drastic, but it is still a consideration for those with a tight budget.
What is a Cool Mist Humidifier?
A cool mist humidifier differs from the former because the mist it emits is not warm. It can either use ultrasonic or evaporative technology instead of boiling water. In an ultrasonic cool mist model, a vibrating plate breaks down water into smaller, almost invisible, particles. An evaporative cool mist model, on the other hand, draws water towards a wicking filter. A fan will then blow air across this wick to absorb moisture before it gets emitted into the room.
Benefits of Cool Mist Humidifier Over Warm Mist Humidifier
No Burn and Scalding Hazard
As you can assume, the lack of heating element and boiling water means that there is no danger for burns or scalding. And this is the same reason why most parents opt for a cool mist humidifier. Since you are not keeping boiling water and the mist itself doesn’t feel warm, children cannot potentially burn themselves. The parts of the humidifier also stay cool, which means they are safe to touch.
Alleviating Respiratory Problems
Both types of humidifier can ease and soothe particular symptoms. However, the cool mist that this humidifier emits has a slight advantage in helping your baby breathe comfortably. Cool mist humidifiers help the lining of the airways to shrink. This, in turn, helps alleviate congestion, which is common in colds and flu-like illnesses.
Larger Area Coverage
If you compare cool mist humidifiers to warm mist humidifiers, the former can humidify a larger space compared to the latter. Especially when your baby’s room is quite large, you’ll find that cool mist models are more effective in raising the area’s humidity level. As you can imagine, the warm vapor from a warm mist model will immediately rise upwards instead of spreading out. And if the nursery also happens to have a high ceiling, the distribution of warm vapor will not even out.
Can Be Used with Essential Oils
If you have remembered earlier, you can create medicated vapors with warm mist humidifiers. However, manufacturers also have cool mist models that have a dedicated tray for essential oils. What this means is you can add two or three drops of essential oil to create a more relaxing ambiance for your baby.
Essential oils such as lavender and chamomile can be beneficial for babies who have trouble sleeping. But before you start putting oils in your model, make sure that the unit allows their addition.
Comes in a Wider Variety of Models
Other than the option to become a diffuser, cool mist humidifiers beat their warm mist counterparts when it comes to model varieties. In the market, you’ll notice that manufacturers are coming up with different designs and features to cater babies especially.
For example, Crane has cool mist humidifiers that they designed as animal characters to look more appealing for babies. You’ll even see a wide array of models with features such as night light for relieving babies during night time.
Disadvantage of Cool Mist Humidifier Over Warm Mist Humidifier
Stagnant Water Isn’t Boiled
Ironically, the advantage of cool mist humidifiers can also become their drawback. Although they are “more” effective in increasing a room’s humidity, at the end of the day, it’s all about how clean is the mist they emit. Cool mist humidifiers do not use a heating element, and therefore, doesn’t boil the water before turning it into mist.
And if the reservoir happens to harbor contaminants, you’re putting your baby at risk for infection and diseases. Now, the solution to avoid this problem is to always be meticulous when cleaning your unit. This involves making sure that you have reached every area where mold and germs can hide themselves.
You can also look for units that use filters for the water. However, filters need the same care as the tank since they are also an attractive breeding ground for contaminants. And eventually, you’ll need to replace these filters if you’ve been using them for a long time. Although, do note that you can find cool mist humidifiers that use no filter.
A Tad Noisy
While most people can agree that the humming or bubbling sound of a humidifier acts as a white noise machine for baby, they can be “louder” compared to warm mist humidifiers. Evaporative cool mist models, in particular, use fans which add to the overall noise of the device.
Mineral Build-Up and White Dust
Cool mist humidifiers require distilled water. The reason for this is because some areas have hard tap water, which means high mineral content. This minerals can accumulate on the reservoir and are time-consuming to scrub off. And in the long run, this build-up can affect the efficiency of the model.
Other than longer clean-up time, the minerals in the water may also be released by the humidifier itself. They come in the form of by-products called “white dust”, and is common in particular with ultrasonic humidifiers. As we have tackled earlier, white dust can invite themselves on surfaces. They can be extra work for busy parents, and even though they are generally safe, they still pose some health risks.
You can prevent mineral accumulation and white dust by sticking with distilled water. There are also humidifiers that use demineralization filters, although you have to change them after some time. In an economical standpoint, needing to replace and buy filters is not practical for those with allocated budget.
Both warm mist and cool mist humidifiers can perform well when it comes to raising a room’s humidity. And if you would get one to counter the effects of dry air on your baby, either unit can relieve discomfort and symptoms. However, choosing between the two will be based on personal preference.
As you have seen in this article, both humidifiers have their advantages and disadvantages over the other. What’s left for you is to find which model will benefit your baby more. And keep in mind that there are a lot of factors as well outside of choosing a humidifier.