Is a warm or cool mist humidifier better for sinuses? (ANSWERED!)

Is warm or cool mist humidifier better for sinuses

Is the dry winter air irritating your nose? That feeling of uncomfortable dryness, itchy eyes, and scratchy throat—we know it all too well.

Luckily, we’ve got a handy dandy humidifier that can offer immediate relief. It increases the moisture in the air, relieving the symptoms of sinusitis and providing extra comfort throughout the season.

Below, we’re going to delve into warm and cool mist humidifiers. We’ll show you how they differ and explain which one is best for your health.

Is a warm or cool mist humidifier better for sinuses?

Both warm and cool mist humidifiers are equally effective in treating sinus infections. They can relieve symptoms like congestion, sore throat, and postnasal drip.

Warm mist humidifiers are best used in colder seasons, while cool mist humidifiers can be used all year round.

Is a warm or cool mist humidifier better for sinuses
Cool Mist HumidifierWarm Mist Humidifier
Operational CostLower energy consumptionHigher energy consumption
Noise LevelModels with built-in fans are louder.Whisper-quiet operation
MaintenanceDaily (with daily use)Daily (with daily use)
OperationYear-round useDuring colder seasons
Safety HazardsMay aerosolize toxic chemicals in cleaning products and spread bacteria without proper care and maintenanceMay cause minor burns and injuries if the hot water spills

If you can’t choose between the two, you can always get the dual models that can function as a warm mist and a cool mist humidifier. They offer more flexibility as you can choose the type of humidification based on your needs or the changing seasons.

However, they tend to cost more than the standard models although require the same amount of care and maintenance.

Warm Mist Humidifiers

Equipped with an internal heating element, a warm mist humidifier boils water in a reservoir and releases warm mist into the air. This increases the humidity levels in your living space, making it feel warm and comfy in colder months.

Warm Mist Humidifiers
Operates quietly
Releases purified air
Reduces allergy symptoms
Treats symptoms of sinus infections
May scald pets/kids
Not suited for large rooms
May promote dust mite growth


Operates Quietly

A warm mist humidifier operates silently because it doesn’t use an internal fan to blow the mist through the filter. On average, its noise level measures 30 dB, making it as quiet as a whisper.

Due to its ultra-low noise level, this type of humidifier is great for light sleepers and for kids’ rooms. 

Releases Purified Air

Since warm mist humidifiers boil the water that is eventually released as steam, they help eliminate any waterborne bacteria and germs. 

Take note that warm mist humidifiers release purified mist, but they can’t actually clean the air in your room. 

Reduces Allergy Symptoms

Allergies are one of the main causes of sinus infections. When the humidity in your living space is below 30%, it can cause allergens like dust and pet dander to dry out, making it easier for them to be airborne.

Aside from that, low humidity levels cause your nasal passages and throat to become dry and irritated. This makes you more prone to irritation.

By running a humidifier, you can maintain ideal humidity levels in your room to prevent dust mites from thining. You must keep the relative humidity level between 40% to 50% because anything beyond that can promote the growth of dust mites.

Treats Symptoms of Sinus Infections

The cold air and low humidity in winter months irritate and inflame the lining of your nose, causing congestion. As a result, you’ll develop a cough or an infection in the sinuses. 

When you run a warm mist humidifier, it adds moisture to the air, which relieves unpleasant symptoms like nasal stuffiness, sore throat, and post-nasal drip. It reduces discomfort, making it easier for you to sleep throughout the night.

Not only that, running a humidifier can help prevent costly trips to the doctor during the cold winter months.


Perhaps one of the best things about a warm mist humidifier is that it is affordable, starting at $20. With such a small investment, you can stay warm throughout the winter and, hopefully, free of sinus infections. 

During cold winter months, you can run a warm mist humidifier to soothe your sinuses and prevent costly trips to the doctor.


May Scald Pets/Kids

Warm mist humidifiers operate by heating water in a reservoir. If a playful pet or a curious child accidentally knocks over the unit, the hot water will spill, and it may cause minor burns.

On the bright side, this is easily preventable. You can use those pet/child barriers to prevent them from reaching the humidifier while it’s operating.

Not Suited for Large Rooms

Typically, the most affordable warm mist humidifiers aren’t built for large rooms. They are best used in small bedrooms and office spaces.

You can opt to get a whole-house warm mist humidification solution. However, it’s going to cost you more, ranging from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars, including its installation.

May Promote Dust Mite Growth

If you run the warm mist humidifier too frequently during warmer seasons, it can increase the level of humidity in your room, creating an ideal environment for dust mite growth. Instead of preventing allergens, your device can encourage them to thrive.

However, like the other items on this list, you can easily prevent this from happening. All you have to do is maintain the ideal humidity levels in your space.

Cool Mist Humidifiers

Cool mist humidifiers emit a cool vapor that raises the humidity of the room but not the temperature. 

Some have built-in fans that blow water through a filter and into the air, while others have ultrasonic technology to break down water molecules before dispersing them into the air.

Cool Mist Humidifiers
No heating element
Generates cooler air
Covers more space
Adjustable setting
May spread dust
May spread mold and bacteria
May spread toxic chemicals
Requires constant maintenance


No Heating Element

Cool mist humidifiers don’t have an internal heating element. It doesn’t heat water to produce vapors, unlike warm mist humidifiers. 

Even if your device gets knocked over by pets or children, you don’t have to worry about hot water spilling and causing injuries to your loved ones. Thus, parents can rest easy knowing that their child is safe around this machine.

Generates Cooler Air

Poor air quality, especially during the hot summer months, can be challenging for people with asthma, sinusitis, and seasonal allergies. The extreme heat causes mucus to build up in the sinuses, making them stuffy and inflamed.

Using your air conditioner along with a cool mist humidifier can help you cool down and maintain ideal humidity levels in your home. That added moisture in the air can soothe dry sinus passages and relieve congestion.

Covers More Space

Typically, a cool mist humidifier has a larger coverage area than a warm mist humidifier. Even the small variants designed for rooms can be used in spacious terrariums and greenhouses for humidification.

Still, a single portable humidifier will never be enough to cover the entire household. You can opt to get a whole-house humidifier, but it will cost more than the portable versions.

Adjustable Settings

Adjustable settings are quite convenient, especially during seasonal changes. They make it easier for you to control and maintain the humidity levels in your living space.

Of the different types of cool mist humidifiers, the ultrasonic models usually feature simple, hassle-free controls that enable you to change the intensity of the mist to your liking.

Not only that, you should be able to set the amount of moisture to be released in the air by rotating the dial on your humidifier. 


Small room-type cool mist humidifiers are usually pretty budget-friendly. You can buy portable models for as low as $20.

Depending on the technology utilized, you can also get higher-end versions worth hundreds of dollars. 

Aside from the low upfront costs, cool mist humidifiers have low operational costs. They are more likely to be more affordable than warm mist humidifiers because they operate without a heating element.



Some cool mist humidifiers have internal fans that blow the vapor around the room, so they can be as loud as your house fans. They might be disruptive if you are a light sleeper or if you have kids who struggle to sleep throughout the night.

If you prefer a quieter humidifier, you can choose one with ultrasonic vibration technology. It delivers powerful yet quiet humidification.

May Spread Dust 

Hard water has a variety of minerals. When you add hard water to your cool mist humidifier, it will aerosolize the minerals, and disperse them throughout the room, which can aggravate your allergies and other respiratory issues.

One of the tell-tale signs is a build-up of white dust all over your furniture. If you aren’t breathing that dust-filled mist, it is sticking to your couch, your counters, and other surfaces nearby.

The only way to prevent this is to clean the humidifier constantly using the right cleaning products.

May Spread Mold and Bacteria

Aside from spreading dust, a poorly maintained cool mist humidifier can be a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. This may happen when you don’t change the water often or you don’t empty the tank before storing the humidifier.

When you operate this dirty device, the mold and bacteria inside will get dispersed in the air along with the cooling mist. 

Instead of easing your breathing problems, a dirty humidifier will make it worse. It can aggravate allergies, asthma, and other respiratory issues.

May Spread Toxic Chemicals

If you use harsh chemicals to clean your humidifier, it can do more harm than good to your health. Unfortunately, the toxic chemicals can get dispersed into the air as fine mist.

Inhaling the toxic chemicals aerosolized by your humidifier can make you very sick. If you already have existing respiratory issues or other health conditions, it may aggravate the problem.

Requires Constant Maintenance

The easiest way to avoid all the potential health issues that your humidifier can cause is to clean it regularly and properly, as recommended by its manufacturer.

Compared to warm mist humidifiers, cool mist humidifiers need constant cleaning and maintenance to prevent the accumulation of mold and bacteria, which may spread in the air during operations. 

Regular maintenance may be a hassle, but it will definitely improve the device’s life expectancy. More importantly, if you clean the humidifier correctly, it can relieve the discomfort and pain associated with sinus infections, not aggravate them.

Maintenance Tips for Humidifiers

The biggest drawbacks of humidifiers can easily be prevented with proper care and maintenance. 

To avoid potentially harmful consequences like mold and bacterial build-up, you must use distilled or demineralized water, empty the tank regularly, and sanitize it using the recommended cleaning products.

Use distilled or demineralized water.

We recommend using distilled or demineralized water for your humidifier. Tap water may contain a variety of minerals that can accumulate in the device.

As mentioned, ultrasonic models can aerosolize the minerals in the water supply and disperse them in the air as white dust. When inhaled, the fine dust may pose adverse health effects to children and adults. 

Even if you don’t own an ultrasonic humidifier, distilled or demineralized water is best because it will require less upkeep. You won’t have to worry about mineral build-up in the device itself, and you can extend its lifespan.

Empty and clean the tank regularly.

Don’t leave water in the humidifier’s tank for days at a time as it will cause mold and bacteria to form. Make sure to empty the tank whenever the device is not in use.

After emptying the tank, you should give it a thorough cleanse using the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning products. Never use abrasive cleaners formulated with toxic chemicals as they can be aerosolized and spread by your humidifier.

Use a scrubbing brush to reach the nooks and crannies of the device. Inspect the tank closely for any dirt or mineral build-up and make sure to clean it thoroughly. 

Before storing your humidifier, wipe it dry, including the tank. Removing any excess moisture in the device will prevent mold and bacteria from accumulating during storage.

Use a hygrometer.

For the best results, use a hygrometer to measure the relative humidity in the air. Too much humidity can make mold and bacteria thrive, ruin your furniture and fittings, and irritate your sinuses.

To protect your device, your home, and your health, monitor the humidity levels in your living space. Make sure it doesn’t go over 50% or under 30%.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the health benefits of humidifiers?

Humidifiers increase the level of humidity in your room, which can help keep sinus infections at bay. Moreover, they can provide relief and comfort when you’re experiencing asthma, colds, and the flu.
Remember that you must maintain ideal levels of humidity, which should be between 30 and 50 percent, to avoid unpleasant effects on your health.

Where should the humidifier be placed for best results?

It will always depend on the structure of the room. However, it would be best to place your device above 2-4 feet off the floor in an area with good airflow so that the mist can spread throughout the space.

Can you leave a humidifier on for 24 hours?

If it is necessary, you can keep your humidifier running for 24 hours. Just take note that you have to replace the water and clean the reservoir regularly to prevent mold and bacteria from building up inside the device. 
Failure to clean the humidifier properly and regularly can lead to persistent health issues or aggravate existing conditions.

Can I use a humidifier with an aircon?

Humidifiers and air-conditioners can be used simultaneously, especially during hot summer months. Running your cool mist humidifier will help you maintain ideal humidity levels in your home.
If you are prone to having sinus problems during hot weather, the cool mist from your humidifier can relieve the stuffiness, discomfort, and any pain associated with it. Also, it calms irritated airways, helping you breathe better.

Can I put essential oils in my humidifier?

Regardless of the type of humidifier you use, we don’t recommend adding essential oils, fragrances, and other substances to your device. This is to prevent irreparable damage to your humidifier.
Oils are thicker and denser than water. If you pour a few drops every time you run your humidifier, the oils may clog the device and cause permanent damage.
However, if you really wish to add fragrance to freshen up the environment, there are other alternative products for such a purpose, such as diffusers and scented candles.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *