The word droplets will be synonymous with the spread of COVID-19 for the rest of my life. So when my skin was flaking and I was waking up painfully groggy and dry from unpredictable winter weather and constant heating, I was hesitant to bring a mist-generating humidifier into my life. Even as my sensitive, paper skin withered to a crisp. But the droplets!
If you have flaky skin, dry eyes and nasal passages, and just feel kind of “blah” in the winter, I can’t recommend a humidifier enough—especially if you live in the frigid northeast. After just a few hours of use, you’ll notice your skin feels softer and smoother, your lips will stop being so chapped, and your eyes will feel less dry. We’ve already tested some good options for you: These are our favorite high and low models.
Luxury option: Dyson Pure Humidify + Cool
The Dyson Pure Humidify + Cool is a genie in a humidifier that can purify and cool while adding moisture to the air. Because humidifiers can promote bacteria growth (especially if the water in them sits for a few days), Dyson researchers spent five years testing more than 24,000 waterborne bacteria samples—earning them the claim that their technology kills 99.9% of bacteria in water. The unit uses an internal ultraviolet light and dual filters to clean its water tank supply and strip the environment of airborne toxins like bacteria and mold.
“It’s the more hygienic type,” explains Dyson data scientist Gergana Tatarova, who walked me through the machine’s cleansing process for tap water and air before they’re recirculated through the room. “You can use water from the sink [to fill the unit] and then we remove 99.9% of the bacteria. We cannot say 100% because we haven’t tried it on every single bacteria in the world, but our microbiologist team is very serious.” An extra $100 buys you a Cryptomic model of the Humidify + Cool that also filters out formaldehyde, a feature popular in Asian countries where the pollutant is a more prominent threat.
And despite being a heavyish, waist-high unit, it’s both easy to clean and fill. The gallon-size tank slips in and out on little wheels and has a fold-down handle for easy carting to the sink and back, and it’s self-cleaning (a built-in function descales and flushes the system and pipes with the touch of a button). The machine links with an Android/iOS app that can monitor your local external environment and provide reports on your indoor air quality, and it also pairs nicely with Alexa or Siri.
While stylish, the Humidify + Cool is not the most subtle or mobile unit you can find—or affordable, at $800. But a little more than a week with the Dyson running 24/7, and I’m waking up feeling less groggy and affected by my apartment’s erratic heating system. My mask skin has gotten mostly under control, no longer feeling tight and flakey in the morning. Watching my air quality vitals has become a slight obsession; I’ve begun to seriously reassess my relationship with cooking spray after a “poor” quality spike occurred when I lightly spritzed a waffle iron, in another room, 15 feet away.
Affordable option: Honeywell Top Fill Cool Moisture Tower Humidifier
This tall evaporative Honeywell humidifier keeps my living room and my plants comfortable. Its gentle bubbling and invisible steam is enough to effortlessly humidify a very dry 300-square-foot space with 12-foot ceilings. While it doesn’t feel as though it’s been dropped from the future like the Dyson, it checks most of the boxes I was searching for: prolonged, quasi-self-maintenance via a bacteria-busting Protec Humidifier Cleaning Ball that filters water inside the tank, and a digital display that monitors humidity levels to help me keep my space from getting clammy or dank.
Bargain: Sharper Image Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier
Staff editor Lara Sorokanich loves her Sharper Image Cool Mist Humidifier. “This little egg-shaped humidifier is the secret to my wintertime happiness,” she says. “With a clear water tank, wood-motif base, and even an inner night-light that glows blue, this friendly-looking humidifier easily adds moisture to your desk or bedroom without feeling like heavy machinery. The tank holds a surprisingly large amount of water, meaning I can run it for a full workday without getting up for refills. As someone who easily gets dry, sandpaper hands in the winter, I find I have much softer skin and less chapped lips with this friendly humidifier gurgling on my desk each day as I work.” Just make sure you use distilled water in it, and give it a rinse with white vinegar periodically to kill bacteria.
Space saver: TaoTronics 3L Cool Mist Humidifier
Prior to the Dyson, this tiny TaoTronics top-fill humidifier lived next to my bed, blowing a steady stream of steam into the night. It was the first time I experienced the benefit of adding moisture to the air while sleeping, noticing fewer scratchy throats and dehydration-induced headaches in the morning. Maintenance on this ultrasonic humidifier is a task I do not look forward to, but it opens easily into two simple-to-clean pieces, without too many tiny nooks for bacteria to hide. For its price, it’s been a solid performer: relatively silent, steady, easy-to-control steam output, and lightweight enough to carry to the sink for refills.
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