Difference Between Vaporizer and Humidifier

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on November 03, 2022
4 min read

You may be wondering about the difference between a vaporizer and humidifier and which is best when dealing with dry air. Dry air may seem like a minor inconvenience, but it can significantly impact your daily comfort and health. Low humidity in your home affects moisture in your mucous membranes and skin. This dryness can cause you to experience bloody noses, dry eyes, itchy skin, and other unpleasant symptoms. 

If you’re sick, you’ll feel the harmful effects of dry air even more. For example, harsh winter air can turn a mild cold or flu into a miserable ordeal as your cough worsens, your lips dry up, and your throat constantly feels scratchy. Dry air can also aggravate allergies, asthma, skin conditions, and other disorders. 

Fortunately, you can improve the air quality of your home by using a humidifier or vaporizer. Many manufacturers produce these handy machines, so you can easily find the perfect tool for your needs and space. However, what’s the difference between a humidifier and a vaporizer? While these two devices may seem similar, they have different purposes, benefits, and uses. 

Here are a few things to consider when choosing between a vaporizer or humidifier.

A vaporizer and humidifier have the same basic purpose. They increase the humidity in a room or building by using water to add moisture to the air. However, they achieve this effect through different processes. 

A steam vaporizer boils water and releases moisture into the air as hot steam. This method effectively boosts humidity, but the hot water can cause serious burns if a child, pet, or adult tips over the device or inhales the steam. 

By contrast, a humidifier releases cool mist into the air to boost the moisture level. There are several types of humidifiers, such as a: 

  • Central humidifier. Install this humidifier into your home air conditioning and heating systems to humidify your house year-round.
  • Impeller humidifier. This affordable and portable humidifier uses a rotating disk to dissolve cool water into a fine mist.
  • Ultrasonic humidifier. This device uses ultrasonic vibrations to turn water into a cool mist. 

These tools can help you maintain an ideal indoor relative humidity of 40 to 60%.

A humidifier is a versatile tool with many uses. It can: 

  • Ease the symptoms of the common cold, the flu, and other respiratory illnesses. 
  • Help humidity-loving houseplants thrive.
  • Prevent your floorboards, furniture joints, and other wood from drying out. 
  • Reduce irritation in your eyes, lungs, throat, and various mucus membranes.

A humidifier has numerous advantages for your health, home, and pets. It can: 

  • Diminish a cough 
  • Loosen mucus in your chest so that you can expel it more easily
  • Maintain pets’ body temperature during general anesthesia in veterinary settings
  • Reduce stuffiness caused by the common cold and other respiratory conditions
  • Soothe a sore throat 

People who live in very cold or arid climates benefit most from using a humidifier, but this machine can help anyone who has a dry house for all or part of the year.

A vaporizer serves functions similar to those of a humidifier. It also produces hot steam that provides several additional advantages. Vaporizers can: 

  • Dispense liquid medications 
  • Provide extra heat and comfort for sick people and pets
  • Reduce your heating bill during the winter 

If you prefer warmth over a cool mist, a vaporizer can be an excellent addition to your home.

Like a humidifier, a vaporizer offers many health benefits. It can also: 

  • Boost your immune system
  • Decrease the survival of the flu and some viruses in the air
  • Help protect the body against SARS-CoV-2 and other illnesses

Because humidifiers and vaporizers use different methods to add moisture to the air, they have unique risks. It’s important to keep these dangers in mind when deciding between the two devices. 

Humidifier risks. If you use a humidifier improperly, this machine can have several negative effects. 

  • Excess humidity can make allergies and asthma worse
  • Humidifiers kept in a small space can cause excess condensation, leading to the growth of bacteria and mold 
  • If you don’t clean your humidifier frequently, mold can also grow inside the machine before being blown around the house 
  • Ultrasound humidifiers used with tap water can leave white dust in your rooms

Luckily, following basic humidifier tips like cleaning the machine frequently and filling it with distilled water can make this device safer to use. 

Vaporizer risks. Steam can carry heat 4000x more effectively than dry air. This property makes vaporizers more dangerous than cool-mist humidifiers. 

The risks of using a vaporizer include: 

  • Contact with steam or hot water can scald the skin, causing significant burns.
  • Directly inhaling very hot steam from a vaporizer can cause severe respiratory injuries.

Humidifiers and vaporizers are affordable, portable, and widely accessible devices. Each machine will increase the humidity in your home, reducing the harmful effects of dry air. A humidifier or vaporizer can be especially beneficial if you have an acute or chronic illness, including asthma or the flu. 

Based on your individual preferences and living situation, one tool may be a safer addition to your household than the other, though. For instance, if you have curious cats or young children, you may choose to purchase a comparatively safe cool-mist humidifier instead of a hot vaporizer. Remember, though, that a humidifier is more likely to harbor dangerous bacteria and mold. Research also suggests that a vaporizer may be more effective at preventing the spread of illnesses like COVID-19. 

Weighing these considerations carefully can help you select the best humidity-boosting device for your home. Then, you can buy your humidifier or vaporizer and start enjoying the benefits of moist air.