Let’s talk the best vaporizers. And just what is a vaporizer—and what about combination humidifier and vaporizers?
All humidifiers turn water into water vapor. Most humidifiers are cold mist—they either use a fan to blow water over a filter (evaporative humidifiers) or ultrasonic waves to create tiny water droplets (ultrasonic humidifiers).
But there is another way to create water vapor—vaporizers and warm mist humidifiers heat the water to a boiling temperature, turning it into water vapor.
The big difference between warm mist units and vaporizers: vaporizers typically have a place to add medicine (liquids or scented pads). Warm mist humidifiers don’t.
It is rare today to have a doctor recommend a medicine be vaporized in a vaporizer for a sick child. If a child has asthma, they typically use a nebulizer—these create vapor, but without the heat.
And we should point out a key safety tip: it is dangerous to overheat a nursery or child’s room. There’s no need to turn it into a swampy version of the Bahamas in August.
That said, some folks still like vaporizers to diffuse essential oils (for adults) or over-the-counter menthol-scented pads. As always, you should consult with a doctor before using any over-the-counter medicine in a vaporizer if your child has congestion.
One last note: some cool mist humidifiers also call themselves “vaporizers.” In this context, they typically mean humidifiers that can take water mixed with essential oils and diffuse that into the air.
Vicks is probably the most famous brand when it comes to steam vaporizers and vaporized over-the-counter medicated pads (VapoPads) or liquid (VapoSteam).
And after trying out various vaporizers and surveying our parent readers, we ended up picking Vick’s Warm Steam Vaporizer as the best steam vaporizer. Yes, it is a tried and true . . . nothing fancy to look at, but gets the job done! Here’s more:
What We Liked
• Easy to clean.
• Easy to set up.
• Large 1.5 gallon tank lasts for 18-24 hours, says the maker—but your mileage may vary. In real world tests, we think this steam vaporizer can last for 8-10 hours, but it depends on how the dry the air is to start with.
• Medicine cup.
• Green night light on top.
• Also works with Vick’s own VapoPads as well as liquids.
What Needs Work
• Not recommended for use with essential oils.
• Soft water can cause problems. Vicks recommends you add 1-2 pinches of salt to tap water, if you have soft water. If you don’t add salt, the unit may not produce as much steam as expected.
• Caution: warm mist humidifiers can cause burn injuries, so never put in an area accessible by children. Also: never overheat a baby or child’s room. Use a thermometer and humidity gauge to make sure the temperature doesn’t rise above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. And the humidity should stay at 50% or lower.