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Air Purifier vs. Air Humidifier – What are the differences? Similarities?

Air purifiers and air humidifiers can really impact the air quality of the various sections of your home so we list their differences in order for you to maximize their usage.

A white air purifier placed in the middle of the living room.

Both air purifiers and air humidifiers have a very important purpose that improves the quality of the air you are breathing, but the purposes are very different.

Many people might not be aware of the differences, but it is important to be able to differentiate the two. There are medical conditions or different needs people have that would especially benefit from one over the other.

Both are relatively easy to use, affordable and you can find them almost anywhere. They also come in all different sizes, depending on the size of the space you need it for. They even have portable options available for easy travel, for the office, or any other location you choose to take it if you require one for your health or just prefer to have it.

This article will help you determine which option and type are best for you and your needs by discussing the differences between the two, how they work, what the benefits of each machine are, which one can best suit your needs, and other relevant aspects to consider.

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Difference Between Purifiers and Humidifiers

Both air purifiers and air humidifiers work to improve the air quality you and your family are exposed to on a daily basis.

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Whether your primary concern is allergies, respiratory issues, cleaner air quality for your children, it is important to know the difference between the two.

The main difference between air purifiers and air humidifiers is that purifiers’ main purpose is to remove allergens, dust, reduce mold or control odors and humidifiers solely control the levels of humidity in the air by releasing water into the air and increasing humidity levels.

Air purifiers work by trapping and removing contaminants in the air that are affecting the air quality in order to purify the air, making it cleaner and healthier to breathe in.

Unfortunately, sometimes the air we are breathing is full of unhealthy particles like dust, allergens, pet dander, mold, and other bacteria that could affect our bodies when we are consistently breathing it in.

You probably don’t even realize how unhealthy the air might be, because it’s not something you can see to know how contaminated it is, but for people who have underlying conditions like asthma, allergies, or respiratory issues, it is definitely something you can feel over time by flare-ups or worsening of your symptoms and difficulty breathing.

A close look at a white air purifier on the floor in the living room.

Air humidifiers work by adding moisture to the air in order to soothe any irritation you are experiencing as a result of dry conditions. This could be beneficial for people with asthma as well, because the dryness in the air may exacerbate the symptoms and create a dry cough or wheezing.

For people with underlying respiratory issues, the dryness in the air can also cause further irritation in your respiratory tracts, making it harder to breathe and be comfortable. By releasing moisture into the air, humidifiers create more moist air for you to breathe to eliminate the harsh affects you may have been experiencing as a result of all the dryness in the air.

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How They Work

When an air purifier runs, it sucks the indoor air into the purifier machine by using electric fans and the air passes through a series of filters.

You will want to change out the filter periodically because the filter is catching all of the nasty particles being removed from the air and if it gets too full or clogged, it might not work as effectively.

Filters are very easy to replace and the suggested length of time per filter should be written on the box. There are some air purifiers that exist that are not filter-based, but the majority of them are.

Most of the time there is a filter called a HEPA filter that has the ability to capture very tiny particles up to 0.3 microns. According to Home Air Quality Guides, HEPA filters are 99.97% effective when it comes to removing airborne contaminants that have the ability to cause flare-ups in allergies, asthma, and other respiratory conditions.

While air purifiers won’t create any moisture in the air that could help combat any dryness you are breathing, they do filter the contaminated air and push back out fresh, clean air for you to breathe.

Air purifiers have been proven extremely beneficial for people with asthma and other respiratory conditions because they have the ability to reduce the need for treatment, make it easier for you to breathe, and make it much more comfortable when you are sleeping.

A close look at an air humidifier placed by the window.

Air humidifiers usually have to be filled with a little bit of water and the machine will turn the water into a vapor and then pump the water vapor into the air creating more moisture and humidity.

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In order to keep the humidifier going, you will need to refill the machine with water whenever it runs out because humidifiers need the water to create the vapor. The vapor is somewhat of a smokey, misty cloud that you will most likely be able to see coming out of the top of the machine.

Not only is this beneficial for people with asthma and other respiratory issues, but humidifiers could also be beneficial for anyone prone to dry skin, throat irritation, sinus issues and irritation, nosebleeds, and labored respiratory or breathing issues. There are also eco-friendly humidifier alternatives if you prefer a more natural environment.

One thing with humidifiers that you need to be mindful of is that because they are creating moisture in the air, it could have the ability to encourage mold growth if humidity gets too high or space is enclosed and the humidity gets trapped inside without enough airflow.

Generally, you would want your humidity levels in your home to be between 30%-50% according to Home Air Quality Guides. Anything below 30% is considered too low, which is when you experience the dryness in the air that can cause the issues listed above.

You should keep the humidity level in your home between the suggested amount because once it rises above 50% it starts to get too humid, which is when you might start noticing issues like mold, dust mites, and mildew. Too much moisture in the air encourages the growth of any bacteria and could potentially create an issue in your home if you are not careful.

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Benefits Each Offer

Probably the most important factors to consider when choosing between an air humidifier and an air purifier are the benefits each offers.

This is where you can really determine which is best for you based on what the intended results are. The list of features below should be able to guide you in determining which machine is best for you.

A white air purifier placed by the foot of the bed.

Air Purifier Features:

  • Perfect for children and babies to ensure they are not breathing in harmful particles and allergens all night while they sleep
  • Provides relief for people with allergies so the harmful allergens don’t irritate their eyes, throat, and lungs
  • Gets rid of asthma-triggering particles in the air for people with asthma
  • Doesn’t particularly help an existing cold like the flu, but can ease symptoms

A close look at an air humidifier releasing vapor.

Air Humidifier Features:

  • Cool mist uses different methods so the water can be changed into a vapor to be released into the air
  • The heat from electrical power is used to generate steam in warm mist humidifiers
  • Other humidifiers that are electromechanical use things like blades and motors to stir the water and create the vapor
  • Have no impact on allergen levels or the common cold, but do help symptoms feel less severe if your nasal passage is dry and irritated

Which One is Best for Your Needs?

Standing Air Purifier

Filters air 4x per hour in rooms up to 167 sq. ft. with UV-C light to help kill airborne viruses and other harmful germs in the air.

Activated charcoal filter helps reduce odors and traps large dust particles and pet hair. Then the air goes through the HEPA filter to capture dust mites, pollen, and pet dander.

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Large Room Air Purifier 5-in-1

Hathaspace Smart True HEPA Air Purifier for Home, 5-in-1 Large Room Air Cleaner for Allergies, Pets, Asthma, Smokers – Filters 99.97% of Allergens, Dust, Pet Hair, Pollen, Smoke, Odors - HSP001

Cold catalyst filter captures large dust particles, pet dander, pollen, mold, and toxic chemicals, cellular-activated carbon filter absorbs odors, smoke, gases, and volatile organic compounds, and then the antibacterial filter targets bacteria and germs.

Then the ionizer releases negatively charged ions that neutralize and eliminate odors. The auto mode option adjusts airspeed based on surrounding air quality and replaces air 2x per hour in rooms up to 350 sq. ft.

Air Purifier with Fragrance Sponge

PARTU HEPA Air Purifier - Smoke Air Purifiers for Home with Fragrance Sponge - 100% Ozone Free, Lock Set, Eliminates Smoke, Dust, Pollen, Pet Dander, (Available for California)

100% ozone free with a 3-stage filtration system. Pre-filter, HEPA filter, and an activated carbon filter. Fragrance sponge to add a drop of essential oil and water to allow the fragrance to flow with the air. Compact size, effective for areas about 107 sq. ft.

High Energy Efficient Air Purifier

LEVOIT Air Purifier for Home Allergies Pets Hair Smokers in Bedroom, H13 True HEPA Air Purifiers Filter, 24db Quiet Air Cleaner, Remove 99.97% Smoke Dust Mold Pollen for Large Room, Core 300, White

This Energy Star and CARB compliant air purifier works on rooms up to 219 sq. ft. and purifies the air 5x per hour.

Designed to promote calm and undisturbed sleep by being equipped with a silent mode and the ability to turn off display lights while you are sleeping. Customizable with 4 different filter options, this purifier is extremely versatile and easy to change.

The original filter is designed for multi-purpose coverage, pet allergy filter is specifically designed to remove pet hair and dander for pet lovers who also have allergies, the toxin absorber filter is designed to work hard on filtering out high levels of smoke, smog, and VOCs, and the mold and bacteria filter is best for any moisture-heavy environments.

Top Fill Cool Mist Humidifier

GENIANI Top Fill Cool Mist Humidifiers for Bedroom & Essential Oil Diffuser - Smart Aroma Ultrasonic Humidifier for Home, Baby, Large Room with Auto Shut Off, 4L Easy to Clean Water Tank (White)

Maintains comfortable humidity levels in your home by manual controls that have 3 output levels and auto-sensing mist adjustment. It also has a built-in essential oil tray to fill the air with your favorite aroma and relieve stress.

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It is perfect for a bedroom and has a built-in nightlight. The machine is very quiet and can run up to 18 hours on the highest setting with the 4L water tank. Covers areas up to 220 sq. ft. and is perfect for a nursery or child’s bedroom with its soothing night light feature to help kids fall asleep.

0Medium-Sized Room Premium Humidifying Unit

Pure Enrichment MistAire Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier - Premium Humidifying Unit with Whisper-Quiet Operation, Automatic Shut-Off and Night Light Function - Lasts Up to 16 Hours

Safely moisturizes the air for up to 16 hours of continuous operation and promotes easier breathing and more restful sleep. Easily adjustable mist direction that covers 360 degrees at a speed that fits your comfort level. Offers a soothing glow for maximum relaxation as well as an AC power adapter. Comes in small, medium, large, and XL to provide a wide variety that covers anywhere from 175 sq. ft. – 500 sq. ft.

Filterless Comfort Humidifier

Everlasting Comfort Humidifiers for Bedroom (6L) - Humidifier with Essential Oil Tray (Black)

Features a 6-liter water tank with super high mist outputs for rooms up to 500 sq. ft. Also comes with an essential oil tray giving off a clean and fresh smelling aroma. Helps reduce illness by diffusing moisture into the air.

The design is filterless, eliminating the need to keep purchasing additional filters, lasts up to 6 nights of sleep between refills, and is ETL certified for safety and reliability. Recommended buying a humidity monitor to be sure you aren’t filtering too much humidity into the air that would cause the growth of harmful mold or mildew.

Warm and Cool Mist Large Room Humidifier

Elechomes UC5501 Ultrasonic Humidifier for Large Room Bedroom Home, 6L Vaporizer Warm and Cool Mist with Remote, Customized Humidity, Sleep Mode, LED, White

Customized humidity for between 12 and 40 hours with a 6-liter tank. The device comes with a remote to be able to control humidity from a distance and also has a sleep mode feature that turns off the LED display creating a quiet and more calm sleep.

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Equipped with a state-of-the-art humidity sensor to quickly detect the humidity levels in the room so you know how much you need and will automatically turn off when the desired humidity is reached. Also features an aromatherapy function to easily add your favorite essential oil scents to the aroma pads.

Whole-House Evaporative Electromechanical Humidifier

Designed to help with itchy or dry skin, frequent nose bleeds, and static electricity. The device works with wick filters and a large turbofan to create no leakage risks or white dust on the floor because it produces no vapor.

Traps mineral deposits and other impurities from tap water with anion function to promote calmness and relaxation. Designed for a wide coverage of at least 800-1000 sq. ft. to work throughout your whole house and also has pure H2O and antibacterial filters to trap any impurities before releasing water molecules into the air.