Air Purifier vs Humidifier: What Are The Differences?

Air Purifier vs Humidifier: What Are The Differences?

Air purifier and humidifier can both help to improve the air quality inside your home air.

But what are the differences between a humidifier and an air purifier?

And can you use them together?

A lot of people use air purifiers at home, a good number also uses humidifiers, and some even have both.

Both an air purifier and a humidifier can do great things to improve your indoor air quality. But it can be tricky to understand which option is best for your particular needs. For example, both products are great for people with sinus and respiratory issues; however, the way they offer relief is very different.

But do you know what qualities make these devices the same and what makes them different?

If you’re intrigued by the debate between air purifiers vs humidifiers, then you’re probably wondering how do both affect air quality. On top of that, you might also not know exactly how each of them works. In this in-depth article, we explore the differences between air purifiers and humidifiers so you get a clear understanding of how each of these powerful machines works.

By the end of this article, you’ll know once and for all, do you need an air purifier or humidifier in your home, or both.

Understanding the differences between the best air purifiers and humidifiers is crucial to helping you make the right choice for you, your family, and your home. If you want a deeper dive, we have an investigation on how air purifiers work.

Air purifier vs Humidifier: The differences

Straight out of the box, air purifiers and humidifiers look very similar, but they‘re pretty different on the inside. One works to sanitize allergens in the air, the other to add extra moisture in order to prevent or soothe irritations caused by dry air.

The main difference between an air purifier and a humidifier is that air purifiers are designed to clear the air of allergens, dust, mold and control odors. Humidifiers control the humidity level in a room and do nothing to control air quality or the numbers of particles in the air.

Direct Comparison

This chart will give you a quick overview and comparison between air purifiers and humidifiers.

Criteria

Air Purifier

Humidifier

Application

Uses filters to trap and remove airborne contaminants

Adds moisture to the air to soothe irritation caused by dry conditions

Benefits

Beneficial for asthmatics and allergy sufferers, and people who want clean air

Beneficial for asthmatics and people with irritated respiratory tracts due to dry air

Removes

Allergens, Dust, Pet Dander, Mold Spores, Bacteria, and Smoke

Dry Air

Suggested
Humidity

N/A

30% to 50%

Difference Between Air Purifier and Humidifier

Although you may assume that air purifiers and humidifiers can be used interchangeably, this simply is not the case.

Air Purifier

What does an air purifier do? An air purifier’s purpose is to remove a variety of contaminants from your indoor air. It captures and destroys dust particles, bacteria, allergens, mold spores, pet dander, smoke odors, and other harmful particles. When your air purifier is running, it sucks your home’s air into the machine and through a series of filters.

One of the most common type of filters are called HEPA filters, and it can capture tiny particles down to 0.3 microns. Although the True HEPA version of this filter is 99.97% effective at removing airborne contaminants, there are some major drawbacks attached to the use of HEPA filters.

Air Purifier vs Humidifier: What Are The Differences?

If you’re wondering what are HEPA filters, they are a tightly woven set of plastic and fiberglass threads that allow air to pass through while trapping particles that are larger than the openings within the material.

Keep in mind that an air purifier doesn’t add any moisture back into the air. It only functions to clean and filter out the pollution.

Humidifier

A humidifier’s main function is to add moisture back into your home’s air. It does this by pumping vapor into a room that may or may not be visible. Compare that to a humidifier vs dehumidifier where the latter removes water vapor from the air.

To keep the humidifier running, you must continue to add water to a reservoir. The device then converts this water into a fine mist and finally expels it into the surrounding air.

Humidifiers are best used in dry climates because they add moisture back into the air and can help relieve dry skin, throat irritation, sinus issues, nosebleeds, and breathing problems you may experience by being in an arid climate.

Air Purifier vs Humidifier: What Are The Differences?

It’s important to know that a humidifier raises a room’s relative humidity level. If you already have high humidity levels, this can encourage mold growth. Therefore, you want your indoor humidity levels to stay between 30% and 50%.

Below 30% is considered too dry and can cause the issues we mentioned in the last paragraph. Over 50% humidity can encourage mold growth, dust mite reproduction, and mildew.

If you can’t lower the humidity levels sufficiently, then it’s best to have a good air purifier for mold spores in the home to extract the fungi from the air.

Types of Air Purifiers

Air purifiers come in various types and each unit can contain one or more of the following air cleaning functions:

HEPA Filtration

This is a highly dense filter that traps airborne contaminants. The True HEPA filter is the most common in air purifiers because it’s certified to remove 99.97% of all particles as small as 0.3 microns in size. It’s good for removing pollutants like allergens, particulate matter, dust, visible smoke, and pet dander although it’s not capable of effectively removing virus and bacteria.

On top of that, HEPA filters need to be changed every few months and are non-recyclable, which makes them a serious risk for the environment.

Carbon Filtration

This filter contains a special form of activated carbon that traps gases, odors, chemicals, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It helps keep a home smelling fresh and reduces toxic substances that are in the air.

Carbon filters are mainly utilized to remove nasty smell and odors, but their effectiveness at filtering VOCs, virus, and bacteria is relatively low.

Negative Ionization

This air cleaning technology emits charged ions into the air that attach themselves onto airborne contaminants. This process weights particles down so they can be more easily captured by the internal air filters as well as causes pollutants to fall onto the floor. This process is particularly effective at removing ultra-fine particles, down to 0.01 microns in size.

Ultraviolet (UV) Light

This system uses a special light that is capable to kill airborne bacteria and viruses by destroying them down to their molecular DNA structure. As air passes through the air purifier, the UV light zaps microorganisms and pathogens so that the air flowing back into the room is sterilized and clean.

This technology has been growing exponentially in recent years, as its best-in-class effectiveness is proven to be superior to both HEPA and Negative Ionization filters.

Air purifiers can come in two forms: portable or as whole-house air purification systems. We particularly recommend portable air purifiers because of their cheaper cost and efficiency for single rooms.

Types of Humidifiers

Humidifiers come in three common types:

Warm Mist

These humidifiers heat up water with a gentle boiling process to produce a warm mist that you can see and feel in the air.

Cool Mist

These humidifiers contain a filter that traps sediment, minerals, and other impurities while delivering a cool invisible mist that evaporates into the air.

Ultrasonic

These humidifiers use a metal sheet that vibrates at an ultrasonic frequency.  This process creates water droplets that are then pushed into the air with a fan to create a cool and ultra-light mist that quickly disperses humidity into the room.

How Do Air Purifiers and Humidifiers Affect Your Health?

Air purifiers and humidifiers can affect the air quality in our homes, therefore having an impact on our health. They both treat the air we breathe in but in very different ways.

To understand what are the differences and which one will be most beneficial to us, we need to learn what is causing the symptoms that need to be treated first.

Air purifiers pull small particles from the air and trap them in a series of filters. This helps reduce allergens in the air, including dust mites, pet dander, pollen, and mold spores. There are some air purifiers that can also remove Volatile Organic compounds or VOCs. These compounds are toxic and are found in many of the cleaning products we use in our homes daily.

Air Purifier vs Humidifier: What Are The Differences?

Humidifiers don’t really clean the air, and have no impact on the number of airborne allergens. Instead, these machines only add moisture to the air. Using a humidifier to add humidity to a room can help relieve a stuffy nose, itchy throat and eyes, dry skin and hair. If you maintain a humidity level between 40 and 60 percent, you can also reduce the potency of the viruses that are in the air.

If the dry air in your bedroom is causing a snoring issue, adding a humidifier can also help stop the snoring or reduce it by adding moisture to the nasal cavities. Humidifiers can even help reduce nose bleeds caused by dry air.

Which is Better for You: An Air Purifier or Humidifier?

An air purifier might be best if:

  • You suffer from asthma, allergies, or a respiratory condition that’s irritated by polluted air.
  • You want to decrease the amount of pet dander or allergens present in your home’s air.
  • You want a good dust remover machineto reduce the amount of dust that accumulates indoors.
  • You want to get rid of household odors due to cooking, pets, smoke, or mold.
  • You want to reduce the level of toxic substances in the air you breathe.
  • You want to sleep better at night with less lung, throat, and nose irritation.
  • You want a cleaner, more sterilized home environment.

A humidifier might be best if:

  • You live in a dry or arid climate.
  • You want to increase the moisture levels in your home’s air.
  • You have frequent nosebleeds or sinuses issues that are aggravated by dry air.
  • You have dry skin, hair, or eyes during the winter.
  • You want relief from respiratory issues that are due to dry air.
  • You have excessive snoring at night that comes from dry air conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use a humidifier and air purifier in the same room?

You can use an air purifier and humidifier in the same room. You can also use them at the same time. Each device serves a different purpose. An air purifier cleans the air from pollutants while a humidifier adds moisture to the air for better comfort.

The air purifier will clean the air of pollutants while the humidifier adds moisture back into the air to make it more comfortable to live and breathe.

Do humidifiers clean the air?

A humidifier does not clean the air. However, it does serve a valuable function in the home. Instead of cleaning the air, humidifiers add moisture into the air to improve humidity levels. This can make the air more comfortable and easier to breathe compared to dry air.

Do humidifiers help with dust?

Humidifiers do not help with dust. A humidifier adds moisture into the air and has no effect on cleaning the air from dust particles. Moisturizing the air with a humidifier can create the perfect home for dust mites to live and prosper if you do not keep the humidity level between 30-50%.

Air purifier vs humidifier for baby?

You could use both. An air purifier will give your baby cleaner air in their room and help promote better health.

If the air is dry, a humidifier will add moisture back to help your baby breathe and feel more comfortable and help reduce cough and cold symptoms. Using a cool-mist humidifier may help to shrink the nasal passages allowing infants to breathe better. A warm mist humidifier can cause the opposite to happen (swelling of the nasal passages) and make breathing more difficult.

Placing an air purifier into the baby’s room will help keep the air clean and remove unwanted particles from the air.

Air purifiers can reduce the number of contaminants that could cause cold and flu illnesses. They also pull particles out of the air from toxins in tobacco smoke, gasses emitted by some plastics, mold spores, pet dander, and pollen.

Air purifier or humidifier for asthma?

Both devices work well but an air purifier is the best choice.

An air purifier removes common asthma triggers from the air so you don’t inhale them. A humidifier won’t remove the triggers but can make the air more pleasant to breathe. For those with asthma, a humidifier can ease the symptoms if they are being caused by dry air. It does not affect asthma as in curing it or stopping an attack from happening.

One thing to keep in mind is that if you use a humidifier for a prolonged period of time and increase the humidity level above 60 percent, then these machines may make your asthma worse or trigger an attack. That’s because high humidity levels can increase the reproduction of harmful bacteria, dust mites, and mold. Therefore, an air purifier is best for asthmatics for long term use. When pollutants are taken out of the air, there is less chance for an attack to be triggered.

Air purifier or a humidifier for allergies?

An air purifier is the best option for allergies. Air purifiers remove dust, pollen, pet dander, mold spores, and more from the air so they don’t end up in your eyes, throat, or lungs. A humidifier doesn’t remove these items, and may actually increase them if the humidity level gets too high.

If reducing allergens is the goal behind the purchase, then an air purifier is what you’ll want. Using a high-quality sustainable filter will help to trap allergen microparticles smaller than 0.3 microns in size.

Humidifiers, on the other hand, can make allergies worse. The added humidity can help dust mites survive and mold to grow. With a humidifier running, the air quality is the same with just more moisture added.

A conclusive note

By now, you should know which device will work better for your circumstances when you’re choosing between an air purifier vs humidifier. As you learned, both a humidifier and air purifier can be beneficial for your health and home. And in many instances, people choose to use both indoors to get the comfort and relief and they need.