Air Purifiers Vs. Humidifiers for Baby: What’s the Difference?


woman in black tank top carrying baby in red and white stripe onesie

If you’re worried about the air quality that your baby is breathing then you need to know how the different products out there work. Some may benefit your family greatly, some may cause little to no impact, and some may even be problematic for you in the long run.

Which leads to the question, what’s the difference between an air purifier and an air humidifier?

Air humidifiers add moisture into the air whereas air purifiers remove pollutants from the air.

As you might expect, these two machines work very differently, so they shouldn’t be used like they’re the same machine.

Air purifiers can do a lot to clean the air in your home and make it a lot safer to create as they do so, according to the CDC. Conversely, air humidifiers can make the air healthier and more pleasant to breathe and live in by adding a bit more moisture to it, according to the EPA.

However, it must be noted that a humidifier might cause problems if your home’s air is already humid. In fact, it can be harder for your child to breathe, especially if they have asthma, if the air is too humid, according to Healthline. Because of this, use of a humidifier should be avoided if you live in very humid areas like the tropics. Arid climates (places with drier air) will be a lot safer of a place to use a humidifier.

If you’re curious if it’s safe for you to use a humidifier in your home and around your baby, be sure to check out this article that I wrote: How to (Accurately) Test Your Home’s Humidity and that should answer all of your questions.

And, now that I’ve scared you a bit, just know that most people will not be harmed by using a humidifier. But I had to tell you all the bad things that could happen just in case someone living in a very humid area decided they might need a humidifier for some reason.

But, with all that said, back to the meat of this post.

What is the Difference Between Air Purifiers and Humidifiers?

Air purifiers improve the air quality in the room that they are in by capturing particles from the air. They do so by cycling the air in the room through the air purifier’s filters using fans. Those filters are made to capture those particles as they pass through, thereby removing them from the air.

The best air purifier filters out there are called HEPA filters and they can capture things as small as .3 microns, which is about the size of a large virus. As such, HEPA filters are actually used in hospitals because of that life-saving trait of HEPA filters.

ionizer

Humidifiers, on the other hand, simply add moisture to the air. Humidifiers will work best in areas where the air is the most dry and their effects will be the most felt in such environments. Areas with wetter air may see lesser improvements in their humidity, or they might develop issues (as I mentioned before).

Ideally, your home’s air should be between 30 and 50 percent and definitely below 60 percent, which is where a lot of problems arise, according to the EPA.

Translation?

Air purifiers can:

  • Pull particles out of the air like dust, pet dander, viruses, and bacteria out of the air.
  • Help get rid of smoke and dangerous gasses in the air (if you get and air purifier with an activated carbon filter).
  • Help get rid of mold spores in the air.

Meanwhile, humidifiers can:

  • Make the air in your home easier to breathe.
  • Get rid of stuffy noses and congestion.
  • Get rid of dry and itchy skin problems.

And, while I mention all of that, I will add that both air purifiers and humidifiers can also help you and your baby sleep better at night, which might be something you’re very worried about–especially if you’ve been up for three days straight!

(More on that later on.)

How Can an Air Purifier Benefit the Air My Baby is Breathing?

Thanks to how well insulated our homes are nowadays, the air in our homes tend to hold onto pollutants that are floating around in them a lot more nowadays. Thanks to that, airborne particles like dust, pollen, dander, mold, and a lot more things end up floating around a lot longer in the air you’re breathing.

Even opening your windows and airing out your home won’t address that problem fully. Not even vacuuming regularly can take care of that problem indefinitely. Basically, there’s no hope to get clean air year-round… not without an air purifier, at least.

But, as I already said, air purifiers can reduce the number of particles in the air, cleansing it of most everything you might worry about, according to the EPA.

The right air purifier can clean the air in your home quickly and thoroughly and it doesn’t have to break the bank, which is something we’re all happy to hear–especially first-time parents who are still balking at the price of diapers.

When you’re buying an air purifier, don’t let the price be the only thing you look at, however. You might end up spending more money in the long run if you do. Either that, or you’ll get air that isn’t as clean as you and your baby need.

When you’re buying, pay attention to something called the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) and find one that has a higher rating. The higher the CADR, the larger the room it can clean and the faster it can clean the air. That ends up giving you higher-quality air in the long run. Air purifiers with HEPA filters are a must as well, if you want the cleanest possible air.

True HEPA filters can capture 99.97% of particles .3 microns and larger which, as I said earlier, is pretty stinking small! Higher levels of HEPA filers can do even better than that, but they can be costlier, so just a True HEPA filter should do for you.

However, while I’m talking about filters, I must address something: some air filters can be cleaned and some have to be replaced. Replacement filters can be costly and that’s where they can get you if you buy a machine that’s all sorts of cheap. Keep your eye out for scams like that, or you can check out the air purifiers on my list of recommended air purifiers here. I’ve vetted all these air purifier companies and own at least a couple of air purifiers from them!

When you’re looking at my list of recommended air purifiers, please be sure to check out the Levoit Air Purifier (it’s the second one on the list). That’s the air purifier I have in my own room, and it’d be perfect for any nursery.

Here’s another link to my list of recommended air purifiers: Air Purifier Essentials Top Picks: Best HEPA Air Purifiers on the Market.

Now, with that said, onto a bit more about humidifiers.

How Can a Humidifier Make the Air in My Baby’s Room Better?

Before I dive into this, let me just say, again, that you shouldn’t get a humidifier just because.

You’ve got to have a reason to get it. Don’t waste money on one for no reason.

Personally, my family has a humidifier that we use when we get sick and they’re really helpful for that, but we don’t use it all the time. Again, we just use it when we’re sick. That, and maybe one or two weeks out of the year when our home’s humidity level drops way too low.

Where we live in the Pacific Northwest the weather is nice and it’s often raining, so low humidity is seldom a problem.

However, that isn’t to say that it is never a problem, and that isn’t to say that I don’t know people who have and use humidifiers all the time.

You might need a humidifier for your house and your baby if you notice:

  • The air in your nursery is dry.
  • You drink a lot more water than usual when you’re at home.
  • Your skin is drier than usual.
  • You’re using more chapstick and lotion than you usually would.
  • Your nose is plugged up.
  • Your eyes are irritated for seemingly no reason.
  • Your skin is dry.

If that’s the case, then a humidifier can help to get your home’s humidity back to a healthy level. And, while we’re talking about all of that, just know that infants one year and younger may need more humid air than the EPA recommends as well, in fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends humidity between 40 and 60%, which is pretty high!

When you use a humidifier in your baby’s nursery, there are some things that you need to keep in mind to make sure that everything you’re doing is as safe as possible.

  1. Keep the humidifier out of reach of the baby.
  2. Use an ultrasonic humidifier, not one that shoots out hot steam! (Ultrasonic humidifiers are also called “cool mist” humidifiers.)
  3. Clean the humidifier, mold and bacteria can grow in your humidifier if you aren’t careful and never clean it.
  4. Have the mist from your humidifier shoot into the room, not toward the wall or anything–keep it clear.
  5. Don’t shoot the humidifier’s mist directly toward your child, it’s a substantial amount of water and it’s cold too!
  6. Keep tabs on the room’s humidity level.
  7. Use distilled water (avoids adding minerals to the air, according to the EPA).

With all of that said, I think you know everything you need to to start using a humidifier in your baby’s room! I hope I was able to help, and I hope I took care of most of your fears and worries.

If you’re ready to buy a humidifier, I recommend this one on Amazon. I’ve been using it for a while now, and really enjoy it.

Thanks for the read, again, I hope I was able to help a lot! If you’d like to continue reading, here are a few related articles that I’ve got!

How to (Accurately) Test Your Home’s Humidity

New Parent Air Purifiers: What is the Best Air Purifier for the Baby’s Room?

New Parent Air Purifier: Are Air Purifiers Safe for Babies?

New Parent Air Purifier: Air Purifiers for Baby Congestion

What Are Air Purifiers with Humidifiers?

How to Easily Check if Your Home’s Humidity is Too High or Too Low

New Parent Air Purifier: Air Purifier for Babies with Asthma

Jonathon Silva

Jonathan Silva is our longtime Air Purifier Essentials author. He has been writing on air purification technologies for his entire professional career.

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