Humidifiers are a staple in many American households, if for no other reason than they make you feel better when you're sick. When you or your children are suffering a cold, it's often the humidifier to the rescue, adding moisture to the air to help with sore throats and congestion. When you live in a dry climate, a humidifier is an invaluable way to make your home more comfortable. Of course, heading to the store to actually purchase a humidifier might have you scratching your head. There are plenty of different types and features to choose from, and when you get it home   then what? This quick walkthrough some basic humidifier features will give you a better idea of what you need and the best way to make it work for you.

Cool mist. A cool mist humidifier works best in areas where you struggle with hard water. The cool mist process is less prone to getting hard water buildup on the wick and filter portion of the machine. Additionally, the cool mist assembly traps the minerals in the hard water so they don't permeate the air where you can then breathe them in. Cool mist humidifiers are also ideal for children because they don't pose the same burn risk that hot vapor humidifiers do, so you can leave them in your child's room all night without worrying.

Warm mist. If your water is soft, you can try a warm mist humidifier in place of a cool mist one. Some users prefer the comfort of a warm mist humidifier; the vapor that comes out of the machine is warm and wet, which can really help moisten the air and make a difference when it comes to cold symptoms. However, warm mist models are more prone to getting clogged and dirty with minerals found naturally in harder water, so it's best to use them if you have a water softener. Most warm mist units function by boiling water and releasing the vapor as steam, which kills bacteria and spores. These humidifiers make for a healthier and more comfortable night's sleep.

Ultrasonic humidifiers. If you're worried about the noise that a humidifier makes, you might want to consider using an ultrasonic model instead. Ultrasonic models work by using high frequency sound waves to break down the moisture particles and disperse a fine mist. The mist is so fine that it can look more like fog than mist. Since the particles are so small, some users have reported seeing a white powder on their furniture afterward   a result of using hard water with an ultrasonic model. Switch to distilled water, and you'll eliminate that issue, since distilled water has been boiled to remove all bacteria and minerals from the water.

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