Humidifier vs dehumidifier: which one should you use?

humidifier vs dehumidifier

Humidifiers vs dehumidifiers: which one do you need in your home? You’ve heard of both humidifiers and dehumidifiers but you’re not sure which one you should be using in your home.

This guide explains the difference between humidifiers vs dehumidifiers, when you should use each one and how to know which one is needed. This will help you decide which one to buy or if you have both, which one to use when.

Humidifier vs dehumidifier: which one is better?

humidifier vs dehumidifier

This is like asking what’s better, an orange or an apple?

Both serve a different purpose.

A dehumidifier removes moisture in the air when a room is too humid. A humidifier adds more moisture to the air when a room is too dry.

Both work to improve the humidity levels in a room. The key to knowing which one to use is measuring the humidity level in the room or space and then using the correct appliance depending on whether it is too dry or too humid. You can do this by using a digital hygrometer.

Generally, you can tell if your room is too humid. It feels humid, sticky and you may notice droplets of water in the room. A bathroom is typically humid, so is a basement. If you live in a tropical climate such as Florida, you will have a humid home.

A room is usually too dry during winter when you’re using heating. Heat causes moisture in the air to evaporate, creating a dry atmosphere. You might’ve had dry skin or a dry cough during winter, or even a blood nose. This tends to happen when the air is too dry.

A humidifier has a water tank that you add water to, which the humidifier turns into vapor that is dispersed into the room.

A dehumidifier draws air into itself and then removes the moisture from the air, turning it into droplets of water that are stored in its water tank. The tank is emptied either via an included drainage hose or you can remove the water tank and empty it manually.

Both a humidifier and a dehumidifier can have a built-in humidistat to help the appliance measure the humidity level in the room. They both usually have an automatic shut off feature so that they switch off once the water tank is either full or empty (full for a dehumidifier, and empty for a humidifier).

Advantages of using a humidifier

A humidifier increases the moisture level in the room it’s being used in. It’s the most efficient way to add moisture especially if it’s winter and you’ve been using heating in your home which has dried the air out.

You can read about humidifiers for winter here and the best humidifier you can put essential oils in here.

Advantages of using a dehumidifier

A dehumidifier reduces the moisture in a room. This helps prevent congestion and also reduces the incidence of moisture in the room. Moisture leads to mold, furniture damage and safety issues (wet floors that people can slip on).

Dehumidifiers are typically used in a bathroom and basement. You can read about dehumidifiers for bathrooms here and dehumidifiers for crawl spaces here.

Can a dehumidifier be used as a humidifier?

No, a dehumidifier cannot be used as a humidifier. A dehumidifier removes moisture from the air while a humidifier adds moisture into the air. Both serve a different purpose.

Should you use a humidifier or dehumidifier in winter?

During winter, the air in your home will be dry so you should use a humidifier. However, you may need to use a dehumidifier in your bathroom all year round. This is because a bathroom gets wet due to the shower or bath being used and creating steam which then turns into condensation and makes the bathroom moist and wet.

Does a humidifier or dehumidifier help congestion?

Congestion occurs when there is too much moisture. The air needs to be dried out, which is what a dehumidifier helps with. This then helps the throat dry and clear of congestion. However, a dehumidifier is helpful when you have a persistent, dry cough that won’t go away because it adds much-needed moisture in the air.

Humidifier vs dehumidifier for allergies

To remove allergens in the air, which cause allergic reactions, it would be better to use a dehumidifier because it draws the air into the dehumidifier. It removes air from the room. But even better than a dehumidifier would be an air purifier. This would be a more effective way to remove allergens in the air.

One final word

Rather than thinking about a humidifier vs dehumidifier to find which one is better, think about whether you need a humidifier or dehumidifier for your situation. Humidifiers add humidity. Dehumidifiers “de-humid”ify a room, which means to take out the humidity. This is an easy way to remember whether you should use a humidifier or not.

By Christine Carlisle

Christine is a freelance senior writer for Home Health Living and has been writing for us for 4 years. She's a health copywriter with over 10 years experience as a writer. Christine lives alone in a cabin in Maine and was once a hand model while living in New York City. She's a dog person.