Wondering How Close Should A Humidifier Be To Your Bed? Your Questions Answered

Humidifiers are great and can really make a big difference for both your comfort and health. However, it’s a bit confusing sometimes when trying to figure out how to use them.

What’s even more annoying is how little information there is out there to help. Can you potentially get bad results or even feel worse if it’s too close to your bed? And what about sleeping – how will it affect that?

If you’re wondering how close you should put a humidifier to your bed, I’ve got some great info that’ll help.

Where should you place a humidifier?

As it turns out, there isn’t a perfect place to put your humidifier. I can, however, give you some general guidelines that will work for nearly everyone.

Humidifier placement tips
  • Bed: We recommend placing your humidifier several feet from your bed – a minimum of 3 feet or so is good (Sick with a cold? See the exception below)
  • Although you can use them on a floor, placing them at least 2 feet above the floor is ideal
  • Don’t place a humidifier where it will be constantly exposed to sunlight (Ex.: near a window)
  • Avoid placing the unit on top of or very close to wooden surfaces subject to moisture or water damage. A tray or other water-resistant cover underneath the unit can avoid issues from mist droplets or spilled water
  • A non-metallic, level surface is ideal. Do not place on carpet or similar surfaces
  • For best results, place humidifiers closer to the center of the room or even to one side, where ever convenient

We don’t recommend placing a humidifier too close to your bed or other occupied areas but not for the reasons you might think. In fact, during cold and sinus congestion times they can actually be very helpful next to your bed!

I’ll explain more as we go.

A simple humidifier placement diagram

Humidifier bedroom placement diagram

Ideally, I recommend keeping your humidifier several feet from your bed on a good, flat surface above the floor that’s not harmed by water droplets or spills. Additionally, if you’re suffering from severe congestion you might find it helpful to keep it near the bed temporarily.

As I mentioned earlier, a good rule of thumb is to keep a humidifier several feet from your bed and other large pieces of furniture under normal conditions.

If you’re suffering from severe congestion, sinus problems, or other similar cold or flu symptoms keeping a warm mist humidifier near the bed is helpful sometimes.

That’s because warm mist products create a warm air mist in the form of steam which has a relieving effect similar to a hot, steamy shower. Heavily moist, warm air helps to open nasal and sinus passageways.

When you’re sick having one located next to your bed is not only accepting but also you can, at your choice, directly inhale the gentle warm mist for relief.

During sleep time

When trying to sleep, it’s sometimes again best to have a humidifier located far away from your bed. While they normally won’t harm anything if too close, it’s better to have them located where moisture can be distributed well and you won’t be around it too much. Additionally, some make sounds while operating that could wake light sleepers.

If you’re a heavy sleeper you’re not likely to have the problems waking up when sounds occur as I do. However, you should know that some humidifiers create some interesting sounds occasionally during operation.

For example, when opening the water tank’s valve to retrieve more water, my Vicks model makes a “gurgling” sound. Other models may have a slight bubbling or very low-volume sound from the air moving.

In general, most quality humidifiers are very quiet and aren’t very likely to disturb you during sleep if placed farther away.

Not only that but as a general rule, I don’t recommend having a strong source of moisture very close to you when sleeping as it’s potentially bothersome to your nose & throat.

Additionally, as our body temperatures fluctuate during sleep, you could become uncomfortable during your rest time as well.

Avoiding sunlight + cleaning notes

Image of a woman cleaning a humidifier water tank

As I mentioned earlier, don’t place humidifiers in direct sitting sunlight like near a window. It will encourage the growth of bacteria and even algae which will speed up how quickly the water tank spoils.

Maintenance is always required. Periodically (often 1 time week or once every 2 weeks) clean the tank thoroughly with a mixture of white vinegar and water. Use a soft cloth to clean the inside of the tank as you go.

Don’t use detergent.

I get great results using distilled water in mine as it helps keep buildup to the least amount of work possible.

Should a humidifier be on the floor or a table?

Diagram showing examples of humidifiers on table and floor

You can use humidifiers on either a sturdy table or the floor, although at least about 2 feet from the floor is recommended. Humidity will still distribute evenly throughout a room over time. Product manufacturers and I both recommend you don’t use a humidifier alone without something to protect the surface from spills or water droplets.

Placing one at least 2 feet above the floor is ideal. In this case, use a sturdy table that isn’t in danger of tipping with a full and heavy water tank. You also don’t want anyone accidentally tipping one over so be careful where you place it to avoid accidents.

Ideally, however, you’ll want to use them with some type of tray or protective material placed underneath as you’ll find that it’s very easy to accidentally spill water when replacing the tank.

In my experience, it’s a common problem although it depends on the design of your particular product.

Not everyone has a waterproof table to use so find an item that’s water-resistant. Pick one that’s large enough to cover the area around the base by about 1/2 – 1 foot in size as a rule.

You can, in fact, use a humidifier on either the floor or a table if you must. They’ll still work well, just not as fast and efficiently.

However, in that case, never place them on the carpet it will trap water and potentially lead to more problems.

How humidifiers work – Moisture, air, and your home

Illustrated diagram of a humidifier and how it worksIllustrated diagram of a common humidifier. Although the particular details vary from model to model, all have the same basic job: liquid water, stored in a tank, is changed into a very fine mist that rises in the air. This, in effect, increases the humidity level safely and comfortably.

Simply put, a humidifier works to convert liquid water into a fine mist which is released into a room to increase the humidity.

While not all need electricity to do so, the most common (and often the most effective ones) use power from a standard electrical outlet to run.

The power electronics work to use electrical power to drive a vaporizer element. A vaporizer is most often one of a few types:

  • Thermal (heating element) vaporize
  • Ultrasonic
  • Electro-mechanical

Of these, thermal (warm mist) and ultrasonic (cool mist) types are now the most commonly sold. Both have pros and cons I’ll share further below.

The vaporizer changes the liquid form of water into a fine mist that rises through an exit passageway and out a nozzle into the room’s air. This adds moisture (humidity) to the room’s air and improves comfort, health, and relief from low-humidity conditions.

Basic operation

Crane humidifier filling tank example image

Shown: Filling a cool mist humidifier’s water tank in my home during testing. Nearly all (except, for example, evaporative models) work the same: remove the tank when it runs dry and fill it with clean water. Note that mineral-heavy water is not recommended!

The great news is that humidifiers are one of the easiest appliances to use! It basically boils down to a few simple steps you’ll do during operation:

  1. Place on a suitable surface and place as recommended
  2. Remove the tank and remove the tank’s cap
  3. Fill with clean water of the recommended type (distilled is ideal)
  4. Replace the cap and tighten securely
  5. Place the water tank carefully on the humidifier base, taking care to avoid spills
  6. Switch on the humidifier and adjust as desired

Ultimately, you’ll only need to refill a water tank periodically as it takes several hours for a tank to run out in most cases. Some typical time windows are about 9 hours to 24 hours between running out.

The amount of time it takes depends on both the output setting of the humidifier and the tank size of the model you buy.

For that reason, it’s isn’t always best to buy the cheapest! If you’re like me and don’t like the hassle of having to keep up with something, spending a few more dollars for a model with a larger tank is well worth it!

This is especially true for using them overnight during the winter or all day in dry climates.

How to know when you need a humidifier (and how to check)

recommended humidity level for comfort and humidifiers diagram

Some of the most common questions I get are, “What humidity level is best?” as well as “How can I tell the humidity level in my home or room?”

Great questions!

Humidity measured as a percentage on a scale of 0-100%, and relative to the air’s temperature. Hence the name you’ll often hear: “relative humidity.”

Generally speaking, the human body feels best with relative humidity above 30% and 60% and below.

However, an ideal range for humidity in your home is 40-50%. Your goal isn’t to have it perfectly at some fixed number – that’s not realistic or necessary.

The ideal amount of humidity is the level that you feel most comfortable at and resolve healthy and dry air symptoms for you, your child, or your home and family. A great rule of thumb is to aim for about 50%.

When the level begins to reach 30% and below it’s time to use your humidifier.

Severe dry air conditions begin to become obvious at about 30% and below. In dry climates and during winter the level can drop to under 20%!

You might not realize it, but even allergy symptoms are less bothersome if the air is kept to a healthy moisture level as I mentioned above. That’s because dry air allows allergens to become more of a problem as well as move about more freely.

How to check humidity levels

ThermPro TP50 humidity and temperature gaugeChecking humidity is actually very simple if you’ve got the right instrument. Fortunately, these days you can check both the temperature and relative humidity at a glance with a cheap meter like this fantastic little ThermaPro digital humidity gauge.

Unfortunately guessing is a terrible way to try to figure out the condition of the air around you. To make matters worse, our bodies are subject to fluctuate in how they sense temperature and other conditions.

While there are a few old-fashioned methods including using mechanical devices, in modern times it’s best to use a digital humidity gauge to check.

As humidity is related to temperature it’s better to be able to see both of them anytime you need to. That’s another reason these modern (and affordable – most are under $15) instruments are wonderful to have around.

I own several both at work and at home. You’ll be able to see the relationship between the rise and fall of temperature and humidity accurately at any time of the day or night.

Humidifier types

Image with examples of the 3 main types of humidifiers

While they’re often a bit similar in how they look from the outside, there are some important differences to know.

Here are 3 of the main types of humidifiers for home and personal use:

  • Warm mist
  • Cool mist
  • Evaporative

Warm mist and cool are fairly similar but have some distinct differences. Evaporative models are less common but have some advantages (and disadvantages) the other 2 don’t have.

Humidifier type differences

1. Warm mist models produce water vapor by using electrical power to generate heat and create a gentle, low-temperature vapor that’s a form of steam. They’re ideal for colds, congestion, and wintertime.

The drawback is that they add heat to a room as the water mist released warms before it escapes the device. Additionally, they don’t have a dial control like cool mist models and often have 1 or more fixed output levels instead.

2. Cool mist models typically use low-power methods such as an ultrasonic device to produce a super-fine mist at room temperature. They’re great for saving energy as well as particularly well-suited to dry climate use.

They also feature near-silent operation and many models allow for finer output level controls

3. Evaporative humidifiers work just as you might guess: water evaporates (aided by a fan) with a special design intended to raise the humidity in a room. One distinct feature is evaporative humidifiers cannot raise a room’s humidity level too high (above 60%).

It’s impossible as they only release moisture that naturally fills the void left due to low moisture thanks to the laws of physics.

Guidelines for baby’s room

Image of a mother and baby in crib with humidifier

The great news is that the same guidelines apply for your child’s room, too. One of the best types to use, by the way, are those like a child’s cool mist model that’s highly adjustable.

There are a few notes I should add, however:

  • Don’t forget to keep the humidifier from sitting in direct sunlight to avoid mold & bacterial growth
  • If the humidifier will be left running continuously, it’s best to leave the door at least partly open to avoid excessive humidity build up
  • As babies are especially sensitive to colds and congestion, a warm mist model is often ideal for sick babies

Additionally, I recommend picking up a quiet one to let your child sleep peacefully.

Key points to remember

Humidifier placement summary
  • Bed: We recommend placing your humidifier several feet from your bed – a minimum of 3 feet or so is good
  • Although you can use them on a floor, placing them at least 2 feet above the floor is ideal
  • Don’t place a humidifier where it will be constantly exposed to sunlight (Ex.: near a window)
  • Avoid placing the unit on top of or very close to wooden surfaces subject to moisture or water damage. A tray or other water-resistant cover underneath the unit can avoid issues from mist droplets or spilled water
  • A non-metallic, level surface is ideal. Do not place on carpet or similar surfaces
  • For best results, place humidifiers closer to the center of the room or even to one side, where ever convenient

Additional reading

Need some advice on the best models worth buying? Check out this helpful guide featuring the best humidifiers for your money. They’re especially great for cough or dry skin relief.

Your comments are welcome!

  1. I have a Venta Sonic Humidifier. I can adjust it to warm most or cold. It also has 2 dials that can be used to lower the humidity or the spray. There isn’t just a high or low. You can go anywhere you want in between. It’s made a big difference in my breathing, and helps relieve my dry eyes.

  2. I just researched Bed.Bath.Beyond regarding Venta Sonic, and someone said it stopped working properly after a few seasons, and that there were other complaints too.

    I’m wondering if there are any cool-misters which include:
    (1) built in hygrometer
    (2) built-in compartment that can hold+dispense mint essential oil diluted in water.

    I only bought one electric humidifier in my life (Crane Adorable Duck), but despite that it was spraying, it wasn’t humidifying my small 10’x12′ bedroom. What a letdown -. I got turned off of electric humidifers, because i saw firsthand that top reviews of Crane proved untrustworthy. I don’t know anymore which reviews to trust. And so i suffer constant cough’s and dry nose/eyes.

    I later bought a G-Midifier
    …but can only use it in my computer room where the forced-air-vent is accessible.
    …unfortunately in my bedroom, my dresser is blocking the vent, or i’d put the gmidifier there at nite.

    Currently I keep a Delonghi electric oil-filled radiator near my bed, and cover the upper wall-vent with a magnetic vent cover. The lower vent has my wide dresser against it.

    I get the worst sick, when i need to partially uncover the magnetic-cover whenever the weather is freezing in order to supplement my radiator, because i don’t want to turn up the radiator, since it’s difficult to turn the dial back afterward exactly as i usually set it at.

    Forced-air heat has caused so much loss to so many people – i.e. both financial (high heat bills for a drafty house), and health (causing flu, coughs, eye & skin conditions).

    • Hi there. Yes as a matter of fact, there are some humidifiers that can do what you’re asking for – and do them well.

      One of the better models is the Levoit LV600HH shown here offers dual cool or warm mist output, automatic humidity self-operation, a humidity level display, and remote control (along with essential oil support).

      The mist output is good and it has a large tank as well.

      I’ve used several cool mist models in a similar sized room and they work fine (although it takes time). However, it sounds like a higher output model like the Levoit would help you more.

  3. We really feel the difference with our humidifier, but we can’t figure out how to use it without SOAKING the towel and stuff around it. I can wring the towel out in the morning. We had it on a table by the bed, but the table was wet under the towel because it soaked through. Is there something wrong with the humidifier, or do we just need thicker towels?

    • Hello, Laura Lea! It sounds to me like yours may be leaking. Even those some little spots fall beside them sometimes as they work, by no means should it be enough to soak a towel.

      I think yours is defective and there’s probably water slowing coming out as it works.

  4. i like using ceiling fans in winter…..do you recommend turning it off when using the humidifier or does it matter?….thanks

  5. hi
    i have bought a puremate digital ultrasonic cool mist humidifier with ioniser as i suffer badly with dry blocked nose and sinuses
    i am getting mixed results and was wondering if i am doing anything wrong with the settings
    both my living room and the bedroom feels really dry so i have this set on AUTO to adjust to the room but i still feel like i cant breathe
    i read about your advise for a setting of between 30%and 50% but mine is getting up to 59%
    some nights i do feel a lot better so i just wonder if you have any further advise

    • Hi Paul, how are you checking the room’s humidity level? I personally use & recommend a separate (inexpensive) digital humidity/temp gauge. The measured humididity on humidifiers themselves isn’t always very accurate, kind of like how some heaters are.

      If you’re currently suffering not feeling well due to the winter temps & climate, you can also try a warm mist humidifier which I found to help a lot. Some of those (like from Vicks) allow you to add a mentholyptus sheet or drops to help open your sinuses etc & breather better.

      • Hi Grant
        I am relying on the digital info on the machine BUT i have ordered 2 of the humidty /temp gauges you advised someone earlier so i will recieve them on tuesday
        i have suffered for many years with sinuses and had 2 operations to open up the nasel passages and im waiting to see someone again
        this is why i bought the machine
        There is a place at the bottom of the machine to add a perfume so i assume i could add other drops ??????

        • Hey there Paul. Good, I hope you find them more helpful than the built-in display. Well, the feature you mention sounds like it’s one of the humidifiers that accepts essential oil drops (I would check the owner’s manual). You *can* look to see if any essential oils are known to help with your problems.

          However, that’s not the same as the type I mentioned, as the nasal drops etc for warm mist humidifiers either go into the water tank or into a little “cup” and are carried into the air by the warm mist. I used the menthol pad type before when I had the flu, and it helped relieve it some (those go in the side and are picked up when the steam flow by them).

          I hope that helps!

          • Hi Grant
            yes your right about the essential oils and thats all it takes and only certain ones
            can you tell me when a room feels dry is it better to have the humidifier on with central heating or with no heating???????? as i cant get my head around dry air and humid air

          • You can use the humidifier whenever you like, especially with heating as that tends to put out dry air. The humidity goes down in cold weather as temperature and humidity are related to each other. (That’s one reason our skin or nose tends to be dry during cold weather).

  6. Hi Grant, I really love to use my cool mist humidifier close to my face. I live in a very dry climate. I use only distilled water and keep it super clean. Please share your thoughts with me.

    • Hi Deborah. My apology as I meant to respond sooner. Distilled water is fine but you could also use tap water and clean your humidifier out periodically if you prefer. Using it close to your face is fine and in fact, that’s what I’ve done when I had a cold as it helped me.


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