Difference Between an Air Purifier and a Humidifier

Do you want to improve the air quality in your home?

Have you only just bought a new house and found that the air is too dry or impure?

Have you been in your home for a number of years and now feel that there is something not quite right with the air quality?

Have you been searching around for a good air purifier or humidifier?

Do you even know the difference between the two?

For many years, I was under the impression that they were one and the same thing – that they were two different names for the same product. It was only when I looked into them that I found them to be two very different appliances. So, I have put together this article so that you don't waste your time as I did. Let’s jump in.

Air Purifier vs. Humidifier

What I came to learn is that there are not only subtle differences between the two units. There are some very real differences between them.

Not only do they act in different ways, but they are intended to be used for very different problems. An air purifier is designed to remove from the air while a humidifier is designed to add to the air. But, what do they remove and add?

Air Purifier Basics

Air purifier vs Humidifier

An air purifier is designed to remove particles and contaminants from the air around you. By sucking the air in, an air purifier passes that air through a filter to remove tiny contaminants from the air. It will remove most bacteria, allergens, and more.

Humidifier Basics

A humidifier puts moisture back into the air. A water reservoir is used to accomplish this.

A filter sits dipped in the water reservoir and absorbs a little of the water. A fan is then used to blow air through the filter.

As air passes through it, a small amount of the water is picked up and added to the air. The moisture-laden air is them exited out into the room the humidifier is contained in.

One thing to think about when you are using a humidifier is that you are not adding too much for into the room. If you are using a humidifier a lot, you should be taking moisture readings constantly. 

Want to know more? Check out our Humidifier Buying Guide.

Humidity moisture levels

Too much moisture in a room can have a negative effect; if the moisture levels rise to above 60 percent, the walls, floors, and other surfaces can become a breeding ground for mold and rot. Paint can begin to flake off the walls, and wallpaper can begin to come away. The worst part is that the added moisture is very attractive to small pests, so if you are using one, remember to check the humidity levels.

When to Use an Air Purifier

If you find that you have any trouble breathing, then you should try and air purifier. If you or any of your family are sneezing a lot, have allergies, asthma, or any other lung problems, an air purifier will help. I am not saying that an air purifier will cure your problems, but could help.

Any of the afflictions mentioned above can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants in the air. You can use an air purifier to filter any of these out.

If you move into a house with weird smells, a purifier will help. If the person in the apartment below smokes, then an air purifier will help. If there are forest fires close and a lot of smoke, then an air purifier will help. Anything which complicates your breathing can be helped by using an air purifier.

When to Use a Humidifier

If you find that your home is dry, then you should use a humidifier. Often, you do not even need to take any measurements to know that your home is dry, but I always recommend doing so just to be sure.

Dry air and dry heat can cause your nose and throat to dry out. A dry nose can lead to nosebleeds. A dry throat can give you a cough. Dry skin may also mean things like chapped lips or eczema. If you or your family suffer from any of those afflictions, then a humidifier will help you.

Should You Use An Air Purifier or Humidifier for Allergies?

air purifier vs humidifier differences

In my experience, I have always found that allergies are solved more easily when you use an air purifier, but there is also a chance that the humidity can be causing your allergies.

One way to find out is to test the humidity in your home. If the humidity is at the correct level, then a humidifier is not going to help you, and you should opt for an air purifier.

If you test the humidity levels and find that the humidity is too low, then you should try a humidifier before you try an air purifier. We've found some great humidifiers for allergies and asthma sufferers.

Of course, if you want to be sure, then you can invest in a combination unit. You can find models which can do both for you. They may cost you a little more, but they will leave your air in top condition. We'll look to do some reviews of these units in the near future.


If you take one thing from this article, it is that a humidifier and an air purifier are two completely different products. They can both be very useful in your home, but they will do so in completely different ways.

An air purifier will remove the impurities from the air while a humidifier will add moisture to it. The one which you will use depends on what you need to combat.

If you are having trouble breathing due to contaminants in the air, then an air purifier is the way to go. If you find that the air in your home is very dry, a humidifier is what you need to look for. If you find that you have both problems, then you can always invest in both or a combination unit. Air quality is important.

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