The 7 Best Steam Inhalers

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This wiki has been updated 32 times since it was first published in January of 2016. A personal steam inhaler is a convenient, drug-free way to clear your nasal passages and ease the symptoms of a sore throat. You can use the healing power of vaporized water on its own or choose a model with an aromatherapy compartment that allows you to add soothing essential oils. Our selection includes portable, handheld options as well as larger, hands-free ones. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. MyPurMist 2

2. Nanosteamer Ionic

3. Conair True Glow

Editor's Notes

January 07, 2020:

Steam inhalers work by delivering a soft, soothing mist to thin out mucus that’s clogging the nasal passages and bring relief to an irritated throat. While antihistamines and medicated nasal sprays can dry out your nasal passages, these drug-free inhalers actually moisturize the sinuses, nose, and throat. They’re a great way to combat allergies, sinus congestion, and the respiratory symptoms of colds and the flu.

The choices featured here include various lightweight, handheld models like the newly added MyPurMist 2. Its newly upgraded design incorporates a durable ceramic heater and a temperature sensor for accuracy. It’s easy to use and starts up instantly to begin relieving your symptoms. It comes with eight bottles of sterilized water, six packets of eucalyptus and peppermint aromatherapy treatments, a medical-grade HEPA filter, a latex-free soft mask, a power supply, and a drawstring storage bag. Many professional vocalists sing this model’s praises and use it daily to soothe their vocal cords and keep them in healthy condition. It’s also available in a battery-powered, cord-free model.

Another handheld model that comes on board is the Crane Cordless Rechargeable, which is a nebulizer that emits your choice of warm or cool mist to help treat your symptoms. It won’t weigh you down during use, thanks to its slight seven-ounce weight. It runs on a conveniently rechargeable lithium ion battery.

A couple of larger, hands-free selections also come on board in this update, including the pretty-in-pink Conair True Glow, which is up and running in no time when you fill it with water, turn on the power button, and insert either the facial mask or nasal cone. It comes with a useful battery-operated device with a brush attachment for exfoliating and a smoother attachment for application of moisturizer. The Lonove Nano Ionic looks great on your countertop, thanks to its smooth pearl-white finish and metallic top. And it’s not just a pretty face, since it does a good job of opening your pores to remove dirt, oil, and makeup. Its bright LED power indicator lets you know whether it’s turned on, and it automatically shuts off when there’s no water left.

Leaving the list are several models that aren’t available at this time, including the Uniclife Mini, the Uniclife Portable, the Okachi Gliya Nano, and the Feellife 360 Ultrasonic.

For safety’s sake, take care not to jostle any of these devices while they’re in use, as some can splash you with hot water as a result. Also, avoid allowing the steam to make contact with your eyes by keeping them closed. As with anything that contains hot water, always keep these devices safely away from children and pets. In addition, anyone who suffers from a chronic breathing condition should check with their doctor before using one of these.

For more at-home spa treatment options, check out our lists of the best face cleansing brushes and the best skin scrubbers.

Special Honors

Sharper Image Respiratory Steam Inhaler This inhaler starts working in just 60 seconds and generates a steady current of soothing hot steam to open your breathing passages. It can help relieve the respiratory symptoms of allergies, bronchitis, colds, flu, sinus infections, and more. The level of steam output is adjustable, and six to nine minutes of use per day can bring on optimal relief. Included are two separate masks for inhalation therapy and facials or aromatherapy treatments. Its countertop design with an extendable tube makes for comfortable, convenient hands-free operation. It plugs into an AC out, and all components are BPA and latex free.

4. Lonove Nano Ionic

5. Crane Cordless Rechargeable

6. Vicks Personal Sinus

7. Mabis Vaporizer

Benefits Of Steam Inhalers

This can increase the flow of blood to these tissues and promote better circulation throughout the body.

Though it seems new, the technology behind steam inhalers has actually been around for centuries. Inhalation therapy has been employed since ancient times to find relief from ailments by using natural methods. Inhaling smoke, steam, or essential oils can help treat or reduce a variety of health problems.

The modern steam inhaler streamlines the effectiveness of inhalation therapy. It uses warm, moist air to open the airways and restore regular function to the respiratory system. Because of this, steam inhalation is often recommended for alleviating symptoms of allergies, asthma, and the common cold. Steam inhalers may also be useful for people with bronchitis or sinusitis.

Moist air created by a steam inhaler works to loosen stuck mucus and open the airways, essentially acting as a natural expectorant. This, in turn, promotes regular breathing. The loose mucus is easier to eliminate, which may also reduce irritation in the throat. In addition to loosening the mucus in the airways, steam inhalers also create more secretions in general. While this seems counter-intuitive, the increased liquid production actually benefits the entire respiratory tract. The effect is a more productive cough, less irritation when blowing the nose, and clearer airways.

Heat from the steam provides its own benefits, as well. Heat causes the body temperature to rise. Blood vessels begin to dilate as the temperature of the surrounding tissue rises. This can increase the flow of blood to these tissues and promote better circulation throughout the body. Proper circulation is linked to reduced levels of toxins in the bloodstream, and can help reduce the symptoms of a headache or migraine. Increasing circulation in affected tissues brings fresh, oxygen-rich blood to the cells that need them. This oxygen can attach to toxins and move them through the blood stream to be eliminated.

There are also applications for steam in the beauty sector. Steam can open the pores of the face, which may reduce acne and make skin look younger. The skin produces oily sebum to naturally moisturize and lubricate its surface. This sebum can easily mix with dirt, air pollution, or makeup to clog the pores on the face and nose. Clogged ports can cause facial acne and blackheads. Steam softens up these blocked pores to allow the sebum to flow naturally, restoring vibrant, youthful skin.

Choosing A Steam Inhaler

There are many things to consider when purchasing a personal steam inhaler. The importance of these considerations will vary from person to person, and is likely the deciding factor in choosing one unit over another.

All-in-one models like these may be especially enticing to people who don't have a lot of room to store devices.

The first thing to consider is portability. Some steam inhalers are attached to a base unit that has to be plugged in to work. Others are battery powered and ready for use anywhere they are needed. A person who experiences regular allergy symptoms may find more benefit using a portable model. Someone who simply takes time off from work to lie in bed when they are sick may not mind a bulkier model.

Another consideration for many people is the price. Spending a lot on a steam inhaler may not be practical for someone who is only sick a couple times a year. They may find the cheaper models perfect for their needs. Likewise someone who wants relief from symptoms on a near daily basis may be willing to spend a little bit more for the highest quality possible.

Additional features also come into play with steam inhalers. Though the most basic version of a steam inhaler will still provide many of the same benefits as the most elaborate one, it is the additional features which make more complex models stand out.

Some units feature scent slots which can add helpful ingredients such as menthol to the steam. The scent of menthol triggers cold receptors in the airways to help people feel more relief from typical respiratory symptoms. Some units also double as humidifiers, increasing the humidity in the air when they are not being used directly as steam inhalers. All-in-one models like these may be especially enticing to people who don't have a lot of room to store devices.

What Is The Difference Between A Steam Inhaler And A Humidifier?

Steam inhalers, humidifiers, vaporizers, and even aromatherapy diffusers all have the similar function of introducing humidity into the environment. It is the mechanics and ultimate goal of each delivery system that varies. Humidifiers are often used in dry climates to bring moisture back into an enclosed area. They may also be found in offices where the air conditioning systems dry out the air. Most humidifiers release cool humidity into the air. There is typically no heating element in a humidifier, and the goal is simply to increase the humidity levels in the surrounding air, without increasing the temperature.

It is the mechanics and ultimate goal of each delivery system that varies.

Vaporizers are designed to increase both the humidity and temperature in the air. They usually include a heating element to boil the water as it is released. The steam produced is then distributed directly into the environment. Vaporizers are more commonly used in the rooms of sick people for whom steam inhalation may be helpful. Oftentimes inhalants such as camphor or essential oils are added to vaporizers to improve symptoms, as well.

A personal steam inhaler is actually a type of vaporizer. Steam inhalers deliver steam directly to the sinuses and lungs instead of into an open room. This is typically more beneficial in the short term, as it provides the body with more steam in a shorter amount of time. Users may be add inhalants to some steam inhalers to improve symptoms if needed. People who are prone to perennial allergies or rhinitis may use both a humidifier and a steam inhaler to help control their symptoms.

Diffusers are used to disperse volatile compounds through the air, most commonly the essential oils used in aromatherapy. Diffusers work in much the same way as humidifiers. They do not have heating elements in them, as heat may degrade the quality or efficacy of the inhaled compounds.

Increasing the humidity in the air can improve the look and feel of skin, protect wood furniture, and may even help with sleep symptoms like snoring or a sore throat upon waking.

Karen Bennett
Last updated by Karen Bennett

Karen Bennett lives in Chicago with her family, and when she’s not writing, she can usually be found practicing yoga or cheering on her kids at soccer games. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and a bachelor’s in English, and her writing has been published in various local newspapers, as well as “The Cheat Sheet,” “Illinois Legal Times,” and “USA Today.” She has also written search engine news page headlines and worked as a product manager for a digital marketing company. Her expertise is in literature, nonfiction, textbooks, home products, kids' games and toys, hardware, teaching accessories, and art materials.

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