Combatting Dry Air: Top 10 U.S. Humidifiers & A Comprehensive Buying Guide

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If you’re waking up with a dry mouth, sore throat, difficulty breathing through your nose, or even nosebleeds, it might be due to dry air. You might want to think about using a humidifier. Living in Kansas, right in the middle of nowhere the U.S., I’ve found the indoor humidity to be around 30% in the summer and only 20% in the winter. My daughter frequently gets nosebleeds, and the doctor said it’s because of the overly dry air and suggested using a humidifier.

Top 10 Humidifier Recommendations

1. Honeywell Cool Mist Humidifier

The Honeywell Cool Mist Humidifier is an evaporative humidifier that effectively increases humidity without producing any visible mist. Inside its casing is a fan that draws in air and blows it out through a filter, allowing the water in the tank to evaporate quickly into vapor. This invisible mist won’t damage or dirty any decorations or furniture nearby.

Honeywell Cool Moisture Humidifier, Medium Room, 1 Gallon Tank, White – Invisible Moisture Humidifier for Baby, Kids, Adult Bedrooms –...
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Honeywell Cool Mist Humidifier

This humidifier is perfect for bedrooms or baby rooms because it runs super quietly. At its lowest setting, the soft white noise can even help soothe babies. The 1.1-gallon tank can last up to 24 hours before needing a refill. The clear side water tank makes it easy to check the water level at a glance. Plus, all parts that come in contact with water are dishwasher safe, making it easy to clean and disinfect.

Pros:

  • Invisible mist, making it discreet when in use.
  • Super quiet, especially at the lowest setting – great for bedrooms or nurseries.
  • 1.1-gallon water tank lasts a long time.
  • Dishwasher safe components for easy cleaning.
  • Clear water tank design for easy water level checks.
  • Effectively boosts indoor humidity.

Cons:

  • Requires regular filter changes.
  • Lacks special features like auto-shutdown or a timer.
  • May be slightly louder on high settings.

2. Honeywell Designer Series Cool Mist Humidifier

The Honeywell Designer Series Cool Mist Humidifier is a sleek and minimalist device designed for those who want a quiet, easy-to-use, and aesthetically pleasing humidifier at home. It utilizes ultrasonic technology without a filter to rapidly release cool mist. The output can be adjusted to suit your preference. Additionally, it comes with an auto-shutoff feature, a water refill indicator light, and a tray for essential oils – so it doubles as an aroma diffuser.

Honeywell Designer Series Cool Mist Humidifier, Black
694 Reviews
Honeywell Designer Series Cool Mist Humidifier

Its unique design hides the water tank but includes a glowing water window for easy checking. The compact vertical design doesn’t take up much space on a nightstand or side table. The water tank has a handle, making refilling a breeze.

Pros:

  • Sleek and minimalist design.
  • Ultrasonic technology without a filter for quick mist release.
  • Adjustable mist output.
  • Auto-shutdown feature and water refill indicator light.
  • Essential oil tray included for aroma diffusion.
  • Glowing water window for easy checks.
  • Compact vertical design saves space.
  • Quiet operation.

Cons:

  • In areas with hard water, distilled water is recommended to avoid deposits.
  • Water tank isn’t dishwasher-friendly.
  • Lacks smart features or a digital display.

3. Crane Ultrasonic 4-in-1 Cool Mist Humidifier

The Crane 4-in-1 Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier is considered one of the best due to its user-friendliness. Its front-panel buttons are clearly labeled with icons, making it super intuitive to use. Simply press the power button, choose your desired setting, and control the mist output. Moreover, it has an essential oil tray, color-changing nightlight, and three white noise settings, making it a versatile 4-in-1 device. Designed with users in mind, its transparent water tank makes checking levels easy, and its vertical build ensures it doesn’t hog space.

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Crane Ultrasonic 4-in-1 Cool Mist Humidifier

Pros:

  • User-friendly design and straightforward operation.
  • Transparent water tank for easy checks.
  • Features an essential oil tray, color-changing nightlight, and three white noise settings for added versatility.
  • Space-saving vertical design, perfect for nightstands or coffee tables.
  • Large water capacity in a medium-sized device.
  • The device uses very little water on a low setting and can run continuously for three days.
  • It’s easy to refill and clean the device.

Downsides:

  • The mist it emits is notably colder compared to other models, which may cool down the room.
  • The components of the humidifier aren’t dishwasher safe.
  • The effects of the humidifier might not be felt if placed too far away; it’s better to place it closer to where you are.

4. Everlasting Comfort Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier

The Everlasting Comfort Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier 6L is perfect for larger rooms up to 500 sq ft. With a 1.5-gallon capacity, it can easily run for a full 8 hours on the highest setting without needing a refill. Although its design isn’t flashy, it gets the job done efficiently and even comes with a tray for essential oils to use as a diffuser. Notably, despite its larger size, it operates very quietly.

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Everlasting Comfort Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier

Additionally, it comes with a dial for easy setting changes, and its LED light can serve as a nightlight. Given that it only emits cool mist, your room might feel a bit cooler after running it for a while. This humidifier doesn’t have a filter, and the daily maintenance is simple: just clean the tank and base. The main inconvenience is refilling; you have to completely remove the tank from the base, turn it upside down, unscrew the lid, fill it up, and then place it back on the base. Those with weaker hands might prefer a top-fill design.

Pros:

  • Large capacity suitable for big rooms.
  • Essential oil tray that allows for aromatherapy.
  • Very quiet operation.
  • Dial mechanism for easy setting changes.
  • LED light doubles as a nightlight.
  • No need for filters, making maintenance straightforward.

Downsides:

  • Refilling can be a bit tedious.
  • The cool mist might make the room feel slightly cold.
  • Needs regular cleaning to prevent bacterial growth.

5. Vicks 3-in-1 Sleep Humidifier & Aromatherapy Nightlight

The Vicks 3-in-1 Sleep Humidifier is our top pick for bedroom humidifiers. Its water tank may be small (holding only 0.6 gallons or about 8 cups), but it can run for three days on a low setting, raising room humidity by nearly 15%. It’s ideal for nightstands or coffee tables. The humidifier also features a color-changing nightlight, popular among kids but also adults who appreciate some ambient lighting before sleep. This light also helps in gauging the water level in the tank.

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Vicks 3-in-1 Sleep Humidifier & Aromatherapy Nightlight

Moreover, this humidifier doubles as a diffuser, pairing with essential oils or the included VaporPads. Some people find the VaporPads too intense and prefer using essential oils. Due to its smaller tank, anticipate refilling it daily.

Pros:

  • Though small, it significantly increases room humidity.
  • Features a color-changing nightlight loved by kids.
  • Doubles as a diffuser, compatible with essential oils or VaporPads.
  • Clear water level indicator.
  • The sound it makes while operating is akin to white noise, aiding sleep.
  • Entertaining nightlight with seven soft color modes.

Downsides:

  • VaporPads can be too intense for some.
  • Requires daily refilling.
  • Emptying the tank can be tricky, with some water always left at the bottom.
  • Slight humming noise might be bothersome to some.

6. Levoit Ultrasonic 2-in-1 Humidifier

The Levoit 1.8L Cool Mist Humidifier boasts a sleek and compact design. With a base of just 7 inches, it’s perfect for placing on a nightstand. This humidifier uses ultrasonic waves to produce mist, offers three mist levels, and runs nearly silently, making it an ideal sleep companion. It even has a dedicated spot for essential oils to help set a relaxing mood.

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Levoit Ultrasonic 2-in-1 Humidifier

Pros:

  • Detachable top design for easy essential oil addition.
  • Compact size, perfect for bedside placement.
  • Three mist levels to cater to various needs.
  • Operates silently ensuring undisturbed sleep.
  • Cool mist design suitable for year-round use.

Downsides:

  • The water tank isn’t secured to the base, leading to potential spills.
  • Requires regular cleaning or a film might form at the bottom.
  • The design of the tank’s bottom can retain some water, needing extra attention during cleaning.

7. Dyson Air Purifier and Humidifier Combo

The Dyson Purifier Humidify + Cool Autoreact is a sleek, three-in-one gadget. It acts as an air purifier, humidifier, and fan all rolled into one, working for you year-round. You might have to do a little bit of assembly, but most of the heavy lifting is done – just a few pieces to snap together. Even though the water tank is kinda big, it’s got a handle which makes it easy to move. Plus, it runs super quiet. It’s an evaporative humidifier, so you won’t see any mist, but you’ll definitely feel it.

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Dyson Air Purifier + Humidifier
Also available at Walmart

You can either dial in your preferred humidity or just let it do its thing in auto mode. In auto, it keeps an eye on your air quality and tweaks the airflow to keep things comfy. It’s even geared to filter out formaldehyde – you know, that nasty stuff that might be in some building materials at home.

Cleaning it is a bit trickier than other models. You gotta remove the evaporator and add a cleaning solution. But, you can just scan the QR code in the manual and watch a quick how-to video.

It comes with a remote, which is super handy no matter where you place the device. Just a heads up, though – water tends to gather on top of the tank. So, expect a few drips when you move it.

Pros:

  • Humidifier, fan, and air purifier in one.
  • Sleek design and pretty easy to put together.
  • Whispers when it runs – won’t mess with your sleep.
  • Auto mode senses and reports air quality and humidity, adjusting on the fly.
  • Dyson’s all about multi-functionality and advanced features.
  • Cleaning’s straightforward with an auto deep-clean cycle.

Cons:

  • Expect some water build-up on the tank top – it can drip when moved.
  • Doesn’t increase humidity as much as some cheaper models might.
  • The tank might leak a bit when you take it off the unit.
  • Might be a bit too fancy if you only need a seasonal humidifier or don’t want the extra bells and whistles.
  • Kinda pricey.

8. Lacidoll 4.2 Gallon Cool Mist Ultrasonic Humidifier

The Lacidoll 4.2 Gallon Cool Mist Ultrasonic Humidifier is perfect if you’ve got a large room or an open floor plan. As the name suggests, it can hold up to 4.2 gallons, running for a solid 48 hours without needing a refill. It’s big but surprisingly straightforward to set up.

LACIDOLL Humidifiers for Home Large Room Wholehouse Humidifier 2000 sq. ft 4.2 Gal 16L Floor Humidifier 360° Nozzles Cool Mist Ultrasonic...
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Lacidoll 4.2 Gallon Cool Mist Ultrasonic Humidifier

This humidifier gives you four mist settings. You can customize the flow or let it auto-adjust based on your humidity preference, thanks to its external humidity sensor. Its digital display shows your chosen humidity level, the current humidity, and room temperature. And when it hits the sweet spot for humidity, it’ll shut itself off.

Pros:

  • Big tank means fewer refills.
  • Powerful humidifying – great for large rooms and open spaces.
  • Quiet enough to not interrupt your sleep or day-to-day stuff.
  • Easy to use and clean.
  • Auto-shutoff feature saves water and electricity.

Cons:

  • The optional mist cover doesn’t really cut it – might wanna skip that.
  • It’s pretty bulky, not for those wanting something more discreet.

9. GENIANI Erie Portable Cool Mist Humidifier

The Geniani Erie is a budget-friendly, tiny powerhouse. Standing just 6 inches tall and about 4 inches in diameter, its super compact wireless design can fit pretty much anywhere. Want to humidify your car on a road trip? Pop this into a cup holder. The included USB charging cable is kinda short, but any Android USB will do.

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GENIANI Erie Portable Cool Mist Humidifier

Setting it up is a breeze. A few seconds after turning it on, you’ll see the cool mist. There are only two modes: continuous misting and intermittent (10 seconds on, 10 seconds off). When the water’s out, it turns off by itself.

Pros:

  • Portable and wireless – perfect for on-the-go or desktop use.
  • Gentle mist and virtually silent.
  • Tiny enough to fit in a car’s cup holder.

Cons:

  • It’s small, so it’s best for just a small area, like a desk.
  • You have to replace the cotton filter stick every month – kinda annoying.
  • USB cable doesn’t come with a charging head.

10. Magictec Cool Mist Humidifier

The Magictec Cool Mist Humidifier is a neat, stylish, and affordable little gadget. Designed for portability, it’s a cinch to move from room to room. Simple to operate, it’s got an indicator light to show when it’s on and when water’s low. Though it’s on the smaller side, it can run for an impressive 24 hours. Plus, it has an adjustable mist nozzle to direct the mist wherever you want.

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Magictec Cool Mist Humidifier

Pros:

  • Compact and stylish, easy to move and fits in various rooms.
  • Simple to use and can run up to 24 hours straight.
  • Ultrasonic operation is super quiet and no leaks.
  • Indicator light shows when it’s running and when you’re low on water.

Cons:

  • The tank can get and retain a good amount of condensation.
  • The tank’s opening is small – cleaning might need some extra tools.

What should the indoor humidity level be?

If the indoor humidity drops below 30%, it can get pretty uncomfortable. Dry air can lead to itchy skin, exacerbated sinus issues, dry eyes, and so on. A range between 30-40% is generally comfortable for most folks. However, if the indoor humidity exceeds 50%, you’re risking mold growth.

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ThermoPro TP50
Indoor Digital Hygrometer/Thermometer

When your space gets too dry (like when you’re cranking up the heat in winter), increasing the humidity can:

  • Help with dry, painful noses and even prevent nosebleeds.
  • Keep nasal passages moist, which can alleviate symptoms of colds, allergies, and asthma.
  • Reduce pesky snoring.
  • Soothe dry, itchy, cracked skin and lips.
  • Cut down on static electricity.
  • Protect your precious wooden furniture, flooring, and musical instruments from cracking and warping.
  • Moist air can help retain heat in the home, potentially lowering heating costs.

Types of Humidifiers

The simplest way to humidify a room? A bowl of water. But if you’ve got carpet, that’s not ideal. Common market options include Ultrasonic Warm/Cool Mist, Evaporative Warm/Cool Mist, Whole-House Humidifiers, and Air Washers. The first two typically range from $40-100, while the latter two start at $140 and up.

Ultrasonic Warm/Cool Mist Humidifiers

These humidifiers often have “Ultrasonic” or “Warm/Cool Mist” in their names. They use a metal diaphragm vibrating at an ultrasonic frequency to nebulize water. The fan at the bottom then blows this mist into the room, increasing the humidity. Cool mist versions release mist slightly cooler than room temperature. The warm mist option heats the water to about 176°F, then nebulizes it. When this mist enters the room, it cools down to about 104°F, giving a warm mist effect.

Pros:

  • Affordable.
  • Lots of stylish designs.
  • Compact size.

Cons:

  • Requires pure or distilled water.
  • In areas with hard water, using tap water can lead to scale build-up and potential damage.
  • The mist doesn’t travel far; limited coverage.
  • Nearby furniture can get damp.
  • Minerals from the water can settle around the humidifier.

Evaporative Cool Mist Humidifiers

If you leave a bowl of water at room temperature, it’ll slowly evaporate. That’s the basic principle behind evaporative humidifiers, also known as Evaporative Humidifiers. These devices have a large, mostly paper-based wick filter that soaks up water. A fan then draws in air from the room, which goes through the wet wick, causing the water to evaporate into the air. The resulting moist air is then blown out. This process cools the air slightly, but it’s barely noticeable.

Pros:

  • Can use tap water; the filter will trap minerals and impurities.
  • Doesn’t produce a visible white mist.
  • Vapor is light, covering a large area.
  • Doesn’t dampen or stain nearby furniture.

Cons:

  • Pricier than ultrasonic models.
  • Tends to be bulkier.
  • Fewer manufacturers.
  • You’ll need to change the filter regularly.

Steam Warm Mist Humidifier

The Steam Humidifier, also known as a Vaporizer, has internal heating elements that boil water and blow the steam into the room. It’s kinda like a funky-looking kettle (but you can’t drink from it). Unlike evaporative humidifiers, steam humidifiers emit boiled steam, whereas evaporative ones release evaporated steam. As of now, it seems Vicks might be the only brand still producing these. Some folks suggest adding table salt to the water. Doing this disrupts the bonds between water molecules, pushing them further apart and making it easier for them to vaporize. In this case, the salt acts as an “impurity”, but the impurity doesn’t necessarily have to be salt; some manufacturers recommend adding baking soda instead. If your tap water is hard, meaning it has plenty of minerals, you wouldn’t need to add any salt.

Pros:

  • Can use straight from the tap.
  • Compatible with menthol scent pads or steam-specific cough remedies to soothe coughing.
  • Affordable.
  • No need for filters.

Cons:

  • Too close to the steam nozzle can result in burns.
  • Can’t turn off the nightlight feature.
  • Limited number of manufacturers.

Whole-House Humidifier

This type of humidifier is also of the evaporative kind. It’s installed right above the furnace and directly connected to the home’s water supply, eliminating the need for manual refills. When the heating system is on, the humidifier kicks in, and steam is blown into the house with the warm air. When the heat’s off, so’s the humidifier, saving both water and electricity. In the U.S., Aprilaire is a common brand. Depending on the size of your house, you can pick different models. These whole-house humidifiers typically require professional installation, but if you’re pretty handy, you might manage on your own. The internal filter just needs to be changed once a year.

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AprilAire 500 Whole House Humidifier
The model shown is suitable for homes up to 3,600 square feet.

Pros:

  • Uses the home’s water supply, so no manual refills needed.
  • Humidifies the entire house without the need for individual room humidifiers.
  • Set your desired humidity and forget about it.
  • Filter can be replaced by the user.
  • No noise inside the house.

Cons:

  • Professional installation required.
  • A bit on the pricier side.

Air Cleaners/Purifiers

This type of device is known as an Air Washer or Air Purifier & Humidifier combo (2 in 1). It combines air purification and humidification. The air is drawn into the device and is cleaned by flowing through water or a filter, removing dust, mold spores, pollen, and other impurities. The humidification process is similar to that of an evaporative cool mist humidifier, releasing clean filtered air.

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These devices are quite pricey. For instance, the Dyson, with its top-tier UV disinfection, can humidify, cool, purify the air, and eliminate formaldehyde, but it comes at a premium price.

Humidifier vs. Diffuser

Humidifiers are called, well, Humidifiers. Diffusers are meant for aromatherapy. They operate similarly, and a diffuser can be thought of as a mini-humidifier. Some standard humidifiers come equipped with essential oil trays, doubling as diffusers. Diffusers typically have smaller water tanks, making them perfect for bedside use, but if used as a humidifier, they require frequent refilling. Some versions atomize essential oils without the need for water, meaning they can’t be used for humidification.

Which Type of Humidifier to Choose?

Despite the numerous types mentioned above, the core operating mechanisms are ultrasonic and evaporative. Both have their pros and cons, and neither is definitively better; it depends on individual needs. If you’re set on getting a Dyson, you can probably skip the next details.

1. Design

Evaporative humidifiers have a large water wick inside, making them bulkier compared to ultrasonic ones of the same capacity. They might not win beauty contests, but they cover a larger area since they emit more water into the air without leaving puddles on the ground.

2. Water Filling Method

Most have detachable tanks with a fill hole on the bottom. You flip the tank to fill it, screw on the lid, and flip it back. Some have peculiar shapes that make it hard to fill under a bathroom faucet, requiring a bathtub instead, which isn’t always convenient. Top-fill designs exist but are less common.

3. Tank Capacity

Tank capacity doesn’t equate to humidification efficiency or amount. Smaller tanks need refilling more often, while larger tanks can last days.

4. Noise

Both ultrasonic and evaporative humidifiers have fans, with the noise primarily coming from the fan motor. Ultrasonic models, having smaller fans, are quieter than their evaporative counterparts. However, even evaporative ones can be quiet if they use a good motor.

Ultrasonic humidifiers are ideal for bedrooms to ensure a quiet sleeping environment. Evaporative ones, being louder, are better for living areas where normal activities can drown out the noise. Generally, if the noise level is below 36 decibels, it won’t disturb your sleep. Still, tolerance varies among individuals. Some folks need complete silence, while others could sleep through a marching band.

5. Mineral Deposits

My biggest gripe is with ultrasonic humidifiers that don’t filter out minerals from the water. This can lead to white mineral deposits on furniture and floors, especially in areas with hard water. It doesn’t pose a health risk but can be a pain to clean up. From personal experience: I’d only recommend ultrasonic humidifiers in areas with soft water or for those with RO filters or who are willing to buy distilled water daily.

Evaporative humidifiers release vapor, not droplets. Minerals remain in the wick, not in the vapor. So, you won’t get those white deposits, but the wick will need regular cleaning or replacement, incurring an extra cost.

6. Cool Mist vs. Warm Mist

Whether you prefer cool or warm mist is a matter of personal preference. Some devices offer both functions; give them a try. Warm mist models can slightly raise room temperature, comfy in winter but might make your AC work harder in summer. Steam-based models are cheap but can scald if knocked over or if a child gets too close.

7. Bacterial Growth

Warm environments can promote bacterial and mold growth. Devices that spew water containing bacteria or mold pose health risks. Ultrasonic warm mist humidifiers need regular disinfection. In steam models, boiling kills off most microbes, but stagnant water can still breed bacteria.

8. Maintenance & Consumables

Humidifiers are relatively low-maintenance appliances, but regardless of the type, they still need regular cleaning. You can use a mix of white vinegar and water to clean the water tank and reservoir. Let it air dry afterward. Most households typically have white vinegar on hand, so this cleaning method is pretty cost-effective.

The additional expenses come from cleaning the mineral buildup in ultrasonic humidifiers. This includes buying water filters, distilled water, and descaling solutions. For evaporative humidifiers, the primary cost is replacing the filter. Ensure you get the right fit for your model. Changing it every three months means you’ll be spending about $50 to $60 a year just on filters. You could almost buy a new humidifier for that amount.

To remove scale, you can use white vinegar or a more efficient specialized cleaner.

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BONECO Humidifier Descaling Solution | Pack of 3

9. Additional Features

Many humidifiers come with a nightlight feature, which I find quite handy. Others have features like a clock, thermometer, and even WiFi (really?). Whether you think it’s worth paying extra for these features is a personal choice.

My Experience

Ultrasonic humidifiers operate very quietly, which I love. However, the mist they produce can dampen surrounding surfaces and furniture. I’ve bought the Crane ultrasonic humidifier twice because of its adorable design. They didn’t last more than two years, not because of product quality, but due to my mistakes. I placed the humidifier on a plastic shelf, which sagged under its weight, making it unstable. I also didn’t secure the water tank properly a few times, causing leaks that damaged the fan. If your local water is soft or you’re willing to use distilled water, I’d still recommend the Crane ultrasonic humidifier. They come in various designs.

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Later, I tried the evaporative humidifier, specifically the Honeywell Cool Moisture Humidifier I mentioned earlier. It has two humidity settings. The high setting is a bit noisy, while the low setting is considerably quieter, which I use at night. Filling the tank is easy since the opening is larger than my fist, but it doesn’t have a nightlight. With the fan positioned on top, there’s no worry about accidental spills damaging the motor. After using it for two months, it worked wonders. My daughter hasn’t had nosebleeds in the middle of the night since. I’ve been using this humidifier for almost four years now, and it’s still going strong. However, it does require periodic filter replacements.

I also use a hygrometer to monitor indoor humidity. I bought the ThermoPro TP50 Digital Hygrometer. Keep in mind that household electronic hygrometers have an accuracy range of ±5%, so they’re just for reference.

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ThermoPro TP50 Digital Hygrometer

Fan Zhao

A smart and thrifty homemaker who loves baking.

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