Nasal congestion is perhaps the most annoying symptom of allergies or illnesses like the common cold. Although treating congestion won’t treat the cause itself, it will very likely make your life more comfortable.
If you’ve tried out many home remedies and none seem to have worked, then you might want to try steam inhalation. it’s not terribly expensive, and it seems to be fairly reliable when it comes to congestion treatment.
To allow you to get started quicker, we’ll showcase to you what we find to be the 5 best steam inhalers out there. Not only that, but we’ll also talk about whether steam inhalation is effective and what you should expect from it.
5 Best Steam Inhalers
This steam inhaler by Vicks, although pretty bulky, is a functional and easy to use unit.
This personal steam inhaler allows you to adjust the amount of produced steam, which may be useful for those who have severely congested noses. Aside from that, this thing is claimed to work with tap water, so you won’t have to prepare distilled water or go look for filtered water in a local store.
Vicks also claims that this steam inhaler delivers 99.9% germ-free steam, but this probably is due to the high temperature of steam rather than the design of the steam inhaler.
For increased safety, the Vicks steam inhaler also has an auto-shutoff feature that turns the machine off once it runs out of water.
Interestingly, the Vicks steam inhaler is compatible with Vicks VapoPad scent pads for aromatherapy. The steam inhaler takes up to two of such pads at a time, and Vicks includes one sample pad for you to try out.
Keep in mind that the Vicks steam inhaler is a tabletop unit, so you won’t be able to use it in bed, for example. It’s pretty bulky as well, so it isn’t the most convenient steam inhaler when it comes to travel.
- Adjustable steam control.
- Auto-shutoff when empty.
- Can work with tap water.
- Accepts scent pads for aromatherapy.
- For tabletop use only.
If you are ready to pay the money for excellent steam therapy, then have a good look at the Mypurmist 2 handheld vaporizer & humidifier. This thing has a steep price, but it has a few remarkable features that may interest you.
Perhaps most importantly, Mypurmist 2 is designed to deliver pure germ-free air. Although steam already does a relatively good job of killing germs, for better effectiveness, this steam inhaler features an integrated HEPA filter that’s claimed to filter out 99.97% of germs in the air.
What also adds to the safety of this device is that it is designed to be used with Mypurmist’s sterile water refills. Initially, you won’t have buy refills – Mypurmist includes sterile water for up to 40 sessions, allowing you to get started immediately. However, in the long term, the costs of the refills may add up, so if you are on a budget, this steam inhaler might not be the best option for you.
The Mypurmist 2 steam inhaler also allows you to adjust the vapor temperature from 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s difficult to say how useful this feature will be for steam therapy, but it may make using this steam inhaler a little more comfortable.
Interestingly, Mypurmist 2 also claims that this thing is ready to use immediately after being turned on.
Unlike the Vicks steam inhaler, this inhaler is a handheld unit, so you can use it pretty much anywhere.
What also adds to the convenience of this steam inhaler is that you can remove and easily wash its soft mask. Plus, Mypurmist 2 has a self-cleaning feature – given that you only use Mypurmist’s sterile water capsules, you won’t have to clean this thing yourself.
- Purifies the vapor via an integrated HEPA filter.
- Little to no warmup time.
- Washable & replaceable face mask.
- Allows for temperature adjustment.
- Self-cleaning capability.
- Only compatible with sterile water capsules sold by Mypurmist.
The Crane EE-5948 cordless steam inhaler is also a higher-end unit, but it’s very different from the Mypurmist 2 steam inhaler.
The biggest benefit of this steam inhaler is that it is cordless, so you will be able to use it anywhere without worrying about cords getting in your way. The battery in this steam inhaler is claimed to work up to 2 hours on a single charge, which should be enough for a few sessions.
The Crane cordless steam inhaler may also be used while recharging. For convenience, the included charging cable is extra-long.
Like the Mypurmist 2 steam inhaler, the Crane inhaler allows you to adjust the temperature of the produced mist for added comfort. Aside from that, this unit is likewise claimed to be ready for use instantly after being turned on.
On the other hand, unlike the Mypurmist 2 steam inhaler, the Crane steam inhaler doesn’t require any kind of special sterile water. This steam inhaler should be used with purified water, which you can buy for not so much money or make yourself if you have a water purifier.
What you may also like about the Crane inhaler is that it supports scented Crane vapor pads. In fact, Crane kindly includes 5 vapor pads with this thing.
Aside from the pads, you are also getting 2 anti-allergic latex-free masks that can be washed in a dishwasher, as well as a 10.5-ounce bottle of spring water. Once you run out of this water, you won’t need to buy it from Crane again – according to this steam inhaler’s manual, you can use purified water with it.
- Little to no warmup time.
- Adjustable mist temperature.
- Handheld & cordless.
- Comes with spring water, 2 replacement masks, and 5 vapor pads.
If you are on a tight budget or if all those fancy features of pricey steam inhalers do not impress you, then maybe an affordable steam inhaler like ActivePur’s Nano Ionic facial steamer may interest you.
Despite its cheap price, the Nano Ionic facial steamer has a few interesting features to offer.
First of all, this facial steamer is claimed to work via the so-called ionic technology that produces ultra-fine mist particles. As ActivePur claims, the ultra-fine mist particles are much better at penetrating dry skin, allowing for better hydration.
The steam here is also sterilized via UV disinfection. ActivePur claims 100% clean steam, but this probably is an overstatement – such a cheap steam inhaler definitely will not have disinfection systems capable of such effective germ elimination.
For added safety, this steam inhaler also has an auto-shutoff feature – this feature works when there is no water left for steam production.
Notably, ActivePur also includes a micro-needle roller with this steam inhaler. It may be used during or after the steam treatment to treat blackhead or acne pores.
Keep in mind that the ActivePur Nano Ionic facial steamer is a tabletop unit, just like the Vicks steam inhaler we’ve overviewed at the beginning. Likewise, the Nano Ionic steam inhaler won’t be the best option for travel or if you want to have steam therapy in bed.
- Sterilizes steam with UV.
- Auto-shutoff when no water is left.
- Claimed to treat overly dry skin.
- Comes with a facial roller.
- Only for tabletop use.
Finally, we have another steam inhaler by Vicks – the Vicks V1200.
V1200 is a more compact unit that has a narrower face mask and thus boasts more targeted steam delivery. As such, it might be a little more effective than the other Vicks steam inhaler specifically for nasal congestion treatment. However, it won’t be as good for face steam treatment.
Produced by Vicks, V1200 has a few familiar features. Perhaps most importantly, it has variable steam control that should allow you to treat more severe cases of congestion. Aside from that, the V1200 steam inhaler is compatible with Vicks scent pads, but none are included with it.
Although more compact than the Vicks Personal Steam Inhaler, the V1200 steam inhaler still is a fairly bulky unit, so it isn’t the best option for travel. Aside from that, it’s again intended to be used as a tabletop inhaler, which may be a downside for some people.
- Variable steam control.
- Fairly compact and lightweight.
- Not handheld.
What Is Nasal Steam Therapy?
Nasal steam therapy – or, more commonly, steam inhalation – is a procedure where you inhale water vapor. Steam inhalation is thought to loosen mucus in the nasal passageways, throat, and lungs, which ultimately relieves the symptoms of several illnesses.
Now, this is all in theory. Since we are dealing with health, it would also be great to have a look at a few research papers.
A quick research has yielded the following results – although steam inhalation has been shown to be capable of clearing nasal passages, its effects haven’t been consistent. Some studies show conclusively that steam inhalation clears the nose, while others didn’t observe consistent symptom relief from steam therapy.
Healthline came to a similar conclusion – in a referenced review of six clinical trials, some people did benefit from steam inhalation, while others didn’t. Besides, Healthline writes that a recent clinical trial didn’t find consistent benefits for most sinus symptoms, except for headache.
So right now, research papers show very different results, and it’s difficult to say conclusively whether steam inhalation is 100% helpful or 100% useless.
In spite of the fairly mixed results, steam inhalation may actually be able to help you alleviate the symptoms of common cold, flu, sinus infections, and nasal allergies. Among the symptoms that you may be able to treat with steam inhalation are stuffy nose (most importantly), headache, throat irritation, cough, and a few others.
It’s probably worth to at least try steam inhalation, but judging by the results of studies on this matter, you should approach this therapy with a grain of salt. Hopefully, further research into steam inhalation gives us more conclusive answers.
With that said, do keep in mind that steam inhalation will only relieve symptoms of common diseases. Steam inhalation will not help you recover faster.
Do You Need A Steam Inhaler For Steam Therapy?
To be fair, a steam inhaler isn’t a must-have for steam therapy. You just need a bowl with hot water for the procedure. However, with a steam inhaler, steam inhalation becomes much safer and easier than without.
With the bowl method, steam may make contact with your eyes, which certainly won’t be good for you. Aside from that, it can be fairly difficult to direct the steam where it needs to go.
As you could have seen from our reviews, steam inhalers have face masks that allow for a somewhat more targeted steam delivery. Aside from that, the masks don’t allow steam to come in contact with your eyes.
With this in mind, if you are going to try steam inhalation, it’s a good idea to do so with a steam inhaler.
Can Steam Inhalers Also Treat Your Facial Skin?
As you’ve probably noticed from the overviewed steam inhalers, some have pretty big face masks. And this might have made you wonder – does steam benefit facial skin as well?
It appears that steam does indeed benefit facial skin. According to Healthline, here are the benefits of steaming for skin:
- Steam opens up the skin pores and loosens up dirt, allowing for easier cleansing.
- Likewise, opening the pores up releases dead bacteria that may have clogged your skin.
- Warm steam promotes blood circulation, which in its turn nourishes the skin. This is claimed to result in a healthy glow.
- Improved blood circulation is also claimed to promote the production of collagen and elastin, which allows for firmer and more elastic skin.
- Steam releases trapped sebum. When built up, sebum may cause acne and blackheads and promote the growth of bacteria.
- Steam hydrates the skin, having a moisturizing effect.
- The skin’s permeability is increased by steam, allowing for better skincare product absorption.
- For some people, steam may be relaxing as well.
Although steam inhalers aren’t really designed for face treatment, they may work pretty well for facial skin therapy as well.
How To Choose The Best Steam Inhaler
If you’ve decided to buy a steam inhaler, then you should make an effort to buy a good one. Below, let’s talk about the key features that you should be paying attention to when shopping for the best steam inhaler for your needs.
Steam intensity adjustment
Not every steam inhaler allows you to adjust the intensity of the steam. Heck, not every higher-end inhaler will allow you to do this – the steam inhalers on our list that did have adjustable steam intensity are far from being high-end.
For most people, adjustable steam intensity may not be that necessary. However, it may be a good thing to have nonetheless – if your steam inhaler doesn’t seem to bring any results, you could try to increase the steam output and see how it goes for you.
Steam temperature adjustment
Some steam inhalers may allow you to adjust the temperature of the vapor as well. This probably is more a matter of comfort – if you don’t want to deal with very hot temperatures, then a steam inhaler with adjustable temperature may be the right choice.
Filtration may be a pretty important thing to have. If you are very worried about germs in the delivered vapor, then do definitely look for a steam inhaler that has some kind of a filtration system to deal with bacteria.
When water boils, many of the germs contained in it are killed. Steam by itself is very hot as well, so you probably won’t have to deal with a huge number of germs while breathing in the water vapor.
But if you want extra safety, then you may buy a steam inhaler like the Mypurmist 2 inhaler which has a HEPA filter to get rid of 99.97% of germs in the vapor.
The vast majority of steam inhalers are intended to be used with purified water. Purified water isn’t harsh on the internal components of the inhaler, which will most likely increase the longevity of the device.
Even if you get a steam inhaler that works with tap water (like the Vicks Personal Steam Inhaler), it would be a good idea to use purified water with it. Tap water can be of different hardness, and very hard water may be very damaging to your steam inhaler.
Also, find out whether the desired steam inhaler requires any special kind of water. An example of such a steam inhaler is the Mypurmist 2 inhaler – this thing, if you remember, requires Mypurmist’s sterile water capsules to work.
You probably can use it with purified water as well, but it most likely won’t be a good idea – designed for sterile water, steam inhalers like Mypurmist 2 may get severely damaged from other types of water.
Handheld vs tabletop units
Steam inhalers can be handheld or tabletop. While the two types will perform very similarly, what will significantly differ between them is convenience.
For most people, a handheld steam inhaler will probably be the most convenient option. You’ll be able to use a handheld unit basically anywhere, and you won’t have to bend down to place your face against the mask like you would with a tabletop steam inhaler.
On the other hand, a tabletop unit would probably have a bigger water tank, allowing you to refill the inhaler less frequently. But given how easy it is to add water to steam inhalers, this probably won’t be that huge of a benefit for most people.
Corded vs cordless
The vast majority of steam inhalers out there are corded. And while cordless steam inhalers allow you to use them anywhere you want, you probably shouldn’t overpay for a cordless steam inhaler unless you absolutely hate power cords.
Aside from typically high price, cordless steam inhalers will also be heavy due to their battery. This might make them pretty inconvenient for some people.
Face mask size
Pay attention to how big the mask size of the desired steam inhaler is.
A bigger face mask would also allow you to treat your facial skin with steam, the benefits of which we’ve talked about above. With that said, since the steam won’t be as targeted with a large face mask, the effectiveness of nasal steam therapy may be reduced in such steam inhalers, though probably not by much.
As you’ve probably noticed from the overviewed steam inhalers, some steam inhalers have aromatherapy capabilities.
Steam inhalers can deliver aromatherapy in two ways – either via scent pads or the addition of essential oils. On our roundup, we’ve only had steam inhalers with the former (scent pad) option.
Although it’s debatable whether aromatherapy increases the effectiveness of nasal congestion, it may be a useful feature to have. So if this is what you want, pay attention to whether the desired inhaler supports and how it works – unless clearly supported, you won’t be able to use essential oils or scent pads with your steam inhaler.
Steam inhalation definitely needs some more research before we know for sure whether it works and is worth the effort. But so far, it seems to have been a fairly effective congestion remedy.
You should probably give this procedure a try, but approach it with a grain of salt. It will work for some people, won’t work for others, and it’s difficult to tell how it will turn out for you.
To maximize chances of success, make an effort to buy a good steam inhaler, and don’t forget to carefully follow the instructions provided with your steam inhaler so that you get the desired results. And perhaps most importantly, be careful when dealing with hot steam – it can very easily lead to burns if mistreated.