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Guide to Essential Oil Diffusers

Essential Oil Diffusers

Essential Oil Diffusion is the process of dispersing essential oils so that their aroma fills a room or an area with the natural fragrance. From the simple to the elaborate, many different methods exist for diffusing essential oils into a room. Three easy aromatherapy diffusion methods exist which can be done with things you probably already have in your household. In addition, there are numerous aromatherapy diffusers and diffusing devices available for purchase. This article will detail the different types of devices and methods that may be used.

Safety is important. Be sure to view these Essential Oil Diffuser Safety Tips before diffusing.

Try AromaWeb's Essential Oil Diffuser Blends once you've selected your diffuser.

Aromatherapy Diffusers and Diffusion Products on the Market

Passive Diffusers

The descriptions below are generalities about the different aromatherapy diffusers and other essential oil diffusion products that are available. Always check the specifications, requirements and safety comments supplied with the particular product you are interested to confirm that it is suitable for your needs and expectations.

To locate vendors that sell aromatherapy diffusers, visit the Aromatherapy Diffusers Category of AromaWeb's Aromatherapy Business Directory.

Ultrasonic Essential Oil Diffusers

Essential Oil Nebulizers

Ultrasonic diffusers use water and ultrasonic waves to diffuse essential oils into the room. They come in different sizes, and some feature colored lights.

Ultrasonic Essential Oil Diffuser Benefits:

Various types of ultrasonic aromatherapy diffusers are available, allowing consumers to choose from a wide range of sizes and options. Of non-passive style diffusers, ultrasonic diffusers tend to be amongst the most affordable of aromatherapy diffuser types, and they are becoming widely available. While diffusing essential oils into a given space, they also can humidify the room.


Despite the advantages, ultrasonic diffusers can fail more quickly or be more problematic. Generally speaking, I tend to hear more complaints from users of ultrasonic diffusers than for other aromatherapy diffuser types. It is important to always follow the usage instructions for the ultrasonic model diffuser that you purchase.

Essential Oil Atomizing Diffusers (Also Known as Nebulizers)

Essential Oil Nebulizers

An atomizing diffuser (also known as a nebulizer) is a device that takes essential oils and breaks them into separate molecules before dispersing the smaller molecules into the room. It is said that these smaller molecules can be more readily absorbed by the lungs and thus create greater therapeutic value than by use of other diffusion methods.

A nebulizer is a small device that consists of two main parts: the plastic base that contains the motor/pump and a very unusual, clear blown-glass piece that holds and "nebulizes" the oils. Instead of the use of the unusual glass piece, some atomizing diffuser use a special bottle that looks like a Boston round bottle.

The size of the pump that accompanies the atomizing diffuser makes a big difference in the speed in which the essential oil is nebulized and in the amount of room/area coverage that the nebulizer can accommodate.

Essential Oil Nebulizer Benefits:

For therapeutic use, an atomizing diffuser/nebulizer should be considered. It is said that nebulizers can supply greater therapeutic benefit than the use of other aromatherapy diffusers because they break the oils down into smaller molecules.


Compared to other methods, cleaning the atomizing diffuser/nebulizer, especially after using thicker essential oils can be time consuming. Depending on the style of the diffuser, thick oils such as Sandalwood and Patchouli usually cannot be used (unless first well blended with much thinner oils) as they can clog certain model diffusers.

Fan Style Essential Oil Diffusers

Electric Fan Diffuser

Fan diffusers come in a variety of sizes, shapes and styles. Essentially, a fan diffuser uses a fan to gently circulate air across the essential oils, allowing them to evaporate into the air more actively than with passive aromatherapy diffusion. To use a fan diffuser, essential oils are usually placed onto a disposable absorbent pad or into a tray. The pad or tray is placed into the aromatherapy diffusion unit and then powered on. The fan then blows air across this pad or tray and carries the aroma throughout the room. Since fan diffusers come in a variety of sizes, some fan diffusers will only diffuse a small room whereas others can diffuse very large areas.

Fan Style Essential Oil DIffuser Benefits:

Fan style aromatherapy diffusers are available in a wide variety of brands and styles. Depending on the brand and model, fan diffusers can fragrance a large area. Fan diffusers are generally easy to use. Some fan diffusers are powered by both electricity and batteries, making them quite portable.


Some fan diffusers, depending on the brand and model, require the purchase of replacement absorbent pads. Some fan diffusers are noisy.

Electric Heat Aromatherapy Diffusers

Essential Oil Heat Diffuser

Heat diffusers use heat to gently heat the oil and disperse the aroma into a room.

Fan Style Essential Oil Diffuser Benefits:

Electric heat diffusers may fragrance larger areas, depending on the brand and style. They can also help to more efficiently disperse the aromas of thicker oils such as Sandalwood and Patchouli.


Some individuals have trouble with clean up after using thicker essential oils. However, clean up can be much easier in this type of diffuser than in nebulizers and other aromatherapy diffusers. Usually, alcohol can help to dissolve stubborn, stuck-on essential oil residue.

Candle Diffusers

Candle Diffuser

A candle diffuser is a diffuser that utilizes a tea light or other candle to gently heat the essential oil to promote diffusion into a room. A candle diffuser is usually ceramic or metal. The diffuser has an opening or space for a candle and a little bowl or tray for storing a tiny quantity of essential oil. Candle diffusers come in many shapes and colors from the modest functional piece to those that act both as a work of art and as a candle diffuser.

Candle Diffuser Benefits:

Candle diffusers are usually less pricey than nebulizing diffusers, depending on the style and design. Candle diffusers do not require electricity or batteries.


One needs to be as careful with using a candle diffuser as with using candles in general. Also, one must be sure to keep replacement candles on hand.

Terracotta and Sandstone Essential Oil Diffusers

Passive Diffusers

Terracotta clay and sandstone diffusers go by many names and come in an array of attractive shapes and sizes. Some terracotta diffusers resemble tiny clay pots that accept a small quantity of essential oil. Usually a cork is the method by which the opening is closed. The oils permeate through the pot and then diffuse out into the room. The intensity of the aroma depends on how much essential oil is added to the clay pot or other shaped diffuser. Sandstone is quite porous and is another lovely way to passively diffuse essential oils.

Terracotta and Sandstone Essential Oil Diffuser Benefits:

Clay pot diffusers are very inexpensive, easy to use, and do not require electricity or batteries.


The aroma is strongest shortly after adding essential oil to the clay pot and then dissipates as time passes. As such, it’s hard to keep the same level of aroma in the room.

Lamp Ring Aromatherapy Diffusers

Aromatherapy Lamp Ring

Lamp rings are typically made out of terracotta or brass. They are shaped like a ring and set directly onto a standard light bulb. They have a grooved lip that goes all the way around them. This lip holds the essential oil. The heat from a light bulb heats the essential oil in the lamp ring, and the oil is then gently diffused into the room.

Lamp Ring Aromatherapy Diffuser Benefits:

Lamp Rings are usually inexpensive.


If any essential oil gets onto the light bulb, the light bulb could break. They won't work with odd sized bulbs or with bulbs that are situated at odd angles. Lamp rings probably cannot be used with high efficiency bulbs.

Aromatherapy Diffuser Methods That Can Be Done With Items Already in Your Household

Simple Tissue Diffusion

Place 3-4 drops of essential oil on a tissue. Place the tissue near you. As movement occurs in the room (i.e. as you move or as someone walks by),the aroma from the essential oils will waft through the air.

Tissue Diffusion Benefits:

This method can be used anywhere and is quickly transportable. This is an ideal aromatherapy diffusion method to use in public (i.e. in a work cubicle or on an airplane) when you can't diffuse essential oils throughout the room or space.


This method does not emit much aroma into a room.

Steam Diffusion

Boil 2 cups of water. Pour the water into a bowl and add up to 10 drops of essential oil to the water. Use fewer drops if you are using an essential oil or synergy that may cause irritation to your mucous membranes (i.e. cinnamon, eucalyptus, rosemary, pine, thyme, cajuput). Use of energizing or relaxing essential oils can make this method useful any time of day or night. The steam will heat the essentials oils and cause them to diffuse by evaporation quickly into the room.

Essential Oil Steam Diffusion Benefits:

This aromatherapy diffusion method will quickly diffuse the essential oils into a room.


The aroma is not exceptionally long-lasting.

Candle Aromatherapy Diffusion

Light a pure beeswax or soy candle and allow it to burn for about 5 minutes. Extinguish the candle. Then, carefully place 1 drop of essential oil in the melted wax (not on the wick!) and then relight the candle. Essential oils are highly flammable, so great care must be used.

Essential Oil Candle Diffusion Benefits:

This essential oil diffusion method can be used most anywhere that a candle may be used.


Essential oils are flammable, so great care must be used. The aroma is not long-lasting.

Essential Oil Diffusion Safety Tips

Diffuse essential oils sensibly. They should not be continuously diffused. Be sure you are diffusing in a well ventilated space. For more information, read AromaWeb's Essential Oil Diffuser Safety Tips.

A Note About Using Water or Carrier Oils With Your Diffuser

I am sometimes asked about water and/or carrier oil usage when diffusing essential oils.

Water is needed for some types and models of aromatherapy diffusers, but not for all.

Carrier Oils are generally not necessary when using most types of nebulizers and aromatherapy diffusers, but you should double-check the instructions that accompany your brand and model device. Some reed diffusion recipes do include carrier oils.

Check the instructions that came with your aromatherapy diffuser or contact the manufacturer for usage instructions.

Where to Buy Essential Oil Diffusers

To locate artisans, retailers and wholesalers that sell diffusers, visit the Aromatherapy Diffusers Category of AromaWeb's Aromatherapy Business Directory.

For essential blends that you can try once you have your aromatherapy diffuser, be sure to visit the Essential Oil Diffuser Blends page.

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