Types of Essential Oil Diffusers

Different types of essential oil diffusers are available to help you enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy.

Essential oils are volatile, meaning the oils evaporate into the air at room temperature. A diffuser is merely a device that helps the essential oil molecules move into the air more rapidly than they otherwise would in an open bottle.

Reed Diffuser photo
Photo by Valerie Everett

Diffusing essential oils in the air is a popular way to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of aromatherapy. Massage with essential oils added to a carrier oil is also a way to enjoy aromatherapy.

There are several ways of diffusing essential oils into the air. Some are very simple and inexpensive. Some diffusers can cost well over $100.

Electronic diffusers often have lights which make the diffuser look pretty while it is working. They also often have timers and speed controls. The timers allow you to determine the duty cycle, that is, how long the diffuser is “on” and “off”. Speed controls determine how quickly oil vapor is disbursed into your room.

Most electronic diffusers also need to be cleaned periodically because of oil buildup. Look at your operations manual that comes with your diffuser for specific instructions.

Let’s take a look as some of the options.

Rubbing Oil on Your Hands

Simply put a drop or two of essential oil on your hands and rub them together. This distributes the oil over a relatively large area so the oil evaporates quickly. Rubbing your hands together helps warm the oil and further encourage evaporation.

Then cup your hands over your mouth and nose and breathe in. Take several deep breaths. Don’t get the oil on or near your eyes.

This is a quick way to get the oil absorbed by your skin and the vapors into your lungs. And, this is a great technique for personal use.

Adding Oils to Warm Water

You can encourage essential oil evaporation into the air by adding a few drops of essential oils to warm water.

This is often used in a bath. You can breathe in the vapors while enjoying a relaxing bath.

You can also pour warm water in a bowl and add a few drops of oil. You typically cover your head with a towel and bend over the bowl to concentrate the vapors to the small area around your face.

Either way helps you get the benefits of the oil.

Reed Diffuser to Speed Evaporation

The basic idea of the reed diffuser is to increase the surface area of the essential oil to speed its evaporation into the air. It is very simple and inexpensive to make. But, be aware that some reed diffuser kits you can buy will come with synthetic fragrances which may contain harsh chemicals.

You can make a reed diffuser easily. Simply fill a small bottle with the essential oil mixture you want to diffuse and insert some porous rattan reeds into the bottle. The oil will “wick” up into the reeds and evaporate into the surrounding air.

This type of diffuser is always “on”, evaporating oil into the room. It is good for small areas like a bedroom or kitchen. But, since it is always helping oil evaporate, it can use up your oil faster than an electrical diffuser you can turn off.

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Essential Oil Burners

The essential oil burner uses heat to help speed evaporation the oils into the air. Several types are common.

One example involves putting some oil in a ceramic container and suspending this over a candle flame. Another way is to put oil onto an ornamental terracotta ring and placing this on an incandescent light bulb. Yet another example is a candle scented with an essential oil. These tend to use high levels of heat to speed evaporation of the oil.

Other units use lower levels of heat, often below 200oF. This is below the boiling point of water and is better than a hotter unit.

There is the obvious danger of using a open flame around flammable essential oils. The other drawback is that each essential oil is composed of numerous natural and sometime delicate organic compounds. Some of these compounds can be chemically changed when they are exposed to higher temperatures. This alters their nature and can reduce their therapeutic value.

Electric Fan Evaporative Diffusers

Another way to speed the evaporation of essential oils is to increase the air flow across the oil. This is how the electric fan diffuser works. You add drops of an essential oil to an absorbent pad. The fan blows air across the pad causing more evaporation of the oil. And the air goes into the room. Depending on the size of the unit, this can be effective for one or more rooms.

How To Use The Aromatherapy Fan Diffuser

Nebulizer or Atomiing Diffuser

This diffuser uses the Bernoulli Effect. A thin tube is inserted into a small pool of oil. An air pump blows air across the top of the tube. This creates a partial vacuum in the tube which draws oil up the tube. When the oil reaches the top of the tube the air stream atomizes the oil, dispersing molecules of the oil into the stream of air. The air stream with the oil molecules goes into the room.

Here, the mist you see is the result of the atomized essential oil. This means that you are using oil at a rapid pace. So, you typically turn on the nebulizer for short periods of time.

Some nebulizer diffusers require you to remove the dropper nozzle and screw the essential oil bottle onto the diffuser. So, if you want to diffuse an oil blend, you will need to create the blend and put it into a bottle. Other diffusers require you to add oil drops to a reservoir which makes blending oils easy.

The size and power of the air pump will determine how quickly oil gets diffused. It will also affect the level of noise the diffuser makes.

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Ultrasonic Cool Mist Diffuser

Perhaps the most popular diffusers are the ultrasonic mist diffusers. You add water and a few drops of your essential oils to a reservoir. Below this is a flexible membrane which vibrates at ultrasonic frequencies. This causes the liquid water and oil to break up into a vapor which then goes into your room.

This cool mist (comprising water and oil vapors) disburses into the room. So this type of diffuser acts as a humidifier because it adds water vapor to a room. So, it’s best not to use this type of diffuser in rooms with a mold problem.

And, because the mist is mostly water vapor, not much oil gets disbursed. You typically run these diffusers for long periods of time to get enough oil in the air to be effective.

Ultrasonic Aroma Diffuser Instructions

Types of Essential Oil Diffusers Summary

You’ve seen examples of the major types of essential oil diffusers. For personal use, rubbing some oil on your hands and breathing in may be adequate. For more long lasting effects and for making a room smell nice you will need an electronic diffuser.

Examine feedback about each diffuser to gauge the user experience before you buy.

And, then enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy.