How to Choose an Essential Oil Diffuser

Here's an overview of the four types of diffusers and our top picks.
How to Choose an Essential Oil Diffuser

There are numerous ways to reap the health benefits of essential oils. You can apply these nutrient and antioxidant-packed oils topically or inhale their healing properties. One of the most popular ways of scenting your home and using essential oils for health is by using an essential oil diffuser.

Diffusers allow you to breathe in the striking scents you love without the negative side effects associated with scented candles. You don’t have to worry about toxic chemicals, irritants or allergens that many scented candles contain. All-natural and backed by scientific studies, essential oils can help make your home smell better and keep you healthy.

Essential Oil Diffuser: aromatherapy bottles

Reasons to Use an Essential Oil Diffuser

Essential oil diffusers help to deliver the potent health compounds that make these oils beneficial for health. Essential oil diffusers are a key part of aromatherapy. In aromatherapy, essential oils are added to water in a diffuser to interact with your olfactory senses. These oils trigger chemical reactions in the brain, which can help to reduce feelings of depression as well as improve mood and relaxation.

An essential oil diffuser helps to achieve a variety of healthy oil benefits. You can achieve better sleep quality and boost energy by diffusing different types of oils in your diffuser. You can induce relaxation and reduce anxiety by adding lavender essential oil to a diffuser. On the other hand, bergamot essential oil in a diffuser will result in feelings of alertness and increased energy. Tea tree and eucalyptus essential oils add a refreshing, cool mist to your home when used in a diffuser.

Some essential oils also contain antimicrobial properties that remove bacteria from the air. These bacteria can cause bad odor, so using an essential oil diffuser can make your home cleaner and smell better.

Types of Essential Oil Diffusers

There are four main types of essential oil diffusers, each with their own pros and cons. In general, diffusers work to emit a scented steam from oils and other compounds through a heat or chemical process. The four types of diffusers include ultrasonic diffusers, nebulizer diffusers, evaporative diffusers, and heat diffusers. The evaporative and heat diffusers are only ideal of scenting rooms, as they do not deliver the healthy components of essential oils.

1. Ultrasonic Diffusers

Ultrasonic essential oil diffusers use a combination of water and electronic frequencies to create a fine mist of essential oils. The use of water means the essential oils will be diluted when released into the air. The electronic frequencies create ultrasonic vibrations that break the essential oils into smaller molecules for diffusion. These units need to be cleaned regularly to keep all of the parts in working order. This is particularly important if you have a plastic diffuser. Ultrasonic diffusers cannot be used with citrus oils as the compounds are corrosive to the ultrasonic components.

Best For: Humidifying

Ultrasonic technology makes these the best diffusers for adding extra moisture content to dry air. The water and essential oil combination helps to reduce the effects of dry, harsh winter weather. These diffusers are also useful for treating the common cold by keeping air moist. Many come with remote controls to easily adjust the settings, even in the middle of the night.

Top Pick: InnoGear Vase-Shaped Ultra-Sonic Cool Mist Humidifier

This InnoGear ultrasonic diffuser can diffuse essential oils in rooms up to 400 square feet thanks to its large water reservoir. It’s an affordable option if you’re just getting into essential oil diffusers. It’s made of plastic, but features a fake wood grain and is still BPA-free. The unit features multiple lighting options with long-lasting LED bulbs. The color-changing lights let you cycle through various colors or leave it set to your favorite hue. It boasts a water capacity of 200 mL and is quiet as a whisper at only 36 dB. The combination of its quiet nature and soft lighting makes it a good choice for children’s rooms and it can be used as a nightlight. You have to plug-in this diffuser as it does not operate on battery power. You can find this diffuser on the InnoGear website or at Other popular ultrasonic diffusers are available from SpaRoom, PureSpa, and Ellia.

2. Nebulizer Diffusers

Nebulizing diffusers are often considered the top of the line when it comes to essential oil aromatherapy. These diffusers do not contain any plastic parts, meaning it is free from chemicals including BPA. Nebulizer diffusers also don’t use any heat to emit essential oils. Instead, these diffusers create a pressure vacuum to release the oils. The unit blows a small amount of air across a tube, creating a vacuum that draws oils to the surface. The oils are then released in a misty puff into the room.

Best For: Aromatherapy

The all-natural quality of these diffusers makes them ideal for aromatherapy use. The essential oils are released completely and are not diluted by water like in other diffuser. The release of pure essential oils and chemical-free nature of these units makes them the best aromatherapy essential oil diffusers. These aroma diffusers can also be used with a timer to set pre-determined run times. This is particularly useful for consistent meditation or yoga practice.

Top Pick: Aromis Wood Orbix Nox Merus Diffuser

First and foremost, this nebulizing diffuser is both gorgeous and functional. It’s available in 12 different models featuring glass and natural wood grain construction. The long elegant bulb diffuses essential oils up to 30 feet in less than 5 minutes. The unit is customizable with a variety of controls to tweak the diffuser to your specific needs. It also comes with a built-in timer and auto shut-off capabilities. Great for use in living rooms and as well as bedrooms thanks to its powerful dispersion.

3. Evaporative Diffusers

These types of diffusers work by converting essential oils from liquids to gas. This is generally achieved by applying air within the diffuser. Most evaporative diffusers contain small fans and can be slightly noisier than other alternatives. Some evaporative diffusers feature a cloth that you soak in essential oils for diffusion. Others simply contain a dispenser that exposes the oil to air for natural evaporation.

The drawback to evaporative diffusers is that the essential oil compounds are broken down before being released. That means that lighter and heavier chemical compounds are released at varying rates, reducing the health benefits of the oils.

Best For: Scenting Small Rooms

Evaporative diffusers are generally the most affordable of all types of diffusers. They are designed to quickly freshen rooms with bursts of essential oils. The natural evaporation varieties also diffuse oils slowly over longer periods of time. Some evaporative diffusers are also available as portable diffusers. They come in bracelets, pens, and car fresheners so you can take them on-the-go.

Top Pick: Portable Diffusers from AromaTools

AromaTools offers a wide array of evaporative diffusers ranging from hand pumps to nasal inhalers and jewelry. Diffusing bracelets and pendants add a stylish touch to these essential oil diffusers.

4. Heat Diffusers

Heat diffusers are similar to evaporative diffusers except that they use heat instead of fans to release essential oil scents. They are also known as essential oil burners and are often made of clay. Heat diffusers can be used with thicker oils or resins that aren’t easily diffused by ultrasonic or nebulizing diffusers. These diffusers use varying levels of heat to diffuse oils. Higher temperatures result in stronger scent profiles while lower temperatures offer a subtler aroma.

The heat can also alter the health benefits of essential oils, making these diffusers a better choice for scenting rooms. Heat diffusers don’t require a lot of set up, making them an easy choice without the complicated bells and whistles. Do not leave heat diffusers unattended if the heat source is a candle.

Best For: Affordability and Fragrance

Heat diffusers tend to be more affordable than aromatherapy diffusers. They also use the least amount of oil when burned at low temperatures, making your essential oils last longer. These diffusers are quieter than evaporative diffusers since they don’t use electrical components of fans

Top Pick: Young Living Resin Burner

Designed for burning thick oils or resins, this heat diffuser combines stunning visuals with functionality. The heat temperature can be adjusted using a simple knob. The unit features traditional Asian architecture adding a cultural note to scent diffusion in your home.

Diffuse Essential Oils in Your Car, Office, or Home

You can use any of these essential oil diffusers with your favorite oils whether you prefer rose oil, sweet orange oil or something else. Mix it up by adding several drops of essential oil blends to maximize health benefits and scent profiles. Always make sure to use 100% pure essential oils to avoid side effects caused by contaminants or synthetics.

Finding the best essential oil diffuser will depend largely on your individual needs and uses. If you’re simply trying to make your home smell better without using chemicals, you can use any of these diffusers. For health care, nebulizing diffusers and ultrasonic diffusers are the best choice. The best aromatherapy diffuser is a nebulizing diffuser. Ultrasonic diffusers are great for humidifying dry air. Heat diffusers and evaporative diffusers are best only for scenting rooms as their nature dilutes the quality of essential oils. If you want to take your essential oils on the road, look for portable diffusers such as evaporative jewelry and inhalation sticks.

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