All About Diffusers

Diffusers 101

So, you want to start using essential oils to scent your space instead of the many synthetic aromas out there. Great, but what is the best way to diffuse the oils that will best fit my needs?

Types of Diffusers

Looking at all the styles of essential oil diffusers on the market one can get confused as to which is best. The truth is that there are really only 3 types of diffusers. They are Nebulizing, Ultrasonic (or atomizing, and evaporating).

Nebulizer Diffusion: Nebulizers are made of glass and typically more expensive. After the oil is added to the nebulizer and turned on, air suctions the oil up into a hollow chamber creating and dispensing an essential oil mist. Nebulizers do not use any water or heat. Since nebulizers diffuse essential oils at a more concentrated level, extra caution should be taken when using them around the elderly, children, and pets.

Ultrasonic diffusion: Ultrasonic diffusion is one of the most popular ways to dispense essential oils. A few drops in an ultrasonic diffuser for large rooms can give you up to 10 hours of intermittent aromatherapy. Water is used but no heat.

To operate, fill the reservoir to the fill line with clean water (don’t overfill). Add 10 to 15 drops of your favorite essence and turn it on. A small disc within the machine begins to vibrate causing microdroplets of water and essence to infuse. A small internal fan provides just enough airflow to dispense the mixture.

Ultrasonic diffusers come in a variety of sizes and shapes as well as plugin and USB power supply options. This is great because it makes them portable. Larger capacity diffusers are usually plug-in while smaller, more portable ones, as well as ones for the car, have the USB option.

Evaporation Diffusers: Evaporation diffusion relies on ambient air temperature and flows, heat, or propeller fan to dispense and essence. There are several different ways to accomplish this.

  • Reed – Mix your favorite essential oil with a carrier oil (called a blend) in a small wide-mouth glass container. Place 4 to 6 reeds into the blend. Over time the oil blend is absorbed by the reed and ambient air will help diffuse the essence into the surrounding space. This method does not provide a heavy scent to large areas. Small bathrooms, offices, or bedrooms may be the best use of this type of diffusion.
  • Ceramic or Electric – There are different styles of ceramic/ diffusers. But the concept is the same. A small amount of essential oil or blend is placed in a ceramic reservoir and heated from below with a tea light candle.

A variation of this diffuser is the electric version. A small reservoir is located mid machine in which the essential oil is placed. When turned on the device heats the oil and the scent is diffused into the surrounding space. Again, this method is more appropriate for small spaces.

The drawback with this type of heated diffusion is that pure essential oils and carriers are affected greatly by heat. Heat greater than 110” F can and will change the molecular structure of essential oils. Synthetic oils may have higher temperature tolerances, but for those seeking an “all-natural” solution, synthetics are not desirable.

  • Fan – Place several drops of your essential oil on the soft fiber pad provided (replacement pad cost is minimal). When plugged in or turned on, a small internal fan gently blows over the pad dispersing the scent. As is characteristic with evaporation type diffusers the area covered is small so it is perfect for small bathrooms, offices, bedrooms, or desk (cubical) space.
  • Terracotta – Terracotta, means “baked earth”. It is a type of clay-based material that remains porous even after being fired in the kiln (a very hot oven for refining pottery and ceramics).

Since the finished product is porous, essential oil soaks easily into the micro, bubble-like pockets. Over time the scent evaporates from these pockets diffusing naturally into the surrounding space.

These beautiful diffusers come in a variety of designs and can be works of art. They are ideal for closets, drawers, bedside, office cubicles, cars, or any other small space that needs a little scent.

A Little About the Essential Oils

Now that you are learning about the basic ways to diffuse an essential oil, you should also make sure to get good quality oil. There are three things to consider.

  • What Essential Oil to Buy – The type of essence to buy depends on what you wish to accomplish. Remember to consider not just yourself but the people and animals in your home. When diffusing for the first time start small and pay attention to how your body feels as well as the reactions and behaviors of the rest of the family.
  • Where to Buy – Choosing what goes into our bodies is always important. Did you know when you smell something your body is metabolizing or digesting the odor? Well, it is true. The scent is absorbed through the cells in the nasal cavity where they are incorporated into your metabolic system. From there your brain determines a response. Keep this in mind when selecting your essential oil source.

Be sure to look for

      • Organic certification and other trust symbols (chemo typed, gluten-free, pesticide-free…)
      • Third-party certification (EcoCert is the only one known to this author)
      • Information on benefits, use, and dilution recommendations
      • Information about the oil (origin, lot numbers, extraction method…)
      • Safety information

Safety First – Essential oils are wonderful. But improperly used can have some devastating effects. Be cautious and do your due diligence before using. More is not always better. Remember these are not traditional oils. They are concentrated all-natural chemicals. Mother Nature’s recipe for sure but definitely deserve respect.

Dilution Guidelines: As recommended by the Aromatherapy Association (

  • 0.5 % = 3 drops per ounce (sensitive skin, emotional and spiritual purposes)
  • 1.0 % = 6 drops per ounce (recommended for children, expectant mothers, skin care)
  • 2.0 % = 12 drops per ounce (massage, body lotion)
  • 3.0 % = 18 drops per ounce (massage, body lotion)
  • 10.0% = 3 ml (sixty drops) (pain, infection, usually on small body area)