I Sold Essential Oil Diffusers:

Let Me Tell You What To Buy

Choosing an aromatherapy diffuser for the first time is enough to give anyone a headache.

(Believe me, I’ve been there. I was even working at an aromatherapy store at the time, so I had no excuse.)

Still, if you want to get the most out of your essential oils, you’re going to need a diffuser.

They’re the easiest and most efficient way to use essential oils, and if you’re anything like me, you’re going to end up with six of them in a small apartment.

Don’t be like me.

Or be like me a little bit, because I’m here to make choosing a diffuser way easier for you.


Aromatherapy Diffuser 101

Technically there are four primary types of aromatherapy diffusers: evaporation, heat-based, nebulizing, and ultrasonic.

To make things even easier, I categorize them a little differently:

  • Diffusers to scent a room (evaporation and heat-based)
  • Diffusers for scenting and aromatherapeutic benefits (nebulizing and ultrasonic)

One category isn’t necessarily better than the other; it just depends on how you want to use your diffuser.



Scent your space: evaporation and heat-based diffusers

Here’s where your HomeSense staples live: reed diffusers, candle diffusers, and even those light bulb rings which were popular when I was about ten.

This is where most people start when they first get into aromatherapy.

These types of diffusers are relatively inexpensive, fun to collect, and widely available. They also don’t have any moving parts, so refills, reeds, and candles are as much as you’ll have to pay unless you drop them.

Unfortunately, even all-natural diffusers in this category have a weak aromatherapeutic benefit.

Here’s why:

  • Both types of diffuser rely on heat (whether direct or indirect) to diffuse. Heat changes the volatile essential oils, reducing their effectiveness and changing their aroma.
  • The amount of actual diffusion is low. Not only does this confer less benefit, but it also wastes expensive oils and allows for a tiny range of scent (also known as ‘throw’).

Don’t get me wrong: I still love my candle diffusers as much as the next girl. Just know that a eucalyptus reed diffuser isn’t going to do much for your stuffed-up nose.


Where to use scenting diffusers:

  • Reed diffusers are perfect for covering up gross smells with minimal effort (did somebody mention bathrooms?) or adding an awesome scent to places you pass through quickly, like hallways
  • Candle diffusers add a ton of ambience to rooms and work well in enclosed spaces like reading nooks


How to choose scenting diffusers:

  • Your reed diffuser solution should consist of base oil, alcohol, and 100% pure essential oils
  • The bottle opening should just be large enough for the reeds to fit through
  • Candle diffusers should have a deep, sturdy bowl with room for lots of water
  • Look for diffusers whose bowl is no higher than six inches above the candle flame


How to care for scenting diffusers:

  • Feel free to remove reeds if you find the scent of your reed diffuser too strong, or flip them when you want an extra hit of scent
  • Replace your reeds when they start looking droopy and saturated
  • Never let your candle diffuser run out of water: it can crack the bowl
  • Between uses, give the water bowl a wipe-down with rubbing alcohol



 Smelling good and feeling better: nebulizing and ultrasonic diffusers

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: these suckers can get expensive.

When I worked in aromatherapy retail, I constantly had to explain why a piece of plastic the size of my head cost the same as a steak dinner.

Costs are coming down slowly due to increased demand, but the technology means that a high-quality nebulizing or ultrasonic diffuser can set you back over $80 before taxes.

Stay with me here, though. They’re so worth it.

Here are the benefits of both nebulizing and ultrasonic diffusers:

  • No heat is involved in the diffusion, allowing for more therapeutic benefit and a much cleaner scent
  • More essential oil is diffused, which means none of your precious oils are wasted
  • The oils are suspended in water vapour so that they drift and cover a wide area. They also stay in the air for longer instead of disappearing before they can be of any use to you  
  • The water vapour itself works as a mini humidifier; not enough to get you into trouble during damp winters, but enough to help when you’ve got a cold
  • The water vapour also collects on any dust or pollen in the air, weighing it down to the floor instead of letting it get into your lungs
  • It depends on the model, but the shortest time I’ve seen a full-sized diffuser run is for two to four hours – much easier than monitoring the water level of a candle diffuser
  • Feel free to use these guys while you sleep, since any high-quality diffuser will automatically shut off once its water runs out


Nebulizers vs ultrasonic diffusers: a very low-key throwdown

The difference between nebulizing and ultrasonic diffusers is how they operate. Nebulizers run by using vacuum suction to turn water and oils into a fine mist, while ultrasonic diffusers use vibrating metal discs to break up the oil into microparticles and turn it into a mist.

It’s a little confusing, and it’s not helped by the labeling used by most aromatherapy companies.

Luckily, it doesn’t matter that much.

I prefer ultrasonic diffusers over nebulizers due to the easily-absorbed microparticles, but both types of aromatherapy diffusers do the job and do it well.

They’re the best aromatherapy investment you can make.


Where to use nebulizing and ultrasonic diffusers:

  • Anywhere you spend a lot of time! Get it going, put a few drops of essential oil in, and you’re set for the day
  • The bedroom, where you can have it running with calming essential oils while you sleep


How to choose a nebulizing or ultrasonic diffuser:

  • Ask staff about how much space it covers in real terms (ignore the square footage stats set by the company, since those rarely translate to the real world)
  • Choose a diffuser made by a reliable company and be prepared to spend a little bit of cash in exchange for peace of mind and a warranty
  • Only focus on extra features (like timers) if you think you’ll use them regularly


How to care for your nebulizing or ultrasonic diffuser:

  • Read and follow the instruction manual, since it will trump all of my advice
  • Use purified water and never overfill the water basin
  • Use only pure, undiluted essential oils. Avoid thick, resinous oils (like benzoin or vetiver) unless they’ve been blended with thinner oils
  • Spray the basin with rubbing alcohol and wipe out after every use


What’s your favourite type of diffuser if you’ve tried any out? If you haven’t, which type are you excited about? Talk to me below!

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