How To Use A Diffuser with Essential Oils: The Ultimate Guide

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Essential oil diffusers are everywhere these days. These small, easy-to-use devices make it is possible to reap the benefits of traditional aromatherapy from the comfort of your own home – and make the place smell wonderful at the same time!

Aromatherapy is a really effective way to treat anxiety, stress, depression, sleeplessness and even fatigue.

Plus, diffusing essential oils is a great way to make your home smell amazing, without any questionable artificial fragrance ingredients.

Keep reading to find out how you can get the most out of your home diffuser and which essential oils you can use for your particular needs.

We’ll discuss the simple science behind how diffusers work, which brands offer the best quality and value, and why you should treat yourself to an essential oil diffuser today.

What does a Diffuser Do?

Essential oil diffusers use different methods (heat, evaporation, nebulization, and ultrasonic waves) to diffuse essential oils into the atmosphere.

The essential oils each have different properties which affect mood, energy levels, the immune system, the nasal passages and mindset.

The oils also each have amazing scents which fill the room making it smell delicious whilst also helping to get rid of any bad odours that may be lingering. 

We’ll mainly focus on ultrasonic diffusers as they are my personal favorite style and are becoming the most popular choice for customers and users world wide.

However, I will talk about the other varieties of diffusers that are available so that you can decide which style is best for your needs.

How Does an Ultrasonic Diffuser Work?

The science behind ultrasonic diffusers is very simple. These units use a combination of water and ultrasonic waves to spread essential oil particles around the room.

Each diffuser has a metal plate that sits at the bottom of a small water reservoir. When the unit is switched on this plate vibrates on an ultrasonic level, creating tiny waves in the water.

These waves cause the droplets of essential oil to break apart, so that tiny particles of oil can be infused into the water and released as mist through a small hole in the diffuser lid. 

From the outside, all you see is a constant stream of fine mist rising from the hole in the diffuser lid and dispersing into the air.

The unit does not visibly shake or rattle because the vibrations of the plate are so minute. The only sound that the unit makes is the sound of the steam escaping through the hole.

What are the Advantages of Ultrasonic Diffusers?

  • Ultrasonic diffusers are the most popular and commonly used type of diffusers today. I prefer them and use them in my home daily. They are safe, portable, versatile, long-lasting, and incredibly effective.
  • They use a combination of water and vibrations to create ultrasonic waves through which the essential oils are diffused into the air.
  • These diffusers do not use heat to diffuse the essential oils, which is very important because heat damages the oil’s molecular structure and reduces its potency and benefits.
  • By using ultrasonic vibrations instead of heat, these diffusers allow the oil particles to remain unchanged and intact to get the maximum benefits out of them.
  • The fact that you add the essential oil to water is another advantage of these diffusers. Although undiluted oil is more potent, its potency cannot be adjusted to personal taste and preference.
  • With ultrasonic diffusers, the intensity of the oil depends on the number of droplets you use and can therefore be changed and modified.

What are the Disadvantages of Ultrasonic Diffusers?

  • One downside to ultrasonic diffusers is keeping the water basin filled for the unit to work. This is only a small matter, but it does mean that some upkeep and refilling are required.

How to Use an Ultrasonic Diffuser: a Step by Step Guide

Step 1. Choose your diffuser’s position

It may sound obvious, but choosing the right spot to place your diffuser can really impact its effectiveness. The location that you settle on will depend largely on what you are using your diffuser for.

If you want to circulate scent around the room, choosing a high shelf is a good idea as the height will allow the particles to travel further and reach all corners of the space.

If you are wanting to have a more intense aromatherapy session, perhaps pairing your aromatherapy with meditation or yoga, then pick a place closer to your personal level so that you can get a more concentrated inhalation.

I personally love to set my diffuser on my coffee table where the particles can spread easily about the room and I have easy access to a wall socket. It is important that your diffuser sits on a flat and stable surface in order to avoid unwanted spillages and mess.

It is also important that your diffuser is positioned close to a plug socket and that the wire is not stretched and taught as this can create a trip hazard. 

Step 2. Fill your Diffuser’s Water Reservoir

Next, pour a small amount of water into the diffuser’s reservoir. This water can be tap water in most cases, although some diffusers will specify that you should use filtered.

There will be a water line indicated inside the basin and it is best not to exceed this amount.

Adding less water can result in a more potent fragrance, however, you should bear in mind that the more water you use the longer the diffuser can run, so adding more initially will mean less topping up.

Step 3. Add a few Drops of Essential Oil to the Water

Now that your reservoir has water, you can add the essential oil. Make sure to choose the appropriate oil for your particular purpose (more on this later) and then add only a few drops at a time.

Two drops of oil will deliver a subtle aroma, but you can add as many as 6-10 drops for a more intense experience.

If you are new to diffusers and aromatherapy, use fewer drops to begin with, and you can build up the intensity as you become more used to the effects.

Step 4. Place the Lid on the Diffuser

This is a small but vital step in the process as the diffuser will not be effective without its lid on.

The lid must be positioned correctly so that the mist can only escape through the tiny hole in its center. If it is not placed correctly, the diffuser will not build enough pressure to create the fine mist.

Step 5. Switch on the Power

Now you are ready to switch the power on at the plug socket and then press the power button on the unit itself.

The diffuser will begin to work immediately, although the ultrasonic vibrations are so tiny that you will not notice them. The mist will start to rise after a few moments, and then you can sit back and relax.

Step 6. Switch Off and Empty your Diffuser

Once you are finished, you should switch your diffuser off, first on the unit itself and then at the main outlet. Pour any remaining water that is still in the reservoir down the sink.

Step 7. Clean your Diffuser

It is an excellent idea to clean your diffuser gently after use as this will prevent the metal plate from becoming dirty and damaged and remove any residual oil for future use.

To clean your diffuser, gently wipe the interior of the basin with a damp tissue or cloth and brush the metal plate with a soft cleaning brush to remove residue. Leave the diffuser to air dry.

What Essential Oils are Best?

There are a wide variety of excellent essential oils available today, and each of them can be used for different purposes.

My go-to brand for essential oils is Plant Therapy. They produce high-quality oils, have a huge selection, and are reasonably priced.

I particularly love their kid-safe essential oil line, which are all formulated with the sensitive bodies of kids in mind.

When deciding which essential oils to use in your home diffuser, you can look at what effect you are hoping to achieve and your personal scent preferences. Some popular essential oils for diffusing are:

  • Lavender Oil: calming, relaxing, good for sleep, reducing stress, anxiety, restlessness and sadness
  • Peppermint Oil: concentration, focus, mental fatigue, alertness, respiratory support, seasonal allergies, headaches, refreshing aroma
  • Lemon Oil: energizing, uplifting, detoxifying, purifying, cleansing,  deodorizing, 
  • Frankincense Oil: meditation, yoga, spiritual awareness, balancing, lifting spirits, improving focus, anxiety, 
  • Grapefruit Oil: uplifting, balancing, reduce food cravings,  enhances mood, relieves anxiety, tension, stress, 
  • Eucalyptus Oil: nasal congestion, breathing discomfort, respiratory ailments, bug bites, insect repellent, 
  • Sweet Orange Oil: improves mood, calms anxiety, uplifting, digestion, natural detoxifier

I keep my favorite aromatherapy book close by when I’m looking for an oil for a particular purpose. It is a great resource!

You can also use your essential oils for other things, like making your own beauty products. A little bottle of lavender will go a long way, and you’ll be amazed at how many uses you’ll find for it.

essential oils for lip balm

I love to a good essential oil blend as well, which is a synergistic combination of multiple oils to achieve a desired effect. A few of my favorite blends are:

Calming the Child – this blend is kid-friendly, has a calming effect, and smells divine. It’s citrus-forward with lavender and chamomile and is a staple in our house. Plus, anything that helps calm a crazy kid is a winner in my book.

Citrus Burst – you can’t go wrong with a great citrus blend, IMO. Citrus oils are great for diffusing: they help clean the air, get rid of any foul odors and can be energizing as well. This is my favorite blend for new oil users because it is so versatile and is a universally appealing scent, and I’ve gifted it several times.

Germ Fighter – everyone should have a go-to oil for when germs hit your house. This version does the trick. It is a strong smelling, cinnamon forward oil, but it has a wonderful scent and really does a great job. We also like the kid-safe version, which doesn’t contain the hot oils like cinnamon and eucalyptus.

What is the Difference Between a Diffuser and an Air Freshener?

Essential oil diffusers are a natural way to freshen your space while also experiencing some of the benefits of aromatherapy.

Standard store-bought air fresheners contain various chemicals and are scented with artificial fragrance. So not only are you breathing in potentially unsafe chemicals, but you miss out on the aromatherapy benefits.

You only receive aromatherapy benefits when you use pure essential oils, and you won’t find that in any store-bought air freshener sprays or plug-ins.

Of course, essential oils do not only smell better than artificial fragrances but are also far better for your physical and mental well-being.

You also have more control over the amount of scent distributed with an essential oil diffuser since you get to decide how much oil you put in.

Sometimes standard air fresheners can be pretty strong, and lots of people that are sensitive to smells may find them off-putting. I know since I started using essential oils more than 15 years ago, I find my nose doesn’t respond kindly to artificial fragrances!

Sure, you’re less likely to find a summer breeze, fresh linen, or sweet strawberry scent in an essential oil, but there are plenty of fabulous scents and blends available to enjoy.

Why buy an essential oil diffuser?

There are many ways to enjoy the smell of essential oils. You can add droplets to your bath, put a few droplets on your pillow at night, have a few droplets on a handkerchief in your pocket, and even add some to a bowl of hot, steaming water and cover your head with a towel to do an inhalation.

Did you know that none of these methods diffuse the essential oils? To diffuse the oils means to break them into tiny particles that can be carried into the air.

Diffusers actually encourage tiny particles of the oils to be carried out into the air so you are not simply smelling the oils but actively inhaling them.

Ultrasonic diffusers can be plugged in and used anywhere that there is a power socket, and they can be refilled and reused time and time again, so they do not run out like other home fragrancing options.

Candles and diffuser sticks have a far shorter shelf life than ultrasonic diffusers. In addition, candles are often scented with artificial fragrances.

Ultrasonic diffusers are small enough to fit in a travel case and take with you wherever you may go, and they are low maintenance and easy to clean.

They continue to diffuse until they run out of water or are switched off, so you can fill your home with essential oils for as long or as short a time as you wish.

They are also incredibly versatile because one diffuser can be used with any essential oil. You can even create your own unique, essential oil blends if you feel inventive.

ultrasonic essential oil diffuser

What Type of Diffuser is Best?

There are several different styles of diffuser to choose from, and they all work in slightly different ways. We’ve already covered my favorite type of diffuser, the ultrasonic diffuser. The best kind of diffuser for you may be different, so let’s go over the other choices.

The types of diffuser include:

Nebulizer diffusers

  • Nebulizer diffusers use a concentrated pressurized air stream to diffuse essential oils into the atmosphere. The effect can be potent, so these diffusers should be used for no longer than an hour at a time. These are the top choice for serious aromatherapy enthusiasts who are willing to spend a little extra to get a more concentrated and powerful release of essential oils.
  • An advantage of this diffuser style is that no heat or water is required, making the units less messy and very safe. The specially designed nozzle and chamber for nebulizer diffusers are made from glass, making these diffusers better for the environment. 
  • The downside to nebulizer diffusers is that they use up a more significant amount of oil with each use and therefore cost more to run. The concentration of scent is also hard to adjust because the oils are not diluted
  • . Nebulizers tend to be a little noisier than other diffusers, and they do not add humidity to the air as there is no water element involved. If you live in a humid environment, this could be a good thing; however, if you like to add mist and moisture to the air, then a nebulizer diffuser isn’t for you.

Passive diffusers

  • Passive diffusers are rocks, ceramics, reeds, and other natural surfaces that give off natural aromas without any help from heat or air. They generally give off a less powerful scent but tend to last longer. 
  • The advantage of passive diffusers lies in their hands-free functionality. Anyone worried about spillages or having to refill water reservoirs will love the simplicity of these passive diffusers. They can be left on a shelf and continuously diffuse essential oils into the air without needing any power supply, maintenance, or interaction.
  • They are often more subtle and therefore very safe to have around children and pets, and they make beautiful decorations if you choose the right ones.
  • Passive diffusers are great for small spaces, like a bathroom or a car.
  • The most common example of a passive diffuser is a reed diffuser, which can be far cheaper than buying an electrical unit. To use essential oils in a reed diffuser, add a carrier oil and essential oil of your choosing to the diffuser container, place the reeds in and let them do their magic.
  • I love these ceramic diffusers for their small footprint, ease of use, and subtle effect.
  • The disadvantage of passive diffusers is that they cannot be switched off, and the intensity of the fragrance cannot be altered to suit personal preference. They are typically much more subtle than an ultrasonic or nebulizer diffuser.

Heat-driven diffusers

  • Heat-driven diffusers involve no water instead of heating the oil directly so that it evaporates into the air.
  • This is one of the oldest and most traditional methods of diffusing, used for centuries by different cultures and religions.
  • When heat is applied to the oils directly, either in the form of an open flame held to a small amount of liquid oil or as an oil-infused candle burns down, the particles evaporate and are released into the atmosphere.
  • The advantage of heat-driven diffusers is that the addition of the flame (candle or tealight most often) can be very calming and therapeutic. These diffusers are ornamental and practical, and they are a favorite among traditionalists and those who love to add a bit of ritual to their aromatherapy practice. The diffusers can be stopped simply by blowing out the flame or switching off the heat source.
  • The disadvantage of these heat-driven diffusers is that they are slightly messier and involved to use. If you are not comfortable lighting candles, this might not be the best option. Some people also find these diffusers a safety hazard and choose not to use them around children.
  • A vital downside to note is that the application of heat can change the molecular makeup of essential oils and lessen their potency and benefits. Citrus oils are a great example of this – they are heat sensitive, and many of their essential properties can be destroyed through heating. If you choose to use a heat diffuser for your essential oils, I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the properties of the oils you plan to diffuse, so you can make sure to get their full benefits. This aromatherapy book is a great place to start.

Fan Diffusers

  • Fan diffusers gently spread the fragrance of essential oils around your room by blowing air through a fabric pad infused with essential oil. You add as many droplets of oil onto the pad as you wish and let them absorb into the fibers, then place the pad inside the diffuser and switch on the power. A fan activates, and scented air begins to circulate about the room.
  • The advantage of fan diffusers is that they tend to be a more affordable option than other diffusers. There is no heat or water needed, so they are straightforward and mess-free to run. They can be switched on and off as you wish, and the intensity of the oil can be altered by adding more or fewer droplets to the fabric pad.
  • The disadvantage of fan diffusers is the noise that they make. Many people find that the humming of the fan counteracts the calming effects of the oils, and the noise can be distracting when plugged in at the office or in a working environment.

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