Best Essential Oil Diffusers: Reviews & What I Use

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I’ve posted before about why we don’t use scented candles and what we use instead. One of my favorite alternatives is to use an essential oil diffuser, and many people asked what type of diffuser I use and recommend.

I’m not an herbalist or aromatherapy expert, but I have tried many types of diffusers and I wanted to share the pros and cons of the ones we’ve tried.

From my experience, not all diffusers are created equal and some work much better than others. I wish that I’d read a review like this before deciding which to purchase and I hope my experience will be helpful to you.

Benefits of Diffusing Essential Oils

So what does diffusing essential oils mean exactly, and why would you do it? Diffusers use various methods to disperse essential oil containing water droplets through the air in a fine continuous mist.

Far from being just a natural substitute for air freshener and nothing more, each type of essential oil contains powerful chemical properties (the “essence”) from its parent plant. These chemicals bind to our olfactory receptors (how we smell) and have an actual effect on our limbic system. These nerves in our brains control our hunger, emotions, anger, sleep, and more, so it makes sense diffusing oils can have a real effect.

There are a number of studies (plus a whole lot of anecdotal evidence) that diffusing essential oils can produce the following benefits, depending on the type of oil:

  • reduces stress
  • improves mental clarity
  • uplifts the mood
  • calms and promotes a sedative effect (useful before sleep)
  • purifies the air

In fact, essential oils are so much more than air fresheners that we need to be cautious about how we use them around our homes and our children.

Types of Essential Oil Diffusers

There are a few different types of essential oil diffusers which is one reason why narrowing down to the right one can feel a little overwhelming. The ones I’m aware of include:

  1. Nebulizer Diffusers
  2. Ultrasonic/Humidifying Diffusers
  3. Heat Diffusers
  4. Evaporative Diffusers

In addition to researching them, I’ve tried each type of diffuser and have learned what I like and what I don’t about each.

1. Heat Diffuser

A heat diffuser, as it sounds, uses heat to turn water with a few drops of essential oil into a gas that disperses into the air. These can be electric or use the heat of a candle/flame.

I have not found a heat diffuser that worked nearly as well as even the worst nebulizer or ultrasonic diffusers I’ve tried, so I can’t make any recommendations on these types of diffusers. Since heat affects the beneficial properties of the essential oils, I definitely don’t recommend this method for diffusing oils in general.

2. Evaporative Diffusers

These diffusers use a fan to increase airflow across an essential oil soaked pad or lining. As the liquid evaporates, the scent (and its properties) move into the air.

Another type of evaporative diffuser is diffuser pendant jewelry. The theory is that the essential oil will naturally evaporate and permeate the air and skin.

I don’t find this type of diffuser nearly as effective as the remaining two.

3. Nebulizing Diffusers

Nebulizing diffusers are often considered the most powerful type of diffusers, and with good reason. They do not need water or heat to get the essential oil into the air and they work by using an atomizer to create fine, airborne particles of essential oils and blowing them into the air.

If you can’t tell, nebulizing diffusers are my favorite type of diffuser. If anyone gets sick they can keep a near-continuous stream of essential oils in the air and can fill a room of many square feet.

Here’s my thought process and experience with this type of diffuser:

Pros:

  • Attaches directly to the bottle of essential oil and can be turned on with the flip of a switch
  • No water or set-up required
  • Strong concentration of essential oils released into the air
  • Timers control run time and rest time let you control how long it runs and provide an option other than continuous use
  • No light so they can be used at night, since we avoid night lights

Cons:

  • Noise level is louder than ultrasonic diffusers
  • Uses oils more quickly than ultrasonic or other diffusers since they attach directly to the diffuser
  • More expensive than most ultrasonic diffusers (though not by much)

We useThis Advanced Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser from Amazon. I’ve now saved up and ordered a couple of these because they work so well. Even just diffusing for 15 minutes will leave a lasting essential oil scent for hours.

4. Ultrasonic Diffusers

Ultrasonic diffusers work in a similar way to nebulizing diffusers by creating a fine mist. The difference is that ultrasonic diffusers use water and essential oils to create an ultrasonic cool mist of water/oils that releases into the air. They double as a humidifier, so they are beneficial in winter, but they don’t put out as strong of a concentration of essential oils since they also use water.

Note: It is not recommended to use citrus essential oils with this type of diffuser as they can cause the parts to erode.

Pros:

  • Less expensive than nebulizing diffusers
  • Doubles as a humidifier (beneficial in cold months)
  • Many options to choose from
  • Doesn’t use heat
  • Water tank has a large capacity

Cons:

  • Can’t use citrus essential oils
  • Need water to operate
  • Must be cleaned occasionally
  • Some have lights that can’t be turned off
  • Not as effective as nebulizing diffusers

What we use: Several different types of ultrasonic diffusers and I’ve found that some work better than others. These were our favorites:

  • The Noor Litemist Aromatherapy Diffuser – This simple cone-shape design diffuses for several hours and has an option to turn the light on or off for night time use. (Just please don’t use any LED color-changing lights at night… here’s why!)
  • The Allay Litemist Diffuser – Very similar and slightly cheaper than the Noor Litemist, but it doesn’t seem to have a way to turn off the light which makes it unusable at night (for us).
  • Everlasting Comfort – Their wood diffuser has great reviews and is one of my favorite to look at. It has a 400mL tank that can provide you with over 13 hours of diffusion but also has a timer so you can choose how long you need it on. Use code wellnessmama for 10% off.
  • Car Diffuser – I’ve tried smaller models but got tired of repeatedly filling their tiny water reservoirs! This one does take up a cupholder but I like the intermittent/constant control and the sleek design.

Other Ways to Freshen Indoor Air

Essential oils are a great way to freshen indoor air with natural scents but they are definitely not the only way! We keep our indoor air clean naturally with:

Bottom Line: Choosing an Aroma Essential Oil Diffuser

Essential oils may seem like mix-and-match perfumes, but in reality they are powerful essences from plants with medicinal effects. I think using a diffuser is a great step, but urge everyone to do their homework. If you have a family, make sure to diffuse only kid-safe essential oil blends and take breaks by buying a model with controlled mist settings.

This article was medically reviewed by Madiha Saeed, MD, a board certified family physician. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Have you ever used a diffuser? What did you like or not like about it? Share below!

A comparison of the most popular essential oil diffuser types: ultrasonic diffusers, nebulizing diffusers, heat and evaporation diffusers and others.

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

249 responses to “Best Essential Oil Diffusers: Reviews & What I Use”

  1. Kristy Young Avatar
    Kristy Young

    So confused. I read an essential oil book that told me to use a “cold air diffuser.” So I purchased a Mini360 SL Aroma Diffuser thinking that I could put my essential oils into it. But now that I’ve gotten it, I have to purchase the essential oil based bottles that go with this machine. What do you think? Are these healthy for our family? Good purchase or not? Should I purchase the aroma bottles for this machine or send it back? I had not even heard of a cold air diffuser until that book and now I can use them it what I bought. Ugh

          1. Samuel Avatar

            Hi! I know this is an older article and comment thread, but my wife and I were trying to find a diffuser made in the USA for obvious reasons. I tried looking up the Aroma World you mentioned, can’t find it. Can you provide a link please? Thank you!!!

  2. Shannon Gongora Avatar
    Shannon Gongora

    Hi Katie, thank you for the article. I just bought the Two Scents Nebulizer Essential Oil Diffuser. I bought it because it is USB chargeable, quiet, automatic shut off when reservoir is low, not bad looking and has adjustable listing levels. I have not received it yet and this will be my first time using a Nebulizer. Are you familiar with this product? I read about it in a different article that reviewed Nebulizers and the only negative per that review was it went through an excessively high amount of essential oil. I would appreciate any insight.

  3. Nancy Chenier Avatar
    Nancy Chenier

    I know this is an older post, but you might want to update. Many nebulizers can’t take thick resinous EOs as thicker oils clog the mechanism.

    Yes, I should have done more homework before investing in the nebulizer because I LOVE blending citrus with woodsy oils. For me ultrasonic is a better option because at least I can use both oils in it (albeit with more cleaning).

    I know you favor nebulizers, but you really should add another con to them, especially if you list citrus as an ultrasonic “con”. It would help those of us who enjoy our thick resins.

  4. Tayler Avatar

    Hi! I recently bought the nebulizer that you recommended on Amazon, but since then I have read information on other websites about nebulizers being too strong for young children. I am wondering what your thoughts are on this, and if you have any recommendations for books on essential oil safety around babies/toddlers/breastfeeding moms, etc. I have bought several organic oils from Plant Therapy and the nebulizer, but I have not used them at all because I feel so unclear on what the guidelines are for young children. Just looking to gain some clarify and confidence so I can get started. 🙂

  5. Kelly Sinkey Avatar
    Kelly Sinkey

    I see that you really like the quality oils from Plant Therapy which I plan to try very soon. Just wondering if you have used their AromaFuse diffuser and what you’re thoughts are regarding this. Thanks for all the great info!

  6. Susan Avatar

    I love that diffuser! Its simple design is what appeals to me most. I have been using essential oils from Bulk Apothecary and I can really feel the difference in my mood when I use it. Thanks for the great post.

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