Diffusers are used to disperse essential oils into the air, spreading their aroma and health benefits into the surrounding area. Depending on the type of diffuser you use, will determine how much of an area is covered, and how small the essential oil particles break up into (the smaller they break up, the easier they can be absorbed into the skin). Not only do diffusers allow you to benefit from the antiseptic, anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties of the oils, but also allow for them to be inhaled, helping with emotional well-being (diffusing different essential oils have different benefits).
When first purchasing an essential oil diffuser, it can be intimidating – there are so many different ones available on the market today and you might find yourself asking, “Which type do I get?” “How much should I spend?” In this article, I will be discussing the most common types of essential oil diffusers (including a couple different ones for when you are on-the-go) and outline the pros & cons of the different styles.
NEBULIZER (aka ATOMIZER) DIFFUSERS
Nebulizers (also known as atomizers) are the most powerful type of diffuser. They do not require water or heat to disperse essential oils into the air; they use an atomizer to break up the oils into fine, particles that are vaporized and become airborne particles. Using a nebulizer can quickly disperse a strong concentration of the connected essential oil to allow for quick exposure to the therapeutic benefits. Because one essential oil bottle connects directly to this type of diffuser and has a constant stream of air running, nebulizers are generally louder than other types of diffusers (like ultrasonic diffusers) and definitely use oil at a higher rate. However, nebulizers usually have a timer that you can set so that oils are dispersed for 15 minutes every hour (or a comparable time frame). And, it’s important to note what type of oils you will be using because some models cannot effectively diffuse heavier, thicker oils (such as Sandalwood or Patchouli) and can be harder to clean.
ULTRASONIC & HUMIDIFIER DIFFUSERS
Ultrasonic diffusers (also known as humidifier diffusers) are similar to nebulizers because they too, create a fine mist and release micro-particles of the essential oils into the air. The main difference between the two is that a nebulizer only uses air and ultrasonic diffusers use water as well. With an ultrasonic diffuser, a tiny disc under the surface of the water vibrates, creating electronic frequencies that break the oils up into micro-particles, that are then dispersed with the water into the air. Because ultrasonic diffusers use water, the oil concentration that is released into the air is not as potent as it is when using a nebulizer. Some would not recommend using citrus essential oils with this type of diffuser because it can cause parts of it to erode (however, with proper care this can be prevented).
Ultrasonic diffusers are great for in home diffusion because they typically require less oil than a nebulizer, run quietly, can cover a large room (different models can cover more or less square feet) and because no heat is used in the diffusion process, the therapeutic effects are not destroyed.
Evaporative diffusers are very basic in how they work. Often times, a fan blows on a pad or filter with some drops of essential oils, quickly spreading the aroma into the air. While this diffusion method is great for quickly spreading the scent of the oil, it also diminishes any therapeutic properties the diffusing oils might have. This is because some of the lighter oils (i.e. citrus) will evaporate faster than heavier oils. Because not all components of all the oils evaporate at the same time, the therapeutic benefits are lost.
Compared to other types of diffusers, these are more effective for personal use in an office, in the car, or when traveling. Other types of evaporative diffusers include terra-cotta clay pendants, glass pendants, and personal inhalers.
ELECTRIC HEAT DIFFUSERS
Electric heat diffusers gently heat the oil to disperse the aroma into the room. Diffusers that use a heat source tend to make the essential oils evaporate quickly, which can produce a stronger smell, however high levels of heat tend to alter the chemical properties of the essential oils and can destroy the therapeutic benefits. Heat diffusers are totally silent and are great if you are mainly concerned with spreading an oil’s aroma, and not their therapeutic benefits. They are great for covering larger areas, and can also disperse the fragrance of thicker oils (like Sandalwood or Patchouli).
Candle diffusers are generally ceramic or metal and use a tea light candle to heat the essential oil so that it can diffuse into the room. The diffuser has an opening or space where the candle fits below a tray where essential oil is put. Candle diffusers are inexpensive and do not require electricity or batteries, but like other heat diffusion methods, the heat from the candle may destroy the therapeutic benefits of the oils.
LAMP RING DIFFUSERS
Lamp rings are an inexpensive option, typically made out of terra-cotta clay or brass. Lamp rings are shaped like a ring and have a grooved lip that goes all the way around (which holds the essential oil. They set directly onto a standard light bulb and the heat from the bulb gently diffuses the oil into the room. Like other diffusion methods that use heat, the heat emitted may destroy certain properties of the oils, and diminish the therapeutic benefit. (Lamp rings will not work with odd-sized bulbs, and if any essential oils got onto the light bulb, it could break.)