Essential Oil Diffuser Guide

Whether you're a beginner looking for the easiest way to incorporate essential oils into your routine or an experienced user who wants to experiment with oils in a new way, an essential oil diffuser is a must-have product. A diffuser is easy to use, is portable and can help you get aromatic benefits from your essential oils with just a few drops. In this guide, we cover how essential oil diffusers work, safety considerations, best practices for use and tips on how to choose the best one for your needs.

Essential Oil Diffuser: What Is It?

An essential oil diffuser is a key tool in any aromatherapy practice and a staple for every home. It's a way to disperse the fragrance of essential oils into the air so that you can inhale the calming scent of Lavender essential oil or refresh your kitchen or bathroom by diffusing the clean scent of Lemon essential oil. It's the perfect way to experiment with new oils for those who may be sensitive to topical applications, while still providing all of the many benefits of aromatherapy [1].

How does an essential oil diffuser work?

Essential oil diffusers work by creating a steam vapour that is scented with the essential oil, or blend, of your choosing. Some diffusers have you add a few drops of the essential oil to the water itself. Others have absorbent scent pads where you apply the essential oils. With both of these types of diffusers, the scent of the essential oil ends up in the steam, which isn't hot and doesn't pose a risk of burning. The steam is then dispersed into the room.

What does an essential oil diffuser do?

Simply put, an essential oil diffuser takes a few drops of essential oil and disperses it into a fragrant steam that is then released through the top or side of the diffuser. It allows you to get the inhalation and aromatic benefits of essential oils without having to apply them topically. Essential oil aromatherapy in this manner may be effective in promoting overall feelings of well-being [2] for a more satisfying lifestyle.

Can I use a diffuser as a humidifier?

Diffusers and cool mist humidifiers work in similar ways, but they aren't always interchangeable. Adding essential oils to the water in a regular humidifier can void the warranty. Oils should only be used if the manual says they're safe for that humidifier, and all instructions should be followed. A diffuser can add more humidity to the air, but it doesn't always output enough steam to make a noticeable difference.

Choosing a Diffuser

Diffusers come in many different styles, with variations in construction materials, shape, size, level of output and price. When you're choosing a diffuser for your space, it's important to take into consideration factors such as:

  • Where you plan to use the diffuser
  • Whether you will use it in one dedicated space or want to be able to move it around
  • The size of your space
  • How it needs to be cleaned
  • Your budget

Are all essential oil diffusers the same?

While all diffusers have the same purpose of creating fragrant mist or cool steam and dispersing it into your space, some models may work differently or offer more functionality. Here are a few of Young Living's most popular diffusers and their benefits:


  • USB Orb™ Diffuser. Designed with convenience and portability in mind, this diffuser is perfect for packing in your briefcase or backpack for on-the-go diffusing. It can diffuse your favourite oils for up to 4.5 hours and has a convenient spill-proof design.

  • Desert Mist Diffuser. This full-size diffuser can deliver up to 8 hours of continuous diffusing on Low mode; and its High setting is suitable for larger rooms that need a higher level of output. This model also has several light settings, including a flickering mode designed to mimic candlelight to help promote a soothing atmosphere.

  • Aria™ Ultrasonic Diffuser. This remote-controlled model blends modern and traditional aesthetics, with an adjustable glass dome and a solid maple base. Its functionality includes pre-set relaxing sound options and the ability to connect to your device to access your playlists.

  • Rainstone™ Diffuser. This diffuser is designed to work with mineral or tap water and is made of a rare purple clay from China. It has automatic settings for how long you want to diffuse and includes a remote for more personalized control.

  • Dewdrop™ Home Diffuser. A great entry model for those just getting started with diffusing essential oils, the Dewdrop™ Home Diffuser has ambient light control and an automatic shutoff.

How to Use an Essential Oil Diffuser

When you're ready to use your essential oil diffuser, make sure to read all the package instructions and follow the directions for adding water and oil carefully. It's also important to note any instructions as far as maximum run time or whether oils should be added directly to the water or placed on a scent pad. Below, we've answered some commonly asked questions about how to use an essential oil diffuser when you're getting started.

How many drops of essential oil do you use in a diffuser?

The number of drops of essential oil you use in a diffuser depends on the well capacity, which is how much water the diffuser is designed to hold, and individual oil label directions. Most full-size diffusers can accommodate anywhere between 5 and 12 drops of essential oil in a full well, but travel-size or mini models may just need 1 or 2 drops. Scent pad diffusers, such as Young Living's Car Vent Diffuser, only need 2 to 3 drops of oil.

Where should I put my essential oil diffuser?

You can put your essential oil diffuser virtually anywhere you want to add a bit of fragrance and style to your space. If you're using a diffuser around pets or children, make sure to diffuse in an open, well-ventilated space.

How long do essential oils last in a diffuser?

The essential oils will last as long as it takes for the well to run out of water. Even after that, the scent of the oil often lingers for quite some time in the air. This is one reason it's important to use the smallest amount of essential oil that provides the desired level of fragrance and benefits.

Can I use tap water in my diffuser?

Depending on the type of diffuser you are using, you may be able to use water straight from the tap. The Dewdrop and Rainstone diffuser models can take tap water. Always check the instructions on your diffuser before adding water, as some diffusers may get buildup that can hamper use with tap water, particularly if the water in your area is known to be high in minerals.

Should I use distilled water in my diffuser?

Yes, you can use distilled water in your diffuser. Many diffusers specifically state that they can only be used with distilled, purified or filtered water, but using distilled water is also safe for a diffuser that can use tap water unless otherwise specified.

How to Clean a Diffuser

Cleaning your diffuser is an important part of regular maintenance to ensure that it stays working at its best and you get the longest product life from it. An important step in diffuser maintenance that is often forgotten is to always clean your diffuser when you change which oils you are using. If you don't, the oils from the previous use could mix with the oils from the current use, which can prevent you from getting the aromatic profile and benefits you're looking for.

How do I clean my diffuser?

How to clean your diffuser will depend on the type of diffuser and the model. There should be cleaning instructions in the booklet that accompanies the diffuser. In general, cleaning a diffuser involves emptying it of any remaining water, wiping out and rinsing the water reservoir well to remove any oil residue and then letting it air-dry before the next use. It's not generally advised to use any type of chemical cleaner in your diffuser.

Diffuser Safety Tips and Considerations

Whenever you are using essential oils, be it topically or diffusing, be sure to adhere to best practices for safety. Always read and follow label instructions for your essential oil as well as for the diffuser you are using. Some common questions regarding essential oil diffusing safety are answered below.

How long should I diffuse oils?

How long you should diffuse an oil depends in part on which oils you are using, how big your space is and the output of your diffuser. Some very basic oils like Lemon and Peppermint may be able to be diffused for longer amounts of time at low levels of output, but the general recommendations are to limit diffusing sessions to 30-60 minutes, depending on the oil. More intense oils such as Eucalyptus may need to be limited to 20-30 minutes per session. If you feel the scent is too intense or have any negative reactions or side effects, stop diffusing the oil and take a break.

Can you leave a diffuser on overnight?

While it's not recommended to diffuse essential oils overnight, you could leave a diffuser with plain water going overnight to help humidify the air. Make sure it has a large enough reservoir to continue diffusing for that length of time. Some diffuser models also have sound or light functions that can be helpful at night.

Can diffusing essential oils be harmful?

Essential oils are natural products, but they can be very powerful. For most people, essential oils are a safe way to support an overall healthy lifestyle [3], but certain safety aspects should be taken into consideration. If you have allergies to any type of oil or flower, it's important to avoid that essential oil, blends that may contain that oil and plants in the same family. For example, if you are allergic to daisies, chamomile may also be a trigger substance for you [4]. If you have any kind of medical issue or are on prescription medications, you should check with a health care provider who is familiar with essential oils before adding them to your routine. Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also exercise caution when using certain essential oils, especially in the first trimester [5]. If you are using a new oil, always patch test it topically on the forearm or other easily accessible area to check for any skin irritation or other reactions.

Can I diffuse oils around children and pets?

The benefits of aromatherapy can extend to children [6] and pets, but it's important to keep in mind their more sensitive systems. When diffusing essential oils around children and pets, limit diffusing times to 20 to 30 minutes per session. It's also a good idea to diffuse in an area that pets or children can leave if the scent gets too intense. If you're interested in using essential oils around children or pets, Young Living's KidScents™ and Animal Scents™ line are specifically formulated for this use.

Conclusion

Adding an essential oil diffuser to your home can be a great way to expand your aromatherapy practice and experience your favourite oils in a new way. Consider your diffusing needs to choose the right model for your household, and remember to observe all safety and use instructions.