7 Types of Diffusers: A Comprehensive Guide - Whole Home Scenting


7 Types of Diffusers: Your Comprehensive Guide to Different Types of Essential Oil Diffusers

White and purple flower plant on brown wodden surface

If you are new to the world of essential oils and fragrance oils, just a little research will have you feeling overwhelmed with all the possible choices of oils and diffusers. Choosing the right diffuser is often a top priority for people, but it can be difficult to wade through all the information available and find one that meets your needs. After all, not all diffusers or oils are made equal. Each one has a purpose and can be used in various ways. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about diffusers, from the different types to how they work and everything in between.

The Basics of Diffusers

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the essential oil & fragrance oil world and the fine details of owning a fragrance oil diffuser, we need to go over the basics so you have a thorough understanding of what diffusers are. Without further ado, let us start with the question of what is a diffuser?

A diffuser creates a way for essential oils to be spread throughout your space, whether it is a single room or your entire house. It can be used for aromatherapy, providing a clean scent to the air, helping to rejuvenate your mind and many other things. However, there are several different types to choose from.

Essential Oil and Fragrance Oil Facts

Two clear glass bottles with liquids

This guide is about the types of diffusers you can use, but it is necessary to include a brief section about fragrance oils and essential oils simply because they are the reason to have a diffuser. These oils are most commonly associated with aromatherapy and have been around for thousands of years. Generally, the discovery and first use of these oils is attributed to the ancient Egyptians who used them beginning in 2000 B.C. However, records show that India also used oils in 2000 B.C. and China records the first use of them in 2700 B.C. Other areas, including Rome, Greece and Europe, also contributed to the development and spread of essential oils.

Now, any user of essential oils and fragrance oils finds out right off the bat that there are many different choices. These are some of the most common types of oils that can be placed in an aromatherapy diffuser:

  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Peppermint
  • Tea tree
  • Eucalyptus
  • Frankincense
  • Sweet orange
  • Lemongrass

You can put a single scent or a combination of oils into diffusers. In fact, there are many books that explain how oils can be combined and how many drops of each oil should be used for a particular result.

Learn how to choose the right fragrance for every room in your home or more about the differences between fragrance oil vs essential oil.

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Various Types

Now that you know the basics of diffusers and essential oils, let us talk about the different varieties you will encounter. When you first begin looking, it appears like there is a virtually endless amount of essential oil diffuser types you can find. Let us take an in-depth look at some of the common types of diffusers so you can find out about the different options, how they work, how long they can last and how you should take care of them so they operate effectively.

Reed Diffusers

Close up of air freshener
With this type, wooden sticks, or reeds, are placed into a bottle of the fragrance oil or essential oil. Then, the oil travels up the reed from the bottom and the scent is then released into the air when it reaches the top. Reed diffusers last as long as there is oil in the bottle. This oil diffuser does not produce a mist that is generally associated with diffusers and no heat, electricity, or water is used.

This is the option that requires the least amount of maintenance and is essentially always on. In terms of upkeep, you will want to use different reeds when changing scents or bottles. If you are using the same bottle for different oils, you will also want to clean out the bottles with mild dish soap and warm water.

While reed diffusers can be used in any type of room, they are best for smaller spaces simply because there is no agent that moves the scent around. By this, we mean there is no mist pushed into the air or a fan to spread the aroma. Therefore, the scent may be more isolated.

Nebulizer Diffusers

This essential oil diffuser is a great option if you want your lungs to reap more of the natural benefits essential oils offer. It works by breaking down the oil into separate molecules that can be dispersed more easily throughout a room and absorbed. The pump determines the speed of the molecule breakdown and the coverage area of the diffused scent.

However, cleaning certain nebulizer devices can be a little more complicated and time-consuming. The smaller pieces mean you need to take greater care when cleaning. You should also clean the pieces on a regular basis, as the essential oils can accumulate and even clog the pump and bottle (fragrance oils have a lower viscosity than most essential oils which is much less likely to create an issue in nebulizer devices), thereby inhibiting the effectiveness and work ability of the diffuser.Whole Home Fragrance System

We offer the Whole Home Scenting Diffuser. A Nebulizer diffuser that connects right into your home’s HVAC system, pushing the fragrance into every room of the house. The best part is it is much easier to use and maintain than other nebulizing diffusers out there.

Learn more about our Whole Home Scenting Diffuser.

Water Diffusers

Person putting finger on mist

This is the type most people are familiar with and is among the most affordable versions. These contain a basin that you fill with water and oils of choice. Then, ultrasonic waves diffuse the water and oil into the room with a wide dispersal range. Therefore, it may be ideal for larger rooms depending on the size of the device. This produces a mist and can also be used as a humidifier.

For this type of aromatherapy diffuser, smaller devices will have shorter run times and larger ones can last longer. That being said, many have timers that allow you to run them for one, two, four and eight hours. Others have the option to run it continuously, which is ideal if you wish to run it all night while you sleep. If you are worried about it running even when there is no water or oil in the basin, do not be. These machines usually have an automatic shutoff when the basin is empty.

As you use the oil diffuser and add different oils in, there can be a buildup of oil that can form a film in the water basin. Sometimes, this can cover the sensor that helps the machine operate and diffuse the solution. It is important to keep the basin clean so that it operates well.

Ideally, you will want to clean the basin whenever you change oils. For example, if you have primarily been using lavender and want to use lemon, you should clean out the inside.

5 reasons your home smells and how to fix them.

Be the best smelling house on the block.

Learn what makes the most memorable homes the best smelling. Follow these 5 steps so you can be confident your home can smell great too.

Fan-Style Diffusers

This is another option that does not use water. Instead, the oils are placed inside a fan diffuser unit, either on an absorbent pad or in a tray of some sort. Then, the fan gently blows across the oils and disperses the scent throughout the room. These come in a range of sizes and can be used for small rooms or the whole house.

In terms of longevity, it all depends. A small absorbent pad or tray will not last as long as large ones. Simultaneously, the amount of oil you put on the pad or tray plays a factor, as well. Generally speaking, when the scent begins to dissipate is when you should add more oil. Over time, you may discover how long the oil on the pad or tray lasts.

As for cleaning this type of aroma diffuser, if you are using reusable pads, you can wash them before re-using them. A tray can be wiped off with a little dish soap, warm water and a cloth.

Electric Heat Diffusers

This device looks similar to a teacup saucer with a slight indentation in the middle, which is where you place the oil. Then, the device heats up via electricity, warms the oil and spreads the scent around. The size of the device and room will determine how far the scent reaches. The scent will last as long as it takes to fully evaporate. If the scent dissipates, you will need to add more oil to the basin.

As a bonus, this type of oil diffuser is easy to clean. A soft cloth, warm water and mild soap can be used to wipe the basin and clean off any residue. This should be done whenever you see buildup and is a good idea to do when you change the oil you are using.

Candle Diffusers

This is similar to an electric heat diffuser, except it uses a candle as the heat source rather than electricity. The flame from the candle heats up the oil and diffuses the scent in the room. These come in a variety of designs and sizes, so you can find one that appeals to your decorating style and let it double as decor.

While this aroma diffuser does not use batteries or electricity, you need to ensure to change the candle once it burns all the way out and to use an unscented candle so you do not have conflicting scents. Diffusers that use candles as the heat source will work as long as a candle is present and burning, which is why it is essential to monitor the candle and replace it with a new one when necessary as a form of maintenance. The longevity of the scent also depends on the amount of oil in the basin.

You should clean out the oil diffuser basin whenever you change the oil scent that you use. This can be done with warm water and a cloth to gently remove any residue or oil that may be left in the basin.

If you’re using traditional candles to fragrance rooms in your house, consider switching to a diffuser instead.

Terracotta Diffusers

These are lovely clay bottles or pots that are usually closed with a cork to keep the oil inside. With these, the scent disperses when the oil permeates the clay or stone and then slowly releases into the room. However, because the method is natural and does not have any way to distribute the scent evenly, the aroma is strongest immediately after the oil is placed in the pot and disappears over time.

As the oils seep into the clay, it can be difficult to clean if you plan to change scents. As such, you may want to use different diffusers for different scents. However, if you want to use the same aromatherapy diffuser, you can carefully clean it.

First, the pot should be scrubbed with dish soap using a toothbrush or other soft bristle brush. Then, you can use a little vinegar and scrub the pot again. After you have rinsed it under running water for a few minutes, the pot needs to soak in clean water overnight. As a final step, it may take a few days to fully dry before you can add oil to it again.

Choosing the Right One

Purple cluster flowers

As you can see, the types you can choose from are different. Therefore, you should pick one that fits your purpose and performs according to your needs. The best oil diffuser for you is dependent on a handful of factors:

  • Type of room
  • Size of room
  • Run time
  • Type of power source
  • Type of material

Choosing the right diffuser depends on what you want it to do. If you want it to cover your whole house, there are units that can be installed and work with your HVAC system to spread the essential oil through the rooms. If you want it to add scent to your college dorm room, a smaller one would be ideal. If you are looking for something to keep on your desk at work, those that use reeds may be best.

You can also consider a Lampe Berger (catalytic burner).

Ultimately, the type you choose depends on the factors listed above. Once you identify the answers to those aspects, it will be much easier for you to choose the one that is right for you, and remember, diffuser saftey is important.

We Are Here To Answer Your Questions

Now you know about the different types available to you and how to use a diffuser. This guide was designed to help take some of the confusion and guesswork out of using diffusers so you can be prepared to step into the world of essential oils and fragrance oils confidently. Do you have more questions about essential oil diffusers or want to add scent to your whole home? Contact Arôme Homes today and we will happily help you learn more about oils and diffusers.

Photo credit: Chris F (diffuser), Pixabay (two reeds and flower), Monicore (reed in snow), Mareefe (two essential oil bottles), & Peter Fazekas (lavender)
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10 thoughts on “7 Types of Diffusers: Your Comprehensive Guide to Different Types of Essential Oil Diffusers”

    1. Natalie Sullivan

      Many factors go into how long a diffuser fragrance lasts which ultimately affects the overall cost. While many of the above-mentioned diffusers will do a good job scenting small areas of your home, we’ve found that a diffuser that can scent your entire home (and doesn’t have to be refilled as often) is the best option when considering longevity and price. Here at Whole Home Scenting, we’ve made it our mission to create products that do just that. Thank you!

  1. During this pandemic time, is there a diffuser that is better for use with helping respiratory recovery and eucalyptus oil?

    1. Natalie Sullivan

      Hi there!

      Great question! Using a nebulizing diffuser would be the best option to consider because it doesn’t dilute the essential oil and therefore keeping it’s integrity and the health benefits. Eucalyptus oil has been said to be a great decongestant and helps with respiratory wellness, it would be a great oil to diffuse in your home during this pandemic. Thanks!

  2. I was looking at some oil descriptions and it mentioned being thicker than most. Are some diffusers better for thicker oils? (Jasmine, Sandalwood, Vanilla are the ones I was looking at.)

    1. Natalie Sullivan

      Hi there! You will need to be careful using thicker oils with a nebulizing diffuser and might want to consider diluting the oils before you run them. However, you can use thicker oils with the other diffuser types listed in the article. Be sure to read any manuals or instructions that come with your diffusers to see what is best to run in it. Thank you!

  3. I’ve read that fragrance oils can’t be used in essential oil diffusers. It looks like a lot of online stores are selling diffusers yet, they mention fragrance and essential oils being used in the items description. Is there a machine specifically used for fragrance oils(not essential oils lol)??

    1. Natalie Sullivan

      Hi there! All diffusers can be different, but most diffusers can use both fragrance oils and essential oils without any issues. The reason this is the case, is because the only main difference between the two oils is how and where they are made. Structurally, they are built up of similar materials. Finding a diffuser made exculsively for fragrance oils could be tricky. Many, if not all of the diffusers listed in this article can be used as ‘fragrance oil’ only diffuser if you are not wanting essential oils. Happy Scenting!

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Don't Fragrance Your Home Until You've Eliminated These Five Common Odor Areas.

In 5 easy steps, we show you how to get your home ready for scenting, so you can be confident it smells the way you want.

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