Types of Essential Oil Diffusers, Which is the Best?

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Types of Essential Oil Diffusers, and Which is the Best?

Have you walked into a shop, or did a search online for a diffuser, and found yourself looking at so many options out there?

There are many kinds of diffusers, and all of them use different mechanics and technology. But they do the same thing, diffuse your essential oils.

The 5 most common types of essential oil diffusers are: burners, warmers, ultrasonic diffusers, fan diffusers and essential oil nebulizers.

Some do it better than others, some are more durable and some are easier to maintain. They all come in various price ranges.

But not to worry if you are completely clueless, I will go through in detail the pros and cons of 3 of the popular diffusers that most people ask about, and soon you will be an expert in choosing the right essential oil diffuser for your own needs!

 

Ways to Use Essential Oils

There are 2 main ways for your body to absorb essential oils.

The first way is by absorption through the skin, such as blending it with lotions, massage oils, body washes, scrubs and body butters.

The other way is by inhaling, such as direct inhalation and diffusion.

Today, we will be talking about the latter.

Inhalation is the quicker and more direct way for your body to absorb the essential oil.

This method of delivery has 2 main paths to connect with your body, by your circulatory system (lungs) and well as your through your sense of smell.

  1. Through your circulatory system, vapors are able to be absorbed into your bloodstream and further to your heart, liver, pancreas and other organs.
  2. Through your sense of smell, your brain releases hormones and neurochemicals, which creates an effect on your mind and emotions.

 

Why diffuse essential oils?

One of the most common usage of essential oils is to diffuse it into the air for fragrance and enjoyment. But unlike commercial room fragrances, diffusers and scented candles, diffusing essential oils is one of the most natural ways to enhance your health and well-being.

The benefits of diffusing essential oils are:

  • Most natural form of room fragrance for enjoyment
  • No added artificial chemicals
  • Aids in health and well-being
  • Helps focus, concentration and clarity
  • Deodorizing effects
  • Relaxing properties
  • Balance your hormones
  • Stimulates and gives you energy
  • Boosts immunity

 

How strong is an essential oil diffuser?

Essential oils are extracted from flowers, leaves, stems, bark, seeds, roots, bushes, herbs and other parts of the tree, through various extraction processes.

Pure essential oils are very potent, it takes around 3 pounds, or 1.36 kg of the flowers and tops of the lavender plant just to yield around 15ml of lavender essential oil.

That is why many consider essential oils the very essence of the plant.

Because of its potency, only a small amount of essential oil is required to diffuse an entire room.

Therefore essential oil diffusion is indeed a very effective way to get your room smelling good.

 

How to choose the best diffuser?

Diffusers come in all different shapes and sizes. Modern technology and electronics have helped improved the way we diffuse essential oils into the air.

You can get really beautiful designs nowadays, that you can match with your rooms and it could even double as a home décor item.

I look for several key points when choosing a essential oil diffuser.

These are the 10 factors that I will take into account when ranking the best essential oil diffuser.

  1. Outlooks / Appearance / Design
  2. Durability
  3. Maintenance / Upkeep / Ease of cleaning
  4. Efficiency on my essential oils
  5. Range of diffusion
  6. Versatility and any limitations on certain essential oils
  7. Maintaining the integrity of the oil
  8. Ease of use / Convenience
  9. Time it takes to diffuse a space
  10. Cost

 

Each type of diffuser will be ranked 1, 2 or 3 stars for each factor, with 1 being the poorest, and 3 the best.

Let me go into details on the pros and cons of each type of essential oil diffuser, and I will end off by giving you my opinion on which is the best essential oil diffuser in the market today.

 

Burners / Warmers / Heat Diffusers

Heat diffusers can come in 2 forms.

  • Burners, which use the heat from a tea light candle, which are usually made of ceramic and several wooden or bamboo parts. Essential oils are usually added to water, and the heat form the candle will vaporize the water with the essential oils into the air.
  • Warmers, which are usually made of stone or ceramic, and are plugged into your power outlet, where a heat generator inside the device will warm up the stone. Essential oils are usually used neat, and the gentle warmth from the warmer will help vaporize the essential oil into the air.

 

Outlooks / Appearance / Design

Burners can be very beautifully designed. But most of them have very traditional looks, and at one glance, it is very obvious that it is a burner.

For those that would rather have a range of designs to choose from, burners may not be exciting enough for them.

For those who like the traditional design, with a lit candle and a pot or reservoir to hold the oil, they will fall in love with it.

Likewise for warmers, due to the design of how the burner holds the oil, they tend to be in a bowl shape. Again, the design is conservative, but may lack excitement for some.

Because there is only one type of look and feel to it, I give it 2 out of 3 stars for looks.

 

Durability

For burners, this is the most durable product you can get. There are no electronics components. There is essentially no way it could ever malfunction. The materials used are more than capable of withstanding the heat produced from a tea light candle.

For warmers, there is a heating element involved, so there is always a chance of malfunction of the electronics over time, or if not handled properly. However, there are no other intricate mechanisms involved, and the chances of a malfunctioning heating element is much more slim compared to the other products available. None of my warmers have broken down on me before.

With that, I will give it an excellent 3 out of 3 stars for durability.

 

Maintenance / upkeep / ease of cleaning

Burners are easy to upkeep.

Some of them come in several pieces, and some comes in just one single piece. You can wash and clean every single part of it, as every part of it is easily accessible and there are no electronic components to avoid.

Warmers can be wiped down with a tissue paper after use.

For deeper cleaning, you can apply rubbing alcohol onto a cotton ball and clean the surface, to remove the oils and buildup residue.

However, they are not something that you will wash thoroughly under a tap, because of the chance that water will enter the electronic components within the device.

I will give this 3 out of 3 stars as well.

 

Efficiency

I would say they are very efficient. You only use what you need. Drop a couple of drops of your favorite essential oil and you should have a well scented room for hours.

3 out of 3 stars here for efficiency.

 

Range of diffusion

The aroma tends to overwhelm (in a good way) and completely fill the room and you won’t find any empty pockets.

They are amazing for diffusion, and filling up large spaces.

With that said, go easy on the number of drops, as when not controlled well, they can become too overpowering.

They have a great range, and they deserve 3 out of 3 stars for this aspect.

 

Versatility

It is heavily discussed that heating essential oils might affect the chemical composition and diminish the healing effect one gets from it.

Most household oils are actually extracted through steam distillation, and are subjected to heat as part of the distillation process. Therefore, it is fine to warm up your essential oils, so long as you do it gently.

Absolutes and heat-sensitive oils such as jasmine rose and mimosa should never be used on any heat diffusing products. They are easily prone to decomposition at high temperatures, and their oils are abstracted by a technique called absolute extraction, where heat is not part of the process.

Therefore, not all oils are suitable to be used in an essential oil burner or warmer. The general rule is to avoid using any heat on absolutes.

Majority of your common essential oils work perfectly fine. However, due to it’s limitations compared to other available products, I give it 1 our of 3 stars for versality.

 

Maintaining the integrity of the oil

For the same reasons as the versatility portion I covered, the integrity of the oil could be compromised due to the heat.

While I find gentle heat acceptable for most essential oils, there are other diffusion products available that do not subject your essential oils to heat for the purpose of diffusion, and because of that, I give this 1 out of 3 stars here.

 

Ease of use / Convenience

You need a tea light candle, and this might catch you surprise when you need one in the middle of the night, but can’t seem to find any.

Using a tea light candle also means that it comes with a risk of fire because of the open flame. You should never leave it unattended for it could be a fire hazard.

1 out of 3 stars, especially when compared to other products available.

 

Time it takes to diffuse a space

According to the laws of physics, there is a movement of molecules from a region of high concentration to a region of low concentration, and that applies the same to essential oil diffusion. For that aspect itself, time is needed for diffusion to take place to fill up the entire room.

However with burners, the water has to be heat up first before the vapors even start to be produced. This process means that you have an extended start up time even before the diffusion begins.

I find that burners, although having good range, also have the longest start up time, and therefore it only gets 1 out of 3 stars for this aspect.

 

Cost

Since there are no electronic or mechanical components, burners are probably the easiest to make and the most affordable type of diffuser in the market today. However, premium ones are also available, depending on the material, brand and design. Since they are so widely available and affordable, you could even buy a couple of them at once. You could get one anywhere from $5 all the way to $50.

Warmers tend to cost a little more, due to the heating element inside it. They are still relatively affordable with prices ranging from $30 to $50 for a single unit.

Being the most affordable choice, burners and warmers deserve 3 out of 3 stars.

 

Conclusion on Burners and Warmers

I have used burners since I was a little kid. My mother used to light essential oils for the family when I was young, as this was what’s only available back then.

Till today, I still like and use them frequently due to the ease of using them as well as the diffusion range I’m able to get.

Since they are so affordable, I have a couple of them placed all around the home.

Just remember to take special care for heat-sensitive oils.

And because of the potential fire hazard form the open flame from the candle, never ever leave it unattended.

Results for Burners and Warmers

21 / 30 stars

 

 

Ultrasonic Diffusers

Ultrasonic diffusers are one of the most popular choice of essential oil diffuser today.

The device creates ultrasonic vibrations, which causes the water to release fine mist into the air, which aids the essential oil to be diffused throughout the room.

The greatest perks are being low noise, diffusion without heat, and the wide range of designs you can choose from.

Read on to see my ratings and reviews on each of the 10 key factors.

 

Outlooks / Appearance / Design

Ranging from classy, to funky and contemporary designs, ultrasound diffusers have a wide range of beautiful and modern looking diffusers. Since the important ultrasound function is hidden inside the diffuser, and no heat is involved, ultrasound diffusers can come in all kinds of materials, most commonly plastic. This gives designers the freedom to design the outer shell / case of the diffuser to almost any style possible. It is also common to see ultrasound diffusers with in-built LED lighting, if that is your thing.

Of course cheaper models tend to have a more generic look to them, but they function just as well if you are not too picky with the looks of it.

The one I am currently using in my bedroom is the Panpuri Crystal Lotus. I absolutely adore geometric designs and I find this design doubles as a décor item as well.

Hands down, you have the best chances of finding the perfect design to match with your room with ultrasound diffusers, and therefore I give it a 3 out of 3 stars.

 

Durability

Since ultrasonic diffusers have electrical components such as the ultrasound generator, fan and motor, there could be a likelihood of them malfunctioning one day from wear and tear.

However, I have been using a few ultrasound diffusers for a couple of years, and all of them are still working exceptionally well, with no signs of wearing out.

Despite the possibility of one day giving up on us, they are surely built to last and are well worth the investment. Just make sure you keep water away from the electrical components and power input area.

If you ever had a faulty unit, it’s most probably one that came with the defect right out of the box. You should have no problems exchanging for another one.

Since the chances are very low for them to break down, I give it 3 out of 3 stars.

 

Maintenance / Upkeep / Ease of cleaning

Like most kinds of diffusers, you should be cleaning out the device after every use. This is to prevent the build up of oil residue on your device.

Ultrasonic diffusers cannot be rinsed under the tap because of the electronic components.

You need to take special care when washing out the reservoir, by slowly filling it up and draining, without letting the water get into the electronic components.

If there is a build up of oil inside the reservoir, use an alcohol swab and gently wipe on the residue. Be extra gentle when cleaning the ultrasonic generator, which is where the silver / white are in the middle is.

Although not the most straightforward device to clean, the process is fairly fast and easy to clean, so I give it a 2 out of 3 stars rating.

 

Efficiency

Oils are not cheap, and one my my pet peeves is how fast my bottle of essential oil goes because of the inefficiency of the device. With ultrasonic diffusers, only 3 drops of my favorite oil is sufficient to fill up my entire room!

Most ultrasonic diffusers are great for rooms and small to medium spaces.

But if you are looking to fill up bigger living halls, you still have the option to buy a higher output diffuser. These have much bigger water capacity, and you need to add more drops of oils per use. But by comparing the space to the oil needed, I am still using a fairly low amount per square feet of space.

Because there is no minimum amount of essential oil you need to add, my essential oils usually do not go to waste. I only use what I need at that point of time. I give this a 3 out of 3 stars.

 

Range of diffusion

Smaller units have capabilities to fill up a small to medium room without any issues.

By adding more drops of essential oil, diffusion will take place further. However, areas nearer to the source will tend to be slightly more concentrated. Occasionally, there are pockets of air in big spaces that you may not really smell the aroma well. But this is not a typical scenario most users will encounter, therefore not such a big concern for most of us.

As compared with burners, ultrasonic diffusers are slightly weaker with projection. Nevertheless, it is still good enough for personal usage, and deserve 2 out of 3 stars.

 

Versatility

Practically all kinds of essential oils will work with an ultrasonic diffuser, making this device highly versatile,

Be sure to only use 100% essential oils and not add any other carrier oils.

If you are worried about citrus oils corroding your ultrasonic generator element because of its acidic properties, make sure you always add in after the reservoir has been filled up with water, and always use it diluted. If you clean up the device after every use, there is no cause of concern of damage to your device.

I have been using all kinds of oils for years, and my device is still working in tip top shape. Therefore ultrasonic diffusers get 3 out of 3 stars for versatility.

 

Maintaining the integrity of the oil

Since ultrasonic diffusers use ultrasonic waves, and not heat, to diffuse the essential oils, the essential oils do not go through the same chemical change as when subjected to heat.

This means that you can use all kinds of heat-sensitive oils, such as Jasmine, Rose and most absolutes, and not be concerned about the loss of their therapeutic properties.

I’ll easily give this 3 out of 3 stars.

 

Ease of use / Convenience

Ultrasonic diffusers do not have a detachable reservoir, because the ultrasonic generators are usually precisely attached to the base of the reservoir itself.

This means that whenever you are filling the reservoir up with water, you need to take extra care not to let the water come into contact with the electronics and power supply area.

You also need to ensure your hands are dry when turning on the power supply or attaching the power cord to the unit.

An easier way is to fill a separate pouring container and use that to transfer the water into the reservoir.

I have gotten used and made a routine out of it. But in contrast to all other diffusers, this is probably the most cumbersome feature of an ultrasonic diffuser, so I only give it 1 out of 3 stars.

 

Time it takes to diffuse a space

Once you power up the device, the mist starts to carry the essential oils into the air right away.

It only takes a matter of a few minutes before your room becomes filled with the aroma.

This is already one of the fastest ways to passively diffuse essential oils into the air, so I give it 3 out of 3 stars.

 

Cost

The prices vary greatly, depending on the power output, water capacity, brand, design, and additional features.

You could get a decent ultrasonic diffuser for around $40. Higher end models can go up to more than a hundred dollars.

This is not the cheapest type of diffuser in the market today, but it surely is one that gives really great value for its uses and functions.

With such a wide range of choices and prices, I rate this 3 out of 3 stars.

 

A note on ultrasonic diffusers and humidification.

Some ultrasonic diffusers have a big reservoir, and an additional fan system to increase the vapor output. These kinds of ultrasonic diffusers doubles  as a humidifier as well, due to the rate and amount of water vapor it releases into the air.

However, some people think that all kinds of ultrasonic diffusers are humidifiers because they produce a form of water vapor. However, I personally feel that the smaller units produce too little vapor for it to be considered having a humidifying effect.

If what you want is a diffuser that doubles as a humidifier, make sure you test the vapor output.

You could use this simple test to gauge. Place your hand around 2-3 inches above the output of the vapor, for just 3 seconds. If you are able to feel the moisture being formed on your hands or fingers within that 3 seconds, then that particular diffuser produces a fair amount of vapor for it to have a humidifying effect in a standard room.

If it takes 10 seconds or more for you to have noticeable moisture forming on your hands, then the humidifying effect will most probably be too little for you to have any noticeable effect.

But this does not mean that the diffuser is not powerful. The water component just acts as a medium to dilute and carry the essential oils into the air.

 

Conclusion on Ultrasonic Diffusers

Ultrasonic diffusers are a very popular choice due to it being relatively quiet and versatile, as well as having plenty of designs and overall amazing reliable performance.

 

Results for Ultrasonic Diffusers

26 / 30 stars

 

Essential Oil Nebulizer

The essential oil nebulizer has the best of all worlds when it comes to the diffusion of your essential oils.

Since no water and heat is required, the essential oils has not been diluted, nor have its chemical properties altered from heat. You could say that the nebulizer helps to diffuse essential oils in the most purest form.

But there are also certain drawbacks and limitations of using an essential oil nebulizer that everyone needs to take heed of.

Nebulizers work by atomizing the essential oils into the air by a continuous flow of compressed air. Certain oils are too viscous and will not work with a nebulizer. This will be explain in further detail as I go through the 10 factors accordingly.

 

Outlooks / Appearance / Design

Essential oil nebulizers have a very distinct look to them, with only small variations between different models.

They typically have a wooden base and a glass reservoir. People are very divided on the looks. Some people mention that the glass reservoir makes it look a little intimidating the first time they saw it.

I personally did not like the design at all when I first bought my nebulizer. But over time, I grew to appreciate it.

Because their designs are so limited due to the components that make this device up, there is very little possibility for them to have the kind of variety their ultrasonic diffuser counterpart has. Varies greatly from people to people, I give this 2 out of 3 stars.

 

Durability

Unfortunately, as much as I want to give 3 out of 3 stars here, I can’t.

2 out of my 3 nebulizers have broke down on me. I don’t think it’s the mechanism that is prone to breaking down, but I was just unlucky to receive a defective product. Twice…

At least the working one has been working throughout these years. However, I did pay almost double the amount for that.

Most importantly is to buy from a reputable dealer, where quality checks are more stringent. Also make sure that the dealer has a solid returns policy. My nebulizer started to malfunction only after 3 to 4 uses, so it was not immediate. This does not just go out to nebulizers, but other electronic items too.

I believe I was just unlucky. But because of what I personally experienced twice, I’ll give this 2 out of 3 stars.

 

Maintenance / Upkeep / Ease of cleaning

Nebulizers need the most care when it comes to cleaning and maintenance.

Because there is no way for you to reach to the insides of the nebulizer, especially inside those tiny tubes, you need to constantly make sure your nebulizer is cleaned well. It is very common for the tubes to get clogged by previous build up oil residue if you do not take care of it well. Your device’s performance will drastically deprove when it is clogged.

Nebulizers should be cleaned after every 5 to 7 uses. I personally clean my nebulizer no more than every 3 uses to err on the side of caution, or when I’m looking to change up my blend.

A cleaning agent that you need to use on the nebulizer glass reservoir is rubbing alcohol, aka isopropyl alcohol, which can be found at your local pharmacy. Rubbing alcohol helps to break down and dissolve the oil. Without it, you will have a much harder time trying during your cleaning up.

I initially bought this due to the misconception that it is a low maintenance product, but it turned out to be the other way round. Maintenance is key to keeping your nebulizer in good shape. For all the additional trouble, I’m giving 1 out of 3 stars for this.

 

Efficiency

Another reason why I decided to buy this product, is because I thought that since nebulizers atomize the essential oils in small amounts, there will be less wastage. Oh boy, was I very wrong.

I was going through bottles after bottles!

Nebulizers do not work very well with just 2 to 3 drops. That is because you are not able to dilute the essential oils with any kind of carrier oils.

I seem to need at least 10 – 15 drops of my 100% pure essential oil for a single session, regardless if it’s a long or short session.

Using lesser amounts then that, the nebulizer does not perform as well.

Furthermore, you should not keep the remaining oils out in the open if you are not intending to use it for a period of time, as the prolonged exposure to air has cause the oils to oxidize in some way or another.

I will give a 1 out of 3 stars here.

 

Range of diffusion

My nebulizer performed fairly well in a small room. However, I do find it less powerful than burners and ultrasonic diffusers.

Many think that since nebulizers disperses 100% pure essential oils, they are not diluted, and should be able to have a wider area of diffusion. This is certainly not true for me. Despite dispersing pure essential oils, the output is a lot smaller.

I am able to enjoy my oils when I am sitting close to my nebulizer, but they are not very capable of dispersing over large spaces well. After extensive tests and usage, I tend to notice lots of air pockets where the aroma does not cover whenever I’m using a nebulizer. I’m giving this 2 out of 3 stars.

 

Versatility

Certain essential oils work wonderfully with nebulizers, and certain essential oils do not work at all.

Nebulizers are the least versatile of all the diffusers. They tend to work well with low viscosity oils such as citruses and florals, but have a much harder time with thicker oils such as woody and root oils.

This limitation is because of how the mechanics works. If the oil is too thick, there will be little to no atomization at all.

I still use my nebulizers till today, but I know which oils work, and which don’t. Only 1 out of 3 stars here.

 

Maintaining the integrity of the oil

Since there is no heat or dilution to the essential oils during the nebulizing process, your essential oils are diffused at the purest form possible.

The chemical composition remains virtually unchanged, keeping the true aroma and therapeutic effects intact.

If getting the truest form of diffusion of you essential oil is a priority to you, then the nebulizer is your way to go.

3 out of 3 stars.

 

Ease of use / Convenience

Despite having a tedious cleaning up process, nebulizers are very easy to operate, and have the quickest setup time.

So long as your nebulizer has been cleaned, additional trips to fill the reservoir with water is not needed.

With a nebulizer and a bottle of your favorite essential oil blend by your bedside, you can just add a few drops of oil, turn on the nebulizer and voila, you are all set you without even needing to get out of bed.

Having such great convenience, I give this a full 3 out of 3 stars.

 

Time it takes to diffuse a space

Your essential oil starts to fill the air the moment you turn the nebulizer on. There is no waiting or “heat up” time like a burner.

In just a couple of minutes, the aroma should have spread across the entire room.

Just like the ultrasonic diffuser, this gets 3 out of 3 stars.

 

Cost

Essential oil nebulizers range from $50 to $100 and up online. They are not considered cheap, but they are not too overly expensive either.

I have learnt my lesson not to go for the cheapest, but for the most reputable, after having 2 nebulizers fail on me.

I feel that they are pretty decently priced, and I’ll give 2 out of 3 stars here.

 

Conclusion on Essential Oil Nebulizers

Nebulizers are the purest way to diffuse your essential oils. They are fairly easy to operate, but requires constant maintenance. The biggest drawback is the incompatibility with thicker oils. However, you may still use thicker oils that are blended with other less viscous essential oils.

Nebulizers produce a significantly louder noise than the ultrasonic diffuser. So if noise is a major part of your concern, then you’ll have to reconsider using or buying a nebulizer.

 

Results on Essential Oil Nebulizer

20 / 30 stars

 

Final Conclusion and Verdict

3rd place goes to the Essential Oil Nebulizer with 20 stars.

2nd place goes to the Burner / Warmer, with 21 stars.

1st place goes to the Ultrasonic Diffuser, with 26 stars.

As you can see, all of them faired really well and they all scored very positive in general.

This should be the case as all of these products are still widely available on the market, and has been proven through usage, tests and time.

Regardless of the rating, I do also have a personal opinion on which is the best essential oil diffuser, and it is also the ultrasonic diffuser.

Ultrasonic diffusers check most of my boxes on my list, and excels in the very important factors for me such as keeping the integrity of the oil, diffusion power, and plenty of trendy designs to choose from. It is my number one choice and I highly recommend it to all users.

Nevertheless, you also can’t go wrong with the essential oil nebulizer and the burner / warmer for general usage. Each of them have their pros and cons, and it is up to you to decide which is the best fit for yourself.

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