Diffusing 101: Everything You Need to Know About Diffusing Essential Oils

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Plant Therapy NovaFuse diffuser on a table

Diffusing 101: Everything You Need to Know About Diffusing Essential Oils

Plant Therapy NovaFuse diffuser on a tableIf you love using your essential oils, then you probably know that using an essential oil diffuser is an amazing way to enjoy them! Diffusers release essential oils throughout the air, and when you inhale them, the receptors in your olfactory membrane identify and deliver the sensory stimulation messages to your brain, helping you to perceive the aroma and reap the essential oil’s therapeutic benefits.

But a quick online search of “aromatherapy diffusers” can quickly become overwhelming. There are so many different types, with different functions — how do you figure out which one is right for you? Then if you look further, you’ll start to find that diffusers are not even the only way to diffuse! There are actually many ways to spread the aroma of essential oils.

Hopefully, we can clear up some of the confusion here. That way, you’ll feel more confident about purchasing and caring for whatever diffusion method works best for you!

Types of Diffusion

There are three primary methods of diffusion. You can choose to use a nebulizing diffuser, an ultrasonic diffuser, or a type of passive diffusion, which could be anything from an aromatherapy necklace to a piece of felt you drop oil onto.

First off, diffusers come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, and styles. Not only are there the aesthetic differences, but many functional differences as well.

To determine what kind of diffuser is right for your situation, you need to have a good idea about what you want to use your essentials oil for and where you will be diffusing. We do not recommend diffusing in public spaces since there is a possibility a person in that area may have an adverse reaction to a certain oil.

Check out this blog for more information! The Many Methods of Diffusion. 

Ultrasonic Diffusers

Plant Therapy NovaFuse diffuser on a tableThese are some of the most popular types of diffusers and perfect for use in the home. This simple technology uses ultrasonic frequencies to vibrate a small disk placed under tap water that releases the oil into a fine mist. Ultrasonic diffusers come in many sleek and attractive designs that fits your modern decor, plug into the wall and only require a small amount of water and a few drops of oil.

Nebulizing Diffusers

Plant Therapy nebulizing diffuser

If you want to experience an essential oil as fully as possible, you’ll want to go with a nebulizing diffuser. By not using heat, which can affect the chemical composition of the oils, and no water, which dilutes the oils, a nebulizer lets you enjoy 100% of all your oil’s benefits. It works by an air pump atomizing the essential oil and releasing the oil into the air in the form of tiny droplets, like a fine mist.

Plant Therapy offers the powerful, compact, and easy to use Advanced Aromatherapy Diffuser. It has a built-in on/off timer and output volume control for easy adjustment. To use it, a 10 mL bottle of your oil goes directly into the diffuser for powerful, continuous diffusion. It’s very simple and mess-free since no water is involved.

Passive DiffusionPlant Therapy Passive Diffusion

If you have an essential oil, but maybe this isn’t the best time for you to purchase a diffuser, don’t worry about it! Passive diffusion is a wonderful alternative to mechanical devices.

To passively diffuse an essential oil, there are so many things you can use that are probably just sitting around at your house. A tissue, pinecones from the backyard – even a toilet paper roll! As the evaporation process takes place you will be able to inhale the oil’s molecules. Here are a few more ways to enjoy passive diffusion:

Aromatherapy Diffuser Locket

Plant Therapy aromatherapy jewelry

Jewelry is a great way to carry essential oils. The aroma is subtle, can be easily refreshed as needed, and are often quite pretty. Plant Therapy offers different styles of aromatherapy lockets and these make perfect gifts – either for yourself or someone else. Inside each locket is a small felt pad where a few drops of the essential oil are placed. As it evaporates, the aroma reaches you!

You can also make your own aromatherapy jewelry using baking or air drying clay. After following the clay’s instructions, add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil, put the jewelry on, and voila! You’re very own, totally unique aromatherapy jewelry.

Reed Diffuser

Similar to a bouquet of flowers, reed diffusers gently fill a space with a beautiful aroma. Plus, you can create your own unique look by using whatever types of reeds and bottles fit your style! Check out this blog for a recipe on how to make really easy reed diffusers.

Clay Diffuser Ornaments

When you think of “ornaments” your mind may automatically drift toward Christmas time, but they can actually be made to use all year round. You can buy clay ornaments from your local craft store or make them yourself!

Add a few drops of your essential oil and hang the ornament where ever you want that aroma to linger. Your car, the laundry room, a bathroom – these ornaments can be as versatile as you want them to be! Like aromatherapy jewelry, the scent is released through evaporation.

Safe Diffusion Guidelines

Now that we’ve gone over ways to diffuse, we should discuss safety. If you’re diffusing with a nebulizing or ultrasonic diffuser, it’s important to follow the instructions for that particular diffuser. Those instructions should tell you how to get the most out of your diffuser in the safest way possible.

If possible, purchase a diffuser that has timer settings and automatic shut-off features. This ensures that the diffuser will not be running nonstop all day (which is not a very safe – or effective – way to diffuse essential oils); ideally, you would want to diffuse intermittently if using all day or all night. If the plan is to diffuse all day or night, we recommend diffusing in 15-minute increments, with a half hour break in-between. 

Our diffusers all have several intermittent options and include either a shut-off timer or will shut off automatically when out of the water.

Diffusing With Kids

Plant Therapy Kids

Not every essential oil is safe to diffuse around young children, including babies and toddlers. If you have children in your home, please take the time to review these blogs focused on the safe use of essential oils around kids:

Passive diffusion, like with our super adorable Lil’Stinkers plushies, is a wonderful way to introduce essential oils to children.

Taking Care of Your Diffuser

If you purchase a nebulizing or ultrasonic diffuser, it’s going to require regular cleaning maintenance if you use it often. Diffusers develop a buildup of residue that can affect the efficiency of the diffuser and the quality of the experience.

An unclean diffuser may diffuse poorly, not diffuse at all, make strange noises, or just be suddenly much louder. Or maybe it just looks gross and grimy. Giving your diffuser a good cleaning often remedies many issues and should be the first thing you do if you start noticing it acting a little off.

Check out this blog on ways to clean your diffuser, which may be especially helpful if you’ve lost your diffuser’s instruction manual. Also, I know it may be tempting, but don’t let your water and oils sit for long periods of time in the diffuser. This can be corrosive and cause damages that a cleaning just can’t fix. It’s a good practice to dump out the water after each use and then wipe out the diffuser’s water reservoir.


64 thoughts on “Diffusing 101: Everything You Need to Know About Diffusing Essential Oils”

  • On the diffusers, there is something I would really like to understand. I have asked others before, but have never had a satisfactory answer. It seems logical to me that oil floats so is probably being diffused off the top of the diffuser reservoir which also explains why if you turn it off and turn it on the next day with the same oil and water that the smell is really weak. So, taking all that into consideration, what is the benefit to having a large reservoir? It seems that it wouldn’t matter if you had 100ml or 500ml, the same amount of oil would be used-and this leads to yet another question; again considering the points already made, if all the oil is floating on the top then isn’t it unsafe to base the drops of EO on the amount of water used? If you have 15 drops of oil in the diffuser, the oil doesn’t know if there are 100ml of water or 500ml of water underneath it. Am I making sense? I have wondered this for a long time and it makes me hesitant to use my oils to the fullest without knowing and understanding the answer.

    1. You have some very valid points. We recommend sticking to the amount of drops recommended by your diffuser’s manufacturer as that’s what you’re likely to get the best results from. Adding extra drops isn’t likely to do much for you, and is often times unnecessary 🙂

  • After reading this, I have a better insight as to which diffuser to purchase. I was contemplating between the mini diffuser for the car and ultrasonic since I have kiddos at home and have some KidSafe EOs. Thank you for the information provided. =)

  • I diffuse in my living room and bed rooms. Love my diffusers! They make the house smell great and I get the benefits of my oils!

  • Currently waiting on my diffuser to get here in the mail. This article is very helpful for when I finally get it and can start diffusing!

  • This is a very helpful post. I’m fairly new to the essential oil world. I’m constantly confused by how much oil to add to my diffuser. I know it depends on the size of the reservoir, but is there a ratio/guideline to start? I don’t want to over- or under-do it. Thanks for any feedback!

  • Thank you for this blog. My diffuser did not come with a manual, so I didn’t know how to clean it. It’s not a plant therapy brand, eventually I will purchase one from your line of diffusers. Diffusing is my favourite way to use EOs.

  • Diffusing is my favorite way to use EO’s. With a large family diffusing germ destroyer or immune boom is a must. I only with I had more diffusers!

  • I would love to see a post about diffusing around pets! There are certain safety times that people should follow when diffusing around dogs and cats. Cats can also be a lot more sensitive to certain oils than dogs. 🙂

  • Any recommendations for good diffuses that aren’t made out of plastics? I am trying to find one that is just glass and wood or more natural/non-toxic materials. Thanks!

  • Thank you for helping beginners (like me) learn some more methods! I saw comments about pets which is a huge question I have and is the only thing holding me back from doing it more!

    1. We don’t have formal training with essential oils and pets. However, a wonderful resource is “Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals” by Kristen Leigh Bell. She has many tips & tricks (plus good sound advice) on how to incorporate aromatherapy with your pets.

  • Thank you for taking the time to educate your customers! I love my diffuser from Plant Therapy! The wood finish fits in well with our home decor and we love the intervals it offers!

    1. Sue, 30 minutes in generally a good amount of time. Depending on the oils used, you may need to let it soak longer 🙂

  • I don’t know if it counts as “diffusing”, but as a CPAP user (for those who don’t know, it’s a machine that essentially blows air into your nose as you sleep to combat sleep apnea), I’ve found it works well to put a drop of two of oil on an extra filter, and put it adjacent to the machine’s air intake. Seems to work best to put the oil on the filter an hour or so before going to bed to keep it from being overpowering. Not only do you get the scent yourself, but the overflow of air (from when you’re not inhaling) gets somewhat diffused into the room.

  • This post is wonderful, full of such amazing information! I will definitely have to take time to check out some of the other linked posts 😉 I have a quick question about my diffuser. I find when I add the water and oil and begin diffusing the scent is quite strong at the beginning, but seems to disappear within 20 minutes or so. Should I add less drops to start with and refresh every 15 minutes or so, or could it be that my diffuser just needs to be cleaned, or maybe I’m just getting used to the smell and no longer notice it?

    1. Kira, that is very normal! Even more so for oils that are lighter in molecules. I recommend adding a few more drops as needed

  • This is such a good article but it would be great if you addressed diffusion duration. I am often confused about how long I can diffuse oils. Some resources say never more than 30 minutes, others an hour, or some all day. Does it depend on the oil/blend?

    1. Emily, we recommend 30 minutes on 60 off if diffusing all day or night. If you are not doing it all day or night, we recommend intermittent settings.
      Ex: 15 seconds on/ 30 seconds off
      15 minutes on/ 30 minutes off
      30 minutes on/ 30 minutes off

      1. Thanks for clarifying this. I do not have a PT defuser but it will be next on my list. My current defuser only allows for 1, 3, or 6 hour timer. I love the timer settings on your defusers. If I choose the 15 on 30 off does it run until the water runs out or is there a timer you can set for how long it runs? Thanks!

  • It would be helpful if you would show whether or not the oil is pet safe on the fliers that come with the oils. You already show kid safe, and pet safe would be extremely helpful.

    1. Plant Therapy is working to get our aromatherapists trained in the usage of essential oils with animals to better help educate our customers. We also are working on the labeling of our products so it is stated more clearly what essential oils can or cannot be safely used around certain animals. Unfortunately some essential oils cannot be safely used around pets, especially cats and other small animals. In the meantime, You may find this book helpful, “Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals” by Kristen Leigh Bell, in gathering more information on using essential oils with animals. Also the facebook group; http://m.facebook.com/groups/1595932084001505?_rdr

  • This is exactly the kind of post i was needing entering the fall. I love the smell of the oils and the benefits too.

  • I am a newbie when it comes to essential oils so I am ‘absorbing’ every article that you write. This one was very informative. Thank-you.

  • I’m interested in the nebulizing diffuser. If I were to use it all day set at 15 minute intervals with half hour off in between how long could I expect a 10ml bottle to last?

    1. Every diffuser will be a bit different. Also the type of oil can play into that, so it’s hard to say exactly. There are approximately 160-180 drops of oil in a 10 ml sized bottle, if that helps figure how many drops you are using each time

  • Excellent information. I am somewhat of a beginner at diffusing and I look forward to learning more. An ultrasonic diffuser is next on my list.

    1. Sharon, with lava bracelets, I would recommend adding the oil to the beads before it is around the wrist, and letting it absorb well enough into the beads before wearing around the writst

    2. Sharon, with lava bracelets, I would recommend adding the oil to the beads before it is around the wrist, and letting it absorb well enough into the beads before wearing around the wrist

    3. Hi sharon, this is what I do . I add my eos on my bracelet, run it on a paper towel or set it for 2 mins. I then run a carrier oil on my wrist before I wear it . I find as if they absorb faster and safer imo.

  • I do like diffusing but don’t on a regular basis as I live in a basement and mold developes easy with no airflow. Every time I see blends for diffusers I want to try them but have to constantly be aware of the people above me as they have commented that it is to strong for them. The one tip I have incorporated is letting the diffuser run for 15 minute intervals and that seems to be going well so have started to diffuse more from that suggestion. Thanks for the cleaning tip.

  • I echo the concerns about pets–especially cats! In doing some cursory research, I found multiple articles stating that diffusing essential oils can be deadly for cats. I also found a story about a woman who accidentally killed her beloved cat by diffusing essential oils around him. I’m not taking any chances around my kitties, so we are not using a diffuser. It’s important that pet owners be warned that this could be a significant risk.

  • Super helpful post! I am new to essential oils and beyond using my ultrasonic diffuser, I haven’t ventured beyond that. I want to explore reed diffusers next and EO jewellery. Thank you!

  • This made me clean my diffuser its working so much better now that its cleaned & it was way easier than I ever expected to

  • this post is very helpful. i wish next time you could come up with a blog about different diffuser blends. i always diffuse every bedtime but i feel so tired from work to check online which oils to diffuse.

  • This is a great explanation and very detailed about diffusers. It is very informative and simple to understand.

  • Tons of useful information, thank you! I have learned so much from these blogs and PT fb groups. I had no idea how wrongly I had been doing things for months!!!

  • Can you do a post on diffusing around pets? I am thinking about getting a cat and I have read in a few places that essential oils are harmful to pets. Any insight on that? I would hate to have to choose between essential oils and a pet! 🙂

    1. We are still working on getting people trained on the use of oils around pets. This is something we are very passionate about expanding out knowledge on but it can take some time. In the meantime, You may find this book helpful, “Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals” by Kristen Leigh Bell, in gathering more information on using essential oils with animals. Also the facebook group; ://m.faceboohttpsk.com/groups/1595932084001505?_rdr

      1. Thank you, I’m gonna to look up this book too as I have a cat, I usually just keep a window open and make sure she can get away if she doesnt like the smell.

      2. I did lots of research online, I read every article I could find about essential oils and cats, dogs, pets. Every don’t use these oil list and 2 safe to use around cats lists. I took a using essential oils safely class. You can never know too much. Now I have been using Essential oils for 3 years and my cat hasn’t been sick once or acted funny or anything. Biggest tips I can give you is 1) diffuse in an open area(like living room with connected kitchen) if you diffuse in bedroom at night leave door open so cat can leave. 2) pay attention to your cat’s reaction to oils (not all brands are equal. If a cat leaves the room and won’t enter a room when diffusing that oil, either stop using that oil. Or close room up with cat not in it. My cat didn’t like a certain brand of oils.) Shorter diffuse time around cats and don’t diffuse everyday. 3) Certain oils, I take extra precautions when using. Like Wintergreen when I use it, I use it topically in a blend but it’s bad for my cat so I wrap and /or make sure that area is totally covered so not to expose my cat to any of that oil and limit her exposure to it’s smell as much as possible.

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