Diffusing was the first way I started using essential oils, and diffusing is still my favorite way to use oils.
Diffusing is great for so many things. I diffuse essential oils for sleep. I diffuse essential oils when I’m feeling tired or fatigued and need more energy and focus. I diffuse essential oils when I’m congested. I diffuse essential oils when I’m feeling stressed or anxious. I diffuse essential oils when I want my home to smell fresh & clean. I could go on and on. I diffuse essential oils for so many reasons. And that’s a key factor for why I love diffusing; once you get the hang of it, you can diffuse essential oils for many uses.
So let’s dive into into how to use an essential oil diffuser. Here are some of my favorite tips and techniques for essential oil diffusers, suggestions to help you to get the most out of your diffuser, and some ideas for what essential oils to use in your diffuser.
What is an essential oil diffuser?
There are different kinds of essential oil diffusers, but this post will mainly be about the most popular kind, the ultrasonic diffuser.
How does an ultrasonic essential oil diffuser work?
An ultrasonic essential oil diffuser makes ultrasonic waves in water to create a mist that spreads essential oil particles around the room. When plugged in and turned on, the diffuser quietly vibrates a small disk at very high frequency (up to millions per second) to create the mist it shoots into the air. The diffuser is powered by electricity but does not heat the oils or the water; that allows essential oils to retain all of their therapeutic benefits. Instead of heat, the tiny ultrasonic vibrations evaporate the liquids so that they’re small and light enough to stay suspended in the air, which in turn, means the essential oils can travel around the room and remain active for longer. Diffusing allows you to get the inhalation and aromatic benefits of essential oils without putting them directly on your body.
How to use essential oil diffuser
There are just a few steps to get your diffuser running and getting the most out of it. Finding the right spot in your home for use, adding the type of water that is best for it, selecting and adding the essential oil or essential oil blend you want to use, put the cover on and plug it in, and then choosing the diffuser settings for your session. Here are some ideas you can use along with your diffuser’s instructions to get the most out of your diffuser.
Step 1: choose a spot for your diffuser
Where should I put my essential oil diffuser?
Put your diffuser near the center of the area where you are using it, near a power source, at least two feet higher than the floor, on a flat surface, with open space above it.
- Near center of the room: the diffuser can distribute the essential oils more fully and evenly around the space if it is placed in the center of the room.
- Near a power source: most ultrasonic diffusers are electric, so you will need to be able to plug it in, and where the power cord isn’t a tripping hazard, so you don’t accidentally spill the water and essential oils.
- At least two feet higher than the floor: the oils will get higher up into the air and disperse farther around the room if it is off of the ground.
- On a flat, stable surface: because of the ultrasonic vibrations the diffuser makes and the water inside it, it needs to be on a flat, stable surface to avoid messes and spills. If the surface might get damaged by diffuser water dripping or condensing, use a tray, or placemat, or some other separator to protect the surface below it.
- With open space directly above: the diffuser mist shoots out from the top of the diffuser, so it needs room right above it to go to work, like on top of a coffee table or on a nightstand where it can spread the oil molecules throughout the room.
A few things to avoid when selecting a spot for your diffuser:
- Avoid direct sunlight if possible: The plastic parts of the diffuser won’t last as long in sunlight, and prolonged exposure to sunlight risks bacteria forming in the diffuser.
- Don’t put the diffuser right in front of a fan: the breeze created by the fan will disrupt how much the molecules disperse, limiting the diffuser’s effectiveness.
- Don’t put the diffuser directly on carpet: condensing and drips will dampen the carpet, and the diffuser might tip over on the uneven surface
- Avoid placing next to objects you don’t want to get damp: the diffuser is spraying mist into the air, so don’t put it right by books, unprotected pictures, or right below a shelf or table.
Step 2: add water to your diffuser
How much water to add to your diffuser, and what kind of water to use in it, depends on the size and type of ultrasonic diffuser you are using. Leave your diffuser unplugged when adding water, it’s safer and less messy that way.
How much water do I add?
Your diffuser should have a clearly marked fill line showing how much water to add. Be sure to stop filling below that little line inside your diffuser. Ultrasonic diffusers need to have space at the top so that the water can move back and forth rapidly enough to turn into the cold mist that comes out of the top of the diffuser. If you fill the water level too high, then you won’t get as much mist out of the diffuser. Less water (more space at the top) equals more mist. Too much water (little to no space at the top) equals little to no mist.
Can I use tap water in my diffuser?
The natural minerals in tap water help diffuse essential oils, so many diffusers are designed to work with room temperature tap water. However, some diffusers are sensitive to mineral buildup and are designed for use with distilled water or filtered water. Check your diffuser’s instructions to see what kind of water is recommended.
Can I use filtered or bottled water in my diffuser?
Generally speaking, filtered or bottled water is safe to use in your diffuser. Bottled water, like tap water, contains natural minerals that help disperse the essential oil particles through the air. Filtered water will have fewer minerals than bottled water or tap water. Check your diffuser’s instructions for what kind of water is recommended – some diffusers are designed specifically for tap water or distilled water.
Should I use distilled water in my diffuser?
Distilled water has had contaminants and natural minerals removed which will reduce buildup in the diffuser, so some diffusers are designed for use with distilled water. Check your diffuser’s instructions to see if distilled water is preferred. It is safe to use distilled water in a diffuser designed for use with tap water or filtered water, but the lack of minerals in distilled water won’t work as well in a diffuser designed for tap water.
Do you put hot or cold water in an essential oil diffuser?
The ultrasonic waves in an ultrasonic diffuser work best with room temperature water. There’s no need to use hot water or to heat the water ahead of time. Cold water will produce less mist in the diffuser, so let refrigerated water sit out for a bit before loading it into the diffuser. You can test water temperature with your finger – room temperature water will feel slightly cooler than your finger but won’t be cold.
Step 3: add essential oil to your diffuser
Now comes the fun part! Adding the essential oils and getting those great aromas into the room and breathing them in.
How many drops of essential oil should I put in my diffuser?
Essential oils are highly concentrated and potent, so it is crucial to dilute them for use. A good rule of thumb is to use 2-3 drops of essential oil per 100ml of water. Diffusers can vary, so check your diffuser’s instructions, but here’s a good guide for how much oil to add for the size of your diffuser:
100ml diffuser: 2-3 drops of essential oil
150ml diffuser: 3-4 drops of essential oil
200ml diffuser: 4-5 drops of essential oil
300ml diffuser: 6-8 drops of essential oil
400ml diffuser: 8-10 drops of essential oil
500ml and larger diffuser: 10-15 drops of essential oil
As you diffuse, you can add drops of essential oil, but you can’t take them out. So when in doubt, start with less, and then add more if you need it.
Do you need carrier oil for a diffuser?
When diffusing, the essential oils are not applied directly to the skin, so you do NOT need to use a carrier oil in a diffuser. Additionally, you really don’t want to use carrier oils in diffusers as carrier oils will be too heavy to diffuse and can gum up the diffuser’s ultrasonic plate causing it to stop working.
Do you mix water with essential oils in a diffuser?
Do not manually mix or stir the essential oils into the diffuser water. Let the diffuser do the work, let it mix and vaporize the oils with the water as it is diffused.
Step 4: put on diffuser covers and plug it in
Your diffuser will not be effective unless the lid is on and positioned correctly. Without the lid in correct position, the diffuser will not build enough pressure to create the mist needed for the oils to escape through the tiny hole in the center.
Some diffusers use a two-top system where one is decorative and the other is used to trap excess moisture, so be sure the holes in both tops are aligned so the mist can get out into the room.
Once the covering is in place, it is time to plug in the the diffuser and start diffusing!
Step 5: turn on diffuser and choose diffuser settings
After the water and oils are in the diffuser, choose your diffuser settings and turn it on. This is when you choose how long to run the diffuser, whether to run it constantly or intermittently, and how to set the diffuser lighting if that is an option.
How long to diffuse essential oils?
While how long to diffuse varies by which oils you are using and the how large your diffusing space is, a good rule of thumb for diffusing essential oils is to run the diffuser for about 30 minutes at a time. If you run it 2-3 times in a day, take a break for at least 30 minutes between sessions.
Essential oils are potent even when diluted and diffused into the air, so intermittent use is a great way to maximize the benefits of essential oils while minimizing risks. Diffuse for too long and you’re wasting oil without receiving their benefits. Overexposure from all-day diffusing can lead to headaches, nausea, and other side effects. If you start experiencing negative effects like nausea or headaches, turn off the diffuser and air out the room.
How long do essential oils last in a diffuser?
The essential oils from a diffuser will last for several hours, until the diffuser runs out of water. The misting will begin shortly after turning it on, doesn’t take long to get it going.
Step 6: clean your diffuser
Regular cleaning after diffusing is a great way to keep your diffuser running smoothly and lasting a long time. After turning the diffuser off, empty the water reservoir, give it a quick rinse, and then wipe it down before putting it away.
What are the best essential oils to diffuse?
What essential oils to use in a diffuser depends on why you are diffusing and what scents you like. To get you started, here are some of the most popular essential oils, what they smell like, what therapeutic benefits they have from aromatic use, and some other essential oils they blend well with.
bergamot essential oil
Bergamot has a distinctive fresh, bright citrus scent with hints of floral. It smells both sweet and tart like a cross of lemon, lime, and orange with a touch of lavender.
It’s both uplifting and calming, making it a good diffuser choice to help ease anxiety. Bergamot is a great essential oil to diffuse at night to help fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
blends well with: cedarwood, cypress, frankincense, geranium, lavender, lemon, lime, patchouli, sweet orange
cedarwood essential oil
Cedarwood essential oil has a warm, woodsy masculine scent. Its aroma is what you’d find in cedar chests, cedar decking and outdoor furniture, and the scent of a good men’s cologne.
It’s great for purifying and cleaning the air, so it’s a wonderful essential oil to diffuse on its own or blend with other oils. Cedarwood is also a great insect repellent and can be diffused indoors and out to keep away mosquitoes, flies, ants, and other pesky bugs. And lastly, cedarwood calms and relaxes the mind and body, making it a great oil to diffuse for anxiety, stress, and sleep.
blends well with: bergamot, cinnamon, cypress, fir, frankincense, juniper berry, lavender, patchouli, spruce, sweet orange, vetiver
cinnamon essential oil
Cinnamon bark oil has a warm spicy scent. Its aroma often triggers happy memories of fall, apple pie, Christmas, warm-out-of-the-oven baked goods, and hot mulled cider.
It’s an uplifting scent, good for an energy boost on its own or blended. It also works as a natural insect repellant, so diffusing cinnamon essential oil can keep those pesky bugs away.
blends well with: cardamom, clove, fir, frankincense, ginger, grapefruit, lemon, sweet orange, tangerine, vanilla
cypress essential oil
Cypress essential oil has a clean, fresh, outdoor aroma. It’s a scent combination of wood, fresh grass, and a hint of evergreen. Cypress smells so fresh and natural once you’ve smelled it, it’s sure to become one of your favorite essential oils.
Use cypress essential oil on its own or in a blend to help center your mind. It helps calming your mind when you’re anxious, or help raise your energy level when you’re lethargic.
blends well with: basil, bergamot, fir, geranium, grapefruit, lavender, lemon, pine, rose, rosemary, spruce, sweet orange
eucalyptus essential oil
Eucalyptus essential oil has a fresh, minty scent that’s slightly sweet. It leaves a room smelling clean, airy, and crisp.
Beyond its pleasing aroma, eucalyptus essential oil is great for deodorizing and disinfecting the air, while easing congestion and reducing stress. It’s great for creating the feel of a spa day right in your home.
blends well with: cedarwood, geranium, lavender, lemon, peppermint, rosemary, spearmint
fir essential oil
Fir is the essential oil that smells most like Christmas trees. It has a fresh, crisp, evergreen and woodsy scent.
People use it a lot around the holidays because of its Christmasy scent, but it’s also great year-round for purifying the air, easing congestion while disinfecting and deodorizing.
blends well with: cedarwood, cinnamon, clove, cypress, frankincense, lemon, peppermint, pine, spruce, sweet orange
frankincense essential oil
Frankincense has a complex yet balanced aroma. While it’s a heavy, earthy, resinous scent, it also has subtle notes of pepper and citrus.
Since it helps ease stress, soothes anxiety, and improves focus, it’s often used to enhance meditation and yoga sessions. Diffuse frankincense on it own or in a blend to lift your spirit.
blends well with: bergamot, cardamom, cedarwood, cinnamon, cypress, geranium, grapefruit, lavender, lemon, patchouli, peppermint, sandalwood, sweet orange, ylang ylang
lavender essential oil
Lavender essential oil has a smooth, delicate scent. While its aroma is mostly floral, it’s also layered with subtle notes of woody, herbal, smokey, mint, and evergreen which give it a distinct, instantly recognizable aroma.
It’s great for reducing stress while it purifies the air around you, either to help calm during the day or help you get to sleep at night. It can also help with seasonal allergies, and even keeps some bugs away. It’s pleasing aroma on its own and versatility of use in blends makes lavender one of the most popular essential oils.
blends well with: bergamot, cedarwood, eucalyptus, geranium, juniper berry, lemon, lemongrass, lime, mandarin, patchouli, rose, rosemary, sweet orange, tangerine, vetiver
lemon essential oil
Lemon essential oil has a fresh, sharp, citrusy, tangy scent, much like the smell of lemon rinds or lemon juice.
It’s great on its own or in blends to create an uplifting scent, good for purifying and deodorizing the air and energizing the mind.
blends well with: basil, bergamot, cedarwood, cinnamon, clove, cypress, eucalyptus, frankincense, ginger, grapefruit, lime, mandarin, peppermint, sweet orange, tangerine
lemongrass essential oil
Lemongrass essential oil has a crisp, sharp lemony scent that also has a secondary fresh, grassy element. It’s a strong, powerful scent where a little essential oil can go a long way.
It’s great for deodorizing and purifying the air, relieving stress, boosting your energy level. Also good for use indoors and outside as a natural insect repellant. Even though it’s a powerful scent, its combination of citrusy and grassy blends well with others.
blends well with: basil, bergamot, geranium, grapefruit, lavender, lemon, lime, mandarin, rose, sweet orange, tangerine, ylang ylang
sweet orange essential oil
Sweet orange essential oil has fresh, sweet citrusy scent. If you like the smell of oranges, you will like the scent of sweet orange essential oil.
It’s known for purifying and deodorizing the air and energizing the mind. Use it on its own or in blends to help easing stress or improve focus, help you get more out of your day.
blends well with: cardamom, cedarwood, cypress, cinnamon, clove, fir, grapefruit, frankincense, lavender, lemon, peppermint, spruce, vanilla
peppermint essential oil
Peppermint essential oil has a strong cool minty scent like the smell of Christmas candy canes.
It’s great for combating mental fatigue, so diffusing peppermint essential oil can help with improving alertness, focus, and concentration. Also works as an air purifier, cleansing the air while clearing your mind.
blends well with: basil, cedarwood, copaiba, cypress, eucalyptus, fir, frankincense, grapefruit, lavender, lemon, rosemary, spruce, sweet orange
vanilla essential oil
Vanilla essential oil has a sweet, warm, comforting scent. If you like the smell of vanilla ice cream or vanilla extract, the aroma of vanilla essential oil is for you.
It’s good for soothing anxiety and relieving stress, so diffusing vanilla essential oil on its own or in a blend fills the room with comfort to help you relax.
blends well with: cardamom, cedarwood, cinnamon, clove, copaiba, fir, frankincense, lavender, lemon, peppermint, pine, sandalwood, spruce, spearmint, sweet orange
How to blend essential oils for a diffuser?
A blend of essential oils should have layers of top, middle, and base notes to create a balanced aroma. It’s a technique used when creating complex fragrances in some perfumes, candles, and soaps.
- Top notes are the first layer of the aroma, they come on fast and light, and are the first to disappear. Popular top notes are citruses like lemon and sweet orange, and herbs like eucalyptus and peppermint.
- Middle notes are the middle layer heart of the aroma, more noticeable once the top notes go away. Popular middle notes are florals like lavender, and spices like cinnamon.
- Base notes are the longest lasting layer of the aroma, prominent when the top and middle notes dissipate. Popular base notes are rich and earthy like cedarwood and frankincense.
Essential Oil Diffuser Recipes
Here are a few essential oil diffuser recipes to get you started and links to many more diffuser blend recipes on my blog.
Fresh Air Diffuser Blend
3 drops lemon essential oil
3 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops eucalyptus essential oil
Immune Booster Diffuser Blend
1 drop rosemary essential oil
1 drop clove essential oil
1 drop eucalyptus essential oil
1 drop cinnamon essential oil
1 drop orange essential oil
Lemony Fresh Diffuser Blend
3 drops lemon essential oil
2 drops lemongrass essential oil
2 drops citronella essential oil
Pumpkin Spice Diffuser Blend
2 drops cinnamon essential oil
1 drop clove essential oil
1 drop ginger essential oil
1 drop orange essential oil
1 drop cardamom essential oil
Clean Linen Diffuser Blend
3 drops eucalyptus essential oil
2 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops tea tree essential oil
1 drop peppermint essential oil
Spotless Kitchen Diffuser Blend
3 drops lemon essential oil
2 drops rosemary essential oil
2 drops lavender essential oil
1 drop thyme essential oil
Find lots more of my favorite diffuser blends (and free printables) below:
calming diffuser blends for stress and anxiety
odor eliminating diffuser blends for a clean smelling home
diffuser blends for immune support
diffuser blends for congestion
How to diffuse essential oils without a diffuser?
Sometimes, an ultrasonic diffuser isn’t feasible to use, or doesn’t make sense for the setting.
Click here are some of my favorite ways to diffuse without a diffuser.
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