If a humidifier and diffuser both put moisture into the air, why can’t I use only one of these machines? The answer is actually a technical one and could save you money and a damaged machine.
A humidifier and a diffuser, from the outside, look like they accomplish the same task – put moisture into the air. So why not purchase only one and use it for both intended uses?
That question is a little bit more complicated to answer than it sounds!
As a mama to two little ones, one who needs an incredible amount of support when they get sick, it was tempting for me to simply choose a humidifier and then see if I could run essential oils through it.
But boy – was I wrong! I quickly found out I would actually need both if I wanted the machines to perform properly and work for my kiddos. I want to make my kiddos well!
Let’s dive into the difference between the two machines and whether or not you should purchase one or both.
What’s the difference between a humidifier and a diffuser?
A humidifier is a household appliance (usually a small device) that adds moisture to an enclosed space. They are usually prescribed for dry skin, dry sinuses, cracked lips, and bloody noses, which is why they’re so popular during the winter or in dry climates.
A diffuser is an aromatherapy device that sends essential oils into the air. Diffusers are a great way to replace candles, move stagnant air, and project essential oils into an entire room.
What is the main difference between a humidifier and a diffuser?
Humidifiers are manufactured to push a lot more water into the air and diffusers are not. On the flip side, essential oils aren’t intended to be diffused for extended periods of time.
So ask yourself – what do you need?
If you have a low humidity level and you’re experiencing health issues because of it, you need moisture – fast! A humidifier is the tool that you need. Humidifiers can add between 30 to 50 percent humidity back to the air!
Humidifiers also have a much larger water tank, which equips them to push that much more moisture into the air at one time.
If you are comfortable in your home and you simply want to freshen up the living room during nap time, snag a few of your favorite essential oils and turn your diffuser on. Turn it off after about 10 minutes. While your diffuser does add moisture to the air, it simply can’t add enough to raise the humidity in the air.
My conclusion is this – both are tools I’m going to keep in my home because they perform two very different tasks.
Different Types of Humidifiers
Humidifiers come in different shapes and sizes. Some of the most common humidifiers are ultrasonic humidifiers, cool mist humidifiers, and evaporative humidifiers.
Ultrasonic humidifiers use modern technology to send vibrations into the water and turn that water into water vapor. They’re praised in their field because they don’t require a filter like traditional evaporative humidifiers do. Because of that, they’re simpler to operate and maintain.
However, a con to ultrasonic humidifiers is that they will also vaporize any bacteria in the appliance as well.
Cool mist humidifiers
Cool mist humidifiers work similarly to ultrasonic humidifiers, in that they vibrate the water to turn it into water vapor. However, they are equipped with a fan that cools that vapor.
Because of this feature, cool mist humidifiers are encouraged for use around small children and infants because there’s no risk of burns. Cool mist humidifiers also don’t raise room temperatures.
With our children, we use this humidifier.
Evaporative humidifiers don’t use a vibrating element to produce water vapor – they use a fan. These humidifiers were manufactured to draw air in and send it over a moistened filter, and that cool air is what’s dispersed into the room. Again – there are hot and cold options and each should be selected carefully.
While evaporative humidifiers do require a filter, they are praised for being “cleaner” because they aren’t known to catch dust, dander, or bacteria and project it into a room.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of essential oil can I use in my humidifier?
In short, no oils can be used in a humidifier. Why? Humidifiers weren’t intended to handle essential oils.
Sometimes you’ll hear that essential oils can be caustic to certain types of plastic. At first glance, this sounds intense. But it isn’t.
Caustic is a simplified way of saying essential oils can be corrosive when used over extended periods of time. If a humidifier was manufactured to process water only, it wouldn’t hold up to something like essential oils.
Can you use a humidifier and a diffuser at the same time?
Yes, you can use a humidifier and a diffuser at the same time. Both of them are separate pieces of equipment that perform different duties.
Other humidifier information
The water reservoir of a humidifier is usually where people want to put their essential oils. The filter of an evaporative humidifier may also be a popular place. But again – essential oils are known to be caustic and doing this against the manufacturer’s guidelines can actually ruin your machine!
There is also research that has come out saying tap water is not the preferred water to use with humidifiers. This is linked to the bacteria that may be found in it. For best use, some manufacturers recommend using distilled water.
You may not want to use your humidifier if you already have high humidity. You can better determine that with an indoor thermometer and humidity monitor, like this one.
Different Types of Essential Oil Diffusers
Modern diffusers also come in different shapes and sizes! The two most common are ultrasonic diffusers and reed diffusers.
Ultrasonic diffusers have dominated the market. The principle is the same as a humidifier. The diffuser used ultrasonic vibrations to turn the water and essential oils in its small chamber into a fine mist.
Reed diffusers work completely differently. In a reed diffuser reservoir is all fragrance, no water. That fragrance travels the length of the reed and evaporates into the air as it reaches the top.
Noticed I used fragrance here, not essential oils. Most reed diffusers are made with manufactured fragrances in mind. But how can we avoid this?
You become your own aromatherapist! Using a combination of oils (like sweet almond oil) and essential oils, you can fill your reservoir to create your own liquid that will travel through the reeds.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long should you run an essential oil diffuser?
Your diffuser use should be intermittent and the length of time should be based on two factors. First, your tolerance to essential oils. And two, your personal research of each oil.
Some oils can be ingested, topically applied, and inhaled. But some oils perform best under one of those three applications. Do your research for each oil to better understand how it’s best applied.
Are essential oils safe to inhale?
If you have any doubts about how to use your essential oils, start researching the quality of your essential oils and how each oil should be used. Some oils may work differently for you than they will for someone else. Be sure to watch for any sensitivities as you use your essential oils.
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Benefits of Essential Oils
I wanted to take a minute to address the benefits of essential oils and give you some tools that will help you in your essential oils journey.
If you’ve been a faithful reader, you know about our journey to essential oils. I’ve also talked about the benefits of using particular oils.
When you use pure essential oils, you’re getting more than just a pleasant fragrance. Many essential oils have health benefits that can aid you during sick season. They’re cost-effective because you truly only need to use a few drops of essential oils to make a difference.
And finally, essential oils have therapeutic benefits. Some smell nice and help us relax, while others can sharpen our minds and encourage us to focus.
H2 Other diffuser information
I have found that essential oil diffusers are best for smaller areas. So consider placing one in your main living space to get the maximum use out of it.
Diffusers are similar to humidifiers, in that they are to be used with distilled water instead of tap water. Again, this is to maintain the quality of your machine.
Finally, remember to watch for any sensitivity you may have to your essential oils. You may notice your nasal passages itch or you have a headache. I recommend you reduce the amount of time your diffuser is running, and if you experience continued irritation, consult your doctor.
So what’s the bottom line?
Per my research, humidifiers were intended to add moisture to large spaces and diffusers were intended for aromatherapy purposes in smaller areas.
So if you’re experiencing dry, indoor air, let your humidifier work for you! To find the best humidifier, balance the pros and cons of each type of machine and consider other factors, like whether or not you have small children in the home.
If you’re looking to improve your indoor air quality, a diffuser might work best for you! There are several different styles on the market today. Just don’t forget – they aren’t intended to add much water to the air and they don’t replace an air purifier.
There are a few products that we use and love as we venture on our essential oils journey. These are affiliate links, which means I make a small commission when you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you.
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Do you need a resource on using essential oils around children? This book is what I recommend.
This oil is my favorite carrier oil.
This hard-shell essential oils organizer is great for traveling!
This book is a great resource for recipes and other information!
For more healthy living content, check out these blog posts!
I love using essential oils in our home! What’s your favorite way to use essential oils? I’ve used essential oils in homemade beauty products, in diffuser recipes, and topically for cold and flu season.
For more wholesome living content, check out these blog posts!