How Do Diffusers Work? | Shocking Science Behind It!

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This is the definitive guide to How do diffusers work?

Are you looking for a new way to enjoy your essential oils? If so, you may want to try using a diffuser. 

Diffusers work by dispersing essential oils into the air, and they come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. 

How do diffusers work

So, how do they work? Let’s take a closer look.

What Is Essential Oil Diffuser?

Essential Oil Diffuser is a personal-size diffuser that uses ultrasonic technology to turn water and essential oil into a cool mist. It’s perfect for your home, office, yoga studio, or spa. 

With its elegant design and color options, it fits in perfectly with any décor!

Aromatherapy is the use of natural plant extracts to create a sense of wellbeing or change a mood. 

Essential Oil Diffusers combines pure essential oils with ultrasonic technology to produce a fine cool mist that can be enjoyed around the clock for instant aromatherapy anytime, anywhere!

How Do Diffusers Work?

Essential oil diffusers use a process called “osmosis” to deliver essential oil molecules into the air. The user simply adds water and up to 10 drops of their favorite essential oil into the Essential Oil Diffuser. 

working of essential oil diffuser

A small internal ultrasonic disc breaks down the liquid and essential oil molecules, turning them into a cool mist that is dispersed throughout the room. 

There are no heat or filters involved in this process so you’ll enjoy complete peace of mind when using our aromatherapy diffusers!

How does a diffuser create mist?

In an aromatherapy diffuser, this usually involves using ultrasonic energy (sound waves) to create vibrations in a chamber containing a mixture of water and oil. 

This causes tiny droplets of the oil and water mix to come out of suspension (called mist or aerosol). The result is cool, aromatic moisture that carries essential oils into the surrounding environment.

Do air diffusers actually work?

They certainly do! 

The process involves an ultrasonic disc that vibrates the diffuser’s water and oil mixture at a frequency of 2.4 million times per second, creating tiny, cool mist particles which are dispersed into the surrounding environment for your enjoyment. 

This is osmosis at its best! 

Aromatherapy diffusers offer significant health benefits to users by delivering pure hydration with essential oils (who needs all those chemicals?)

8 Types Of Diffuser For Home, Office & Bathroom

#1 Ultrasonic diffusers

What are Ultrasonic diffusers?

Ultrasonic diffusers are a new and very effective way of using essential oils. They create a fine micro-particle mist that floats in the air, used for aromatherapy or simply to freshen up the surrounding environment. 

You can find them easily these days – just look out for ‘ultrasonic’ on the front of the box!

Ultrasonic diffusers

How do Ultrasonic diffusers work?

Ultrasonic diffusers use high-frequency sound waves to create a fine mist of essential oil particles. This mist is then dispersed into the surrounding air, where it can be breathed in and enjoyed. 

The ultrasonic vibrations also help to break down the essential oil molecules, making them more effective when used for aromatherapy or therapeutic purposes.

Does an ultrasonic diffuser use heat?

No. An ultrasonic diffuser does not use heat to diffuse the essential oil. This is because all of the mist created by the device is cooled by a fan before it is released into the air.

Can an ultrasonic diffuser be used as a humidifier?

In this case, the answer is yes, they can be. 

If you’re going to purchase an ultrasonic nebulizer for your candles and other aromatherapy products then consider purchasing one that has a variable mist control setting or has multiple nozzles that could help deliver water vapor into the air directly.

#2 Nebulizing diffusers

Nebulizing diffusers are a great option for those who intend to use the diffuser as a humidifier. 

This type of ultrasonic diffusion system (you can search “NEBULIZING DIFFUSER” on Amazon) works with the smallest particles of essential oil and water vapor to produce a mist that is released into the air. 

Nebulizing diffusers

This type of diffuser is known for being extremely efficient at eliminating odors, putting humidity into the air, and freshening the surrounding atmosphere. 

It will give both scent and moisture in order to help decrease allergies or irritants from the dry winter air.

How does Nebulizing Diffuser Works?

Nebulizing Diffuser works by breaking oil molecules into small particles so that they become airborne and inhaled.

As a result, you can enjoy the benefits of your essential oils in a very efficient way. The process is akin to ionization which naturally occurs in nature, such as lightning or thunderstorm creating ozone from an oxygen molecule. 

In fact, Nebulizing Diffuser is actually extracting the active ingredient from plant extract just like distillation used for making essential oil from plant extract – except it does it much faster using ultrasonic frequency vibrations rather than heat. 

#3 Reed Diffusers

Reed diffusers are a great way to fill your home with fragrance, but they can be expensive. Luckily, it’s really easy to make one at home! All you need is some time and patience.

A reed diffuser is essentially just a perfume oil mixed with water or alcohol

The type of reeds used are called bamboo – these are the same reeds that Chinese restaurants use as decoration in their window sills. 

Reed Diffusers

Diffusers are used because they evaporate the fragrance oil very slowly – this means you’ll have an evenly spread scent for much longer than something like a candle would provide.

If you’re after a more natural alternative then try making our simple vanilla reed diffuser, for filling your house with delicious

How does Reed Diffuser Work?

Reed diffusers work by using the evaporation of the fragrance oil to spread the scent. The reeds are placed in a container of oil, and as they absorb the oil they release the scent. This slow-release means that you’ll get an even distribution of fragrance throughout your home.

#4 Candle Diffusers

The candle diffuser is a small, metal canister containing three cotton wicks. The container has a removable lid that pulls out to reveal the wicks. The middle wick is thicker than the two outside ones.

How Do Candle Diffusers Work?

The outer wicks are lit as you normally do with a candle, and after about 20 minutes the center wick is lit. 

Candle Diffusers

By lighting only the two outside wicks the heat from those flames will melt the wax of the middle wick causing it to burn at an extremely high temperature- this makes it act like a reed diffuser without any oil! 

As time goes on, more and more fragrance is released into your home.

Oil diffusers vs Candles Diffusers

Both are slowly gaining in popularity as an alternative to candles. Many people prefer diffusers for a variety of reasons, including safety, cost, and environmental concerns. 

Comparatively, reed diffusers are safer than candles since they don’t emit any open flames or heat. They also don’t release smoke the same way other types of burning lights do.

The candle diffuser is a small, metal canister containing three cotton wicks. The container has a removable lid that pulls out to reveal the wicks. The middle wick is thicker than the two outside ones. 

#5 Ceramic diffusers

Ceramic diffusers (2)

Ceramic diffusers are a stylish way to diffuse essential oils. Unlike many other types of essential oil diffusers, ceramic diffusers don’t have any internal moving parts.

How do ceramic diffusers work?

The working principle behind a ceramic oil diffuser is very simple. 

A wick made from materials such as bamboo or cotton absorbs the essential oil from the dish underneath it and then slowly releases those aromas into your room. 

The evaporation process also causes the temperature of the ceramic oil diffuser to increase slightly which means that you will feel its warm touch on your skin when you pick it up and carry it around your home (similar to an electric heating pad).

Ceramic diffusers work very similarly to nebulizing diffusers. They both release essential oils into the air through water evaporation. 

The main difference between the two is that ceramic diffusers use high heat to vaporize their contents whereas nebulizers do not. 

This also means that you should only use 100% pure therapeutic grade essential oils with your ceramic diffuser because their chemical compounds are sensitive to high temperatures.

#6 Electric Heat Diffusers

Electric heat diffusers are one of the most unique types of essential oil diffusers.

The working principle behind this type of diffuser is very simple and similar to that of a candle (just without any fire). 

The electric heating pad uses its metal coil to absorb the essential oils from the dish underneath it and then slowly releases those aromas into your room.

How does a Heat Diffuser Work?

Electric heat diffusers work very similarly to oil diffusers and nebulizing diffusers. They all use water evaporation as a method to diffuse their contents. 

The main difference between electric heat diffusers and other types of essential oil diffusers is that they use an electrical heating element rather than heat to vaporize their contents.

What are the disadvantages of heat diffusers?

One disadvantage of electric heat diffusers is that they can be a little expensive to use. 

Since the metal coil needs electricity to function, this will increase your monthly electricity bill. 

Also, you should never leave this type of diffuser running overnight because there is a slight risk that it could become a fire hazard if left unattended for too long.

What are the advantages of heat diffusers?

One advantage of electric heat diffusers is that they work very quickly and easily as opposed to other types of essential oil diffusers which sometimes require users to wait several hours before they can enjoy their first burst of aromatherapy goodness.

#7 Terracotta Diffusers

Terracotta essential oil diffusers work very similarly to heat diffusers. A terracotta heat diffuser is basically a small clay dish with an electric heating element at the bottom of it. 

Terracotta Diffusers

The working principle behind this type of diffuser is very simple and similar to that of an electric heating pad.

How do Terracotta Diffusers work?

Terracotta diffusers work very similarly to electric heat diffusers. The terracotta diffuser uses an electrical heating element at the bottom of a small clay dish to absorb essential oils from the dish and then release them slowly into your room.

#8 FanStyle Diffusers

Fan diffusers are one of the most unique types of essential oil diffusers. Fan diffusers use a small fan to blow air across a water basin. 

FanStyle Diffusers

As the room air passes over this pooled water, it absorbs all the tiny particles of essential oils and then is blown out into your room as fresh, clean, purified air with an added touch of aromatherapy goodness.

How Do FanStyle Diffusers Work?

Since fan diffusers work by using airflow to purify the surrounding area, they require no electricity or batteries in order to function properly. 

Your only concern is that you should be very careful about where you place them because they do produce a slightly more powerful stream of air than other types of diffusers.

5 Benefits of Diffusers: Backed By Science

1. Diffusers help people with asthma and allergies:

2007 study conducted in the UK showed that diffusing lavender oil helped improve breathing for those living with asthma and other respiratory illnesses. 

And an Australian study published in 2015 revealed that a mixture of orange, rosemary, and black spruce oils reduced lung inflammation – even if someone suffered from severe asthma. 

More studies need to be done to determine how effective essential oil therapy is for people with severe respiratory issues, but we can rest assured knowing it provides positive effects for everyone else!

2. Diffusers aid mental function: 

A 2008 study conducted at Wheeling Jesuit University found that mood levels improved after diffusing aromatherapy blends containing citrus oils such as lemon and orange for a week. 

The study’s authors hypothesize that it has to do with the ability of citrus oils to increase the production of dopamine and serotonin – neurotransmitters responsible for maintaining a positive mood.

3. Diffusers improve sleep:  

A 2006 study in Italy revealed that diffusing lavender oil in a room before bedtime helped people relax and reduced their heart rates, making them feel more at ease when going to sleep. 

Other studies show that inhaling certain aromas causes changes in brain activity that help us fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and even have better overall sleep quality!

4. Diffusers reduce stress:

Inhaling Lavender oil may be all you need to release your tension. In fact, a 2009 study conducted by psychologists at Wheeling Jesuit University found that it helped students relax before taking college entrance exams.  

But this isn’t the only time it’s been shown to reduce stress. 

A UK study conducted in 2004 discovered that exposing people to lavender oil for a short period of time decreased their cortisol levels (the hormone responsible for stress) and increased their endorphin levels (the hormone responsible for positive feelings).

5. Diffusers help with pain management: 

Many essential oils have analgesic capabilities thanks to pain-reducing molecules, such as limonene or linalool, which are found within them. 

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy found that diffusing clove oil helped dental patients become less sensitive to pain during their procedure.

Disadvantages of Diffusers

A study in the Journal of Food & Function  (July 2011, Volume 2) found that when essential oils are diffused into the air, ozone is produced. 

When high enough levels of ozone are present, it can irritate airways and lungs causing breathing difficulties or exacerbating asthma in people who suffer from this condition.

5 Best Essential Oils For Diffusion

There are plenty of essential oils that can be used to scent your home with aromas, but here’s our top five list of faves.

  • Lavender Oil is great for helping you relax and unwind at the end of the day. It also helps acne by soothe redness and inflammation.
  • Lemongrass Oil is a very versatile oil since it’s antibacterial,  antiviral, soothes insect bites, heals scars and blemishes, prevents wrinkles, and even stops hangnails. It smells citrusy fresh too!
  • Peppermint Essential Oil has anti-inflammatory properties which help headaches associated with sinus issues or migraines.
  • Eucalyptus Oil helps relieve sinuses from congestion and colds, as well as reduces inflammation that can cause stiffness or pain.
  • Bergamot Essential Oil has a fresh citrusy scent that is great for depression and to lift your spirits. It also helps reduce anxiety, relieve migraines and improve memory function.

The best essential oil diffusers to buy now

You can go about getting a diffuser in two ways: buy an ultrasonic diffuser (which operates very similarly to a humidifier, but instead emits oils into the air) or get a nebulizing/atomizing diffuser (this kind uses high pressure and high speed to create mist). 

Ultrasonic models tend to be more popular because they’re simple and straightforward. They’re also what you’ll find at your typical drug store.

Are diffusers bad for your lungs? 

“Essential oils are very concentrated substances,” says Sam Beattie, a North Carolina-based aromatherapist who has been working with essential oils since 1994. 

“They can be irritating to mucus membranes if used in excess or if they’re applied directly to the skin without being diluted.” 

The idea of “overdosing” definitely makes sense, but does it actually happen? 

Well, here are some real-world examples of things that have happened when someone experienced essential oil overdose:

But how do you know when you’re overdoing it? 

According to Krebaum, the only way is if your diffuser isn’t working or if there’s too much oil in the air. 

If you’re using a nebulizing diffuser, then the mist produced should be white and look similar to steam. 

If there are droplets of oil floating around instead, that’s an indication that too many oils are being used. 

You also may want to check to see where your diffuser instruction manual suggests adding drops of essential oils — most of them suggest between 5-15 drops per 100mls of water.

If you’re using more than that, then yes, you may be at risk for some of the negative side effects.

Can breathing essential oils be harmful?

No. The particles in essential oils dissolve quickly and easily into the bloodstream through the lungs, the oil molecules are too large to enter (or exit) via capillaries. 

More importantly, the molecules are of a neutral charge which means they cannot carry an electrical signal nor cause disturbances in the workings of our cells.

Since there is no conflict with water molecules or other biochemicals inside our body, essential oils have nothing to react with and thus pose no harm. 

Of course, some people can be allergic to certain oils but this does not mean breathing them will be harmful since allergies are just an over-reaction by the immune system that results in various symptoms being exhibited when coming into contact with what it considers foreign proteins. 

Essential oils are simply fragrant liquids made up mostly of terpenes which are organic compounds found naturally in many herbs, flowers, and trees – all 100% safe for human consumption

How long does it take for a diffuser to start misting?

It depends on the diffuser and power source. Most household aromatherapy appliances take about 2-3 minutes to start as they gradually warm-up (like an electric jug). 

Some of the latest ultrasonic models vaporize almost instantly because they use a very powerful nebulizer and high frequency ‘transducer’ technology which creates millions of microscopic air bubbles in less than one second. 

The micro-bubbles become saturated with water and essential oils and form a mist within seconds, much like boiling water does on a stove. 

If you need vaporization immediately, this is the quickest method available today.

How long can I use my diffuser?

The length of time you can run your diffuser will depend on your specific make and model. 

Some small aroma diffusers work with low wattage (5-15 watts) and can run for up to 8 hours on one tank of water. 

Other aromatherapy appliances use higher wattages (20+ watts) which typically run for around 4 hours before needing a recharge or refill.

Can you put any liquid in a diffuser?

Yes, as long as it is 100% water-based and fragrance-free

Other ingredients such as vegetable oils, milk, etc will damage the ultrasonic nebulizer and spoil the diffuser so only pure water should be used in aromatherapy devices.

Do diffusers boil water?

As with all ultrasonic diffusers, water is placed inside the reservoir and brought to a boil by way of high-frequency sound waves. 

The vaporizing process takes longer but it is not an extended boiling action. 

Do not believe what you see on TV – most air fresheners/aromatherapy appliances use similar technology that creates millions of microscopic bubbles in the water which then turn into mist or vapor. 

This is why some people call vaporizers’ ultrasonic foggers’.


Can you sleep with a diffuser on?

While there are no contraindications for sleeping with a diffuser on, we do strongly recommend you turn your vaporizer off after 30 minutes of operation. 

The same applies if you need to leave the room and intend to return a short time later – always ensure that your appliance is turned off or it could overheat.

How do diffusers work on cars?

We do not recommend using aromatherapy devices in cars because the electrical components are not suited to constant fluctuations in temperature.

For this reason, we recommend you use  ‘car freshener’ products which have been specifically designed with a built-in air freshener system that releases a pleasant smell for up to 90 days without any additional maintenance. 

Can you use a diffuser without oil?

Yes, you can use your ‘diffuser’ without any essential oils for aromatherapy purposes. 

However, we do not recommend using them as air fresheners because the types of fragrances used in these appliances are generally tailored towards providing a light perfumed scent rather than an intense long-lasting fragrance.

So they may not be powerful enough to deliver the taste and smell required.

Can an oil diffuser be used as a humidifier?

Yes, all of our aromatherapy appliances can be used as humidifiers because the oils are not atomized into the air meaning that they are safe to use in this way. 

Always ensure you follow the instructions provided with your device and only operate it on a low setting for no more than 20 minutes at a time because using oil at high settings will damage plastic components

How do I diffuse a work situation?

Before you leave home, ensure that your diffuser is filled with the appropriate type of oil for the job. For example;

– Rosemary if everyone around you needs to be more thoughtful and co-operative

-Lavender is there’s a lack of harmony between team members or one person is causing trouble for others (Lavender will also help people sleep)

Can you put just water in a diffuser?

We do not recommend using essential oils on their own because they are highly concentrated and many of them can be poisonous if inhaled or consumed in excessive amounts. 

Thus, we always suggest that you dilute them with some type of base oil such as coconut or almond before putting them into your diffuser.

What is an evaporative diffuser and how does it differ from a heat diffuser?

#1 – Heat diffusers are oil radiators that work very quickly so you can breathe in the benefits within a few minutes.

#2 – Evaporative aromatherapy diffusers are water-cooled meaning they work slower but last much longer because they use air to spread the fragrance rather than heat which is why we have never offered any devices of this type for sale.

What are the benefits of using an evaporative diffuser?

#1 – Unlike heat diffusers, these devices work very slowly so they can run all day long without the risk of overheating.

#2 – They are also easier to clean because you can simply rinse them with tap water or wipe them down with a wet cloth after every use.


Learning the working of the diffuser is always a crucial part of any medic analogy and aromatherapist.

Do you have any questions about diffusers or aromatherapy? Let us know in the comments below! We love to help our readers learn more about these topics and how they can improve their health. 

Thanks for reading, and we hope you enjoy using diffusers as part of your healthy lifestyle.

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