What's the Difference Between a Humidifier and an Oil Diffuser?

Do you ever find yourself chewing on chapped lips when you’re hanging around the house during the COVID-19 crisis? Do your lotion and hand sanitizer live side by side, and are you having trouble getting to sleep at night? If any of this sounds familiar, you might benefit from an oil diffuser and a humidifier.

You may know that both of these devices spit some sort of mysterious mist into the air. But what’s the difference between a humidifier and an oil diffuser? Read on to find out and discover the benefits of each.


What Is a Humidifier?

A humidifier is a device designed to add moisture into your home. They contain a reservoir of water that is dispersed into a mist that filters out into the air. This can raise the humidity, improving everything from your respiratory health to the state of your furniture.

Air that is too dry can lead to dry skin, sore throats, more frequent colds, and chapped lips. It can also cause wood floors and furniture to warp and crack. And it can lead to higher energy bills, as dry air can make your home feel colder than it is, causing you to run your heat more frequently.

humidifier is on the table

What Is an Oil Diffuser?

An oil diffuser is a device designed to disperse essential oil into the air of your home. Unlike a humidifier, this device isn’t designed to add moisture to the room (though some models do work this way). Instead, a diffuser is designed to disperse the scent of the oil you’re using.

Aromatherapy has been purported to have a number of benefits, which we’ll discuss more later. You can get large oil diffusers that will disperse scent through an entire room. You can also get small models that plug into a USB port for use at your desk. 

Humidifier Models

There are a few different models of humidifier: evaporative, steam, impeller, and ultrasonic. An evaporative humidifier is the simplest design. A wicking filter sits in a reservoir of water and pulls water up to evaporate into the air.

A steam humidifier boils water to create a warm mist that disperses into the room. This model can be a great option for those with sensitive allergies, as it kills bacteria as it passes through the humidifier. But it’s not a great option for people with small kids because of the risk of burns.

An impeller humidifier has a spinning disk that breaks water up into small droplets. These droplets are flung into a diffuser which sends a cool mist into the air above the humidifier. This model is cool-operating, making it a good option for kids’ rooms. 

An ultrasonic humidifier uses vibration to break water into droplets. It has a diaphragm that vibrates at high frequencies, much like an ultrasonic speaker. This turns water into a cool mist which is then dispersed into the room where it’s placed.



Oil Diffuser Models 

There are also a few different types of essential oil diffusers that you can choose from: ultrasonic, nebulizing, heat, reed, and evaporative. An ultrasonic diffuser works much like an ultrasonic humidifier does. Essential oil is added to a basin of water, where it floats on the surface and is broken into tiny particles by ultrasonic vibrations.

A nebulizing oil diffuser, or nebulizer, is considered to be one of the most effective styles on the market. The device contains a tube where drops of essential oil are added. Air blows across the top of the tube, sucking oil up to the top of the tube and dispersing it out into the room around it.

A heat diffuser relies on warmth to evaporate oil and disperse it out into the air. You may add oil to a basin over the top of a warming candle or light, or you might place it on a filter or pad. The heat warms the oil particles, causing them to break off and float into the air.

A reed diffuser is the simplest model of all oil diffusers. Essential oil is poured into a tall vessel with a narrow mouth. Several reeds are placed into the vase, and their wicking structures pull oil up to the tops of the reeds, where it evaporates out into the air.

An evaporative diffuser uses airflow rather than heat to disperse oil particles. You place a few drops of oil on a filter pad that is placed over the top of a fan. The fan causes the oil to evaporate out into the room, swirling the aroma around the space.


Benefits of a Humidifier

A humidifier with essential oils can bring several benefits to your health and your home. Having adequate humidity in your house can help to alleviate sinus infections and colds and keep your mucus membranes well-moisturized. Higher humidity can also be helpful in treating skin conditions like eczema and dry skin.

Wood floors and furniture will benefit from a humidifier as well. If air gets too dry, it can strip the moisture out of wood. This can cause the wood to warp and crack, leaving gaps in your floors and furniture and spelling heavy maintenance and repair costs for you. 

humidifier in a large room made of wood

Benefits of Essential Oils

Many people believe essential oils can have a number of health benefits. People believe oils like cinnamon, peppermint, and ylang ylang can help to alleviate pain, and basil, grapefruit, and helichrysum can improve digestion. Cedarwood, patchouli, and sandalwood are said to improve sleep, and calendula, frankincense, geranium, jasmine, and tea tree oil may help treat skin complaints.

One of the biggest benefits of essential oil use, however, is aromatherapy, using essential oils to influence mood. Lavender oil can be calming, and peppermint oil can improve concentration. Certain other oils can help to alleviate anxiety and depression and even improve quality of life for people with dementia.

Using a Humidifier Safely

One of the biggest safety concerns with a humidifier is keeping it clean. If you don’t clean your humidifier on a regular basis, mold, mildew, and bacteria can start to build up in the tank. Then these get dispersed out into the air when you turn your humidifier on.

If you use a steam humidifier, you also need to be aware of the risk of burns. Because the humidifier boils the water, the device gets extremely hot. If a small child or animal touches it while it’s operating, they can sustain serious burns.

Using an Oil Diffuser Safely

When it comes to using essential oils, the primary safety concern is exposing your skin to undiluted essential oil. These oils can cause a rash if left on the skin and should never be applied directly to your body or ingested. If you keep these oils in your home, keep them out of the reach of small children and always wash your hands with soap and water after you fill your oil diffuser.

You also need to make sure you always switch your oil diffuser off after you’re done using it, especially if it’s a heat model. These models may or may not use a light in their heating element, so it can be hard to tell if they’re on. If they’re left on too long, they may start a fire in your home.

Maintaining a Humidifier

The most important part of maintaining a humidifier is keeping it clean. You should clean it at least once a week, taking the tank out and washing it with soap and water. Allow it to dry fully or wipe it dry before you replace it.

You can also run a vinegar-water mixture in a 1:1 ratio or a small amount of bleach in water through the humidifier to clean the diffuser parts. Never use these two together or one after the other. Vinegar and bleach create toxic chlorine gas when they’re mixed.

Maintaining an Oil Diffuser

If you plan on using different types of essential oils in your diffuser, it’s a good idea to wash your basin between uses. If your model has a removable basin, take it out and wash it with soap and water, wiping it completely clean before you replace it. Consult your owner’s manual for information on how to clean your diffuser if your basin is not removable, or replace the filter pad or reeds if you’re using an evaporation diffuser. 

You’ll also need to make sure to change the bulb in your oil diffuser if you use a heat model. You’ll need to make sure to get a halogen or CFL bulb for this use, as you’ll need the heat. But make sure to use appropriate safety measures when handling these bulbs, including unplugging the diffuser when you aren’t using it.

Combo Humidifiers and Diffusers

There are also some devices that can function as both a humidifier and a diffuser. These humidifying diffuser models allow you to include essential oils in the reservoir with the water that the humidifier uses. These models can provide a lot of benefits, but they do require some extra care.

Make sure when you’re shopping that you look for a model that is truly a humidifier and a diffuser; many diffusers may use water, but not in the volumes it takes to qualify as a true humidifier. You’ll also need to take some extra care in cleaning the tank. You’ll be cleaning both to remove oil and to prevent mildew and mold, so be thorough.

How to Use Aromatherapy

If you plan to use a diffuser for aromatherapy, you may want to talk to your doctor first. This practice can have a number of benefits, but there are some medical concerns to be aware of. If you have allergies or asthma, breathing in essential oils may irritate it. 

Beyond that, start your aromatherapy practice by identifying your goals for your aromatherapy. For example, if you want to relax and reduce anxiety, place lavender oil or sandalwood in your diffuser. Sit nearby and consider practicing yoga, meditation, or simple mindfulness while you breathe in the calming mist.

What to Look for in a Humidifier

When you’re shopping for a humidifier, make sure you look for a model that will suit your situation. If you have small children in the house, go for a cool-operating model – an ultrasonic, evaporating, or impeller humidifier. If you have severe allergies, go for a steam model for extra protection from bacteria. 

dad plays with children in the nursery

You should also make sure your humidifier has a big enough tank to handle the space you’re wanting to moisturize. Smaller models can be good for small spaces or for travel needs. But if you’re wanting to humidify your living room or even your whole house, you’re going to need a bigger tank.

What to Look for in a Diffuser

When you’re shopping for a diffuser, look for a model that has a removable basin. This will make it easier to clean between uses.

You should also consider where you plan to use your diffuser when you’re shopping. If you want to use it in your bedroom, for instance, you may want to go for an ultrasonic model that’s silent and has no light. Other models have adjustable light options, and you may want to get one that has an automatic timer to turn the diffuser off after a certain period of time, or if you have small children, a model with a light that could be used as a night light.

Discover the Difference Between a Humidifier and an Oil Diffuser

Oil diffusers and humidifiers can both be wonderful additions to your home. A humidifier can keep your body and your floors both in tip-top condition. And an oil diffuser can bring benefits ranging from better sleep to less pain. 

If you’d like to discover the difference between a humidifier and an oil diffuser for yourself, check out the rest of our site at Everlasting Comfort. We have the highest quality models of both devices, as well as memory foam pillows and cushions. Check out our shop and start living in the comfort you deserve.

Leave a comment

Comments must be approved before appearing