Using an essential oil diffuser is one of the most common ways for people to experience the health benefits of aromatherapy (although, as a disclaimer, they aren't meant to replace professional healthcare or medical advice). Essential oils are thought to have many benefits for your physical and emotional wellbeing, and using an essential oil diffuser is an easy and enjoyable way to incorporate essential oils into your daily life.
Although using an essential oil diffuser is really simple, there are some things that can add to or detract from your aromatherapy experience. We’ve compiled a list of dos and don’ts for using essential oil diffusers to ensure you get all of the good effects of essential oils without any of the fallbacks of misuse.
But first things first...
How To Use Your Essential Oil Diffuser
If you’re new to essential oil diffusers, there’s no reason to be nervous. They’re extremely simple to use! All you have to do is fill up the water tank or reservoir with water, up to the fill line (or per the instructions of your individual machine.) After you’ve added the water, you need to add a few drops of your favorite essential oil so that you can start your diffusion. It will then start to spray out in a fine mist, infusing the room with whatever scent you've chosen.
The rough rule of thumb is about three drops of essential oil per 100ml of water your essential oil diffuser’s reservoir holds, and the dilution is essential. But the amount is variable -- you should be careful not to overdo it, but if you prefer a stronger scent, you could go up to as many as five drops of essential oil per 100ml.
You can use one favored essential oil, or you can mix a few different scents to create your ideal blend -- but the amount of drops remains the same. So even if you use five different essential oils (or plant extracts, which is what they really are), you’ll only want about one drop per 100ml each.
Make Sure You Clean Your Essential Oil Diffuser
In order to keep your essential oil diffuser in its best possible working order, you’ll want to clean it about every five uses. If the blend of oils you intend to use is very different from the one you used previously, you might want to clean your diffuser in between uses to make sure nothing lingers.
Your device may come with its own specific instructions for cleaning, which depends on types of diffusers, but in general, you’ll want to use mild dish soap and a warm, wet cloth to clean out your water reservoir. You can then dry it with a dry cloth to make sure you’ve gotten everything up and are starting fresh next time you use your essential oil diffuser.
Once you’ve learned how to use your essential oil diffuser and how to take care of it, there are a few other things you might want to keep in mind to make sure you get the best use out of your diffuser.
How Long Should You Diffuse Essential Oils?
We get it — you're a budding aromatherapist, and you love the effect essential oils have on you, and so it stands to reason that more essential oils will have better results. If you love to use your ultrasonic diffuser at night before bed, for instance, it might be tempting to really fill it up and leave it on all night.
If you find using your essential oil diffuser relaxing in the time before bed, after all, won’t it help you get a longer, more restful night of sleep if that same relaxing scent is misted into your room throughout the night? Actually, the answer is no.
Olfactory Fatigue Or Nose Blindness
Olfactory fatigue, more commonly known as nose blindness, is a common experience, although you may not have heard of it before. If you have pets, for example, you probably take care to ensure your house doesn’t smell like wet dog or litterbox. You may be the neatest, most fastidious person in the world — you may even have somebody professionally clean your house on a regular basis — to ensure that your house doesn’t smell. You may even be very proud that, despite the chaos that having a pet can often bring on, if one were to step into your house, they wouldn’t even know your four-legged friend was there.
Unfortunately… this probably isn’t the case. Somebody who doesn’t have a pet or isn’t accustomed to your home likely can tell that you have a pet based on scent alone. This is due to olfactory fatigue.
If your nose is exposed to an odor continuously, especially for a long period of time, the odor receptors in your body give up on sending the messages to your brain -- after all, you already know what it smells like, you’ve likely determined it isn’t an issue, so your brain doesn’t need to constantly be acknowledging the scent. Instead, it makes space for your nose to be receptive to new smells, which are out of the ordinary.
The same holds true with the scent molecules from essential oils. Aromatherapy with essential oils is thought to be so effective because of how it interacts with our limbic system, which first requires us to smell the essential oils. If you’ve been diffusing your essential oils for too long without a break — like overnight — your body may get olfactory fatigue, and you won’t benefit from diffusing the essential oils at all.
Don’t Diffuse Essential Oils While You Sleep
In addition to the risk of olfactory fatigue, as described above, diffusing essential oils overnight may not be effective simply because your body is busy with other things. So even if you have an essential oil diffuser or humidifier with an essential oils tray that allows you to set an automatic shut-off so as to avoid olfactory fatigue, it might not be worthwhile.
While you sleep, your conscious mind may get a rest, but your body is busy! Sleep is when your body repairs itself and recovers from the rigors of daily life. The deeper you get into sleep, the less responsive your brain becomes. Your body may be so busy with these other things that any effect the essential oil molecules may have usually had on your body might be nullified, or worse, distract your body from getting the rest it needs.
Limit The Amount Of Essential Oils You Add To Your Diffuser!
Essential oils can smell so nice that it’s tempting to add more than recommended so that you can really appreciate the scent. However, this isn’t always the best course of action. Although it would be difficult to use so many essential oils in your diffuser that they would become harmful to you, there are downsides to using too many essential oils.
Your nose has an odor detection threshold. This varies from person to person based on a wide variety of things, ranging from your age to the environment you’re in at any given moment. This means that while you may not smell the essential oils you’re diffusing as strongly as you want to to get the maximum benefits, your nose is taking in the molecules of the essential oil -- and thus, they are having the effect you’re looking for.
Using too much of an essential oil in your diffuser can lead to olfactory fatigue, as we described above, and render the essential oils useless. Additionally, while too much essential oil in your diffuser isn’t likely to negatively impact your health, it can negatively impact the more vulnerable members of our household.
Diffusing an excessive amount of essential oils if you have a dog or a cat can be dangerous to their health. If it’s diffused into the air, the oil particles can settle onto their fur and be ingested by your pet when it grooms itself and cause major health issues. Diffusing essential oils, especially an excessive amount, can also cause toxicity in babies and potentially cause complications for pregnant women.
So even if you long for a stronger scent, it’s better to play it safe when diffusing essential oils and stick to the recommended dosage.
Make Sure You’re Using Pure Essential Oils
As with everything, as essential oils rise in popularity, there are more options when you look to purchase them. While in some ways this is good -- it makes it easier to get essential oils and also makes a wider variety of essential oils available -- it also means that there’s a greater likelihood you’ll end up with a subpar product.
While essential oils are thought to have many wellness benefits when used appropriately, they aren’t regulated by the FDA. Because of this, essential oils aren’t technically held to any standard when sold -- so you’ll want to make sure the only ingredients in your essential oil is the extract itself and possibly a carrier oil as well. Any additional chemicals or additives could be dangerous or dilute the aromatherapeutic effect of the essential oil when diffused.
Essential oil diffusers are a great, simple way to incorporate essential oils into your life through aromatherapy. They’re easy to use, easy to maintain, and with a few extra tips, are a healthy and effective way to reap the benefits of essential oils.