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Is a Diffuser a Humidifier?

You have likely heard of a diffuser, but you may be wondering, “Is a diffuser a humidifier?” In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between the two so that you can better choose the one that will meet your needs.


Diffuser versus Humidifier

Diffuser versus Humidifier

While there are similarities between the two, a diffuser is different than a humidifier.

A diffuser is used to diffuse or disperse essential oils. This may slightly increase the humidity in a room, but it is not designed to do so. A diffuser has a small reservoir, so it will not increase the humidity in a room by much.

A humidifier is generally not made to be used with essential oils. In fact, adding essential oils could actually damage the machine.


What is a humidifier?

The purpose of a humidifier is to increase the humidity level, or moisture in the air, in a room. This is accomplished by dispensing water vapor into the air.

Ideally, your home’s humidity level should be between 40 and 60%. However, in many homes, the humidity level is in the 15 – 20% range, depending on the frequency with which you use the air conditioner or heater.

There are numerous health benefits of increasing the relative humidity level in the room. This is especially true during the dry winter months.

Using a humidifier can improve congestion, help with common cold symptoms, delay signs of aging such as wrinkles or fine lines, soothe irritated eyes, and even help alleviate allergy symptoms.

Adding moisture to the air by using a humidifier offers a plethora of health benefits by increasing the relative humidity in a room. It is also better for your house structurally. If the air is too dry, it can lead to wood floors warping or cracking. It can also negatively affect wood furniture in similar ways.

You may also have higher energy bills as a result of dry air. The dry air will make your house feel colder, which will lead to you running your heater more often.


Types of humidifiers

Humidifiers come in four categories: ultrasonic, evaporative, steam based, and impeller. The main difference between the four is how the water vapor is released into the air.


Ultrasonic humidifier

Is a Diffuser a Humidifier

In this type of humidifier, a metal diaphragm vibrates at sonic speed. This creates water droplets. The droplets are then blown out of the humidifier with a fan. The water disperses as a cool mist.

If you use this type of humidifier, you will need to change the water frequently in order to prevent the growth of bacteria.


Evaporative humidifier

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In an evaporative humidifier, the air is sucked in from the room. It is fanned through a moistened wick before hydrated air is released back into the room. This process increases the humidity level in the area.

An evaporative humidifier is also known as a cool mist humidifier. This is because the water basin is filled with cold water. This is the most popular type of humidifier.


Steam-based humidifier

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A warm mist is released into the room when a steam based humidifier is used. The warm mist is created by boiling water from a tank reservoir in the humidifier into a vapor. The vapor is then fanned into the room. It is important to note that this type of humidifier can increase the temperature of the room.

A steam humidifier is also referred to as a warm mist humidifier. These are the least energy-efficient type of humidifiers and should be used carefully around pets and children. This type of humidifier uses high heat and can be hazardous if you are not careful.


Impeller humidifier

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This type of humidifier has a propelling disc inside. It shoots water through a comb-like structure. This is how it creates a cool mist.

If you use this type of humidifier, you should change the water in the water tank regularly so that bacteria does not grow in it. It is also advised to use distilled water in an impeller humidifier.


What is a diffuser?

A diffuser sprays essential oils as a fine mist. The oils combine with a water droplet, and the two are dispersed into the room. This allows the scent of the essential oils to be released as well.

You can customize the oils used in the diffuser to achieve the desired impact. Some people diffuse essential oils just for their smell, while others like to harness the power of the oils to achieve a specific purpose, such as stress relief.

Diffusers come in a variety of sizes. While many are designed to easily sit on a shelf or an end table, some are even smaller than that. There are even diffusers that plug into a USB port on a computer for you to diffuse in your work area.


Types of diffusers

Just like humidifiers, there are ultrasonic diffusers, evaporative diffusers, and heat-based diffusers. Additionally, there is also a nebulizing diffuser.

A nebulizing diffuser does not have a comparable type of humidifier. This diffuser type operates without water. Instead, it uses an atomizer that causes the essential oils to be dispersed as fine particles into the air. The aroma will be stronger with a nebulizing diffuser because the essential oils are not combined with water molecules.

The simplest type of diffuser is a reed diffuser. In this type, you pour essential oils into a tall vessel that has a narrow mouth. Several reeds are then placed into the vase. The wicking structures will pull oil to the tops of the reeds. It then evaporates out into the air.

Additionally, diffusers can be categorized as passive diffusers or active diffusers.


Passive diffuser

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A passive diffuser emits the essential oil without the help of a stimulus. This produces a less intense aroma.

If you want lower intensity diffusion, you should use a passive diffuser. You can place them throughout your home and use them continuously.

If you are sensitive to smells, a passive diffuser may be better suited for you. They also tend to be better suited for young kids, the elderly, and houses with pets.


Active diffuser

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Active diffusers, on the other hand, use a stimulus to emit the essential oils. The stimulus can be electricity, airflow, or ultrasonic vibrations, among other things. The smell emitted from this type of diffuser will be much stronger than a passive diffuser.

In general, active diffusers should be used for shorter periods of time. Be sure to check the instructions on your specific diffuser, but generally, diffusers can be used for 30 to 60 minutes before they need to be turned off for 30 to 60 minutes.


Health Benefits of a Diffuser

The increase in humidity is so minuscule with a diffuser that the health benefits are achieved through the use of essential oils.

You can choose from a variety of essential oils to combat different issues. An aromatherapy diffuser that uses lavender essential oils can help reduce stress and improve sleep. Aromatherapy uses essential oils to impact your mood.

Eucalyptus essential oils are another common type of essential oil. This scent will help with respiratory issues such as coughs or congestion and can boost mental clarity.

Some people believe that using an essential oil diffuser with cinnamon or peppermint can help to alleviate pain. A few drops of basil or grapefruit can be diffused to help enhance digestion.

The health benefits of using a diffuser are based on the type of essential oils used and the amount diffused.


Diffuser and Humidifier Similarities

Both a humidifier and most types of diffusers will release moisture into the air. This is not true of nebulizing diffusers; however, an ultrasonic diffuser, evaporative diffuser, or heat-based diffuser will. Because of this, technically the non-nebulizing diffusers will humidify slightly.

However, it is important to keep in mind that the goal or purpose of diffusing essential oils is not to humidify a room. Diffusers often have significantly smaller water tanks as opposed to a humidifier. This means that the diffuser will humidify a small space. A humidifier, on the other hand, can increase the humidity levels in a much larger room.


Diffuser and Humidifier Differences

The goal of a humidifier is different from that of a diffuser. A humidifier is used to increase the humidity level in a room. A diffuser, on the other hand, is used to release the benefits of essential oils into a room.

The size of the two is often very different. Typically, a diffuser is a small device that easily fits on a table or shelf. A humidifier is typically larger because it is designed to work in a bigger area.

The size of the water tanks is also vastly different. For example, it is common to see humidifiers with a one gallon water tank. Diffusers, on the other hand, often only hold 100-200 milliliters.


Do I need a humidifier?

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There are two simple ways to check to see if you need to use a humidifier. One is to be mindful of the physical impacts of low humidity. The second way is to use a humidity gauge to measure how dry the air is.

If you have cracking skin, you may be spending too much time in a low humidity environment. In this case, a humidifier may be necessary. If you use a humidity gauge and it shows less than 30% humidity, you need to use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.

If there is not enough moisture in the air, there are numerous implications that will affect your health and your home. Dry air can cause issues such as bloody noses, eye irritation, dry skin, and sinus trouble. In your home, dry air may lead to cracked plaster and drywall or the home becoming creaky.


How to safely use a humidifier and oil diffuser

A major concern with humidifiers is keeping them clean. If you do not regularly clean it, mold, bacteria, and mildew can build up in the water tank. Then, these harmful accumulations will get dispersed out into the air when the humidifier is used.

If you are using a steam humidifier, be careful to avoid the risk of burns. When the humidifier boils the water, the entire device gets hot. This poses a burn risk to people or animals who touch the diffuser while it is in use. Use a steam humidifier cautiously if children or pets are around.

When it comes to using essential oil diffusers, the main safety concern is being exposed to undiluted essential oils. This can cause a rash. For this reason, essential oils should not be applied directly to your skin.

Be sure to store your items out of the reach of children and pets. You should also wash your hands with soap and water after refilling your oil diffuser.

When you are done using your diffuser, be sure to turn it off. This is especially important with heat models. If they are left on for too long, they pose a fire risk.


How to Maintain Your Humidifier or Diffuser

To maintain the quality of your machine, be sure to keep it clean. You should clean your humidifier at least one time per week. To clean it, take the tank out and wash it with soap and water. Be sure to dry it thoroughly before using it again.

To clean the inside of the diffuser, you can use a 1:1 mixture of vinegar and water or add a little bit of bleach to the water. This will clean the parts on the inside of the humidifier. However, be careful. Vinegar and bleach, when combined, create a toxic chlorine gas. For this reason, you should not use them together or even one after another.

When it comes to maintaining your diffuser, you should wash it between uses, especially if you are using different types of essential oils each time.

If your diffuser has a removable basin, take that out and wash it with soap and water. Be sure to wipe it dry before you replace it.

If the basin is not removable, refer to your owner’s manual for directions on how to clean your diffuser.


Combination humidifier and diffuser

Though not the most popular, there are combo humidifiers and diffusers on the market. These models allow you to place essential oils in the reservoir with the water that the humidifier needs. If this is your plan, be sure to buy a model that advertises itself as a combination humidifier and diffuser. This way you can enjoy the benefits of both a humidifier and essential oils.


Is a diffuser a humidifier FAQ

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Can a diffuser be used as a humidifier?

Generally not. A diffuser will disperse essential oils into the room. It does not add enough moisture to the air to be considered a humidifier.


Is a humidifier the same as a diffuser?

No, humidifiers and diffusers serve different purposes. One is designed to increase the water vapor in the air, while the other is designed to disperse essential oils into the room.


Does a diffuser help with dry air?

A diffuser may help increase the moisture in the air slightly but that is not its primary purpose.



The short answer to the question “Is a diffuser a humidifier?” is no. While there are some combo models, they are not the most popular ones available.

At the core, there are differences between humidifiers and diffusers. A humidifier is designed to disperse moisture into the air. This is especially beneficial when there is low moisture in the air. Dry air can have negative impacts on both your health and your home.

Essential oil diffusers, on the other hand, allow you to disperse your favorite essential oil scent into the room. There are many benefits of essential oils. Some people use them for their medical benefits, while others enjoy the aromatherapy benefits.

To enhance your indoor air quality, consider using a humidifier to add moisture to the air or a diffuser to add a pleasing aroma.

There are a variety of styles of humidifiers and diffusers available. Be sure to read the instructions carefully so you will know how to properly use and clean your product. If your diffuser has a heating element, be sure to keep it out of the reach of children or pets. You should also clean your machine regularly to avoid the buildup of harmful mold, mildew, and bacteria.



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