Can You Put Essential Oils in a Humidifier without Ruining It?

Josh Miller

Josh is a contributing writer to the site and former HVAC specialist.

Last Updated on April 23, 2021

In recent years, diffusing essential oils has become the go-to method of perfuming one’s home. With a variety of scents and therapeutic effects, essential oils can be combined to induce relaxation, encourage focus, and even clear out stuffy noses. 

It is recommended that you use an essential oil diffuser to reap the aromatic benefits of essential oils, but if you have a humidifier, you might wonder whether that could work just as well. To find out if you can put essential oils in your humidifier, you’ll need to know exactly what each device does and how it is affected by the chemicals in essential oils. 

Can You Put Essential Oils in a Humidifier without Ruining It
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Table of Contents

What is an Essential Oil Diffuser?

A diffuser is a machine used to diffuse essential oils into the air. Diffusers do this with a few different heat, ultrasonic vibration, fan, and atomization processes. Each of these types of processes is done by a type of diffuser. 

Heat diffuser

Heat diffusers warm up the essential oil, allowing its scent to be released into the air as it evaporates. The oil is placed in a receptacle, then heated underneath. Heat diffusers are less favored than other types of diffusers because of safety concerns about flammable oils and spillage.

Ultrasonic diffuser

Ultrasonic diffusers work by breaking down the essential oils into microparticles. Ultrasonic vibrations break down the essential into microparticles, which are then moved out of the diffuser in a gentle mist that wafts into the room, dispersing the scent of the essential oil into the air. 

Evaporative diffuser

An evaporative diffuser uses evaporation to disperse the essential oil; however, it does not use heat. These diffusers hold oil in a container, within which wicks or absorbent material like bamboo sticks are placed. These materials soak up the essential oil, and as it evaporates, the scent flows into the air.

Nebulizer diffuser

Nebulizer diffusers convert an essential oil to a mist without water. These types of diffusers are mostly used by professionals who want their clients to reap medical benefits from essential oils. They are more expensive because they use up essential oils more quickly.

What is a Humidifier?

A humidifier is a machine that puts humidity, or moisture, back into the air. They are especially helpful in the winter when the cold weather causes dry skin and sinuses. Humidifiers can also help those with colds or coughs breathe easier and soothe their throats. 

Humidifiers work by pushing out water vapor or steam to raise the humidity in a room. There are several different humidifiers on the market, but the two most commonly used are ultrasonic and steam. 

Ultrasonic humidifiers

Much like an ultrasonic diffuser, an ultrasonic humidifier uses ultrasonic vibration to create mist from the holding chamber’s water. The mist is released into the air and puts moisture into the room.

Steam humidifiers

Steam humidifiers hold water in a receptacle which is heated. The heated water escapes as steam. This stream flows into the air and moistens the surrounding air. 

What are Essential Oils?

Before answering the question can you put essential oils in a humidifier? it is also helpful to know exactly what an essential oil is. 

An essential oil is an extract from a plant, such as peppermint, cinnamon, lavender, or sandalwood. These extracts are made up of aromatic chemicals that can be used to perfume a living or workspace, be blended with carrier oils for massage therapy, and used in various beauty product recipes. 

Due to the highly concentrated power of essential oils, you should exercise caution when handling the extracts. If undiluted, essential oils can cause allergic reactions, chemical burns, headaches, and skin rashes. Pets may also have severe neurological reactions to these substances. Essential oils should never be ingested. Essential oils are chemicals and should be treated accordingly. 

Despite the potential hazards when using essential oils, they are still a popular form of at-home aromatherapy. When used in a diffuser that is designed to work with their chemical compounds, essential oils are relatively safe and will cause no harm to you or the diffuser. 

But what happens when you put essential oil into a humidifier?

What Happens When You Put Essential Oils in a Humidifier?

Although there are different internal mechanisms in humidifiers, most machines have similar features, such as a plastic container to hold water and a motor-powered fan. The steam humidifier, sometimes referred to as steam vaporizer, doesn’t use a fan but rather boils the water, which then emits steam. 

If you use an essential oil in the first type of humidifier, the oil can erode the plastic in the water tank, inhibit the fan mechanism, and clog parts of the motor. Not all essential oils are created equal, and low-quality oils may contain filler ingredients that can harm the machine and negatively affect your health if diffused into the air. 

Using essential oils in the steam humidifier may prove to be more dangerous because heating essential oils can result in an unpleasant smell and cause dangerous reactions between the heat and chemicals in the oil. 

The Verdict

Can you put essential oils in a humidifier? Concerns aside, the simple answer is yes. You can put essential oils in a humidifier, but you really should choose a diffuser instead. 

Essential oils can harm your humidifier over time and potentially create a safety hazard if heated to a certain temperature. 

The efficacy and cost of using essential oils in a humidifier play a factor in whether you’d want to put an essential oil in a humidifier. Humidifiers are equipped with water tanks big enough to add humidity to a large room. Diffusers are meant to mist an area with fragrance, and therefore hold much less water. 

The essential oil-to-water ratio for a humidifier is larger, which would end up costing you more money. Quality essential oils are not cheap, and using them in a humidifier is not a cost-effective idea. 

Stick to a Diffuser for Essential Oils

To ensure safety and keep your machines running smoothly, it is best to stick to using an essential oil diffuser for your aromatherapy needs. Humidifiers are built with a specific purpose and aren’t equipped for the chemicals in essential oils. It can be done, but it comes with more risks than benefits, making a diffuser the better choice. 

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