Diffuser vs. Humidifier: Which One Is Right For You?

Christine Herrington

Christine is our Chief Editor and a contributing writer to the site.

Last Updated on April 23, 2021

The air quality inside your home can have a significant impact on your general health. Overly dry air can increase dust levels, irritate sinuses and airways, and cause skin problems. To maintain a healthy environment, the EPA recommends keeping indoor humidity levels between 30-50%. The best way to improve the interior humidity with a diffuser or humidifier. 

When it comes to improving your home’s indoor air quality, some people struggle to differentiate between diffusers and humidifiers. They often use the terms interchangeably without understanding that both devices have unique benefits

By comparing a diffuser vs. humidifier and analyzing the pros and cons of each, you’ll be able to make an informed decision regarding which one is best for you. 

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Table of Contents

What is a Diffuser?

Typically used to release essential oils in the air, diffusers are favored by those who enjoy strong pleasurable scents. The main purpose of an oil diffuser is to freshen the aroma of a room.

They are designed to take in drops of essential oils, mixed with water in the diffuser’s reservoir, and distribute a fine mist that instantly reinvigorates a room.

There are four types of essential oil diffusers to choose from. These are:

  • Ultrasonic 
  • Heat
  • Nebulizing 
  • Evaporative 

The Pros of Diffusers

Along with providing a refreshing aroma to a room, diffusers also have many other benefits:

  • The mist is absorbed by your skin and produces either a relaxing or stimulating effect. Many people with dry skin find the combination of aromatic compounds and water improves their skin condition. 
  • Reduce the number of bacteria and fungus in a room.
  • The mist purifies the air surrounding the diffuser.
  • The mist can help you breathe easier.
  • Some diffusers come with LED color-changing lights, which can help alleviate fatigue and enhance energy levels.

The Cons of Diffusers

Depending on your preferences, some features of diffusers can prove to be quite frustrating. Some cons include:

  • Certain diffuser types, such as nebulizers, can be expensive.
  • Most diffusers have built-in lights that can’t be adjusted, meaning they could interfere with sleep.
  • Some diffusers are relatively noisy.

How Does a Diffuser Work?

It’s important to note that each essential oil diffuser works slightly differently.

Evaporative users only need oil drops added to the filter or diffuser pad. The diffuser then releases air through the pad or filter to quicken up the oil evaporation process. This method helps to spread the aroma of the essential oil into a room. 

Heat diffusers are built similarly; they only need drops of oil on the pad or filter. The only change in characteristics is that it uses a heating element rather than a fan.

Nebulizers tend to be the most effective of all diffusers. This is why they’re priced slightly higher than the other types. The nebulizer comes with a tube where the oil is added. An air-jet blows around the top of the tube, causing a vacuum effect that sucks oil to the top. Air is blown across the oil’s surface, with tiny oil droplets then diffused and released into the room.

Ultrasonic diffusers act as both humidifiers and oil dispersal systems. However, they must not be confused with an actual humidifier. When essential oils are added to the diffuser’s water, they stay at the top. A disk placed inside the diffuser then vibrates, which agitates the water, causing the oil to break down into minuscule particles. The oil is then released into the air as a fine mist while humidifying the air at the same time.

What is a Humidifier?

Humidifiers are a favorite gadget among those who reside in dry climates. They provide great relief for those who dread the air type during the winter months because the cold air can’t hold as much water as warmer air.

There are also four types of humidifier to choose from:

  • Warm mist
  • Impeller
  • Evaporative
  • Ultrasonic 

The Pros of Humidifiers

Alongside providing relief to those who struggle in dry climates, humidifiers can provide a whole host of benefits, including:

  • They add moisture to the air in the form of a warm mist.
  • A warm mist humidifier provides positive effects for the nose lining, with the added moisture helping with sinus problems, dry coughs, sore throats, and dry skin.
  • Reduces effects of those who suffer from allergies and asthma.
  • Warm mist and cool mist humidifiers can help to reduce snoring. This is because the moisture in the air reduces vibrations in the mouth and nose as you breathe in. 
  • Warm mist and cool mist humidifiers can operate with tap water, not just filtered.

The Cons of Humidifiers

Humidifiers are the ideal devices for improvising your indoor air quality; however, they do have several drawbacks, including:

  • Some types of humidifiers aren’t compatible with essential oils. This is because they have the potential to damage the plastic components. 
  • Constant cleaning and maintenance are required to prevent mold and bacterial buildup.
  • If the settings are wrong, humidifiers can sometimes increase humidity levels, creating an environment where mold can develop. 
  • Some humidifiers, especially the warm mist, boil water inside them. This can be dangerous if you have young children or pets.

How Does a Humidifier Work?

Warm mist humidifiers work by boiling water to produce steam, which is subsequently released into a room

Evaporative types still expel mist, however rather than being warm, it is cool. Water is added into the device’s reservoir, which is soaked up by either a wick, belt, or filter. The fan inside the humidifier then blows air through it.

Impeller humidifiers also expel cool mist. They work by spinning disks inside the diffuser, which breaks the water down into tiny droplets before being released into the room.

Ultrasonic humidifiers use a vibrating metal diaphragm which makes sound vibrations. These movements force minuscule water molecules into the air. These humidifiers can release either warm or cool mist. 

Which One is Right For You?

When choosing a diffuser vs. humidifier, select the device that caters to your needs best.If you want essential oils expelling pleasurable scents into your home, then you’ll want to opt for a diffuser. Alternatively, if you’re looking to maintain a certain moisture level in your room, then a humidifier is a perfect choice.

Diffuser vs. Humidifier Which One Is Right For You

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