We are often asked by our customers which diffuser is the best. Unfortunately, with so many different types of diffusers available (each with its own benefits and downsides), we've found that the only way we can answer that question is—it depends on what you like in a diffuser.
There are four different categories of diffusers available on the market today. Each of these types of diffusers differs in the way that it puts essential oils into the air, and each has different benefits. These four categories include the following: nebulizing diffusers, ultrasonic or humidifying diffusers, evaporative diffusers, and heat diffusers.
A nebulizer works basically the same way a perfume atomizer works. A jet of air blowing across a small tube creates a vacuum that pulls a liquid at the bottom of the tube to the top of the tube. The air flow blowing across the surface of the oil at the top of the tube blows the oil away in a fine spray or mist. With a constant air supply source, this type of diffusion can quickly put a large amount of oil into the air.
Because this type of diffusion works to put the whole oil into the air in the form of tiny droplets, it is often considered the best type of diffusion for the therapeutic use of essential oils.
Since nebulizing diffusers work so powerfully to quickly saturate the air with essential oils, they generally run at a higher sound level, and they tend to use oil at a higher rate than any other type of diffuser. We generally recommend using a timer with any nebulizing diffuser and setting the timer so that the diffuser is only running for about 15 minutes each hour. This not only helps to conserve oils, but it also allows the olfactory system time to process the oils and recover before receiving more. Our most powerful model of a nebulizing diffuser (Advanced Essential Oil Diffuser) features built-in settings that allow you to control both the air flow and the amount of time the diffuser is left on and off. This enables you to have control of how much oil is being diffused at a time. For those who want to be able to quickly saturate the air in a room with the whole oil, this system just can't be beaten! Other nebulizing diffusers we carry are the Economy and the Well & Jet.
Ultrasonic or Humidifying Diffusers
Like nebulizing diffusers, ultrasonic diffusers also create a fine mist, but the method by which this is accomplished is much different. An ultrasonic diffuser utilizes electronic frequencies to cause a small disk under the surface of a liquid (usually water) to vibrate at a very fast rate. These ultrasonic vibrations break the essential oil into tiny microparticles, dispersing the oil in a fine mist. These tiny particles are more easily absorbed by the lungs for a greater therapeutic effect on the body, mind, and spirit.
While the transformation of water or other liquids into vapor normally requires great heat, the transformation of these liquids into vapor is accomplished through an adiabatic process, which means the change in state of the liquids was accomplished without any kind of heat energy being used at all.
While this type of diffusion creates a lovely mist that helps to humidify the air and features the gentle sound of trickling water, only a small fraction of the mist is actually essential oil (there are typically only 50–60 drops of essential oil for several quarts of water), and it depends solely on the air current already in the room to disperse the mist throughout the room. For those who desire only a small amount of oil to be diffused in a room, this type of diffuser not only works well but can be very beautiful as well. Our most popular humidifying diffuser is the Whisper because the oil never touches the moving parts, it is easy to clean, and it has timer settings that allow the diffuser to run off and on for up to 9 hours. Another ultrasonic-style diffuser we carry is the Classic.
Evaporative diffusers are pretty basic in how they operate. A fan blows air from the room through some sort of pad or filter that has essential oils dropped onto it. The air blowing through the pad causes the oils to evaporate more quickly than normal, and the air with the evaporated oil is blown into the room.
While this method of diffusion works well at getting the scent of the oil into the room, there is one drawback to this method: anytime an essential oil evaporates, some of the lighter, or more volatile, components of the oil tend to evaporate much faster than the heavier and less volatile components. This means that instead of getting the whole oil all at once, you are getting a higher percentage of the lighter components at the beginning of the process and a higher percentage of the heavier components towards the end of the process.
While this fractioning of the oil may diminish any therapeutic properties that the whole oil had possessed, evaporative diffusion is still a good and relatively quiet means of getting the aroma of the essential oil throughout the room. The evaporative diffusers we carry are the Battery Operated Diffuser, FanFuser, Personal Aromatherapy Diffuser, Terra-Cotta Pendants, Terra-Cotta Air Fresheners, Wood Pendants, Oil Wear Pendants, and Personal Inhalers.
Like evaporative diffusers, heat diffusers also cause the essential oils to evaporate quicker than normal but use heat instead of blowing air to accomplish diffusion.
While some heat diffusers use high levels of heat to produce stronger smells, the best heat diffusers will only use very low levels of heat that produce more subtle aromas. This difference is important because high levels of heat can actually alter the chemical constituents of the oils.
Although heat diffusers do share the same drawback of any diffuser that relies on evaporation—the potential of fractionating the oil into its components instead of putting the whole oil into the air––heat diffusers are a very economical and totally silent method of putting an oil's aroma into the air. Some of the heat diffusers we carry are the AutoScenter and the ScentBall.
*To see how the different styles of diffusers compare with each other, please click here.