Humidifier vs Essential Oil Diffuser

This article covers information about the similarities and differences between humidifiers and essential oil diffusers. Let’s get to it!

Common Features

Humidifiers and essential oil diffusers are designed to positively impact air quality.

Both types of appliances add humidity to the air which has a host of benefits. Properly humidified air helps keep airways moisturized and comfortable, cuts down on dry and cracked skin, and even helps protect wooden furniture and home fixtures.

While humidifiers add plain water, diffusers spice it up with essential oils. These oils can add some relaxing aromas to the air. You might notice diffusers anywhere from waiting rooms to yoga studios.

The main feature humidifiers and essential oil diffusers share is the ability to add moisture to the air.

Essential Oil Diffusers vs Humidifiers – the Differences

We listed out a few benefits to adding moisture to the air but didn’t say much about the benefits of essential oils. Besides having great smells, there is tentative research indicating their antibiotic properties.

One main difference between essential oil diffusers and humidifiers is their size. Diffusers are available in very small sizes, some as small as 300 mL, or 10 fluid ounces.

A big upside to this small size is the space it saves. One of our favorite essential oil diffusers actually fits in the 300 mL category. The VicTsing Ultrasonic Oil Diffuser is one of the most popular diffusers on the market today. It has an appealing woodgrain finish and accent LEDs with a variety of color options.

If you’re looking for a more budget friendly version then check out the Inno Gear Diffuser. It also comes in two different woodgrain finishes. However, most people go with the white version that allows you to change the colors with integrated LEDs.

One of the more novel essential oil diffusers on the market today is the Pure Enrichment PureGlow Crystal. It combines an essential oil diffuser with a Himalayan salt lamp. I know this might sound like Dr. Frankenstein’s first attempt at interior design but it really does have a streamlined appearance.


Humidifiers are little appliances that turn warm water into vapor. This vapor gently fills up any room and helps to add moisture to the air. Like essential oil diffusers, humidifiers come in many different styles as well. Smaller humidifiers are great for filling up small spaces like baby rooms and bathrooms. Larger humidifiers are available on the market and they do a great job of adding moisture in the air of much larger spaces.

Benefits of Humidifiers

The benefits of a humidifier differ from those of an essential air diffuser because of one big reason. Humidifiers are generally not designed to be used with essential oils. So while you will still get benefits, you will not be able to customize them the same way that you would with an essential oil diffuser. Here are some benefits that you will see with a humidifier:

  • Relieve congestion – Humidifiers add water to the air that works to combat that dryness that can cause congestion. This is similar to how taking a warm shower helps with congestion. Adding much needed moisture to help loosen mucus and restore your airways.
  • Heals dry skin – Sometimes in the colder months it seems that no matter how much lotion you use, there is no cure for dry skin. The main cause of this is the very low moisture levels in the air. Cold air is not able to hold as much absolute humidity, which is different from relative humidity. The exact details of the physics go beyond the scope of this article. If you are looking for a very technical read, check out this article.
  • Prevents nosebleeds – The same dry air that cracks your skin can cause nose bleeds. Sometimes dry air gives people nosebleeds because the capillaries inside your nose are very close to the surface of the skin. Once this skin cracks it is very common for it to bleed for a short time.

Drawbacks of Humidifiers

Here we list out some of the downsides to owning and operating a humidifier. Try not to worry though, we provide the best solution to each of these problems so you can have a great experience with your humidifier.


  • Poorly made humidifiers, especially cheap ultrasonic humidifiers, can make a lot of noise
    • Solution: Look for highly recommended humidifiers. We carefully select the humidifiers we recommend. There is no reason to settle for a noisy humidifier.
  • They require regular maintenance to reduce the build up of mineral deposits.
    • Solution: If you want to avoid the regular cleaning as much as possible then use distilled or filtered water in your humidifier. These types of water have little to no mineral content.
  • The vast majority of humidifiers are not compatible with essential oils. Using oils in them can actually cause damage.
    • Solution: If using essential oils is important to you then look for a high capacity essential oil diffuser with a large water reservoir. Alternatively, check out our reviews of humidifier diffuser combos.
  • They can accumulate bacteria and viruses in thir reservoirs if not properly maintained.
    • Solution: Check out the next section!

Essential Oil Diffusers

Essential oil diffusers serve many different purposes, but mainly they are meant to distribute essential oils into the air.

By using gentle heat and steam, essential oil diffusers work to slowly fill your room with natural scents. The warm air that circulates will not only be rich in fragrance, it will also help to add moisture to the air which helps to combat the dryness.
essential oils
There are a couple different styles of essential oil diffusers available on the market today. From heat sourced diffusers to evaporative diffusers, the science and benefits are still the same. The biggest feature difference is that one generates cool air stream while the other mists a warm oil steam. You can choose which works best for you based on what type of experience you want.

Benefits of Essential Oil Diffusers

The most appealing thing about an essential oil diffuser is all of the benefits you can get out of one product. Here are some of the top reasons why people prefer to use an oil diffuser in their home:


  • Better for sleep – By combining an air diffuser with calming essential oils like lavender, some people notice they fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
  • Easier breathing – Using an essential oil diffuser can help reduce inflammation which can cause congestion. For treating congestion, essential oil users often turn to eucalyptus or camphor oil for their diffusers.
  • Keeps the room smelling fresh – In colder weather it may not be practical to open the windows depending on where you live. This lack of air circulation can leave certain rooms a little stuffy and stale.
  • Enhances the mood of the room – While you are waiting for the weather to warm up you can stay comfortable with the pleasant scents of your favorite essential oil.
  • They often come with LEDs that can change colors to add to the décor and vibe of the room.

Downsides of Essential Oil Diffusers

Here we list some aspects of diffusers that may be undesirable depending on what you want to use them for


  • Diffusers come with the added cost of essential oils.
  • Some models do not have the option to turn off the LED which can be too bright to use at night. We help you sort through this and recommend models that have this option.
  • Generally, they have smaller water reservoirs than regular humidifiers.
  • The wrong diffuser can be very noisy with an annoying humming noise.

Try not to be discouraged by this list of cons though! We carefully curate the essential oil diffusers we recommend to make sure you buy exactly what you are looking for.

If you decide to use an ultrasonic essential oil diffuser, you will also have the added benefits of properly humidified air. Earlier we talked about the way ultrasonic diffusers dilute essential oils in their water tank before turning the mixture into a mist. This mist lets the diffuser add water to the air the same way a cool mist humidifier does.


We covered a ton of information in this article! There were several product recommendations and a lot of advice on what to look for if you want to do some of your own research. The rest of this article is a set of links comparing essential oil diffusers to a list of other appliances like nebulizers and oil burners that influence the air quality and comfort of your space.


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