Do Essential Oil Diffusers Humidify?

Diffusers with their beautiful essential oils create a calming atmosphere in your living space. The oils help you to de-stress and relax. Diffusers use a blend of water and essential oils to spread the lovely smell into the air, but can you also use them as humidifiers?

We often wonder if there is a way that we can use our diffuser for another purpose and save some money. After all, why buy a humidifier if your diffuser can do the same job? We search and search, but are unable to find out if our essential oil diffuser can be used as a humidifier and resign ourselves to a life of never knowing. 

Do Essential Oil Diffusers Humidify

Well, no more! Today we are here to give you the answers you need. Keep reading to find out how diffusers work and whether you can use essential oil diffusers to humidify your home.

What Is A Diffuser?

The first thing that comes to mind when people talk about a diffuser is usually a reed diffuser which is designed to hold a small amount of water and essential oils spreading them through your living space.

The essential oils in the air are the biggest benefit of using a diffuser of any kind. It can make your room smell fresh, and also help you relax.

Types Of Diffusers

There are a few different types of diffusers which each releases different amounts of essential oils.

Ultrasonic Diffusers 

An ultrasonic diffuser releases small particles of water together with essential oil into the surrounding air. 

Compared to other diffusers, ultrasonic diffusers use the most water, but they can also offer the greatest effect. 

With the greater amount of water they use, ultrasonic diffusers resemble a small humidifier.  

Nebulizer Diffusers

Nebulizer diffusers work in a slightly different way to ultrasonic or reed diffusers. They use a vacuum effect to release only the essential oils into the air.

This gives you the best therapeutic benefits of the essential oils, with very little use of water.

However, nebulizers are the most expensive diffusers because they are so effective. 

Reed Diffusers

A reed diffuser is one of the cheapest diffuser options, and also the best known. You usually just place a few reed sticks into diluted essential oil and wait for the oils to spread across your room.

This can take a little while as the reed needs to soak up the oils but reed diffusers are a great value for money option.

How To Use A Diffuser?

Although each diffuser works slightly differently and you should check the instructions on the packaging, there are some general things to look out for when placing a diffuser into your home.

Find The Right Location

You must put your diffuser in a flat and safe location. If your diffuser needs to be plugged then place it near a socket. 

As a diffuser works with water, you should make sure that it’s not anywhere near any electronics.

It’s also a good idea to keep it away from children and pets as essential oils can cause irritations when they get in contact with skin.

The Correct Amount Of Water

Once you find the right place for your diffuser, you can fill it with water. Make sure to use the right amount of water as specified in the device’s instructions.

Some diffusers, like a reed, diffusers might not even need any water adding as they already come with a mix in a bottle of water and essential oils.

Choose Your Favorite Essential Oils

This is one of the best parts of buying a diffuser. You get to try different essential oils that lift your spirits and keep you relaxed.

When you have chosen the right essential oils for you, just add a couple of drops into your device (this may depend on your diffuser, so check the manual on how much you need).

Cleaning And Maintenance

Just like any household item, a diffuser needs some loving care and maintenance. Simple reed diffusers generally don’t need much as you can’t reuse them once the essential oils have run out.

However, nebulizers need some maintenance and cleaning to prevent any buildup of mold or mildew, which can easily happen with moisture.

For any specific care instructions, check your diffuser’s manual.

What Is A Humidifier?

Now that we know a little more about what a diffuser does, let’s take a look at humidifiers and how they work.

During fall and winter, the humidity levels in your home usually drop and this can cause skin and nose irritation, as well as itchy eyes.

Studies suggest that a humidity level of 30% to 50% is the best for indoor air to prevent any health conditions.

Most humidifiers work by blowing water through a wet-wicking filter. This gentle mist is just made of tiny water particles so it’s completely odorless.

Types Of Humidifiers

There is a whole range of different types of humidifiers on the market. The right humidifier depends on your requirements and your room size.


The most basic type of humidifier is an evaporator. These devices blow moisture through a moistened filter. This spreads tiny water particles into the air of your living space.

Evaporators are usually powered by fans and can be very efficient. Evaporator humidifiers are relatively cheap but they can be used only in one room at a time. 

It can also be difficult to control the exact moisture levels with evaporators which can lead to too much moisture in the air, causing mold growth and difficulties for everyone with a respiratory problem, such as asthma.

Impeller Humidifiers

Impeller humidifiers use rotating disks that run at a high speed to create the fine water mist. They are one of the cheapest humidifiers, and even child-friendly as the cool mist carries no risk of burns.

Unfortunately, impeller humidifiers can only be used in a single room. Similar to evaporators, they can also cause breathing difficulties for asthma and allergy sufferers.

Steam Vaporizers

Their function is already in the name, steam vaporizers heat water and then cool it before it’s expelled out into the air.

These devices are electrically powered, and they are usually available at drugstores or supermarkets.

One downside of steam humidifiers is that they can cause burns, so need to be kept away from children.

Ultrasonic Humidifiers

Ultrasonic humidifiers come in cool and warm mist versions, which work in a similar way to steam vaporizers and evaporators.

Ultrasonic humidifiers create a soothing, cool mist by producing ultrasonic vibration.

Depending on the size of humidifier you need, they can be more expensive, but they are usually a child-safe option. 

Can I Use A Diffuser To Add Moisture To The Air?

Having looked at how a diffuser works, we know that some diffusers do add moisture to the air. 

However, these are just very small amounts and are likely not making a big difference to keep your home humidified.

For example, nebulizing diffusers put out most essential oils which makes your home smell great but it doesn’t add any water to the air.

That’s the reason why most nebulizers are used by people who already have a high humidity level in their homes and prefer to add some essential oils.

With some other diffusers, you can select different output settings but they are generally much lower than you might find with a humidifier.

That’s why, although a diffuser is a wonderful way to bring the scent of essential oils into your home, it’s not the most effective way to humidify the air in a room.

How To Add More Moisture To The Air In Your Home?

As diffusers don’t add any moisture to the air, what can you use to help humidify your home?

Well, the most effective way of humidifying your home is a humidifier. 

Interestingly, diffusers and humidifiers work in a very similar way, just that humidifiers are usually larger and therefore have a greater capacity for emitting moisture into the air.

What To Look For In A Humidifier

When you want to add moisture to the air in your home over fall and winter, then a humidifier is just what you need. 

Here is what you need to look out for when buying a humidifier.

Good Quality Pays Off

The size, functionality, and price of humidifiers can vary widely. Generally, cool mist humidifiers are the better option, compared to warm mist humidifiers.

Cool mist humidifiers come with a higher price tag but they are much safer to use (especially when you have children and pets around) because there is no risk of burning like with warm mist humidifiers.

Humidifiers with cool mist are also more effectively soothing respiratory issues and typical cold symptoms, such as a cough or sore throat.

Look For A Humidifier With A Large Water Storage Tank

Larger humidifiers usually have a much larger water storage tank. This means these humidifying devices can go for much, much longer without refill.

For this reason, try to look for a humidifier that has a large water storage tank so you can continually keep it going without constantly refilling it.

This will also ensure that your moisture level stays the same for much longer as you don’t run the risk of forgetting to fill it up.

Go For The No Filter Version

If you choose a humidifier with a filter, you’ll need to change the filter regularly every two to three months.

This can cost you a fair bit of money over time, so if you want to save some cash it’s best to spend a little more upfront for a filterless humidifier.

Moisture Output Adjustments

Some humidifiers come with adjustment options where you can vary the moisture output to fit your needs and room size.

The moisture adjustments are also handy when the air outside changes and you want to add a little boost of moisture.

Optional Essential Oil Tray

If you just want a humidifier to add some moisture to the air in your home, that’s fine. However, some humidifiers come with a separate tray to add essential oils.

Can I Use Essential Oils In A Humidifier?

Do Essential Oil Diffusers Humidify

Yes, and No. It depends on your humidifier whether you can add a few drops of essential oils to the water tank. You can find this information in your user manual, so be sure to check there!

Can I Add Essential Oils To A Cool-Mist Humidifier?

You can add essential oils to your cool mist humidifier. However, we would not recommend doing this.

A humidifier can be an investment, and adding anything that is not specified in the instructions, may invalidate your warranty. Also, most essential oils are so strong that they can attack the plastic in your cool mist humidifier causing it to crack, and ultimately break.

Another reason not to add essential oils to your cool mist humidifier is that this device is simply not designed for spraying out large particles like oil. As water and oils don’t mix, the essential oils can clog up the spray nozzles and damage your humidifier.

Can I Use Essential Oils In A Warm-Mist Humidifier?

Similar to a cool-mist humidifier, adding essential oils to the water of warm mist humidifiers isn’t recommended.

Essential oils change when they are heated and they would lose their therapeutic effect.

Essential Oil Diffuser And Humidifier Combo

If you want to keep the number of appliances in your home low, then the combination of an essential oil diffuser and humidifier is the space-saving option and very effective at adding moisture and a fresh scent to your room.

Combos of humidifiers and diffusers commonly have a much larger water tank, which will provide a continued mist lasting for many hours.

Humidifier Pros And Cons

Humidity works as a natural moisturizer in the air, which means it can relieve any health issues related to dryness.

Humidifiers are commonly used for any health problems, such as dry throat, nose irritation, dry cough, cracked lips, sinus congestion, headaches, and dry skin.

These particular health concerns usually arise when the air in your home is dry, particularly during the fall and winter months.

To avoid any symptoms related to dryness, it’s a good idea to have a humidifier in your home but the higher moisture levels can also cause mold and mildew. 

Here are some pros and cons of humidifiers.

Humidifier Pros

Prevent Cracked Lips And Dry Skin Issues

Humidifiers can gently release enough water into the air to balance the moisture levels in your home during the dry winter months.

At that time, people often experience cracked lips, dry coughs, and itchy skin due to the dryness in the air.

This is not just a short-term health issue over the winter months, but can also lead to an increased risk of health problems long term.

Reduce Risk Of Influenza

By adding more moisture to the air with a humidifier, you can reduce the risk of influenza infection. 

Higher humidity levels make it difficult for the virus to spread and survive in the air.

You should also take other precautions, such as washing your hands regularly, taking vitamin supplements, and getting enough sleep.

Together with these preventative measures, a humidifier can help to keep the painful struggle with a fever, cough, and stuffy nose to a minimum.

A More Productive Cough

While a humidifier cannot eradicate the risk of a cold or flu, an increased moisture level in the air can help to dislodge phlegm and mucus in your throat and lungs.

The added moisture breaks up the mucus and helps you cough easier.

Humidifiers Reduce Snoring

Not effectively proven in an official study, but people often recommend humidifiers to help lubricate the airways and effectively stop someone from snoring.

Humidifier Cons

Health Risks

Adding humidity to the air in your home can have some great health benefits but you need to take care that you stick to the recommended maximum 50% humidity level.

Anything above this, and the high moisture content can lead to dampness and cause health issues.

To avoid this, you must check the moisture level in your home daily, particularly when there is someone with allergies or asthma in your home.

Some humidifiers come with a hygrometer that measures the moisture level in your air so it’s always steady but you can also find hygrometers at your local hardware store.

Risk Of Burning (With Warm Mist Humidifiers)

One of the most common injuries with humidifiers is burns and scrapes, especially with a warm mist humidifier.

You should take extra care with children and pets around the house. Don’t allow children to handle your humidifier, and don’t place a warm mist humidifier in a child’s bedroom.

Unclean Humidifiers

If you don’t regularly clean and maintain your humidifier, this can lead to bacterial growth which can cause colds and coughs.

Remember that steam vaporizers can get dirty very quickly, although they are one of the easiest humidifiers to keep clean.

Simply rinse out all the used water before you refill the tank. Carefully follow the instructions from the manufacturer to ensure your humidifier stays clean.

Mildew And Mold Growth

A higher moisture level in the air can increase the risk of condensation and bacterial growth, including mildew, mold, fungi, and dust mites.

The risk of any unwanted growth also depends on the insulation of your home and how often you air your room.

Minerals And Microorganisms

Humidifiers can potentially emit minerals and microorganisms. They’re not necessarily harmful, but the residue can bother people with asthma. Use distilled water to avoid this problem.


A diffuser is a wonderful way of adding a fresh scent to your home, and the essential oils help you de-stress after a busy day.

And while a diffuser does spread a little bit of water into the air to carry the essential oils, it’s not enough to make a difference to the room’s moisture level.

For a more regulated moisture balance, you should use a humidifier that prevents the air in your home from getting too dry and causing any health issues.

If you want the lovely fragrance of the essential oils together with the greater humidifying effects, then a humidifier with an essential oil tray is your best bet. It saves space, humidifies your home, and adds a sweet freshness to your rooms.

Hannah Shiftle
Latest posts by Hannah Shiftle (see all)