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How I Use Diffusers in My Home

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I don’t like to spend money (big surprise, right?), but I recently purchased three essential oil diffusers, and I consider them to be a great investment. Here’s a look at how I’m using them in my home.

But first. What is a essential oil diffuser anyway?

It’s basically just a mini humidifier that you can add essential oils to. The water and oils in the tank get broken down into micro-particles, and then distributed throughout the room in a fine mist. Once in the air, those oil particles hang there for hours, cleaning the air and providing a bunch of other benefits. And it’s those other benefits that got me excited about diffusers.

We’ve used humidifiers in our home for years to combat the effects of the dry winter air (and still do), but being able to diffuse essential oils into the air, that’s a game changer.

For the past five years or so, I’ve been a sinus headache sufferer, and for at least the last three years, I’ve vowed that one of these days I was going to sit down and put in the research necessary to find a natural solution to my problem. I try not to rely heavily on medication, so I only take something for a sinus headache, if it’s really bad. But medication or not, I’ve still been dealing with one to two sinus headaches a week for far too long, and that’s something I needed to address.

So a couple months ago, I finally got serious about looking for a solution, and buying diffusers for our home was part of that solution.

If you have any familiarity with essential oils, you already know there’s a lot more to them then their pleasant scent. There are oils that kill germs, oils that help with congestion, oils that relieve headaches … and the list goes on. I was already using essential oils to solve other problems, so it was silly, really, that I hadn’t tried using them to treat my sinus headaches.

Essential Oils

I spent a lot of time looking at all of the essential oils that were recommended for sinus problems, and these are the ones I settled on:

Tea Tree

Some of those oils are anti-bacterial/viral/fungal. Other’s are decongestants. Still others are headache relievers. And some of those oils do more than one of those things. I figured if I was going to fix my sinus woes, I needed to attack the problem in two ways: by addressing my sinus symptoms (the headache and congestion) and by addressing the underlying problem (what was probably an ongoing/recurring sinus infection).

Now, essential oils may be natural, but they are also extremely potent. In most cases, you need to dilute them to make them safe to use. That meant I needed to decide upon a safe way to deliver the oils, and diffusing them is one of the methods that I chose (I’ll be sharing the other ways soon).

I ordered three diffusers, along with the couple oils that I didn’t already own, and waited anxiously for them to get here.

Their arrival couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. They came during a particularly nasty cold snap – the kind of weather that would normally guarantee me a sinus headache.

I pulled the diffusers out of their boxes, and had them up and running in minutes. Really, they couldn’t be any easier to use. You fill the tank with warm water; add 10-15 drops of essential oil; then, put the tank back on the diffuser; and hit the power button. The particular model I bought runs for eight hours before you need to refill them, and you can smell the oils almost as soon as you turn them on.

We put one of the diffusers in the living room, and the other two in our bedrooms. We mostly just run them when we’re in the room, so for us, that basically means we’re breathing in the oils when we’re watching TV or sleeping.

Has it helped? I think so. I didn’t have any sinus headaches during that cold spell that I mentioned, and I haven’t had a single sinus headache in the last two weeks. That’s definitely notable for me. This week I’ve had a pretty nasty cold with lots of congestion. Several times I’ve stood over the diffuser to breathe in the mist, and it’s immediately opened my sinuses up, so I could breathe easier. Ahhh!

But that’s just one way that I’m using diffusers in our home, and I told you I was going to talk about several ways, so let’s move on to some of those.

Tea Tree Oil

De-germing the House

I have two daughters, and at 11 and 13, I still have to remind them not to touch their noses and mouths – especially during cold and flu season. I’ll probably still be reminding them when they’re 20. I’m not big on anti-bacterial soaps and sanitizers, and I’m not one to run around my house sanitizing everything with wipes. But, I do try to keep the germs to a minimum, and a diffuser is perfect for that. I just run an oil that’s known to be anti-bacterial and anti-viral, and enjoy knowing that it’s putting a sanitizing mist over the surfaces in our home, and killing airborne germs before we have a chance to breathe them in. We took our daughters for their yearly check-ups today, so you better believe we’ll be running some tea tree in our diffusers tonight.

Peppermint Essential Oil

Pest Control

Okay, this isn’t one you’re likely to hear most people talk about, but diffusers are ideal for pest control. Most indoor pests – mice, spiders, ants, etc. – find peppermint oil repellent, and will steer clear of it.

When we bought our cabin, it had sat unfinished, and largely open to the elements, for the past 11 years, so mice were just part of the package. I placed cotton balls throughout the cabin doused in peppermint oil, and it’s proven to be really effective for us. I’m probably jinxing myself here, but we haven’t seen any mice or signs of mice in quite a while, and to be able to say that in the winter is huge.

Now, we don’t have electricity in our cabin yet, but as soon as we do, I plan to put a diffuser to work there, too. It’s brilliant, really. We can turn it on when we get there to drive out any mice, spiders, etc. that may have taken up residence while we were away.

And peppermint oil is just one oil you can diffuse to rid your home of pests. Try cedar, if you’re dealing with moths. Use citronella or lemongrass, if you’re trying to drive flies and mosquitoes out. Heck, for that matter, take your diffuser with you the next time you go on a picnic, and use it in place of citronella candles. Since diffusers don’t heat the oils, they’ll be more potent than the oils coming out of a burning candle, and they’ll cover a wider area, too. The typical diffuser covers a 200-300 square foot space.

Which Diffuser Do I Use?

Now, that we’ve talked about some of the ways that I’m using diffusers, let’s talk about which diffuser I use. As I mentioned, I don’t like to spend money, so I did a lot of research before I made my selection. I wanted something that had good reviews and that was from a brand that I trusted.

It was also important to me that the diffusers look nice. We’re already running humidifiers and air purifiers, so we just didn’t need any more machinery killing our aesthetic (a pretty house is important to me). And it was also critical that it be ultrasonic (I hate machine noise, and ultrasonics are whisper quiet). Since that’s already a long list of criteria, why not add several more? I also didn’t want the diffusers to heat the oils (that degrades them); I wanted them to be capable of running a long time between fill ups; I didn’t want them to take up much space; I wanted them to automatically shut off when they ran out of water (I’m a busy girl); and if they had one of those built-in light shows (like so many diffusers do), I wanted to be able to turn it off. Phew! That’s a lot of stuff for such a tiny machine to do.

Now Essential Oil Diffuser

So what did I end up buying? The Now Foods Ultrasonic Wood Grain Oil Diffuser. Now is an essential oil brand, which gave me hope that their diffusers would run really well with the oils (and hopefully be less prone to clogs). It also happens to be a brand that I already know and trust. And it met all of my other critera, too. It looks nice (more like a decorative vase, than a machine); it’s quiet; it doesn’t take up much space; and it runs for about eight hours between fill ups, before turning itself off.

Top of Diffuser

I’m completely happy with my purchase, and so, far I haven’t had to do anything other than fill them.

Now Essential Oils

Which Oil Brand Do I Use?

If you want your essential oils to work well, you definitely need to buy high-quality oils, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy the most expensive oils. Lots of people swear by the Young Living and DoTERRA brands, and that’s fine. They definitely get good ratings, when they’re rated by the people who count. I just find them to be on the pricey side, so I’ve never used them. Now is my company of choice. Their oils are listed as being 100% pure, so there’s no question about what you’re getting. Lots of companies list their essential oils as pure, but cut them with a carrier oil because the term “pure” isn’t regulated by the government. Frustrating!

Oil Blends to Try in Your Diffuser

New to essential oils, and not sure which oils to try first? Here’s a video where I discuss some of the essential oil blends that I like to use in my diffusers.

I’d recommend picking up a pack of pipettes. Some essential bottles come with built-in droppers, others don’t. Maybe this is just me being jaded, but it seems like the more expensive essential oils (i.e. the ones you least want to spill) are the ones that come without a dropper. I don’t know, but you’ll definitely want a dropper for those bottles that don’t have them, and pipettes do the job beautifully. I reuse the pipettes over and over (one for each oil, so I don’t have any cross-contamination), and I use a Sharpie to label the bulb of each one, so I know which pipette goes with each oil. I found pipettes at my local health food store (the one with the pricey oils) for $.20 a piece, but you can also order a pack of them online.

Pinterest is full of diffuser recipes (since you can use multiple oils in your diffuser at the same time). There are recipes to make your house smell seasonably appropriate, and there are recipes to help with different ailments. I tend to use a blend of oils in my diffuser, just because I’m trying to take advantage of the benefits of several different oils. Right now, I’ve been opening each bottle each time I need to fill my diffusers, and that gets old in a hurry – especially when you’re using five different oils, as I often am.

When I get a minute, I plan to make a bulk batch of my sinus blend, so I only have one bottle to pull out each time. That means I’m going to need an extra bottle to store it in. I happen to have an empty peppermint oil bottle on hand, but if you don’t have an extra bottle, you may want to purchase one. Amazon is one source for them.

Essential Oil Safety

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, essential oils are natural, but they’re also potent. So, you need to take the time to educate yourself about their proper use. Take care not to get them on your hands when you’re filling your diffuser(s), and wash your hands promptly, if you accidentally get some on yourself.

I strongly recommend that you invest in an essential oil book, so you can read up on safe dilution rates, which oils are considered safe for use around kids and which oils carry warnings. I’m not trying to scare you (or dissuade you from using essential oils, quite the opposite), but I do think it’s important to know what you’re getting into. I’ve seen a lot of bad information on the Internet about essential oils, and as their popularity grows, that bad information also grows.

This is the essential oil book that I own. I really like it because I can look up oils by ailment or by name. It’s a book that I find myself pulling off the shelf again and again.

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  1. Erin…Great article! Perfect timing,too, as I am just beginning to use essential oils, and I also have sinus issues.
    You have provided a lot of important, helpful information. Thanks!

  2. great article! I’ve used essentials for years and always learn new things. love your NOW diffuser – very attractive. like you, I dont like having to fill constant – your requirements are like mine.

    a place I found decent oils is BedBathBeyond – they do have a couple different makers, so be sure they are PURE.

  3. I use essential oils to make a diy air freshener for both my car and bathrooms. Use a small glass container, add baking soda and about 6 drops of my favorite essential oil. Frugal and easy and natural! cj

    1. Funny you should mention that. I’ve been planning to make diffusers/air fresheners for our cars. I’ve seen a few pins on Pinterest where people glued craft pom poms to a clothespin. Then, put a couple drops of essential oil on the pom poms and clipped it onto the air vent. Pretty clever.

  4. Thanks for the article. I have a few essential oil bottles that came without droppers. Instead of pipettes I insert a drinking straw and then cover the top with my finger. Just practice over the bottle some oils will drip faster than others.

  5. I use my diffuser and my bedrooms aren’t very big. So I’m limited on where it’s placed. I didn’t even put 10 drops in it, like recommended in this article. It was on the T.V. screen. Lord knows about the walls? Is this suppose to be so messy? It was about 3 ft from the T.V. Please help I want to use my diffuser but feel like it’s a mess to use it.

    1. Hi Julie,

      I’ve never had anything like that happen. The drops are so small there just really isn’t enough oil to have it accumulate on things like that. How are you measuring your drops? Just wondering if your drops are bigger than they’re supposed to be.

  6. It appears that you received the diffusers for free and were paid by the company to promote it (via Amazon Affiliates Program).

    1. Nope. I bought the diffusers myself — all three of them. It’s very rare for me to accept a free sample from any company, and when I have, I’ve always been upfront about it. I do receive a small commission from Amazon, if someone decides to buy one. But that’s not what drives my recommendations. I have to be really impressed with something to mention it at all. I put my readers ahead of my pocketbook.

  7. Hey there! My family recently got into this essential oil thing, and I have a diffuser on my desk. I want to fix my table, change where things are and stuff, but I want to know where the best place in the room is for my diffuser. In the corner? Anywhere?

  8. Does it really matter which diffuser I buy? I want one in each one of my kids bedrooms and I currently use YLEO and have the dewdrop diffuser and the rainstone. I see there are many on amazon and different sites, I just want to make sure they are compatible with my Young Living Essential Oils. Thanks for all the tips!

    1. The brand probably isn’t super important. I would just get one that’s ultrasonic. It’ll make better use of the oils. And be sure to get one with good reviews (not those fake reviews). You should be able to use any oil brand with any diffuser. So, bottom line: if you buy a good quality diffuser and good quality oils, you should be happy with the results.

  9. Hi,
    Loved your article about essential oils. I have several diffusers as well and love them. I had one question. I started running an air purifier because of my bad allergies and sinuses. I heard your not supposed to run your purifier when burning candles because candle residue can ruin a purifier, but can essential oil diffusers do the same? I can’t seem to find any information on that.

    1. Hi, Jen. I run diffusers and air purifiers at the same time, and haven’t had a problem. My take on it would be that if you’re using an ultrasonic diffuser, the oil particles are going to be too small to cause any issue. Your purifiers should have filters, too, so I really wouldn’t expect an issue. Can’t say for sure, but that’s my thought process 🙂

  10. This is a great article and very helpful. I tried a diffuser once and the mist left everything around it wet. Is that normal? I have nice furniture that I don’t want getting wet. Thank you!

    1. Thankfully, I have never encountered that problem with any of my diffusers. However, my ultrasonic humidifiers are another story. I keep them several feet away from everything, and sometimes even place a plastic lunchroom tray underneath them.

  11. How well does the oils/smell travel. I am in a 900 sq. ft. apartment. Would one large diffuser work to reach all rooms. Or should I consider one for living room and one for bedroom.

  12. I got a diffuser and oils for Christmas. I love it, but just found out they can be toxic to cats. Can you give me some advise on this. I have a 9 month old kitty and do not want to harm him in any way, but hate to have to give up my diffuser.

    1. Hi Mary,

      There does seem to be some concern about diffusing essential oils around cats and birds. Most of what I found suggested it was a problem with prolonged use, where a substantial number of EO droplets might get onto their skin. Here’s a list of EOs that one site mentioned as problematic: https://www.thespruce.com/dangers-of-essential-oils-555089 The ASPCA website also suggested issues with eucalyptus. So, it’s definitely something you should probably research more. One site suggested keeping cats out of the room while you’re using your diffuser, so that may be one way for you to continue to enjoy yours.

  13. I just bought a diffuser and some peppermint oil to use in the bedroom as i hate spiders. Is it best to have the diffuser on in the day or at night when i go to bed.

    1. You could do either, but I’d recommend running it at night. This will keep spiders at bay while you’re sleeping, plus give you the health benefits of the peppermint oil. It’s a great decongestant and headache reliever.

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