Do Essential Oil Diffusers Humidify?

There has been a growing debate over recent years discussing whether oil diffusers or humidifiers are best.

Knowing how they are similar and different will ensure that you are more informed about each item and will be able to make a decision on which one will work best for you.

We’ll take you through everything you need to know in this extensive guide that takes you through the similarities and differences.

Whether you have a larger space or smaller space to work with, you’ll be able to select an option that is going to work well with your lifestyle. 

The Importance of Humidity

The average household should contain between 30-50% humidity which is the perfect range.

Having a lower humidity level can cause issues such as dry skin, irritate the nasal passages and the throat and also make your eyes itchy and dry.

On the other hand, having high humidity levels can cause a higher growth rate of mold and bacteria which can cause sinus congestion, respiratory issues and allergy among many things.

Therefore, it’s important to be mindful of all areas in the home that are at more risk of suffering from severe humidity levels.

There are ways that you can track the humidity levels in your home using indoor thermometers or hygrometers which will help to prevent anything bad from happening. 

Similarities Between Humidifiers and Diffusers

As explained earlier, it’s important to know the similarities and differences between humidifiers and diffusers.

Not only does this mean that you will have a better understanding, but you can know what to expect from the product as well. Firstly, let’s discuss how humidifiers and diffusers are similar:

  • Add moisture

The first similarity is that both humidifiers and diffusers add moisture to the air which is done by spraying water vapor into the air. 

  • Tap water

Both have ways where they run at cheaper prices as they can use tap water which is ideal if you don’t want to splash out on scented oils.

These are the only two similarities that they share and everything else in terms of their structure and operation is entirely different. 

Differences Between Humidifiers and Diffusers

Now that we have discussed the similarities, it’s even more important to know how these products are different.

Depending on what kind of space you have and what you want from your product, knowing how they work will give you a better idea of which one is best for you. 

Here are the ways that diffusers are different:

Aesthetic differences

The first thing to know is that diffusers are smaller in their structure and contain smaller water tanks that can hold between 150ml to 300ml of water which then runs for up to four hours with a smaller amount of moisture. 

How they create humidity

Diffusers create humidity via a stream of mist which incorporates technology that can break essential oils into fine particles that are carried with the water molecules.

This is then released into the air which provides a therapeutic effect. 

Various types of diffuser

There are many different types of essential oil diffusers which can either increase or decrease the amount of oil that is extracted and make the fragrance weaker or stronger depending on your preference.

The most popular type of diffuser is the ultrasonic diffuser which has a vibrating plate within the water tank that mixes the water and oil effectively by shaking them together which then means that there is more of a balance in the water to oil ratio which makes the fragrance prominent without it being overwhelming. 

Easy maintenance

Thanks to the simplicity in the diffuser’s structure, it is easy to clean and maintain making it ideal for those who don’t want to mess around trying to clean it properly.

This is because there are no tight areas or tubes for water to sneak into. 

On the other hand, here are how humidifiers are different:


The first thing you will notice when comparing humidifiers and diffusers is that the former are much larger in size and contain larger water tanks that can hold approximately one gallon of water which can provide moisture for a larger space for a longer period of time. 


Humidifiers are designed to control the amount of moisture in a room and ensure that the humidity levels are at an appropriate level. 

Unable to mix

Humidifiers are not able to mix water and essential oils in their basic structure as that is not what they are made for.

However, there are some that have an essential oil tray option so you can incorporate essential oils if you want to. This means that you don’t have to incorporate essential oils if you don’t want to. 


Unlike diffusers, humidifiers have a more complex structure and due to the larger tank that holds water, it can be difficult to clean and maintain to ensure that the water is as fresh as possible without any build up of bacteria. 


Lastly, humidifiers can be extremely expensive depending on what kind of humidifiers you go for.

Cheaper and midrange warm mist humidifiers use heating elements to create a fine mist but this can be quite hot. More expensive models provide a cooler mist which keeps the room at the optimum level of humidity. 

How essential oil diffusers work

Wooden essential oils diffuser

Essential oil diffusers are best for those who only want to add a little bit of humidity to their space.

This is because they do provide moisture in the air but due to the mix between water and oil, the droplets are not fully water meaning that the level of humidity is compromised.

On the other hand, they do provide a light fragrance which will add a refreshing energy to the space.

Depending on what kind of diffuser you go for, you can get some that can provide more moisture levels in the air that can be considered a humidifier and is often viewed as a humidifier-diffuser combination.

This means that you get the mix of water and oil while also controlling the humidity levels.

A great example of this is the Young Living Desert Must which is an ideal size for those who want a diffuser large enough to provide plenty of moisture for a larger space. 

How nebulizer diffusers work

Another popular type of diffuser is the nebulizer diffuser which forgo water all together to disperse essential oils into your space.

This means that they do not add any humidity to your space because there are no water vapors in the air.

This diffuser is used to create a stronger fragrance as the vapors purely consist of essential oils.

This choice is ideal for those who have high humidity levels in their home and want to still reap the benefits of essential oils without furthering the humidity levels. Another great way to do this is by using a reed diffuser. 

Using essential oils in a cool mist humidifier

A lot of people ask whether essential oils can be used in a cool mist humidifier.

However there are certain reasons why this wouldn’t be advisable as it could potentially cause long term damage to the humidifier.

As cool mist humidifiers cost a lot, it would be very expensive to get them repaired or replaced. Here are the reasons why you should not use essential oils in a cool mist humidifier:

  • Essential oil breakdown

The first reason has to do with the essential oils’ genetic structure. They are so concentrated and strong that the oil can eventually break through the plastic of your cool mist humidifier as it is non-hospital graded materials. This will either cause the humidifier to break or shorten its lifespan. 

  • Cool mist humidifier operation

The second reason is due to the way that cool mist humidifiers operate. They function by gravitating the water from the bottom of the tank and spraying the water vapors in the air. As cool mist humidifiers don’t have essential oil trays built in, the oil and water will not mix meaning that your essential oil will sit at the top of the mixture meaning you will have to wait until the water is almost empty. When it does get to that point, the actual fragrance of the oil will be extremely strong as it hasn’t been evenly mixed and dispersed. It will then take hours to clean and maintain due to the collected essential oils. 

Humidifiers that have essential oil trays

As discussed previously, there are some humidifiers that come with essential oil trays which means that you can mix the oils with the water.

They work by placing a few drops of your essential oil onto the tray which is then picked up by the mist.

The fragrance is a lot weaker than using diffusers and doesn’t provide the health benefits that oils have, however, you will notice that there is a slight fragrance in the area.

Choosing a model like the Crane Humidifier is the best option if you are wanting a humidifier diffuser combination as it is extremely popular and boasts the most longevity. 

Essential oils in a warm mist humidifier

Unsurprisingly, using essential oils in a warm mist humidifier is not advised as essential oils are stripped off their benefits when they are heated meaning that they won’t serve any purpose and won’t provide any fragrance.

This is due to the chemical structure of the essential oil molecules which is broken down by the heat and rendering the oil useless when it is incorporated into the mist. 

Using essential oil diffusers without essential oils

Another question that pops up a lot during this debate is whether essential oil diffusers can be used without essential oils.

The simple answer is yes.

In fact, there are some benefits that come with using just water in your essential oil diffuser with the main advantage being that your diffuser can run for longer periods of time than if it was mixed with essential oils.

This means that it can make more of a difference to your humidity levels than a mix of water and oil.

Another benefit of using water by itself is that it makes the diffuser easy to clean and maintain so you don’t have to worry too much about it when it is empty.

The best results when using your diffuser without essential oils is when you use tap water as it still contains the natural nutrients compared to distilled water which has gone through many filtering processes.

This means that it is also a cheaper option for those who don’t want to splash out on essential oils. 


Will a diffuser help with dry air?

As mentioned earlier, diffusers can help with dry air as they do provide some moisture into the air.

However, it may not make a huge difference as a humidifier would as diffusers contain an equal mix between the water and essential oils.

If you have a smaller space then a diffuser may make a big difference but in larger spaces, your humidity levels will probably remain unchanged. 

Which is better: diffuser or humidifier?

Which one is better is dependent on what kind of performance you want. Diffusers and humidifiers are completely different in terms of their output.

If you are wanting an appropriate level of humidity and moisture in your home then having a humidifier will be hugely beneficial as they can help provide a consistent level of humidity in larger spaces.

On the other hand, if you are wanting to add fragrance to your home and not as much moisture then a diffuser is a great choice as they don’t hold as much water as humidifiers while also providing therapeutic benefits that come with the essential oils. 

Can a diffuser double as a humidifier?

Diffusers can technically double as a humidifier but the results are not going to be as effective as a humidifier due to the smaller amount of water that diffusers can hold compared to humidifiers.

Ultrasonic diffusers can be used with plain water and are able to run for longer periods of time.

However, for those who want to incorporate fragrance into their diffuser then you cannot run the diffuser for long periods of time as this can cause long term damage and make it harder to clean and maintain. 

Is diffuser good for health?

Diffusers can be great for your health and improve your quality of life depending on what kind of essential oils you use.

They’re also incredibly affordable, convenient and versatile in use with many oils to choose from so you can decide for yourself which scent works best for you.

Depending on which oil you choose, you can use your diffuser to ease pain and cramps, heal skin conditions or even improve respiratory health.

Other oils can also boost your mood levels, promote healthier sleeping patterns and relieve congestion. 


Overall, deciding whether an essential oil diffuser or humidifier is best for you is dependent on your own requirements and criteria.

Although there are a couple of similarities, the way that they operate and the ways that you can use them differ completely meaning that you need to take your time to research thoroughly so you will know what to expect as well as meaning that you’ll be avoiding any disappointment.

Knowing the different kinds of diffusers and humidifiers that are available will ensure that you are able to clean and maintain your product as well as ensuring that you will have the levels of humidity desired and an appropriate strength of fragrance according to your personal preference.