Have you ever Googled the word ‘diffusers’? What a rabbit hole that is. There are so many ways to diffuse scent through your home with reeds that stick out of jars, heated warming plates, little fans that plug into your USB port, and the list goes on. But ultimately there are four main types: nebulizing diffusers, ultrasonic diffusers, evaporative diffusers and heat diffusers. I’m not going to take evaporative or heat diffusers into consideration here, but will say that heat diffusers damage the oil so I would never buy one or recommend that anyone else diffuse their oil this way. But as I was recently sent a very expensive and attractive nebulizing diffuser for review I thought I’d spend a couple of weeks testing out the differences between the two types of machines and see if there was any clear favourite in the end. I set up the nebulizing diffuser in my living room and the ultrasonic diffuser in my kitchen as I spend roughly the same amount of time in both rooms each day.
Both diffusers work by creating a fine mist to diffuse the scent through the air. But there is where the similarities stop.
Ultrasonic diffusers use ultrasonic vibrations (caused by a small disc under the surface of a liquid) to break the essential oil into micro sized particles and disperse them into the air in a fine mist which is easily absorbed by the lungs.
The pros are:
- they add humidity to the room where you’re using them
- they can be a more cost effective option
- there is more variety of style/design to choose from
The cons are:
- you can’t (or shouldn’t) use citrus oils in them
- you need to fill them with water
Nebulizing diffusers work by a vacuum pulling the liquid (essential oil) at the bottom of the glass tube to the top of the micro-tube and a jet of air from the second micro-tube blows the tiniest particles of the oil away from the tubes in a light vapour. The larger particles drop back into the reservoir to go through the cycle again. This all allows a large amount of pure oil to be dispersed into the air very quickly.
The pros are:
- they’re easy to set up and get running quickly
- no water is required
- they rapidly release a strong concentration of oils into the air
- you can use citrus oils in them
The cons are:
- they can be a bit loud
- you can’t use really thick, resinous essential oils in them
- they guzzle down the oil like a Ferrari does petrol, so you’ll use more
- obviously given the above, you’ll spend more money on essential oil
So What’s the Real Deal?
Okay, so knowing that I’ve used these two machines for two weeks you probably want to hear what I really thought. And so…here’s what I really thought.
Design & Physical Appearance
Well, appearance-wise you can get some very attractive nebulizing diffusers and some very attractive ultrasonic diffusers in various designs to suit the style of your home. You have a lot more variety of options with ultrasonic diffusers simply because the way they work allows for a variety of shapes which lets manufacturers come up with some really interesting design options. On the whole, the nebulizing diffusers have a more luxurious feel and look to them, though because of their hand crafted glass reservoirs.
Winner: In this round, its a tie, as you can get really beautiful designs in both nebulizing and ultrasonic diffusers.
Ease of Use (How Much of a Hassle Is It?)
When you’re getting ready to use your ultrasonic diffuser, you need to open the top (there will usually be two layers to this top, then fill the well with water to a certain point, being careful not to overfill it and flood the machine, then add your oils, plug it in and turn it on.
When you’re getting ready to use your nebulizing diffuser, you remove the glass cap, add your essential oil drops into the reservoir, then put the glass cap back on again and turn the machine on.
They both take a few minutes to clean and will need cleaning from time to time.
Winner: In this round the nebulizing diffuser is a clear winner. It takes like 5 seconds to to get it up and running.
The first thing I noticed about the new nebulizing diffuser once I’d turned it on was how strong the smell of the oils were. Anyone familiar with essential oils will know how sometimes you can open a bottle of oil and really dislike the smell of it straight from the bottle, but love it when it goes into your ultrasonic diffuser. The oil being diffused from the nebulizer smells exactly as it does in the bottle – for better or worse – because the oil is in no way chemically altered during the diffusion process. And where I found that I could quite happily run my ultrasonic diffuser for hours, I soon found that the aromas from the nebulizing diffuser could get quite overwhelming very quickly and then after a fairly short period, the machine would have used up all the oil and I could no longer smell anything. Rather than jump to any conclusions I did a little research and found that aromatherapists often only recommend using the nebulizing diffuser for a period of 15 minutes at a time. I then started thinking of this new machine in terms of being a therapeutic tool rather than as an ‘expensive air freshener’, and I started enjoying it much more after that. Overall, I would have to say that I found that I enjoy the softer more gentle aromas from the ultrasonic diffuser, but when I need to use an essential oil for a specific therapeutic purpose (regardless of whether I ‘like’ the smell of the oil or not), the nebulizer is a good way of diffusing it in as pure a way as possible.
Winner: In this round, the ultrasonic diffuser wins for me personally because I like the soft and gentle aroma it gives off for the entirety of its full period of use (4 hours in the case of my diffuser).
In conclusion, its pretty clear to see why professional aromatherapists like their nebulizing diffusers so much. They are attractive in a classical way – like an alchemist’s tool; they deliver a clear, pure and full diffusion of essential oil and a strong aroma; and although I didn’t test this out for myself, I understand that they are appreciated for their superior therapeutic application of aromatherapy. But don’t let this put you off ultrasonic diffusers. They can also be excellent value and their milder and more gentle but consistent and lengthy diffusion of aromas through humidity can make your home/office/space a very pleasant place to be – and that is of great therapeutic value as well. I also prefer using the ultrasonic diffuser around my toddler because the aromas are softer and less intense – and indeed it is safer for her because less actual essential oil is being diffused into the air. I am not here to make you want to purchase one type of diffuser over the other but for me there was no clear winner. Both have their place. I hope that by sharing my thoughts after two weeks of using these diffusers you will see if either pops out as the right one for you.
The ultrasonic diffuser I used was the Young Living Dewdrop Diffuser which I purchased with my own money.
The nebulizing diffuser I used was provided to me for review from Organic Aromas and it is their Raindrop Diffuser.
*EDIT: It’s now 2 years on since I wrote this article, but it still gets a lot of hits, so I thought I’d give you an update. I just never used the nebulizing diffuser much…well, at all really…in the end. It just wasn’t easy enough to use and clean and the smell was too strong and the motor was too loud. I ended up gifting it to a friend. I now have several of the ultrasonic diffusers throughout the house and I much prefer them.