What's the Difference Between A Diffuser And A Humidifier

Diffuser vs. Humidifier

It is very easy to mistake diffusers and humidifiers for each other. They look quite similar and can even replace each other in performing certain functions. They are both also capable of bringing therapeutic effects to the home with many health benefits. However, certain key functionalities show the difference between a diffuser and a humidifier.

Contrary to popular assumptions, these two machines are not the same. For one, although the two machines function to increase the moisture content of the environment, a diffuser is mostly used for diffusing essential oils in order to get an aromatherapeutic effect, while a humidifier breaks up the water into mist and essentially humidifies the atmosphere by increasing the moisture content. The question now becomes, what are these differences, and are they enough for us to disregard the notion that one can serve as the other? Let’s find out.

What Is A Diffuser

What is a diffuser

If you've wondered what is an oil diffuser, I think it is important that we state here that the end goal of essential oil diffusers is to break down and release essential oils into the atmosphere through fine mist. Any other function an oil diffuser might have is a by-product of this particular function.

A diffuser breaks down the essential oil into smaller molecules and disperses them into the air for a pleasant or soothing effect. The effect the diffuser has on the house and the people in it is dependent on the essential oils used. The diffuser's job is to equally scatter the particles at a concentration that is easy to breathe and does not overpower the space.

There are many types of diffusers but essentially they all work towards the same goal.

Types Of Diffusers

  • Ultrasonic Diffuser: For the basis of this article, I am starting with ultrasonic diffusers. It basically doubles as a humidifier. They are usually loaded with automatic features and last a very long time.
  • Nebulising Diffuser: They mainly make use of pressurised air. This pressurised air sends burst after burst of aromatic essential oil into the atmosphere. The good thing about this type of oil diffuser is that they do not require water or heat to function and they are easy to maintain.
  • Evaporative Diffuser: These are also known as electric diffusers. They make use of tiny fans powered by electricity to evaporate the essential oils and send them into the air as a gas, spreading the scent around the room. What I love about this type of diffuser is that it is easy to clean and easy to refill but the heating process that takes place in order to evaporate the essential oil might reduce the potency.
  • Heat Diffusers: This is similar to evaporative diffusers in the sense that they also make use of electricity most times, however, this time the electric energy is converted to heat. This type of diffuser comes in different types and has one thing working for it; because it does not make use of a fan it is usually silent.

There are other types of diffusers, although these are mostly built upon the ones listed here. They include functionalities to improve the overall feel of the diffuser in your home.

What Do We Like About Diffusers? (Pros) 

  • Your house smells much better as your aroma diffuser disperses essential oils. I mean that is the essence of the contraption. It breaks down and sends out sweet-smelling essential oils. The result is a refreshing smelling home without the use of candles or sprays.
  • With an oil diffuser, you are creating an avenue for everyone in the home to take advantage of the properties of the essential oil used in the diffuser. It allows you to reap the full therapeutic benefits of essential oils used.
  • It has a soothing effect on the respiratory system. Diffusers (when used with essential oils) are commonly used to relieve cold and flu symptoms. A great essential oil to try for cold and flu relief is eucalyptus oil.
  • When you add essential oils, diffusers reduce fungal and bacterial presence.

What Don’t We Like About A Diffuser? (Cons)

Most of the cons we will list here are basically due to the type of essential oils used in the diffuser but then because they are due to the usage of a diffuser, we will list them here:

  • Diffusing essential oils used in a diffuser might cause allergic reactions, especially if used over a long period of time.
  • Prolonged use of diffusers might not be good for pregnant women.
  • It could induce asthmatic reactions.

What Are Humidifiers?

What is a humidifier

The function is in the name. Most humidifiers are essentially used to increase the humidity level by increasing the moisture level in the atmosphere. The tiny droplets add moisture to the air. This is especially good for people who live in dry climates, or during winter, to add a bit of wetness to the cold, dry air. Unlike the diffusers, humidifiers exist just for this purpose.

Types of humidifiers

  • Ultrasonic Humidifiers: The cool mist humidifier works by using vibrations to break down water into mist. This mist is now released into the atmosphere from the ultrasonic humidifier.
  • Evaporators: This makes use of heat to evaporate the water and send them into the atmosphere as vapour.
  • Impeller Humidifiers: They work by splitting water into mist and releasing it into the dry air using revolving discs that spin at extremely high speeds. This type's mist output is always cold, providing no risk of damage, making it safe to use around children and pets.
  • Central Humidifiers: This type of device is integrated into the home's HVAC system. This is usually an air conditioner or a heater. They are both the most expensive and the most effective products for adding humidity to the home.

Pros Of Using A Humidifier

  • It adds moisture to reduce the discomfort that comes from excessively dry weather. Dry and itchy nostrils, dry cough, electrified hair, dry skin, and clothes are all negated by the effect of a humidifier.
  • Adding moisture is good for the health as it aids in maintaining just the right amount of humidity to keep the growth of harmful microbes from flourishing.
  • By adding more moisture, a standard humidifier also helps in maintaining the home, especially our furniture. They require a certain amount of humidity or else they start to crack and break apart.

Cons Of Using A Humidifier

  • Over Humidification: When not properly configured, the device can raise the quantity of moisture or relative humidity in the home to dangerous levels, enabling mould and bacteria to grow.
  • Noise: Humidifiers can be quite noisy and would pose a strong nuisance for light sleepers.
  • Requires Continuous Maintenance: Humidifiers require a lot of maintenance if not they can be quite detrimental to the health of the user. It is very easy for bacteria and moulds to grow in a humidifier that is not maintained. So what you get is unhygienic humidity.

Should You Use A Humidifier Or A Diffuser

The answer to this question depends on what functionality you are looking for. An essential oil diffuser would be best if you are looking for a means to harness the therapeutic effect of essential oils. It, however, might not be the best choice if you are looking for a way to increase the humidity in your home. My advice? If you can then get both a diffuser and humidifier so that you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

If you're interested in trying a diffuser in your home, check out our most popular styles at Aromarrr NZ.

About the author

Shannon Willoughby is the founder of Aromarrr NZ, holds a commercial pilots license and is a former World Champion NZ Black Fern (women's rugby). Suffering a stroke at the age of only 32, Shannon beat the odds and not only returned to rugby but received her aviation medical back after being told she would never fly again. After the stroke, Shannon turned to aromatherapy to help sleep which led her to discover the amazing results of aromatherapy diffusers and essential oils. Shannon has since been certified in using essential oils for natural living. A 2017 IWF Global Women Athlete's Business Network member, Shannon was one of only 25 female athletes selected worldwide.
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