If you are new to the world of diffusers and humidifiers, the terminology is probably enough to make your head spin right off your head.
Some of the key words you will in your search also sound a lot like a Star Wars episode: “in a galaxy far, far away there was an ultrasonic, nebulizing, mistless ether of essential oils.”
Not to worry! We plan to sort out all of the nitty gritty details so you don’t have to. Here’s the gist: a humidifier and a diffuser, while similar, are not the same. An essential oil diffuser can slightly increase humidity, though the limited tank size prevents a diffuser from providing the full benefits of increased relative humidity. A humidifier, on the other hand, is generally not compatible with essential oils; adding essential oils to a non-compatible humidifier can actually damage your machine.
What is a Humidifier?
A humidifier is intended to increase moisture levels (otherwise known as “humidity”) in your home, office, or personal space by releasing water vapor into the air.
The ideal humidity level in your home is between 40-60%, whether you live in the tropics of Costa Rica or an igloo in Greenland. 40-60% sounds like a reasonable number, right? Chances are your home is sitting around 15-20% depending on how frequently you use your air conditioner or heater among other factors.
Increasing the relative humidity of your home or office space can lead to a number of health and wellness benefits, which are listed below.
Types of Humidifiers
There are three primary categories of humidifiers: ultrasonic, evaporative, and steam based. While all humidifiers - regardless of your category selection - increase the moisture levels of surrounding spaces, there are differences in how this water vapor is released into the air.
The ultrasonic humidifier works by vibrating a metal diaphragm at sonic speed to create water droplets, which are then blown out with a fan in the form of cool mist.
An evaporative humidifier sucks in air from the room and fans it through a moistened wick releasing hydrated air back into the room for increased humidity.
Steam Based Humidifier
Steam humidifiers release a warm mist into the room created by boiling water from the tank reservoir into a fine vapor. The warm vapor is fanned out into the room and can slightly elevate room temperatures.
What is a Diffuser?
A diffuser is a device that disperses essential oils into the air in the form of a fine mist. The essential oils essentially pair with a water droplet, which is then fanned out into the room releasing the aromatic properties of the essential oil.
The uses for diffusers are endless. At the basic level, diffusers can make a room smell absolutely delightful. Even better, you choose which essential oil or essential oil blend to add to your diffuser making the scent 100% customizable to your personal preferences.
Types of Diffusers
Similar to humidifiers, diffusers can be ultrasonic, evaporative, or heat-based and operate identically to their respective humidifier. The nebulizing diffuser, however, is the one type of diffuser that is not comparable to a humidifier.
A nebulizing diffuser is the most potent style of diffuser operating without water. The nebulizing diffuser uses an atomizer to disperse the essential oil into fine particles, which are then released into the air. The essential oil droplet is not partnered with a water molecule, making it slightly stronger in aroma than the water-based diffuser styles.
The Similarities & Differences
A humidifier vs a diffuser, though seemingly very similar, have two very different specialties: a humidifier significantly increases the humidity levels of a room while a diffuser releases the benefits of essential oils into a space.
Both a humidifier and all types of diffusers except for the nebulizing diffuser release moisture into the air through water droplets. This means that the ultrasonic, evaporative and heat-based diffusers can essentially humidify. However, diffusers generally have substantially smaller water tanks (100mL to 500mL maximum) than humidifiers. A diffuser can only humidify a very small space due to the smaller tank size, which makes a humidifier the better choice for the full health benefits of increased home humidity levels.
Humidifiers, on the other hand, are not made to diffuse essential oils. In fact, adding essential oils to a non-compatible humidifier can damage your device, especially if you intend to use citrus essential oils. If you want to incorporate the benefits of essential oils to your humidifying experience, you need a humidifier that has diffusing capabilities.
What are the Health Benefits?
Whether you choose a diffuser, a humidifier, or a hybrid device, the benefits are far reaching and certainly worth the investment.
The Health Benefits of a Diffuser
While the ultrasonic, evaporative, and heat-based diffusers release humidity through water vapor, the humidity emitted from these devices is too minimal to have a large impact on your health. Diffuser benefits are primarily achieved through the essential oils released into the air.
Lavender essential oil, for example, can improve sleep, reduce stress levels, soothe irritated and inflamed skin, and more. Eucalyptus essential oil can improve respiratory symptoms, relieve cough and congestion, help with allergy sufferers, and boost mental clarity.
The benefits of diffusing essential oils largely depend on the essential oil you choose to diffuse and the volume of oil you add to your diffuser tank.
The Health Benefits of a Humidifier
Humidifiers provide a myriad of benefits for your overall health and wellness, particularly during the dry, winter months.
The increased relative humidity emitted from your humidifier device can:
- Improve congestion
- Reduce the severity of common cold symptoms
- Reduce the severity of asthma flare ups
- Delay the signs of skin aging including fine lines and wrinkles
- Improve Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL), which causes dry, inflamed skin on your face and body
- Alleviate allergy symptoms
- Soothe dry, irritated eyes
- Ease respiratory symptoms in babies