Humidifier or Diffuser? What is the difference?
The English language is complicated. Our melting pot of a country has adopted words from all over the globe. Even with very specific terms or words, their exact meanings can still be ambiguous, and people may (unintentionally) say one thing when they mean something else. “Humidifier” and “diffuser” are two such words. They are frequently used interchangeably, but they are, in fact, quite different. So what are the differences between the two?
Humidifiers increase the moisture levels in the air (or the amount of humidity). Humidifiers come in two types: evaporative and ultrasonic. Evaporative humidifiers contain a wick that absorbs water from the unit. As the water evaporates, a fan within the humidifier moves air across the wick and disperses that water vapor into the air, adding humidity. Ultrasonic humidifiers do not use wicks. Instead, high frequency vibrations break down the water into ultra-fine particles. Like with the evaporative models, these particles are dispersed into the air by the unit’s fan.
Diffusers, on the other hand, are simply used to disperse essential oils into the air. Essential oils are very concentrated forms of the oil soluble parts of organic materials, such as plants. These oils are very strong, and in order to be used safely they must be diluted or diffused. Diffusers come in the same categories as humidifiers, which creates some of the confusion. There are evaporative diffusers and ultrasonic diffusers, and each of these works in the same way as its humidifier counterpart: distributing the essential oils via evaporation or vibration.
What are the benefits or disadvantages to each?
Diffusers can benefit your life in several ways, depending upon which oils you choose to diffuse. For example, lavender essential oils can create relaxation, while peppermint essential oils can be stimulating. Essential oils can have health benefits, too. Diffusing eucalyptus essential oils is helpful for chest congestion, and there are many essential oils that can help reduce cold and flu germs in the air.
Humidifiers are also a healthy addition to your home. Running your heat or air conditioning depletes the moisture in your home’s air. Increasing your humidity to healthy levels can improves the hydration of your hair, skin, and lips. It can also help eliminate nighttime snoring problems. Humidifiers also keep furniture and wooden musical instruments from cracking. Even static electricity can be eradicated with a humidifier (it’s the dry air that causes those painful shocks, after all). You can even reduce the risk of cold and flu by using a humidifier. In hydrated air, germs cannot travel as far from a cough or a sneeze as they can in dry air.
Evaporative diffusers can be super simple (a reed diffuser, for example). Others combine a porous material and a fan for further distribution. They do not allow for as much flexibility as other diffusers, and their distribution area is limited. Evaporative humidifiers are not only simple, but the use of the wick actually helps clean the air. As the water evaporates into the air, it leaves behind any dirty particulates on the wick. Changing out your wick regularly will keep your home’s air clean and healthy.
Ultrasonic diffusers (also called nebulizers) use pure essential oils, creating very fine particles and distribute them into the air. Certain essential oils, such as citrus or resin-based oils, are not recommended for these types of diffusers. Ultrasonic diffusers can also use a larger amount of essential oils up quickly. Ultrasonic humidifiers disperse the ultra-fine water particles into the air using a fan. Distilled or purified water are recommended for use in ultrasonic humidifiers, but plain tap water works well, too. Just remember to clean your unit regularly (regardless of the water being used). Using a demineralization filter, like this one from AIRCARE, can extend the life of your humidifier. Remember to replace regularly!
You can get the best of both a diffuser and a humidifier with our AIRCARE AURORA. The AURORA includes a diffuser tray made specifically for essential oils. The AURORA is easy to use, super affordable, and it includes a multicolor LED nightlight (perfect for kids). It looks great in any room, so your whole house can enjoy the health benefits of both a diffuser and a humidifier.
Still have questions? We are happy to help! Give us a call Monday through Friday at 1-800-547-3888. We can help you choose the humidifier that best suits any size home or room.
One more thought on essential oils: it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian before diffusing essential oils around indoor pets. Cats, especially, can be extremely sensitive to essential oils as they lack the ability to properly metabolize the oils. And talk with your pediatrician before diffusing essential oils around children under 6 years of age. Essential oils are great when used correctly!OLDER NEWER