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Can You Use a Diffuser as a Humidifier?

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.

Can You Use a Diffuser as a Humidifier?

Do you have a diffuser in your home?

One of the most common questions people ask is whether a diffuser can work double duty as a humidifier, or do you need to purchase a dedicated humidifier?

First, you’ll need to know what each is and how the two devices differ. Let's take a closer look at how the two differ.

What is a Diffuser?

A diffuser is a device that breaks down essential oils into tiny particles and sends those particles into the air. Essential oils are aromatic liquids derived from various plants through distillation or cold pressing.

Some people believe that essential oils have healing properties, although there are few that show this definitively.

But there is some evidence anecdotally and from small studies that essential oils have medicinal benefits.

For example, lavender essential oil has a calming effect. Traditional Indian and Chinese medical practitioners have used essential oils for their healing properties for thousands of years.

Back to diffusers.

Most diffusers use ultrasonic waves to deliver essential oils into the air. You can use the diffuser for aromatherapy, which can be mentally relaxing and help aid sleep.

To use a diffuser:

  • Fill the diffuser tank with water to the designated water level line.
  • Add 5 drops of essential oil (or some combination of oils) for every 100 milliliter of water in the tank.
  • Set your preferred mist setting.

Now you need to know what a humidifier is.

What is a Humidifier?

A humidifier is a device that increases the moisture level in your home or its humidity. Humidity is the percentage of water vapor in the air.

The purpose of a humidifier is to balance out the humidity levels in your house by adding moisture to the air you breathe.

Humidifiers are popular for:

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  • Preventing dry skin
  • Reducing dry sinuses
  • Preventing cracked lips

Increasing humidity levels also reduces static electricity and helps prevent damage to wood furniture and floors by keeping them from drying out.

Some people use a humidifier during cold weather to reduce respiratory issues. Heaters can cause dry conditions within your home that worsen congestion or coughing due to dust particles becoming airborne when there’s not enough humidity.

Humidifiers Can Deliver Cool or Warm Mist

You can find both cool mist and warm mist humidifiers.

Cool mist humidifiers use room temperature water, which is best for children and adults who have breathing problems.

Warm mist humidifiers use hot water and are also recommended for adults who have breathing problems. Warm humidifiers are not recommended for children under the age of 3 years old because they may get burned by the hot water or steam from warm mist humidifiers.

Do You Need a Portable or Whole House Humidifer?

Humidifiers come in two main types: portable humidifiers and whole house humidifiers.

As the name suggests, whole house humidifiers humidify an entire home and are installed by a professional. A portable humidifier is meant for one specific room, and it is much smaller than a whole house unit.

There are several types of portable humidifiers, including cool mist, warm mist, evaporative, ultrasonic and impeller.

  • Warm mist and cool mist units use electricity to boil water or blow air through it respectively
  • Evaporative humidifiers use a fan to draw in air that passes through a wick filter that has been saturated with water
  • Ultrasonic models function by using ultrasonic vibrations to generate a fine water mist
  • Impeller models use a rotating disk to throw water against an absorbent pad where it breaks up into droplets that are sent out by strong air currents created by the device’s fan.

Can You Use a Diffuser as a Humidifier?

A diffuser is essentially a type of cool mist humidifier; these devices do not boil the water but instead disperse it via ultrasonic vibrations (which produce visible vapor) or nebulization (which produces microscopic vapor).

Because diffusers have some of the properties that humidifiers do, they can reduce dryness in your home and they have the added benefit of dispersing essential oils. When diffusers release essential oils into the air, they increase the water content of the air.

A diffuser is like a small humidifier sitting on your table or countertop that gradually fills your home with more moisture.

A diffuser, however, is less efficient at increasing the humidify of a room than a humdifier would be.

Think about Your Home's Needs

When choosing between a diffuser vs humidifier, think about whether you need to add major humidity to your home and whether you'd like to dispense essential oils.

If you don't have an extremely dry home, a diffuser should be enough and you get the added benefit of dispensing essential oils.

Are you noise conscious? Diffusers make little noise while humidifiers can get pretty loud. You don't want one that sounds like an airplane taking off if it's going to sit on your nightstand.

Some have specs that indicate their decibel level. If not, look for reviews that mention how noisy the machine is.

The Bottom Line

If your home or apartment isn't extremely dry, a diffuser may be enough to make your living area healthier and more pleasant and you'll get the added benefit of essential oils. If moisture is a huge issue, a humidifer is a better choice.

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