Can I Put Essential Oils in My Humidifier?

Liz Yang

Essential oils can be a crucial part of our wellness practice. They can relax us, uplift our spirit, ease a headache, and help us focus. Aromatherapy is increasingly common throughout the world. In addition, some doctors are now extolling specific oils’ medicinal qualities.

Humidifiers can also support our well-being by transforming dry, indoor air into a balanced, cozy environment while calming and preventing everything from itchy eyes to runny noses. 

But can you put essential oils in a humidifier? The quick answer is no, but there are exceptions, including humidifiers with oil trays. And these exceptions can create a warm, healing, and beautifully-scented indoor space, especially during dry, barren winter months. 

Why Can’t You Put Essential Oils in Most Humidifiers?

Putting essential oils in a cool-mist humidifier, which is the most common type of humidifier, can damage your humidifier.

If you have an ultrasonic humidifier, the essential oil may ruin the working parts and shorten its lifespan.

For those who have an evaporative humidifier, the essential oil can clog the filter, erode the fan, and damage the plastic parts of the humidifier. 

Alternatively, when adding oils to humidifiers that are steam vaporizers and emit warm air, the steam can chemically change the oils, altering both the fragrance and the wellness benefits.

So you shouldn’t add essential oils to humidifiers that are not specially designed for it.

The Difference Between Humidifiers and Diffusers 

Humidifiers

Humidifiers break down water into a mist, increasing the moisture in the air. Generally, they work well with only water. The most common humidifiers send water through a wet wicking filter, transforming it into a cool mist. But there are several different humidifiers, including cool and warm mist. 

  • Warm mist humidifiers heat water until it evaporates. Then the vapor is misted into the air in the room.
  • Cool mist humidifiers use a fan to move the air into space or use a diaphragm to break down the water into moisture particles. These are safest if kids or pets are nearby and might knock down humidifiers. 

Diffusers 

humidifier diffuser difference

Diffusers are designed to emit a fine mist of essential oil and water. Its primary function is to deliver the oil, not increase moisture in the air. Therefore, diffusers can be a great choice for places where there is already high humidity. They offer the aromatherapy benefits in a few different ways:

  • Ultrasonic diffusers: With ultrasonic diffusers, you fill them with water and add essential oil afterward. A ceramic disc vibrates in the tank and breaks down the oil so it can release into the air with water as a fine mist.  
  • Nebulizing diffusers: Atomize essential oils into particles, creating a stronger fragrance, and don’t use heat or water.
  • Passive diffusers: Don’t use water or heat. These can be reed or ceramic diffusers or oil warmers.

And there are many different styles and designs to choose from, including some elegant, sleek, and modern diffusers, which can visually elevate a room and add a fantastic fragrance. 

Humidifiers and Essential Oils

Some humidifiers do work as diffusers. However, it is best to check carefully before buying a humidifier to ensure it works with essential oils.

A humidifier with an essential oil tray allows you to add the oil safely. Both warm and cool mist humidifiers can be designed for essential oils. A humidifier with essential oils may need a little more cleaning but will safely bring essential oils’ healing and soothing properties into your space. 

How to Use Essential Oils in Humidifier 

It’s important to first ensure your humidifier is designed for essential oils. 

It’s easy to add the oils to humidifiers built for them. You just add a few drops to the tray, and it will vaporize with the water, diffusing the scent into your room. It’s especially important to regularly clean a humidifier used with oils.

However, you shouldn’t put any essential oils in a humidifier when you have cats at home. The scent that feels good for us becomes overwhelming to our feline friends. The small particles can get into their lungs, causing inflammation, asthma, and other serious adverse effects.

You should also avoid using it with a bird at home unless the vet asks you to do. These oils may irritate their airway.

Origins and Use of Essential Oils

essential oils and humidifier

Essential oils were so named because people believed the oil to be the true essence of a plant’s or flower’s fragrance or flavor. They are found in only a few thousand plants and flowers worldwide. And the most fragrant grow in the tropics where the sun is the strongest. 

India, Persia, and Egypt are the first places recorded to use essential oils, though indigenous peoples across the world have used plant medicine for ages. The oils first recorded were eventually traded around the world. It is believed that these essential oils were first made by putting parts of plants in fatty oils. Much later, it was the Arabs who first developed a distillation technique.

Essential oils can be amazing additions to our lives. “Because it takes so much of the plant to make an essential oil, it’s a powerful botanical medicine,” says Yufang Lin, MD, an integrative medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic.

One pound of lavender essential oil is made from about 250 pounds of lavender flowers. According to the Cleveland Clinic, making one pound of rose or lemon balm essential oil takes about 5,000 pounds of rose petals or lemon balm.

Essential oils come from the flowers, seeds, and leaves of plants which are then usually distilled into a concentrate. Quality is important with essential oils, and there are a lot of brands to choose from. 

The interest in aromatherapy has grown in recent years, with many people enjoying its relaxing effects. Some people use cedar or pine scents as a way to experience a forest in winter. Others might diffuse rose to brighten a gloomy mood. In addition, there is some scientific evidence that some have healing effects. For example, Peppermint, rosemary, and sage oils can improve brain functions like memory, and lavender can improve sleep.

Some of what essential oils can do, according to the Cleveland Clinic, include: 

  • Improve mood
  • Promotes better job performance by reducing stress and increasing attentiveness
  • Promotes better sleep
  • Kill bacteria, funguses, and viruses
  • Decrease anxiety, pain, inflammation, nausea, and headaches

Some essential oils and their possible uses:

  • Lavender: Relaxing and calming. If you are suffering from headaches and nausea, you can try to add a few drops to the tray of a humidifier. You may get a night of better sleep.
  • Tea tree oil: Cleans the air. Tea tree oil can help to kill the airborne bacteria and relieve congestion.
  • Chamomile: Helps sleep. We like to drink a cup of chamomile tea before going to bed. Chamomile oil also helps us improve our sleep quality.
  • Eucalyptus: Relieves congestion. Eucalyptus oil contains anti-inflammatory properties and can ease cough and congestion.
  • Peppermint: Aids focus and energy. It could stimulate circulation, make you feel relaxed, and become focused.
  • Orange: Reduces anxiety and stress. The delightful scent makes us feel happy and makes the environment feel refreshed.

It’s important to note that older adults, children under 12, and pregnant or breastfeeding women should ask a doctor before using essential oils. 

An Amazing Combination 

Essential oils and humidifiers can be an amazing combination when approached correctly. Truly, they can be the best of both worlds. The scent of a space can set it apart from being just a room, or being a calming haven after a long day. Who wouldn’t want the sunny fragrances of lavender or orange wafting through a room with the warmth of a tropical breeze during the hardest winter months? 
It’s important to choose both a humidifier that supports oils and oils that are of high quality. Many diffusing humidifiers are easy to find now. And there are thousands of oils to select from with a multitude of fragrances and effects. Once you have done the homework, all that is left to do is sit back and enjoy!

Liz Yang is the founder of Airsmartly. She has been working at home for a few years and realizes that the performance of the HVAC system plays such an important role in our life. She has tested a lot of products in person, like humidifiers, air purifiers, dehumidifiers, and ACs, and wants to share tips about using or troubleshooting these products with you. Her uncle is an HVAC expert with over 30 years of experience in the field, and often offers assistance when she is unsure how to handle a situation. He is also in charge of reviewing the articles on this site.

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