Diffuser vs Humidifier: Which One Should You Go For?

Thanks to advanced technologies, we have a plethora of household appliances to choose from, aimed at improving our quality of life. However, at times, it can be challenging to differentiate between them.

For instance, many of my friends are unaware of the difference between humidifiers and diffusers, often mistakenly assuming they are interchangeable.

While these terms may occasionally overlap, they typically refer to separate devices. By the end of this post, you will gain a clear understanding of these two appliances and be able to determine which one suits your needs.

I have summarized the key differences in the table if you are in a hurry.

Humidifier Diffuser 
PurposeIncrease indoor humidity level Add essential oil into the air
Design  Have a large water tankAdd essential oil to the air
BenefitsGive a pleasant-smelling ambiance, improve your mood, and relieve some symptomsGive pleasant-smelling ambiance, improve your mood, and relieve some symptoms

What is a humidifier?

what is humidifier

A humidifier is a device designed to increase the moisture level in a room or house. It achieves this by converting water into water droplets or vapor and releasing them into the air, gradually raising indoor humidity. There are several types of humidifiers available.

Ultrasonic humidifiers are the most common type of humidifier in the market. They make use of the high vibration of a diaphragm to break the water into tiny water droplets. Ultrasonic humidifiers could produce cool mist or warm mist.

Evaporative humidifiers are more trendy these days. They employ a fan to enhance the evaporation process, eliminating concerns about white dust often associated with other types of humidifiers.

Vaporizers work on the same principle as boiling water. They are typically inexpensive and produce warm water vapor. However, it’s important to exercise caution with vaporizers, especially around children, as they can pose a scalding risk.

What is a diffuser?

what is diffuser

Diffuser is a gadget that is for dispersing essential oil into the room. By breaking essential oil into small droplets, you can reap many benefits of aromatherapy. Similarly, there are various types of diffusers.

Ultrasonic diffusers are capable of holding a small amount of water. By adding a few drops of essential oils to the water reservoir, the device releases a combination of oil and water into the room through the high-frequency vibration of the diaphragm. This results in a fine mist being emitted, accompanied by a delightful aroma.

Nebulizing diffusers function similarly to ultrasonic diffusers in that they utilize an atomizer to break down essential oils into tiny droplets. However, they do not require water to operate.

Heated diffusers employ heat elements to evaporate essential oils into the air. While some heated diffusers work in conjunction with water, others do not rely on it.

Evaporative diffusers typically incorporate a built-in fan that aids in spreading the scent of essential oils throughout the space. By utilizing airflow, these diffusers emit the aroma from an oil-infused pad into the surrounding environment.

Clarify the differences between humidifiers and diffusers

Until now you may have a rough understanding of humidifiers and diffusers. In this section, I want to clarify the differences a bit further so that you can make an informed decision on which one is the best for you.

Their purposes are different

Humidifiers are designed to increase the level of humidity. In order to make it work, it needs a large amount of water and the main function is to turn the water into tiny water droplets or vapor.

Diffusers aim to diffuse essential oil rather than water. Some diffusers are water-based and will disperse essential oil contained in tiny water droplets, whereas some models can produce the pure essential oil mist without making use of the water.

They look different

Usually, humidifiers have a larger size than diffusers. This is because humidifiers need a large water tank to hold the water but diffusers don’t. Even the ultrasonic diffusers that require water to operate only have a shallow water reservoir.

The mist from a humidifier is generally larger than the mist from a diffuser. If not, the humidifiers may not be able to increase the humidity level effectively.

You can reap different benefits

Dry air can boost the spread of bacteria, affect the normal operation of our body and make us become more susceptible to infections.

Using a humidifier can relieve dry skin, sore throat, or congestion. It can also protect the wood furniture or flooring from shrinking.

The benefits of using a diffuser lie in the essential oil you choose to use. The fragrance can either improve your mood or alleviate some symptoms. For example, Lavender oil can make you feel calm and relaxed and eucalyptus oil is heavily used by American households for combating nasal congestion.

Can a diffuser act as a humidifier?

If you’re seeking a solution to combat dryness in your home, I wouldn’t recommend purchasing a diffuser. While certain water-based diffusers can provide a limited amount of moisture to the air, their effectiveness as humidifiers is minimal.

However, there are some cases where a water-based diffuser can act as a humidifier.

For instance, you can use it to regulate the humidity level around small plants, although it needs to be positioned in close proximity to have any noticeable effect.

Additionally, certain essential oils used in the diffuser can offer benefits such as repelling insects or combating fungal growth.

If you intend to use a diffuser in a space or for personal comfort, you should make sure the space is small enough or the machine is placed close enough to you.

Is there any humidifier diffuser combo?

Yes, there are indeed humidifier diffuser combos available in the market that allow you to enjoy the benefits of both humidifiers and diffusers in a single device.

Standard humidifiers are typically not designed to accommodate essential oils due to the potential for corrosion of their materials. However, humidifier diffuser combos are specifically engineered to address this limitation.

They either come with a separate oil tray where you can add essential oils or are made from more durable materials that can safely handle the oils.

For example, the Levoit dual 200s allows you to add essential oil directly to its water reservoir, enabling the device to function as both a humidifier and a diffuser. On the other hand, the Levoit Classic 300S features a dedicated oil tray, providing a convenient and separate compartment for essential oils.

Humidifier vs diffuser: which one is the best for you?

In summary, if your primary concern is combating dryness and increasing the moisture level in your environment, a humidifier is the ideal choice. Humidifiers have a higher output and are specifically designed for efficient humidification.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to create a pleasant aroma in your room or enjoy the therapeutic benefits of essential oils, a diffuser is what you need. Diffusers are specifically designed to disperse essential oils into the air, providing a pleasing scent and potential aromatherapy benefits.

However, if you desire both the moisturizing effects of a humidifier and the aromatic benefits of a diffuser without investing in two separate devices, you can opt for a humidifier with a built-in diffusion function.

These hybrid devices offer the convenience of both functionalities, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of increased humidity and pleasant aromas simultaneously.

About The Author

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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 dozens 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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