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Types of essential oil diffusers: Which one is best? What are the differences?

There are many ways to use essential oils. One of the best and most popular way is through diffusion. In the past, people would use heat to diffuse essential oils, but nowadays, diffusion is simpler and gentler via diffusers. There are many types of diffusers in the market here in New Zealand, but what are the different types and how do they work? In today’s post, we will be covering four types of diffusers: the ultrasonic diffuser, nebulizing diffuser, essential oil burner/diffuser and evaporative diffuser.

It is important to know how each diffuser functions. As we all live very different lives, each person may need different types of diffusers with different features. If this is your first time encountering diffusers and essential oils and you are wondering what they do, head over to our previous blog posts to learn more! Today, we will delve into the pros and cons of each diffuser type; hopefully by the end of the post you’ll be able to figure out which one suits you best!

Ultrasonic essential oil diffusers:

Let’s start off with the most popular type of diffuser, the ultrasonic diffuser. This type of diffuser is water based and requires water for the essential oils to diffuse. At the base of an ultrasonic diffuser is an ultrasonic plate which vibrates, and this vibration does two things:

It breaks down the essential oil into micro-molecules.

Creates cold mist which carries the essential oil molecules into the surrounding space. This mist exits via the air outlet of the ultrasonic diffuser.

It is important to note that as essential oils are diluted with water in ultrasonic diffusers, the fragrance that is produced will have less strength when compared to the nebulizing diffuser which is waterless. Ultrasonic diffusers also function as an ionizer which has many health benefits. The fine essential oil mist that diffusers produce contain negatively charged ions. These negative ions attract and combat harmful positively charged ions which may be present. This ultimately helps to purify the air in your home or office, and increasing the quality of air that is breathed in has many benefits. These include:

  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Uplifting mood and relieving stress
  • Improve breathing

BONUS: As ultrasonic diffusers run on water, they can also be used as a humidifier in your home or office. This is particularly useful in the winter months when the air can get very dry; ultrasonic diffusers are great in the winter paired with the eucalyptus essential oil.


  • Affordable
  • Many different designs to suit your home/office décor
  • No heat or hot steam which is a big plus if you have kids or pets
  • Can be used as a humidifier as it runs on water – great for winter


  • For damp homes, the extra humidity may not be suitable.
  • Essential oil aroma is not as strong compared to a nebulizer – less concentrated
  • Must have water


Now that you understand how an ultrasonic diffuser works, it will make it easier for you to understand how a nebulizing diffuser runs. A nebulizing diffuser runs and creates essential oil vapor without any water. How, you may ask?

There are many types of nebulizers, and each many have a slightly different method of mist production - a simplified description would be air pressure. Nebulizers utilize air pressure to create micro-molecules of essential oil, hence there is no water required. The mist that your nebulizer produces is 100% pure essential oil mist. What this gives you is a much more concentrated and stronger scent compared to the normal water based ultrasonic diffuser. With this said, it means that you won’t need to use your nebulizer for long periods of time. Doing so may produce a very strong scent in your room and you may also find yourself running out of essential oils very quickly!


  • Waterless – does not add extra humidity.
  • Strong essential oil mist
  • Most nebulizers are high quality and longer lasting, made with either aluminum or glass.


  • More expensive compared to other diffusers
  • Essential oils run out quicker
  • Produces slightly more noise vs ultrasonic diffusers


Essential oil burners have been around for much longer than the ultrasonic and nebulizing diffusers. I’m sure many of you have come across these in one form or another. Essential oil burners usually have a candle compartment at the base for tea light candles and a dish compartment on top for the oils and water to be placed in. An essential oil burner works by evaporation via heat. Water and drops of essential oil are added into the bowl, and as the water is heated by the candle, this water-essential oil mixture evaporates causing the aroma to be released into the surrounding space.

CAUTION: Because essential oil burners use heat, it is important to be cautious as essential oils are flammable. If in use, keep away from pets and young children to avoid spillage. Be awake while it is in use and do not leave it unattended. Always make sure there is water in the bowl.

As there is heat involved, there may be a chance that the chemical composition of the essential oil used may be altered – there are many misconceptions on this topic, but there aren’t enough studies for us to confirm whether there is any chemical composition change. We will monitor this topic and keep you guys in the loop!


  • No noise
  • Very portable – no need for an electrical socket
  • Usually cheaper than ultrasonic diffusers and nebulizers


  • Heat involved – as it requires a candle, naked flame will be involved. This may not be suitable for kids and pets
  • No timer
  • Cannot be left unattended
  • Oil and water usually needs to be topped up more frequently
  • No ambient LED lighting 

Evaporative diffusers:

The last type of diffusers we will go through in this blog post is evaporative diffusers. This type of diffuser is probably the least popular out of the four we have gone through today but may be the simplest in how they work. Essentially, evaporative diffusing is just the release of aromatic essential oil particles through evaporation. Most evaporative diffusers have either an absorbent material or sponge pad to contain the essential oil for it to slowly evaporate from. Popular evaporative diffusers include aromatherapy necklaces, beads, bracelets and car diffusers.

An example of evaporative diffusers are our car diffusers – drops of essential oil are placed on the sponge pad and the air conditioning from the car allows the essential oil to evaporate from the sponge pad, distributing the fragrance around your car.


  • Low cost
  • Sound free
  • Light and portable


  • Strength of the fragrance output cannot be controlled
  • No timer
  • No ambient LED lights
  • Essential oil aroma does not cover a large area compared to other diffusers 

Now that we have covered four main types of diffusers, it should hopefully help you to understand how each one functions. At the end of the day, if you are using 100% pure essential oils, any diffuser will help in purifying the air in your environment. You may have to think about the pros and cons of each diffuser to figure out which one will suit your home or office best. Or, it may just come down to the aesthetics of the diffuser itself!

Please note when using any essential oils:
Keep out of reach of children. Any essential oil may cause skin sensitivity. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medications or under a doctor’s care, consult your physician first. Avoid contact with eyes, inner ears, and sensitive areas. Happy diffusing!

D:FUSE NZ - New Zealand's largest range of aromatherapy diffusers!


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