What Do You Need Between Humidifier and Diffuser?

Occasionally, we will compare two products side by side to help our readers make the right decisions. In this short post, we look at the difference between a humidifier and a diffuser.

In one of our earlier posts, we said that you can add a dash, meaning a very small amount of essential oil in humidifier for babies.

Somewhere in the same post, we mentioned that to get a full aromatherapy experience, it is best to buy a diffuser.

That’s what brings us here: to look at diffusers vs. humidifiers.

Differences between humidifier and diffuser

These two appliances are important in their own ways. They serve different functions. However, just as it is possible to find a humidifier and dehumidifier in one, you could get a humidifier integrated with a diffuser.

The humidifier vs diffuser differences are in the way they work. They also have important, but different, benefits for the health of your family. Here is a simple table to show you the differences between these two devices:



It has a large water tank since it uses water to raise humidity Has a small water reservoir to mix oil and water
It can help to eliminate problems like stuffy nose, sore throat, and breathing issues Disperses essential oils to help with sleeping, relaxation, colds, breathing and anxiety
It is used to remove dry air from your house Some units help to raise humidity a little
Larger in size even for portable units and some are integrated to the furnace Smaller in size
Cool mist humidifiers are largely safe Essential oils can damage plastics
Some units come with built-in scent pads Most use oil and water


What is a humidifier, and what does it do?

A humidifier increases indoor humidity levels by breaking the water in its tank into tiny droplets that it then sprays out as mist through the spout.

Humidifiers come in different styles and sizes. There are warm mist and cool mist units. The former have heating elements that boil the water and release it into your room as vapor.

The latter breaks the water using ultrasonic vibrations or a wick and fan, and then releases the tiny droplets into your indoor air.

There are also smaller battery-powered humidifiers. These don’t need to be plugged in. They humidify small spaces such as cars, desktops, and closets.

We also have atomization humidifiers, which atomize water into air before releasing it into the room to cool and humidify the air. There are large and mini atomization humidifiers.

It is recommended to keep the indoor humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent. If the humidity level drops below 30 percent, the air is too dry.

A humidifier will raise it to a good humidity level for the bedroom, basement, attic, and any other room.

You can order a good humidifier such as the LEVOIT 6-Liter Humidifier for bedroom on amazon.com.

Difference between humidifier and diffuser


Because of their ability to enhance sleep, help with dry skin and chapped lips, enhance hair health, and make the air more breathable, humidifiers have become very popular.

In addition, in winter when we turn our heat on, the air becomes too dry. Therefore, it warrants the use of a humidifier to increase humidity.

What is a diffuser?

The internet and access to information regarding alternative medicine and therapies from the East have ushered in a new age of aromatherapy.

In return, this has made diffusers very popular. They break down essential oils into small particles and disperse them into the air.

Can a diffuser be used as a humidifier? This is a common question. Most first-time buyers ask this when they realize that both the diffuser and humidifier can come from one brand name.

However, apart from looking alike, these two appliances are quite different. A diffuser will break essential oils into small particles and then disperse them into the air.

That way, you can enjoy relief from stress, anxiety, congestion, colds, and even swollen sinuses.

However, if you have underlying chronic illnesses, such as asthma, you should ask your doctor what essential oils you should use.

In addition, if you are using essential oils for your baby, ask your doctor.

Types of Diffusers

Diffusers come in different types. Here are the most popular types:

Nebulizer Diffusers

With this type of nebulizer, you will find that it has a tube that takes the essential oil. In addition, an air jet is added to blow air into the tube, thereby creating a vacuum effect.

The vacuum effect causes the essential oil to be sucked to the top of the tube, where it then drops out in tiny droplets that spread easily into the room, spreading over a longer distance.

Ultrasonic Diffusers

Image of What’s the Difference between a Humidifier and a Diffuser

This type of diffuser is more of an ultrasonic humidifier and diffuser. In that case, you add the essential oil to the water so that it floats on the surface of the water.

In addition, a disk or diaphragm vibrates at high frequency to cause the water to break the essential oils into small droplets.

These minute particles of essential oil then disperse into the room in the form of a fine mist. Therefore, this makes the ultrasonic diffuser and humidifier very effective.

Evaporative Diffusers

Inside this type of essential oil diffuser, you will find a pad or filter. Therefore, you add oil to the filters or pads and then the blower whips the oil through the filter. The fan helps the oil to evaporate faster and spread throughout the room.

Heat Diffusers

Heat diffusers are almost similar to warm mist humidifiers. In addition, they work similarly with the evaporative diffusers because they use heat to evaporate the oil instead of a fan.

Can you use a diffuser as a humidifier?

Can you use a diffuser as a humidifier

This is another of the commonly asked questions regarding diffusers vs humidifiers. However, the answer is no, you cannot.


Yes, if you get one of the aromatherapy humidifiers that combines a diffuser and a humidifier, you can use a humidifier as a diffuser.

Later on in this post, you will see why as we delve into the main differences between these two appliances.

A diffuser cannot work in the same way as a humidifier. First, it does not work entirely with water. It uses essential oils. Therefore, you cannot use one in place of the other.

However, some people do add a dash of essential oils to their humidifiers. This can help, but it is not recommended.

You see, if you do that too often, you may compromise the quality of the tank and the operation of your humidifier.

In that case, we had better delve right into the main differences between a humidifier and a diffuser.

1. Diffuser vs Humidifier: Build Material

diffusing essential oils

From a casual glance, both appliances are made of plastic. However, that is as far as the comparison goes because the types of plastic used are as different as day and night.

For instance, the essential oil diffuser is made with high-quality ABS plastic. ABS plastic is the same material that is used in 3D printing. It is the same type used to make automotive parts, electronic parts, appliance parts, and drone bodies.

This resilient type of plastic is also light in weight, strong, and does not crack easily. However, the main reason for using this plastic to make diffusers is that the acids and chemicals available in essential oils cannot harm the diffuser. Therefore, it will last a long time in great shape.

On the other hand, the humidifier only handles water. Therefore, it is made with a different plastic type, polypropylene, which is also a high-quality plastic. However, since there are no acids or chemicals in water, it is not as resilient as ABS plastic.

While you may add a drop or two of your favorite mint, lavender, or eucalyptus essential oils to your humidifier tank, do not make a habit of the same. You could end up destroying the tank.

2. Essential oil diffuser vs humidifier: Uses

When it comes to the use of each of these two appliances, you start to notice many differences. One of them is that the humidifier pumps mist into the room. This can be cool mist or warm mist, but cool mist humidifiers are more popular.

Does a diffuser add moisture to the air? Now, we would like to mention that some diffusers also disperse water molecules into your room.

Such devices can double as humidifiers, but they will only disperse a small amount of water. You might not rely on such if you live in a place that has some seriously dry air.

A diffuser will do just as its name suggests. For instance, to diffuse is to disseminate into small units. In this case, it is going to break down the essential oils into small particles and then disperse them into the air.

Therefore, people who really need good aromatherapy must have a diffuser. If you have essential oils for dry air, you can run a diffuser and a humidifier at the same time.

Therefore, if you are an aromatherapy enthusiast, you should invest in both the humidifier and diffuser. In addition, you will need a good dehumidifier in summer, so you can go ahead and get one for your home.

The uses of humidifiers and diffusers seem to overlap, but only so far. A humidifier with a diffuser might not give you serious aromatherapy.

It does not break down the essential oils very well. At the same time, a diffuser cannot increase the indoor humidity.

3. The price of humidifier vs diffuser

The cost of a diffuser is different from that of a humidifier. In the table below, you will see two units for each device and their costs. We have tried to pick from the same companies so that you can see how they are priced.


4. The dispersion range

What’s the difference between a humidifier and a diffuser when it comes to the range of dispersion?

Well, a humidifier can only disperse mist within a certain range. However, even for that to happen, you have to buy one that has a space rating for the room that you want to humidify.

On the other hand, a diffuser is quite powerful. Therefore, it is possible to place one in one room of your home and feel the aroma of the essential oils in every room at home.

Even the mist from the two appliances is quite different. For instance, the diffuser breaks down the essential oils into really small molecules that are easy to disperse much further.

On the other hand, the water molecules from the humidifier can only go so far.

5. The kind of help each appliance offers you

Image of Can a diffuser be used as a humidifier
Qingsun Drip Shape Mini Car USB Essential Oil Diffuser Humidifier

This is yet another difference between humidifiers and diffusers. A humidifier can help with dry skin, dry hair, coughs, congestion, and other things. However, it has a side effect, especially if you decide to use an ultrasonic humidifier.

It can cause humidifiers to produce white dust on your appliances, furniture, and floor. However, except for being a nuisance, this dust is really not harmful. All the same, you can learn how to stop humidifier white dust.

On the other hand, an essential oil diffuser has many medical benefits. For instance, depending on the type of essential oils that you choose, you can get relief from colds. You will also benefit from anxiety and stress relief.

Other essential oils help you relax and even sleep better. It can also help to de-congest your chest, heal your sinuses, and even calm migraines.

The best aromatherapy diffuser and humidifier

You will get the best aromatherapy from a diffuser because it is designed to break oil molecules and disperse them into the air as a mist.

There is a difference between oil and water molecules. Oil molecules are larger. They cannot pack as tightly together as water molecules.

Because of this and other differences, it is vital to use the right appliance for the job at hand.  If you need to increase the humidity level in your home, use a humidifier.

Today, you can also enjoy the benefits of whole-house humidifiers that are integrated into the furnace.

If you need aromatherapy, you should get a diffuser. These are specially designed to break oil molecules and disperse them into the air. You will inhale the essential oils, and your skin will soak up some.

Essential oils, also called aromatherapy, have been around for millennia. Today, it has caught up with the West. The essential oils are extracted from plants. They give plants and flowers their enticing scent.

While it is possible to use essential oils in some humidifier models, you can only use a very small amount. Some plastics sustain damage when they come into contact with essential oils for too long.

Unless you are using a Vicks Humidifier with Vapopads, or your unit has a door for scent pads, ask the manufacturer whether you can use it with essential oils.

For more intensive and satisfactory aromatherapy, please use a diffuser. It works better and it can hold more oil.

Humidifier vs diffuser for sinus

Humidifier vs diffuser for sinus

What is best between a humidifier and a diffuser for sinus issues? Both devices can help, as you will see below. But first, check our post on the best humidifiers for sinus problems.

Humidifier for sinus issues

You will know you have sinus problems if you feel painful pressure along your nose. The tender lining in the nasal membranes becomes inflamed, causing sinusitis.

Humidifiers are good for sinuses. When you increase the humidity in the air, it is going to prevent the inflammation of your nasal membranes.

It is also going to prevent the inflammation of the airways so that you can inhale better and comfortably.

You cannot ignore sinuses because they bring pain and discomfort. Besides, sinusitis comes from many things including infection and even an abnormal nose anatomy.

Colds and congestion can also add pressure to the sinuses and cause pain. That’s why you need a humidifier because it can make the congestion less serious.

If you have chronic sinusitis, seek doctor’s help.

Diffuser for sinus issues

For eons, people have used essential oil for congestion relief. Essential oils come from plant compounds that protect them against diseases and pests.

When extracted with the right technique, these compounds can have incredible health benefits for human beings.

You can use essential oils in a diffuser by mixing several drops in a cup or two of filtered or distilled water.

The diffuser will then break the oil and the water molecules into small particles to form a mist, which you can inhale and enjoy relief.

Adding water might dilute the essential oils and make it less potent. If this is not good enough, you can inhale the essential oils from close quarters, or even add them to bath water.

PLEASE DO NOT USE ESSENTIAL OILS on your babies unless the doctor has said you can.

What is better between a diffuser and a humidifier for sinuses?

What is better between diffuser and humidifier for sinuses

Both units work differently, so we can only judge them on their merits. Thus, use what is at hand. If you have a humidifier, use it. It will blow cold air to relieve your airways.

If you have a diffuser, order a bottle of your favorite essential oils such as tea tree oil, lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint, chamomile, or other, and use as advised.

Humidifier vs diffuser for baby

Choosing between a humidifier and diffuser for a baby need not be hard at all. You will need the two units because they have different purposes.

Humidifier for baby

If you live in a place with low humidity, remember that humidity outside will affect humidity inside.

You will need a humidifier to increase the moisture level in your indoor air.

There are many humidifiers to use in a baby’s nursery. Cool mist ones are the best because they do not pose any danger of scalding.

Beware of using regular tap water though because of the mineral content, which will eventually be pumped out with the mist.

Overall, humidifiers and dehumidifiers are safe for use in a baby’s room.  They can also help the baby breathe better, and keep allergens such as pollen, pet dander, and dust heavy so that they don’t float.

Diffuser for baby

Safety when using essential oils for babies is very vital. You must use it with the advice of a doctor. Besides, you need to look for essential oil blends specifically made for babies.

Even when you get the right essential oils for babies, do not overuse them. Use a few drops in the water.

If the baby’s skin is exposed to too much essential oil, it will wear away the protective lipid barrier on the skin’s surface.

Instead of using essential oils in a baby’s room in a trial-and-error way, it is best to avoid using aromatherapy in your baby’s room altogether.

Baby’s lungs and airways are still not developed fully, so you will be putting them at risk. Wait until they are at least 3 months old. Better yet, 6 months would be a surer bet.

Here is everything you need to know about using essential oils for babies.

Humidifier and diffuser cons

Both devices have their disadvantages.

Humidifier cons

Diffuser cons

Can cause mold if it over-humidifies the air Essential oils can damage plastic parts

Ultrasonic ones cause humidifier white dust

Essential oils are costly
They cost more money to buy Essential oils can harm a baby’s skin and airways
Need regular cleaning and maintenance Diffusers that use heat can affect oil’s potency
Develop mold in tank and disperse it with mist Hard to set up



The difference between humidifiers and diffusers is in the way we use them. The diffusers are just for diffusing essential oil into your indoor air, for aromatherapy.

Humidifiers are for increasing humidity in your room. So, while humidifiers address the problem of dry air only, diffusers can help with issues such as insomnia, anxiety, stress, restlessness, skin problems, and even pain.

For your indoor comfort, you need both a humidifier and a diffuser. So, we cannot prefer one over the other since they do different things.