Diffusers are expensive! Click to learn 5 simple ways to diffuse your essential oils for less than $10!

5 Ways to Diffuse Essential Oils When You’re on a Budget 2

Diffusers are expensive! Click to learn 5 simple ways to diffuse your essential oils for less than $10! If you’ve done research on essential oils at all, you’ve probably heard that one way to reap the benefits of an oil is to diffuse it into the air and inhale it. And if so, you’ve probably also seen the hefty price tag that comes with a high quality diffuser. However, there are a few ways to diffuse essential oils safely for little or no money.

Before we get started, lets talk about why you would want one of those high quality essential oil diffusers. Those diffusers are ultrasonic, meaning they generate sound waves in the water inside the diffuser at a frequency such that tiny molecules of water and oil are deposited into the air. It is important that essential oil diffusers are ultrasonic and not thermal. A thermal diffuser, like the kind you might use to warm a candle or scented wax cubes, gets hot enough to alter the molecular structure of the oils, sometimes causing them to become toxic. (1) To read more detail about how this occurs, click here.

There are also things available in aromatherapy called resins. These are meant to be used by being heated. However, I was unable to find research on how the heat affects these resins. This would be interesting to know due to the fact that they are an intermediate form of many essential oils.

WARNING: Thermal diffusers alter the molecular structure of EOs, causing them to become toxic. Click To Tweet

Related: Top 4 Mistakes to Avoid When Diffusing Essential Oils

So you can’t get away with using the wax diffuser that you bought when that was totally the thing to do when you couldn’t burn candles in your apartment. BUT, you can get away with things like reusing potpourri, buying a diffuser necklace (or making one), or wearing it like perfume (diluted of course). Below are 5 suggestions for how to diffuse essential oils cheaply:

1. Reusing Potpourri

How to diffuse essential oils on a budgetSo you know that potpourri you bought last fall that’s been sitting in a bowl in your living room ever since (because like me you think it’s too pretty to just throw away)? You can totally put that to use to diffuse essential oils (or you can make your own from scratch). Similar to how potpourri usually works, you’ll be using pretty things such as dried leaves and flowers to slowly release the oil into the air. Just assemble your potpourri, add 3-5 drops of your favorite oil, and viola! You’re done! And when the scent fades, all it takes is a few more drops of oil to bring it back! I found a really great recipe for fall potpourri here, if you wanna check it out.

2. Diffuser Necklace

How to diffuse essential oils on a budgetA diffuser necklace consists of either an open metal locket or a clay shape meant to be worn as jewelry. The metal locket kind are meant to hold a piece of fabric, clay, or other scent-holding material. Pictured is the necklace that I use. I got it for free from a friend, but looking online they seem to be fairly inexpensive compared to the price tag of an ultrasonic diffuser. Alternatively, you can DIY a clay or stone necklace. Websites with cool ideas for this can be found here and here.

3. Essential Oil Perfume

How to diffuse essential oils on a budgetAnother easy way to enjoy the scent of essential oils all day long is to make an essential oil perfume. There is a wealth of information available on how to mix oils to make your own unique scent (for example, here), but at the most basic level, these are essential oils diluted in a carrier oil and applied to the skin (watch for my post on dilution and carrier oils soon). Generally, 3-5 drops of essential oil in approximately a tablespoon of carrier oil is safe. There are exceptions of oils that need more dilution, and there are a few that don’t need dilution at all. This website, written by a certified aromatherapist, shows a variety of charts and shares tips for dilution if you don’t have time to wait around for my post. (Let it be noted that certified aromatherapist does not equate to doctor. Always check with a physician, especially when it comes to small children and other people with sensitive skin.)

4. Use Your HVAC System

Your HVAC system, or the system that heats and cools your house, can help you diffuse oils into your entire home. This is as simple as placing a few drops of an essential oil on a paper towel or cotton ball and placing (taping) just inside the vent that blows air into a room. While I haven’t personally tried this method yet because I live in an apartment with a roommate, I have read a lot of blogs with happy moms who use this method. Do be careful of using this method in the winter, though, because as mentioned above, excessive heat from your heating system can damage the structure of the oils, possibly causing them to become toxic.  (1) I would guess that the temperature of the air once it reaches the vent will not be enough to harm your oil, but as I haven’t done temperature measurements myself, I can’t tell you for sure.

5. DIY Reed Diffuser

Using a similar principle as essential oil potpourri, a reed diffuser will soak up your oils and then slowly release them into the air. These can be more practical than potpourri for people with small children or pets that may want to play with or eat the small colorful pieces of potpourri. A quick search on Pinterest turns up all sorts of tutorials, such as this one. The basic idea is to dilute an essential oil into a carrier oil (preferably one that is liquid at room temperature, unlike coconut oil), and put it in a vase along with your reeds. Due to capillary action (meaning the forces that, for example, help a napkin corner dipped in water soak up water higher than the water line), the reeds will pull the oil from the vase and when saturated they will release the oil into the air.

Have you tried any of these methods? Any comparisons to the ultrasonic diffusers? Let me know in the comments below. 

(1) Turek, C. and Stintzing, F. C. (2013), Stability of Essential Oils: A Review. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 12: 40–53. doi: 10.1111/1541-4337.12006

About Rachel

Rachel is a blogger and Biophysics Lab Manager who lives in Clemson, SC (go tigers!). After studying conventional pharmaceuticals and how they target specific ailments, she applied that knowledge to figuring out how essential oils can work to treat the same ailments, and ended up creating the blog The Essential Girl. When she’s not blogging or sciencing the shit out of something in the lab, she likes to swing dance and teach group fitness classes.

  • Kaitlin Barry

    Is the Reed method safe for cats? What about a way to hang some kind of air freshener using oils?

    • If you can smell it, they can smell it, and if they can smell it, it’s entering their olfactory system and thus their body. These methods are only safe for cats when using cat-safe oils.