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Using An Essential Oil Diffuser On Repeat? Here's How To Make Sure It's Clean

Emma Loewe
April 24, 2020
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us."
April 24, 2020

If the monotony of quarantine has you feeling down, diffusing essential oils can add some variety to your routine. These fragrant tools lend themselves to creativity and play: You can experiment with bright, zippy scents in the morning, energizing oils during the afternoon slump, and relaxing smells come bedtime. Simply add 10 to 15 drops of an oil or a combination of two or three oils into your machine and turn it on for some instant aromatherapy.

One thing to keep in mind as you do? Diffusers, like any other appliance, get dirty! The more you use it, the more you need to clean it. Here's a primer on how to scrub down your essential oil diffuser and keep the good smells flowing.

How to clean an ultrasonic diffuser.

Unless you're really serious about aromatherapy, this is probably the type of diffuser you have. Ultrasonics disperse essential oils in water for a fragrant mist that's also slightly humidifying.

You need to be diligent about emptying the water out of your machine between uses since it can cause mold to form. Every time you run the diffuser, dump out any water that's left at the end and wipe down its inner cartridge with a cloth. Leave the top of the machine off to allow the cartridge to air out completely before you use it again.

Depending on how often you use your machine, you'll also want to give it a deeper clean every two to four weeks. Here's how Sarah Panton, the founder of Vitruvi oils, recommends going about it:

  1. Put water in your machine like you usually do, and then add a tablespoon of white vinegar. (Its high acid content makes it a good natural disinfectant.)
  2. Run your machine for 10-20 minutes to allow the vinegar to disperse. Note: You might want to run an errand while this is going on since the smell will be strong.
  3. Dampen a cloth in the remaining water and vinegar mix, and use it to wipe down the exterior of your machine. Use a Q-tip to get into any hard-to-reach crannies.
  4. Pour out the remaining liquid and dry your entire machine with a clean cloth.

How to clean a nebulizer diffuser.

Nebulizer diffusers are the pricier but more powerful option. Unlike ultrasonic models, they don't dilute oils in water. Instead, they use compressed air to send a concentrated amount of oil around a room, leading to a more intense smelling experience.

This means that you don't need to worry about mold in your machine, but you should still clean it every few weeks to make sure that oils aren't clogging its smaller glass parts and passageways. Leigh Winters, a neuroscientist and natural beauty expert, says to do so using rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) since it's more effective at tackling oil than vinegar is. Keep in mind that these machines are delicate, so approach your cleaning with care:

  1. Pour 25 to 30 drops of rubbing alcohol into the machine's glass reservoir and gently swoosh it around so it goes over the whole thing.
  2. Then, to make sure all the smaller inner passageways are clear, leave the alcohol in the machine and run it for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Toss out the alcohol and let your reservoir air dry.
Emma Loewe author page.
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.