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Can You Use an Electric Diffuser Without Oil?

Can You Use an Electric Diffuser Without Oil?

Diffusers are fantastic. They are affordable, incredibly easy to use, and cleanse rooms with a purifying blend of water and essential oil mist.

All you need for an electric water diffuser is clean water and a few drops of any essential oil. But what if you’re missing one of those key ingredients?

You can’t run a diffuser without water (unless it’s a waterless diffuser), but you can run it without the oils. There are also a few last resort alternatives to using traditional essential oils in your diffuser, so keep reading to learn more!

Benefits of a Humidifier

Benefits of a Humidifier

When you just use water in your water diffuser, it basically becomes a humidifier which still has loads of benefits! Like diffusers, humidifiers spread a fine mist of water around a room.

This mist has several health benefits and ultrasonic humidifiers are safest around children — which is perfect since most diffusers are also ultrasonic!

Because water is moisturizing, humidifiers can help relieve dry skin, sinus congestion, dry and bloody noses, chapped lips, irritated vocal cords, and other issues related to a lack of moisture in the body.

Your home might be dry for a couple of reasons. Winter tends to be very drying, which is why most people have to wear chapstick more in the colder months. On the other hand, which summers tend to be a little more humid depending on where you live, air conditioning is very drying to the skin and sinuses.

While you will obviously miss out on the benefits of any essential oil, it is still worth running your diffuser oil-free if you are worried about your home drying out. In fact, if you are an avid diffuser, you’re probably already used to reaping the benefits of a humidifier even if you usually have a few drops of oil mixed into it!

Gentle Warning

It is always worth reiterating how important it is to keep your diffuser or humidifier clean. Both machines can be prone to mold or bacteria growth and need to be cleaned consistently.

The general rule of thumb is to rinse out a diffuser every day and let it dry completely, and to deep clean the machine once or twice a month. There are plenty of ways to do this naturally with products you already have around your house, so no need to worry about this being too inconvenient!

If you want to learn more about how to clean your diffuser or humidifier, read our article How Often Should I Clean My Essential Oil Diffuser.


Still interested in adding a bit of scent to your diffuser experience? We’ve got you covered!

Here are a few alternatives that will work well with your water diffuser, although there is no replacing a good trust pure essential oil. At the end of the day, using an essential oil should always be your first choice.

These are just some suggestions for when you’re in a pinch!

1. Citrus Juice

Citrus Juice

Like the zesty smell of citrus? Have an orange, lemon, grapefruit, or lime laying around in the fridge? We’ve got just the thing for you!

Using a bit of citrus juice in your diffuser will create a delicate scent in your space. Unlike citrus essential oil, the juice is not as concentrated so will not give off as strong of a scent.

We also recommend straining your juice as much as possible before adding it to the diffuser to avoid having to clean out tiny pieces of pulp afterward. That does not sound like a very relaxing way to end an aromatherapy session!

If you don’t have any fresh fruit laying around but have some premade juice in the fridge, here are a few things to look out for:

  • No added sugar
  • Little to no flavorings or preservatives
  • Organic (not necessary but always a bonus!)

Start by adding half to a full tablespoon of juice in your diffuser and go from there. Add more juice or water to get the perfect scent balance.

While it may be tempting to try out a load of different types of juices, more subtle fruits like apple and grape won’t give off as much of a scent. Citrus has a great punchy flavor which is why it works the best!

2. Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Extract

Are you an avid baker? You probably have a bottle of vanilla extract in your kitchen that can be doubled as a diffuser scent!

Vanilla extract is made from ethanol and vanilla beans and has a strong, sweet smell heavily associated with freshly baked goods. A few drops of this go a long way, which is exactly what you want when trying to replicate an essential oil.

There are some vanilla extracts that contain sugar, and while this isn’t necessarily dangerous, you probably don’t want to be misting sugar around your living space.

Try the Simply Organic Pure Vanilla Extract if you’re looking for a vanilla with as few ingredients as possible. This product will also work wonders in baked goods so you’ll be able to get plenty of use out of it!

To use, add as many drops as you normally would of essential oil. Because vanilla extract contains alcohol, use sparingly — this should be easy to do since it is so strong smelling!

3. Rose Extract

Rose Extract

Rose extract, like vanilla extract, is typically used for baking and smells wonderful! Because rose extract is food safe, it is perfectly acceptable to use for cosmetic and aromatherapy purposes.

There are a lot of rose extracts out there, some of which contain glycerin instead of alcohol. While this isn’t dangerous, we aren’t sure how glycerin will react in your diffuser, so it’s best to play it safe and stick with the alcohol-based extracts.

We love the Angel Bake Pure Rose Extract because of its simple ingredients and low moisture content  (that means it’s more concentrated!).

Rose extract also gives baked goods an unexpected floral flavor, so be sure to try it in a cake or cookies if you have the chance!

Like vanilla extract, rose extract should be used as a regular essential oil in your diffuser.

4. Dried Herbs and Flowers

Dried Herbs and Flowers

Using dried herbs and flowers won’t give you the intensity extracts will, but they are an all-natural way of lightly scenting your diffuser mist.

To get the most out of your herbs or flowers, we recommend soaking them in water for a day so that the water is infused with all its herbal goodness. Our favorite dried plants are rosemary, rose petals, sage, and lavender, but you can have fun experimenting with all kinds of stuff!

Try this Organic Dried Lavender out if you want a more subtle floral scent wafting through your house!

You could also boil the dried plants in the water to make a sort of ‘tea’. Just be sure to strain the plants out and let them cool completely before using them in your machine.

5. Vape Liquid

We’ve saved this one for last because while it’s not our favorite, it does technically work. Vape liquid has a very powerful smell and will do a good job filling up a room with aroma.

However, it contains nicotine which is incredibly addictive! These liquids are also very artificial.

Please do not try this method if you don’t have vape liquid already laying around.

You should definitely not go out and buy vape liquid just for your diffuser. There are plenty of healthier and more natural options (like the ones listed above) for you to try.

This is just a recommendation for any vapers out there who also happen to have run out of their essential oils.


Pure essential oils should always be your first choice

Pure essential oils should always be your first choice. They are easily accessible and depending on the brand, relatively affordable.

Essential oils also offer plenty of health benefits that none of these

When it comes to adding anything else to your diffuser, the more natural the better. Or, alternatively, just enjoy the refreshing mist of a humidifier without any added extracts, juices, or plants.

If running out of essential oils is something you find yourself doing far too often, try buying them in bulk online!

For example, this NOW Peppermint Oil comes in a 454-milliliter bottle which will last you ages!

Have fun trying out these methods in your water diffuser, and let us know which one you prefer to go to when you don’t have any oils on hand.

Stay safe and happy oiling!