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Humidifier vs Diffuser: Which One Is Better?

Your body is tense and your head feels like it might explode. You’ve been looking at a computer screen for hours and still can’t figure out which one to buy!

Why is everything so complicated?! Let’s make this simple.

It’s important to know that humidifiers are not diffusers. They both have separate purposes.

Humidifiers add more humidity, or moisture, to the air. Humidifiers cater more towards people with physical ailments such as dry skin, allergies, asthma, and respiratory infections.

Chains of bead diffusers

Diffusers on the other hand, are made to add fragrance to the air. Diffusers are more for people struggling with emotional and mental ailments such as stress, anxiety, and depression.

Humidifier vs Diffuser Comparison Chart

Humidifier vs Diffuser Comparison Chart

Duration To Take EffectA Few HoursImmediately
Emotional/Mental BenefitsFewSeveral
Physical BenefitsSeveralFew

Humidifier vs Diffuser

It’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty!

I’m going to break down the specific details about each one of the five features mentioned above. I will list some positive and negative traits and decide which one is the winner of that feature.

Duration To Take Effect

Duration To Take Effect


What size room are you using your humidifier in? Depending on the size of your room and the size of your water tank it could take up to a few hours to raise the moisture in the air.

If you’re struggling with dry skin and allergies and want fast results, the humidifier is not the best option. You may have to pop an allergy pill and wait a few hours before you start feeling the effects.

The great thing about the humidifier though, is it can run up to 24 hours. Humidifiers can hold anywhere from 1 to 5 gallons of water allowing it to run longer.

So if you don’t want to wait around to start feeling better, fill the water tank before leaving to work. When you come home you’ll have a more breathable atmosphere and better sleep.


Unlike the Humidifier, this bad boy will affect you immediately! Fill the small reservoir with water, place a couple of drops of essential oil fragrance of your choosing, sit back, and unwind.

Most manufacturers suggest using a diffuser for 15 to 20 minutes to absorb the full benefits. Any longer than that can over-saturate your skin, leaving you with unpleasant nausea and a throbbing headache.

It’s amazing how fast you feel a difference! Just remember, a few drops of oil go a long way.

People want quick results. For that reason alone, the diffuser wins!

Cleaning and Maintenance

Cleaning and Maintenance


Humidifiers are known to leave the area surrounding it, saturated with water. Some people suggest keeping the humidity percentage at a lower setting to prevent this mess.

Distilled water is recommended over regular tap water. If you use regular tap water a white powdery residue can form a white crust and make it that much harder to clean.

Some humidifiers come with more parts, and with more parts that means more time spent cleaning each of those pieces. Don’t forget the struggle of trying to clean the inside of the water tank when the opening is no bigger than making the “OK” gesture with your hand!

Manufacturers recommend cleaning your humidifier at least once a week. If humidifiers aren’t cleaned regularly, you’ll be inhaling mold and bacteria that are growing inside the water tank.


Over time, the ceramic disc located at the bottom of the water tank can get coated with essential oils. Manufacturers recommend you clean your diffuser after each use.

What you can do is rinse out the water tank after each use and when you’re changing the essential oil fragrance. You want to aim for a thorough cleaning at least once a week.

The diffuser doesn’t play favorites when it comes to using distilled water or tap water. I still suggest reading your manufacturer’s instructions to determine which type of water is best for your specific diffuser.

More often than not, diffusers come with a lot less intricate pieces. You know where I’m going with this – less cleaning!

Between the humidifier and the diffuser, the humidifier creates a lot more of a mess and is more difficult to clean and prevent mold and bacteria from growing inside of it. The diffuser takes the prize!

Emotional and Mental Benefits

Emotional and Mental Benefits


Although humidifiers are mainly used for physical benefits, they do have emotional and mental health benefits as well. When your physical problems fade away, your emotional problems leave with them!

What I mean by this, is let’s say you feel sick and are having troubles breathing. You already don’t feel well and on top of that, not being able to breathe is really irritating and sometimes stressful.

Get rid of your sickness, get rid of your irritation and stress. It’s that simple.

It’s important to mention if you have asthma or bad allergies, the humidifier may be the healthier option over the diffuser. The reason being, some essential oils you put into a diffuser can actually make asthma and allergies worse.


The primary reason people buy aroma diffusers is because of how efficient they are at relieving emotional and mental health issues. I use a diffuser for anxiety and depression and I’ve noticed how well it works for me.

Essential oils can affect your mood in many ways. Lavender, one of the most popular essential oils, works as a calming agent and is great for people who suffer with anxiety and depression.

The essential oils you’re smelling from your diffuser is what helps you emotionally and mentally. It is important to note, the essential oils used in diffusers are not safe for pregnant women and infants under six months.

Most humidifiers are not made to use essential oils. Because of this, you won’t get the same benefits like you do with essential oil diffusers.

All diffusers can be considered a humidifier, but not all humidifiers can be a diffuser. Again, the reasoning behind this is, humidifiers aren’t built for essential oils.

Diffusers were specifically made to help emotional and mental health benefits. So, hands down, the diffuser wins again!

Physical Benefits

Physical Benefits


Asthma, allergies, respiratory infections, sinus infections, dehydrated skin, and messy nose bleeds are the main reasons people own humidifiers. Another cool thing is humidifiers can help prevent wrinkles by adding moisture into your skin.

Uhm hello?! I’ll take one please!

On a serious note, struggling to breathe is extremely upsetting. If you have any of the above conditions, humidifiers might just be your next purchase.


Diffusers give some physical benefits, but they are still mainly used for emotional and mental health benefits. Like humidifiers, diffusers can help you breathe easier, sleep better, and help you get over sicknesses quicker.

Some of the essential oils you can put in your diffuser that help with physical illnesses are: eucalyptus, tea tree oil, and lemon. There are several more you can choose from.

Since diffusers are smaller and hold a lot less water than humidifiers, they aren’t very useful for dry skin and nose bleeds. Diffusers normally hold anywhere from 100ml to 400ml of water.

This one is a close one for sure! Humidifiers and diffusers both ease respiratory and sinus infections.

Hmmm…but since humidifiers have more impact on physical problems, the humidifier wins!




Most humidifiers have a simple look. Your average humidifier has a solid white base, a clear blue water tank that sits on top of the base, and a cap to close the water tank.

Not all humidifiers look the same though. You can get some that are more suited for adults or children.

I found some really cute humidifiers shaped like cows, frogs, and hippos. They are seriously adorable!

Buttons and dials vary on humidifiers. I’ve seen as few as one button and as many as six.

Some humidifiers have a night light function. I found some humidifiers that have multiple color options as well.


Almost all diffusers have a different appearance. You can get a diffuser with an oak finish, a glass design cover, or a hard plastic cover with slits on the sides.

You definitely get more of a variety of appearances with diffusers than you do with humidifiers.

There are normally 3 pieces to a diffuser. You have the water reservoir that’s attached to the base of the diffuser, a funneled cap that sits on top of the water reservoir, and a cover with a hole on the top to release mist.

Some diffusers only come with 1 button, while others come with 2. One button is the on and off switch and the other button is the light function.

Humidifiers and diffusers both have their unique appearances. Since appearance is dependent on preference, there is no winner or loser – it’s a tie!

The Final Score

The Humidifier: 2 out of 5.

The Diffuser: 4 out of 5.

Pros & Cons

  • Can run for 24 hours
  • Better for people who have Asthma and Allergies
  • Relieves respiratory and sinus infections
  • Hydrates skin (prevents wrinkles)
  • Prevents nosebleeds
  • Breathing is easier
  • Better sleep
  • Uses more water
  • Stuck with distilled water only
  • Effects take a few hours
  • Can leave a white residue or water behind
  • A little harder to clean in tight spaces
  • Clean often
  • Can’t be used as a diffuser
  • Effects felt immediately
  • Less water needed
  • Can use tap water or distilled water
  • Easier to clean
  • Many emotional and mental health benefits
  • Great for anxiety and depression
  • Can be used as a humidifier
  • Relieves respiratory and sinus infections
  • Breathing is easier
  • Better sleep
  • Designer appearance
  • Skin can get oversaturated with essential oils
  • Clean often
  • Some essential oils make it worse for people with asthma and allergies
  • Not as useful for dry skin and nosebleeds
  • Can be unsafe for pregnant women
  • Unsafe for infants under 6 months

Which One Is Better, Humidifier or Diffuser?

Which One Is Better, Humidifier or Diffuser?

The diffuser is the better option. There are a lot more positive than negative qualities about the diffuser.

The diffuser immediately takes effect. It’s easier to clean and it makes less of a mess.

Diffusers give you mental and physical benefits, and it can function as a humidifier. A 2-in-1 deal!

You will never be limited in your choice of diffuser appearances. The designer look is a must-have when showcasing your living room to your close friends.

The humidifier is still a great runner up, and has great qualities as well. Though in this competition, the diffuser takes the gold medal.

In the end, you decide which product will better suit your specific needs. Whether you’re a beginner or you consider yourself an expert on the topic, I hope you learned something of value to help you make the right choice for you!

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