Skip to Content
For The Essentials is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read more

Incense Sticks vs. Diffuser: What You Need to Know

Incense Sticks vs. Diffuser: What You Need to Know

Every person loves a room that smells nice. Some of the best ways to fill such spaces with a lovely aroma are burning incense sticks or using a diffuser.

Only after you compare incense sticks vs. diffusers can you pick out the best. Both deliver great fragrances but have notable differences worth taking into account.

What are Incense Sticks?

Incense sticks are items you burn to release the fragrance. Unlike other aromas, incense has existed for centuries and is a favorite of many people. Many religions continue to burn incense sticks during festivals and events.

What Are Incense Sticks Made Of?

Most incense sticks have some fragrant materials. When these materials come into contact with heat, they release a lovely aroma.

Notably, the fragrant materials that are often used to make incense sticks include:

  • Flowers
  • Seeds
  • Dry Roots
  • Tree bark

These materials are mixed with ingredients such as:

  • Sandalwood
  • Myrrh
  • Cinnamon
  • Frankincense
  • Lavender
  • Rose

Who Uses Incense Sticks?

Who Uses Incense Sticks

Any person who wants to enjoy some pleasing aroma at home or any other place can burn some incense. As you burn the stick, the fragrance fills the air. However, you must note the size of the room before lighting them.

For larger rooms, you need to burn more than one stick to enjoy the aroma for some time. Place the sticks on a surface that’s resistant to fire and avoid leaving them unattended.

What is a Diffuser?

A diffuser is a device that you can use to release scent from essential oils into the air. Most diffusers use water to release lovely scents from essential oils.

How Does a Diffuser Function?

Diffusers are more common today in many homes, offices, and similar places than ever. People want to enjoy the lovely aromas that are calming. But how does a diffuser function?

There are four ways that a diffuser can work. That means there are four different kinds that you can find in the market. These include:

  • Ultrasonic diffuser
  • Heat diffuser
  • Evaporative diffuser
  • Nebulization diffuser

The ultrasonic diffuser uses vibrations to disseminate the essential oils to vapor and release them into the air. You have to place a few drops of the oil on the water in the diffuser reservoir.

On the other hand, the heat diffuser increases the temperature until the oil is released as steam. Evaporative diffusers use the wind to dispel the aromas that you enjoy in your home. Lastly, the nebulization diffuser releases oil in mist form.

Who Can Use a Diffuser?

Who Can Use a Diffuser

Everyone can use a diffuser to release the lovely fragrance of the essential oils. These oils are fantastic when you want to relax after a long day. Switch on the diffuser after adding the oil, sit back, and enjoy.

Usually, you can switch the device off after some time. However, most have an auto-shut feature meaning you can leave it until the water or oil runs out. You won’t have to worry since the device goes off immediately it runs out.

Incense Sticks vs. Diffuser Comparison Chart

Incense SticksDiffuser
Key FeaturesDifferent scents

Numerous sticks

Hand-made incense sticks

Non-toxic material

No alcohol content


Natural ingredients

Different mist settings

On/off switch

Power plug

The water reservoir on some

Oil holder on others

LED colors

Timer settings


Operation EaseEasyEasy
Materials Plus QualityNatural herbs



Aromatic powders

Coconut powder




Essential oils

Made using plastic, wood, glass, or metal

PricingMore affordableAffordable
SafetyLess safesafer
Customer ReviewsNumerous 5-star ratingsNumerous 5-star ratings
Top ProductsNag Champa Sunrise Incense Sticks (Amazon Highest Seller)InnoGear Essential Oil Diffuser (Amazon Bestseller)

1. Key Features

Sticks and diffusers may share some standard features. However, some differences are crucial to note when comparing incense sticks and diffusers.

Incense Sticks

Key Features

The most notable feature about incense sticks is that you must use heat. Heat burns the bars to release the scent. Otherwise, all you have are some sticks that won’t serve any purpose.

Another feature is each stick contains some flammable wood, spice, and aroma. The spice and aroma mix together to create a specific scent that you enjoy once you light the incense sticks.

Since these sticks are burnt indoors, the materials are all non-toxic. It means you won’t have to worry about inhaling harmful scents that can affect your health.

Lastly, all are hand-made, adding to the quality. Each incense stick undergoes a quality check to make sure it meets user expectations.


Every diffuser disperses aroma in a specific way. The most notable feature in an ultrasonic and evaporative diffuser is the different mist settings. Usually, there are two settings; low and high.

Once you plug in the diffuser, you can use the on/off button to operate the diffuser. Remember to turn on the electricity before you start using the device.

The ultrasonic diffuser has a water reservoir that you need to fill. Each device holds a specific capacity. Once the water is in place, you need to add a few drops of essential oils before switching it on. For others, like the nebulization diffuser, you have to fill the oil on a unique tube.

Some diffusers have LED lights that you can use to set the mood in the room. Additionally, there are timer settings to dictate how long the device remains operational. Once the water or oil runs out, auto-shutoff takes place.

2. Operation Ease

No one wants a device that’s too complex to use. That’s why a comparison of incense sticks vs. diffusers must include operation ease.

Incense Sticks

Incense sticks are much easier to use in comparison to diffusers. All you need is a suitable incense stick holder. After you set up the incense stick, light it up and let it burn. It starts releasing fragrance immediately.


Operation Ease

While it’s also reasonably easy to use a diffuser, there are a few more steps involved. Depending on the diffuser you have, you might need to fill it with water, oil, or both.

Once you fill it with the necessary liquids, plug it in and switch on the electricity. Next, you need to set the timer and mist settings. Some have LED lights like ultrasonic diffusers that you can use to light the room.

Diffusers need regular cleaning when you want to use them again. But, incense sticks burn entirely.

3. Materials

As you consider incense sticks vs. diffusers, it’s worth noting the different materials. What materials are each made from, and what do you need for them to work?

Incense Sticks

Incense sticks contain aromatic materials. These include tree bark, flowers, roots, and seeds. Bamboo sticks are the typical kind that you can find when searching for incense sticks.


It’s not shocking at all to learn that diffusers come in numerous materials. You can get a ceramic, wood, metal, plastic, and glass diffuser. However, always note the material quality and brand before making a purchase.

4. Pricing

Imagine having to spend lots of money to purchase incense sticks or a diffuser. Thankfully both are affordable though the cheapest are incense sticks.

Incense sticks

Incense sticks are cheap despite being hand-made. The price difference depends on the number of sticks and the brand.

Therefore, take time to review the different brands available in the market. You can find cheap incense sticks on amazon. The most affordable brand is the HEM Sandalwood Incense sticks.

The most expensive is SHOYEIDO incense sticks. These have a longer-lasting aroma. You can enjoy the lovely fragrance even when the stick burns out.


When you compare incense sticks vs. diffusers, diffusers tend to be pricey. The price difference depends on the brand, functionality, and additional features.

You can check out the HomeWeeks 100ml diffuser. It’s pretty affordable and works with essential oils.

One of the most expensive which has lots of cool features is Vitruvi Stone Diffuser with ultrasonic functionality. Not only is it a quality product, but it also’s cordless, has LED lights, and covers a larger room size.

5. Safety

Safety first! That’s true, mainly where fire and electricity apply. Most diffusers use electricity or a similar source of power, while incense sticks need fire. Both are hazardous, which is why you must take care when using them.

Incense Sticks

When you light an incense stick, you leave it burning until it’s complete. While it’s a great way to get a constant aroma, it’s hazardous. You must take caution and place the stick on a flame-resistant area or surface.

For instance, get a metallic incense holder. Once the stick burns out, the flame won’t catch on and keep burning the surface.


Comparing incense sticks vs. diffusers, you notice diffusers are a safer option. Most have an auto—shut off feature. Once the water or essential oil runs out, the diffuser shuts off automatically.

That reduces the chances of the device igniting, which can cause a fire. Additionally, you can use the timer settings to set how long the device will run.

6. Top Products

There are numerous excellent brands of incense sticks and diffusers. It can be pretty overwhelming trying to sift through all of them. That’s why it’s better to pinpoint the top products in the market.

Incense Sticks

The best incense sticks brand on Amazon is Nag Champa Sunrise Incense Sticks.

Inside the pack are 12 sticks made from bamboo. The different scents include lavender, rose, jasmine, and Nag Champa, among others. These are hand-rolled incense sticks with scents that have a flowery base.

The incense smells terrific once you light the sticks and lasts for some time. Some scents are strong while others are mild, creating a good balance.


On Amazon, the top diffuser is InnoGear Essential Oil Diffuser. It’s a unique and compact device that can add color to your room.

The device is made using PP material that’s heat resistant. Additionally, it comes with two mist settings. You can put it on low or high.

The water reservoir keeps the device working, but auto-shutoff comes on when the water runs out. You can switch any of the 8 LED lights to create a mood in the room.

7. Customer Reviews

What are the customers saying? Do they prefer using incense sticks or diffusers? Customer reviews matter because you can learn the correct item to use at home. Also, the reviews can help you pick out the right brand.

Incense Sticks

Checking the top product on Amazon can be a good start. One customer raved about the excellent variety in the pack. The fact that there were so many pieces was worth it.

However, another customer had a complaint about the product. They bought several boxes, and only a few had original products. The rest weren’t up to standard.


The Amazon bestseller diffuser has some of the best reviews. One customer commended the product for being powerful. It worked well and made sure there was always aroma in the room for 6 hours.

Unfortunately, another customer was disappointed with the diffuser. After using it for a short period, it stopped working. Also, when it was working, it leaked water which ruined their cabinet.

Key Takeaway

All the information above can help you learn more when comparing incense sticks vs. diffusers. While the two serve a common goal, they have specific differences worth noting.

Read through and make a final decision. What will it be? Is it better to purchase incense sticks or get an essential oil diffuser? Can you get both, or do you prefer one in place of the other?