Humidifier vs Diffuser: What Makes Them Different?

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Essential oil diffusers have become cherished fixtures in our homes, transforming living spaces into aromatic sanctuaries that promote relaxation and well-being. Yet, there are times when we find ourselves without essential oils or are simply curious about alternative uses for our diffusers. 

Can a diffuser be utilized with only water, can I use my diffuser as a humidifier? Or are there other substances that can infuse our surroundings with delightful scents? This article answers all your questions, keep reading to find out what is better humidifier or diffuser?

Understanding Humidifiers vs Diffusers

Before diving into the differences of humidifier vs diffuser and finding out what is better humidifier or diffuser, let’s clarify the primary roles of humidifiers and diffusers:


Humidifiers are designed explicitly to add moisture to the air. They increase indoor humidity levels, which can be particularly beneficial in dry climates or during the winter months when indoor heating systems can lead to dry air. 

Humidifiers are commonly used to alleviate dry skin, reduce nasal congestion, and create a more comfortable living environment. Speaking of its benefits, as per a report by Statista, in 2019, humidifier retail sales in the United States reached an estimated value of 643.1 million US dollars.


Diffusers, on the other hand, are primarily used for aromatherapy. They disperse essential oils into the air, transforming the ambiance with soothing scents that can improve well-being and mood. 

Diffusers are celebrated for their ability to create a calming atmosphere and enhance the olfactory experience in your living space.

Overall, the global aromatherapy diffusers market was valued at USD 1.69 billion in 2022. From 2023 to 2031, this expansion is expected to grow at an 8.90% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

Can You Use a Diffuser with Just Water?

Yes, you can absolutely use a diffuser with just water. Many modern diffusers are designed to work with water alone. This method is perfect for adding some humidity to the air in dry climates or simply creating a subtle, moisture-rich atmosphere in your living space. The diffuser breaks down the water molecules into a fine mist, making it feel refreshing and rejuvenating.

Does a Diffuser Work the Same Way as a Humidifier?

When thinking, “can I use my diffuser as a humidifier?, or what is better humidifier or diffuser” Remember that both, diffusers and humidifiers release moisture into the air, they differ in their primary functions and mechanisms:


Humidifiers focus solely on increasing humidity levels. They use mechanisms like evaporative wicks, ultrasonic vibrations, or steam to disperse water vapor into the air. Humidifiers can be especially beneficial for health concerns related to dry air, such as allergies, respiratory issues, and skin problems.


A diffuser is primarily designed for aromatherapy and dispersing the scents of essential oils. It uses ultrasonic vibrations to break down a water and essential oil mixture into a fine mist, which is released into the air. While it can add a small amount of moisture to the air, its primary purpose is to diffuse pleasant fragrances.

Humidifier vs Diffuser vs Purifier – Complete Comparison Table

Here is a comparison table comparing humidifier, diffuser, and purifiers in detail.

Feature/Consideration Humidifier Diffuser Air Purifier
Primary Function Increase humidity Aromatherapy Remove airborne particles
Purpose Alleviate dry air, nasal congestion, skin issues Create a pleasant atmosphere with essential oils Improve indoor air quality by removing allergens and pollutants
Mechanism Evaporative wicks, ultrasonic vibrations, or steam Ultrasonic vibrations to disperse essential oils and water Passes air through filters or uses purification technologies
Use with Essential Oils No Yes No
Humidification for Baby Recommended for nursery use Not recommended as a primary humidifier for babies Not for humidification
Humidification for Plants Suitable for increasing humidity for some plants May not provide sufficient humidity for most plants Not for humidification of plants
Allergy Relief Can reduce allergen prevalence by maintaining optimal humidity May help with mood and relaxation but not allergy relief Effective at removing allergens from the air
Sinus Relief Effective at relieving sinus congestion and dryness May offer some relief, but not as effective as a humidifier Not designed for sinus relief
Aromatherapy Benefits Not designed for aromatherapy Provides aromatherapy benefits with essential oils Not designed for aromatherapy
Dual Functionality Devices Some models offer dual functionality, combining humidification and aromatherapy Some models offer dual functionality, combining aromatherapy and humidification Some models combine air purification and humidification

How Can I Humidify My Air Without a Humidifier?

Now that you’ve your answer to “can I use my diffuser as a humidifier?” Let’s jump towards the options you have without both, humidifiers and diffusers. If you’re looking to increase indoor humidity levels but don’t have a humidifier on hand, there are alternative methods you can consider:

1. Use a Diffuser

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As mentioned earlier, some diffusers can function as humidifiers when you use them with just water. While they may not provide the same level of humidity as dedicated humidifiers, they can help improve indoor air quality.

2. Place Water Containers

Placing bowls of water near heat sources or on radiators can increase moisture levels in the air as the water evaporates. This is a simple and cost-effective way to add humidity to a room.

3. Take Shorter Showers

Overall, hot showers result in humidity in bathrooms. Leaving the bathroom door open after a shower can help distribute moisture to other parts of your home.

4. Use Houseplants

Houseplants release moisture into the air through a process called transpiration. Having more indoor plants can contribute to higher humidity levels.

Can a Diffuser Be Used as a Humidifier for Baby?

Using a diffuser as a humidifier for a baby’s room is a common question among parents. While some diffusers can add moisture to the air when used with just water, it’s essential to be cautious. The level of humidity may not be sufficient for a baby’s needs, especially in dry climates. It’s generally recommended to use a dedicated humidifier designed for nursery use to ensure optimal humidity levels for your baby’s comfort and health.

Does a Diffuser Work as a Humidifier for Plants?

Plants can benefit from increased humidity, but using a diffuser as a humidifier for plants may not provide adequate moisture for them. Plants typically require higher humidity levels than what a diffuser can offer. It’s best to use a dedicated plant humidifier or a humidity tray filled with water and pebbles to create a more suitable environment for your indoor plants.

Can I Put Essential Oils in My Humidifier?

It’s important to note that essential oils should not be directly added to traditional humidifiers. Unlike diffusers, which are designed to handle essential oils, standard humidifiers can become damaged when essential oils are introduced into the water tank. Instead, consider using a diffuser if you want to enjoy the aromatic benefits of essential oils in your living space.

What is the Difference Between Humidifier and Diffuser and Air Purifier?

While we’ve explored the differences of humidifier vs diffuser, it’s worth noting that there’s another essential device in the realm of indoor air quality: the air purifier.

Air Purifier

An air purifier is designed to remove airborne particles, allergens, and pollutants from the air. It works by passing air through a filter or using other purification technologies. Air purifiers are excellent for improving air quality by reducing dust, pollen, pet dander, and pollutants.

When deciding between a humidifier, a diffuser, and an air purifier, consider your specific needs. If you’re primarily looking to increase humidity, a humidifier is the way to go. If you want to enjoy pleasant scents and aromatherapy benefits, a diffuser is your choice. For cleaner air by removing particles and allergens, an air purifier is the solution.

Humidifier vs Diffuser for Sinus

What is better humidifier or diffuser for Sinus? When dealing with sinus issues, such as congestion or dry nasal passages, both humidifiers and diffusers can offer relief. However, a humidifier is often the preferred choice. It provides the necessary moisture to soothe and alleviate sinus discomfort, helping you breathe more comfortably.

Should I Use a Humidifier or Diffuser for Allergies?

For allergy relief, especially if your allergies are triggered by dry indoor air, a humidifier is typically recommended. By maintaining optimal humidity levels, a humidifier can reduce the prevalence of allergens like dust mites and pollen, which thrive in dry conditions.

Which Gives the Best Aromatherapy? Humidifier vs Diffuser

If you’re seeking a device that can serve both aromatherapy and humidification purposes, some models are designed with dual functionality. These hybrid devices allow you to enjoy the benefits of essential oils while adding moisture to the air. When choosing the best aromatherapy diffuser and humidifier, consider factors like tank capacity, mist output, and the ability to customize scents to suit your preferences.

Diffuser vs. Humidifier for Baby

When it comes to a baby’s nursery, a humidifier is generally recommended over a diffuser. Babies are more sensitive to changes in humidity, and maintaining the right level of moisture in the air can help prevent dry skin, congestion, and much more.

Final Words

When learning about “can I use my diffuser as a humidifier”. Know that when choosing between a humidifier and a diffuser for your indoor air quality needs, it boils down to your specific preferences. Humidifiers excel at increasing humidity levels, offering relief from dry air and respiratory issues. 

Diffusers, designed for aromatherapy enthusiasts, provide therapeutic benefits with essential oils and can even function as makeshift humidifiers with water. Understanding these distinctions empowers you to make an informed decision, ensuring a comfortable, fragrant, and healthy living space.


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