can you use a diffuser with just water

Can you use a diffuser with just water?

Imagine creating a peaceful place in the confines of your abode, effortlessly banishing anxiety and infusing the atmosphere with subtle scents.

Surely, using a diffuser can create that atmosphere, but it all comes down to what you use in your diffuser.   

Hold onto your hats for a wild ride as we plunge into the intriguing inquiry: can you just use water with a diffuser?

You cannot use water with every diffuser, but some ultrasonic diffusers that actually work as humidifiers allow you to use just water.  

How Do Diffusers Work?

how do diffusers work

Typically, someone will use a diffuser to add essential oils to the air.

When you talk about diffusers, you can find different types of them, including:

  • The ultrasonic diffusers
  • Diffusers that work by heating
  • Diffusers that work by evaporation
  • Nebulizers

An ultrasonic diffuser uses ultrasonic waves and vibration to disperse microscopic oil droplets.

The most common uses heat which warms the oil to release the volatile vapors that make the scent.

Another commonly used method is to drip the oil over a heat source to allow the vapors to evaporate.

Fact: Wick diffusers work quite well, and are considerably cheaper than the electric devices that blow air over an oil-soaked pad. 

Why Do People Use Diffusers?

why do people use diffusers

Perhaps the question is not why people use diffusers but why people use essential oils to fragrance a room.

On one level, the scent adds an ambience that makes a room more inviting. And even diffusers that tealights tend to be safer than candles.

But, the truth is that there are many essential oils that have aromatherapeutic benefits.

And the most effective way to take advantage of the goodness is to breathe them in.

Depending on the oil, using a diffuser may offer many benefits, such as:

  • It helps people relax and destress
  • It helps to concentrate and focus
  • It helps you to sleep better
  • It helps you become more energized

An Important Consideration

Nebulizer diffusers are believed to release the purest oils.

They are widely used in medicine when respiratory systems would benefit from a gentler longer drug delivery system than a traditional inhaler provides.

It is thought that because a nebulizer treats the essential oil gently, much more of the natural goodness of the plant survives. 

Can You Use a Diffuser with Just Water?

using a diffuser with water

Yes, although not all the diffusers are suitable, an ultrasonic diffuser can be used as a humidifier.

The benefits that come from breathing in water vapor have been known for centuries, perhaps for just as long as adding healing plants to boiling water has.

Water is a common component of most diffusers.

It is the water vapor that carries the oil as it diffuses into the air.

Interestingly, there are waterless electronic diffusers that have various other ways of forcing oil particles into the atmosphere.

Fact: Some people prefer to diffuse water-free, believing the oil does not get contaminated by the water and more of the helpful properties of the oil are preserved. 

What Type of Water Can Go in a Diffuser?

water types for diffuser

Some brands of diffusers take any kind of water.

However, some manufacturers recommend using only one kind but essentially there are only 3 kinds of water to choose from, such as:

  • Cheap and cheerful tap water
  • The bottled distilled water
  • Filtered water with impurities removed

Many diffuser makers recommend tap water because it contains useful minerals that are also diffused.

Others, Airome for instance, recommend distilled to avoid clogging moving components with limescale build-up.

Whatever the choice, because of bacterial growth, it is never a good idea to leave used water in a diffuser for any length of time. 

Diffuser with Water Vs Oil: Difference in Operation

diffuser with water vs oil

When people decide to use water without oils, it is natural to ask how it is different from diffusing essential oils in the air.

Let’s talk about different situations when using water can have an impact:

Water Over Low-Quality Oils

The important thing is that a diffuser is used as safely and efficiently as possible, especially if using it brings health benefits.

Generally, the purer the oil, the more expensive it is and its effects will also be better.

A good quality oil is also kinder on the diffuser leaving little residue to build up and block its vapor delivery system.

Low-quality oils would hamper the device’s ability to diffuse the water vapor evenly and put out a strong mist.

Using water is considerably better than using poor-quality oil, which often contains scent-enhancing additives and a mix of cheap low-quality oils. 

Easier Cleaning

easier cleaning

In water diffusers, tap water is by far the cheapest water to use but even using distilled or filtered won’t break the budget.

And for convenience, whatever its form water is widely available.

 Although tap water has minerals, it is argued they help the water turn into oil-bearing vapor faster even if the diffuser tank needs cleaning more regularly.

However, all diffusers need regular cleaning, some come with the brushes needed to do it.

But if left running too long, the oil burns, leaving hard-to-clean sticky residues after the water is evaporated away.   

Gentle and Natural

gentle and natural

Some diffusers still work with water but are not electronic and do not use a water reservoir, instead water and oil sit in a bowl which is heated by a lamp or a candle.

They are referred to as aroma lamps. Usually, the volume of liquid that can be used in one go is small.

The lamps need to be refilled quite often or the oil will burn, but even when used without the oil, aroma lamps add moisture to dry air in a gentle and natural way. 

Is a Diffuser with Just Water a Humidifier? 

water-based diffuser serve as a humidifier

Yes, a diffuser that uses water is a humidifier although its primary function is to add fragrance.

This intended function is reflected in the aesthetics of the design.

However, like humidifiers diffusers emit water vapor, and some moisture in the air is healthier and more comfortable.

Humidifiers also remove tiny particles from the air.

Diffusers do not clean the air nearly as efficiently but the moisture both systems add to a room makes it harder for bacteria and viruses to breed.

Fact: Both diffusers and humidifiers can ease congestion and sinus irritation and provide some relief for people living with dry skin conditions.   

What Can You Put in a Diffuser?

what can you put in a diffuse

When it comes to tapping into the benefits of diffusers, you have to learn exactly what you can use in them.

Here is a bit more about what you can put in a diffuser:


Essential oils are distilled from plants with high concentrations of terpenes and phenylpropenes.

These compounds are responsible for the fragrance, taste, and pigment of many plants and found in the flowers, buds, seeds, leaves, twigs, bark, wood, fruits and roots.

Their oils have a low boiling point and are volatile at room temperatures but the plant parts can be added to heated water to produce the same effect as the oils, just not as intense.


The list of possibilities is long but good plants to try are:

  • Pine needles
  • Cedarwood
  • Evening primrose
  • Geranium
  • Rosemary
  • Echinacea
  • Lavender

Fragrant Liquids

Just as the whole petals, seeds or bark can be used, so can the juice of certain plants, for example, orange and lemon.

But liquids such as perfumes, aftershaves and household liquids such as fabric conditioners are also safe to be added to diffuser water.

fragrant liquids

They produce a pleasing but somewhat short lived effect and the intensity varies according to what is used and how much.

It is best to avoid adding anything too viscous and if you are not sure if you are going to like the effect, start by adding just a few drops.

Fact: Many household liquid cleaning solutions smell nice, but they are not for use in a diffuser, as they are not safe to heat and can be dangerous to breathe in. 


Can you use a diffuser with just water? The world of diffusers is quite fascinating, going beyond just essential oils.

It opens up a whole new world, providing a pleasant way to unwind and set the mood with just water.

Adding essential oils to a diffuser is like adding icing on the cake – it not only enhances the aroma but also provides therapeutic benefits.

However, using just water in a diffuser still has its benefits, as it works quite like a humidifier.

So, if you have dry skin or respiratory issues, diffusing with just water may still help.