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How and When to Clean Your Diffuser

An essential oil diffuser sits on a coffee table next to a plant.
Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

An oil diffuser can add just the right amount of custom scent to your room, but without proper cleaning, it can cause major issues. With just a few common household items, you can keep your diffuser clean and functional for a long time.

Whether you prefer a small-scale diffuser or a larger model for a little more of a humidifier effect, an electric diffuser has your bases covered. The simple combination of water and essential oil has become hugely popular for the ability to create your own scent blends in the moment and for being a flame-free way to make your space smell great. Like any appliance, however, it needs proper care. Here’s what you need to know about just how easy it really is to clean your diffuser regularly.

How Often Should You Clean Your Diffuser?

As with many household items, there are two “levels” of cleaning for your diffuser: regular cleaning and deep cleaning. Both of these are crucial to keeping your diffuser working well and avoiding smelly or potentially toxic buildup inside the device.

For most diffusers, it’s best to give them a quick, basic cleaning once a day, or when you switch oil scents. From a use standpoint, there’s a simple reason for this. When you change scents, you’ll probably want to get any remaining residue from the previous oil out before you add a new scent in. Otherwise, you could end up with an unintentional oil “blend” that doesn’t quite smell the way you want.

Cleaning your diffuser regularly also helps ensure that the water stays fresh and the device continues working properly. Water left for too long can develop mold, mildew, bacteria, and other organisms that you really don’t want floating around your house.

It’s also important to take the time every few weeks to give your diffuser a deep clean. A typical, electric diffuser works by using an ultrasonic plate to vibrate underneath the water-liquid mixture, sending a mist of microscopic water and oil particles into the air. That also means, however, that water and oil can seep into the nooks and crannies of the diffuser device itself, where it can then build up and result in odors, mold, mildew, and bacteria growth.

Deep cleaning your diffuser keeps even those tough spots from becoming an issue. As a bonus, it’s not even too tricky to do, especially if you’ve already been cleaning your diffuser on a basic level regularly.

How to Clean Your Diffuser Daily

A white diffuser with oils lined up next to it

Always start by reading your diffuser’s instructions or manual closely. Different models are designed in different ways, and it’s important to disassemble and clean them according to each one’s unique requirements.

Your daily cleaning routine is about getting the main parts of your diffuser clean and ensuring that too many oils don’t “mix” from residual droplets.

In general, you can follow these overall steps for a quick clean:

  1. Turn off and unplug your diffuser.
  2. Empty the water reservoir completely and rinse with clear water.
  3. Dry the reservoir completely.
  4. Dip a cotton swab or paper towel in rubbing alcohol and gently wipe the ultrasonic plate to remove residue from the oils.
  5. Wipe down the outside of the diffuser with a damp cloth or paper towel.
  6. Reassemble and refill.

Dealmed Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol 70%

Rubbing alcohol breaks down oils to thoroughly clean.

InnoGear Essential Oil Diffuser

Compact enough to fit in any room or space.

How to Deep Clean Your Diffuser

Two wood diffusers, one on blue fabric and one on a wood table
Pure Daily Care

The deep cleaning stage of your diffuser care routine is what will help you keep your device clean, safe, and long-lived. By regularly giving your diffuser a thorough cleaning, you’re ensuring that mold and mildew spores don’t have a chance to grow (and that leftover oil droplets don’t have a chance to go rancid).

Aside from the fact that odors and mold can build up when a diffuser isn’t cleaned often enough, it also can be harder on the device itself. Keeping the diffuser clean and residue-free helps the materials last longer.

Deep clean and disinfect your diffuser by following these easy steps:

  1. Turn off and unplug your diffuser.
  2. Empty the water reservoir completely and rinse with clear water.
  3. Fill the diffuser about halfway with room temperature tap water.
  4. Add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar.
  5. Run the diffuser for about 12 to 15 minutes, allowing the vinegar solution to dissolve any oil residue in hard-to-reach places.
  6. Turn off and unplug your diffuser again.
  7. Empty the water reservoir completely and rinse with clear water to remove any remnants of the vinegar solution.
  8. Clean the ultrasonic plate with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.
  9. Wipe down the outside of the diffuser with a damp cloth or paper towel.
  10. Reassemble and refill.

Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser Gift Set

20 oils plus a wood-look diffuser gives you all you need for custom aromas.

Lucy's Family Owned Natural Distilled White Vinegar

Break down oily residue quickly and easily.

Keeping your oil diffuser clean is a crucial part of using it, but it’s a fairly simple process. With these easy tips, you can enjoy your favorite essential oils without worrying about a thing.

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »
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