If you buy something we write about we may earn an affiliate commission.
If you’ve ever been to the spa or for a massage, chances are in the corner of your treatment room, a little electric diffuser was puffing out clouds of soothing essential oils, making you feel all the more blissed out. You can get a slice of that zen magic at home, with brands including Aromatherapy Associates and Rituals launching electric diffusers for you to create a scented sanctuary be it in your bedroom, bathroom or home office.
While they've been bubbling away in the background for a while, 2021 saw electric diffusers become the hottest property in wellness. In fact, Neom's electric diffuser the Wellbeing Pod Min i, £50, sold a full-year forecast in just one month and the brand's latest figures show 13,509 electric diffusers were sold between late April and early August this year.
“There’s been a consistent demand for wellness products that produce more than just an aesthetic addition to a space," says Neom's founder Nicola Elliott. "Fragrance is being relied on more and more to change our feelings and emotions. It's an incredible tool to create and maintain a particular emotion and can impact on almost everything including stress levels, concentration, general mood and memory."
Why do we love electric diffusers?
In a year where our homes have become multifunctional spaces, it’s been difficult to switch from work mode to home mode. This is where electric diffusers come in. It's easy to swap between scents to punctuate your day with different fragrances to set the tone, from focusing first thing to winding down of an evening.
"We have spent so much time in our homes since the start of the pandemic and for many, they have now become the workplace," says massage therapist and founder of the SJW Signature Treatment, Sarah Jane Watson , who always has an electric diffuser on during her treatments. "This has created a need for something that supports our wellbeing as we navigate these changes. By using an electric diffuser with an aromatherapeutic blend we can have a direct impact on the nervous system helping to allay feelings of anxiety, depression or overwhelm."
Some electric diffusers only work with specific cartridges or refills (Rituals’ one, for example) which swap out in seconds while others have chambers you fill with water, which you add essential oils to and take a little longer to switch between, so keep in mind which sort you’re after.
So what's so good about electric diffusers?
1. They help you set the mood
“Electric diffusers give you the option to evoke an emotion through scent,” says holistic expert Katia Narain Phillips . “If I want to wake up I use peppermint. If I need to concentrate, I use lemon, If I want to relax, I diffuse lavender.”
GTG’s social media manager Jemma, who became a diffuser convert during lockdown, agrees; “For me, electric diffusers are problem and solution driven. I add lavender or eucalyptus in the evening if I’m stressed or want to unwind, or peppermint in the morning while I work as it helps me zone in.”
Unlike scented candles or reed diffusers, you can make your own blends in an electric diffuser, which is one of the reasons Sarah Jane loves them. "Electric diffusers allow for making a bespoke blend that addresses one’s needs in the moment," she says.
Some electric diffusers are controlled with an app so you can set a timer to start it misting out an enlivening scent when you want to wake up, for example.
2. They can help with congestion
If you’ve ever held your head over a steaming bowl of Vicks VapoRub, you’ll know how the essential oils can make you feel less bunged up. Think of your electric diffuser as a luxe take on this. “My electric diffuser was a godsend when I was super congested with Covid as the peppermint really helped my sinuses,” Jemma tells us.
3. They’re cost-effective
If you love having a scented candle flickering away at all times, you’ll know this can become a costly affair. After you’ve spent the initial money on an electric diffuser, they’re more budget-friendly. “I find it more economical to have it going throughout the day as opposed to burning a nice candle,” says Jemma.
4. They’re a good alternative to candles
Aside from the money aspect of burning candles, they don’t sit well with some people, as Katia explains. “I have a strong intolerance to candles, many are not made naturally and are made with paraffin and have artificial scents and they give me a headache,” she says. “I find the oils with a diffuser last longer, are more cost-effective, are safer, smoke-free and healthier.”
Sarah Jane points out that one of her favourite things about an electric diffused is you can leave it on all night, safe in the knowledge it won't cause a fire!
5. The scents last a long time
You might also find the scent from an electric diffuser spreads quicker and lasts longer, as our editorial director Victoria found when she took the Aromatherapy Associates Atomiser home to try. “Even ten minutes was enough to scent my space as powerfully as any candle and my husband actually asked me to turn it off after two minutes (but I made him wait),” she said. “It’s fast-acting and the essential oil bottles, which cost £25, will last you a very long time.
6. They’re ideal if you can’t apply essential oils to your skin
If you love the benefits of essential oils but find your skin easily irritated by them, electric diffusers are a good option. “If you struggle with essential oils on your skin (one respected gynae told me bathing in essential oils is bad for the microbiome of your ‘intimate area’ and to avoid especially if you had thrush), electric diffusers give you that sensory bathtime experience without aggravating sensitive skin,” Victoria said.
The best electric diffusers for a zen home
This elegant gold electric diffuser wouldn’t look out of place in a high-end spa, so we’re more than happy to have it pride of place in our home. It needs to be plugged in to be used and you link it up with the easy to use Rituals Genie app to get started. Slot a scent cartridge inside and you’re good to go, you only notice it’s more than an ornament thanks to the hardly audible whirring sound.
From the app you can set how strong you want the scent to be and how big the room it’s in is, so the Genie knows how much scent to puff out. You can also create a schedule for the days and times you want the Genie to work its magic. If you’re a technophobe, it has a manual button on the back to turn it on and off.
We tried the Ritual of Hammam Fresh Eucalyptus and Rosemary scent (very much like being in a luxury steam room) and the Ritual of Mehr Sweet Orange and Cedarwood, which was energising and warming. We set it to fill a big room at full scent strength and within minutes you could notice the eucalyptus and after half an hour the whole room was filled with a subtle, pleasant scent, but I did note that after I turned it off, the scent didn’t linger longer than a few hours, this could be different in a smaller room thought. The cartridges cost £35, so about the same as a luxury candle, but are designed to last for 270 hours, or around three months. They’re easy to slot in and swap out as you wish.
Launched in May of this year, this is waterless (so no mouldy reservoirs to clean), pretty much silent (no trickling noises or whirring fans) and doesn’t use heat so the purity of the oils is preserved. The ceramic tower comes with two diffuser heads which you screw into your chosen oil blend bottle and slot back into the diffuser. It gently puffs away with the odd delicate cloud of vapour. One charge will give you 18 hours of use in standard mode and 15 in the boost mode for a stronger scent. You can choose a 30 minute, one hour or three-hour setting. It comes with an empty bottle which you run with rubbing alcohol for cleaning, but there’s nothing to stop you from mixing your own blends in it either. It’s incredibly easy to use, very stylish and has a soft glowing light option, for a chilled spa vibe. It's cordless so you can relocate it wherever you want to scent, be it a deodoriser in the kitchen or bathroom or a mood-setting in the bedroom.
If you’re a fan of Aromatherapy Associates, you’ll be familiar with the hero scent, Deep Relax for a restful sleep. This and four other hero blends are available for the Atomiser, including De-Stress and Revive.
With a pretty herringbone texture, this ceramic diffuser looks as lovely as the scent it creates. It has settings for two, eight and 16 hours, though fills the room with scent in mere minutes. It makes a gentle bubbling noise that's soothing to have next to you in your home office and release a heatless fine mist into the room. It's not cordless so can't be moved around the house and is a water and essential oil diffuser, so you can use The White Company's blends or create your own.
Less stylish than other electric diffusers we’ve seen, but if you’re not fussed about a fancy looking device, this is well worth trying, especially if you pop it behind your computer screen or a photo frame. It uses 100 per cent natural essential oils, with each refill lasting around 45 days. It has three intensity settings; when you first turn it on an initial boost of scent fills the room, then it slowly releases scent for eight hours, with a bigger puff every few minutes. It delivers a subtle background scent. We tried the Balancing Peony and Jasmine mist, but there’s also Energising Orange Blossom and Lime and Relaxing Lavender, along with 10 other scents. It’s battery operated and simple to use. Just click the refill in and off you go. Because it work exclusively with Air Wick refills, you can't create your own blends for this.
This USB charged diffuser is designed to be used when you’re staying somewhere unfamiliar, to help soothe you to sleep and make you feel at home. One charge gives four hours of use. It has a little refill pad inside that your drop your essential oil of choice onto, so you can use This Works scents, or generic essential oils if you prefer. It is a fairly noisy one (like a small fan) but if you like white noise, it won’t bother you. Being so small it doesn’t fill a room with fragrance like some of the other options, but for a quick scent boost in a hotel room before bed, you can’t go wrong.
If you're looking for an electric diffuser that looks like an ornament more than a diffuser, have a browse of Made By Zen's website. It sells a variety of glass, wood, ceramic, metal and plastic diffusers for diffusers that pose as fancy homewares. We like this mains powered handblown glass one, which gives a warming glow and fills your room with scent. They work with water and any essential oil and have a nighttime mode to make the misting silent (though it's not noisy when it's not on silent mode). You can set it to mist continuously for up to four hours, or switch it to intermittent.
This is a plug-in ceramic diffuser that you fill up with a blend of water and essential oils and switch on for a tailored mood boost for either one hour, two hours, three hours or cotinuously. It lights up and sends the most beautiful calming and soothing smells, filling up the room in a short amount of time.
This package comes with four scents for different moods, which range from Make you Happy! with neroli, mimosa and lemon blended essential oils to De-Stress, a blend of lavender, jasmine and rosewood. There is also the Boost Your Energy blend of Sicilian lemon and fresh basil plus a Sleep blend of English lavender, sweet basil and jasmine so you can take your pick depending on your mood. In total there are 14 different essential oils to choose from, though you can add if your own if you prefer.
This plugin electric diffuser uses a blend of water and essential oils to emit a fine and silent mist, accompanied by a soothing, soft light that makes the room feel cosy. You can set it to mist continuously or in bursts and because it’s so quiet, this is a great one to use at bedtime or even to keep on overnight. Tisserand is an expert in aromatherapy (the brand’s pulse point rollerballs are ideal for sending you to sleep) so the pure essential oils are potent and powerful, with fragrances including geranium, yang yang and frankincense for everything from grounding to uplifting.
MORE GLOSS: The 16 best reed diffusers to scent your home