A small appliance always looks great when it’s on display at a store or on Amazon. Gleaming, enticing, perfect. You just can’t wait to take it home or have it arrive on your doorstep.
You plug it in, you turn it on – it works exactly like you’d hoped. And it’s only then that you remember.
You have to clean it, too.
Some appliances don’t have lots of moving parts, nooks or crannies. They’re easy to keep clean. Others, to put it nicely, are a pain to maintain.
Thankfully, essential oil diffusers are in the first category. Taking care of them isn’t difficult. But – if you’ll pardon the pun – it’s essential.
Why Clean Your Essential Oil Diffuser?
When you’re dispersing essential oil (EO) into your home’s air, you want to get all of the oil’s medicinal benefits, and of course, you want your home to smell wonderful. That won’t happen if the EO is contaminated by dirt, grime, or even worse, mildew and bacteria. It’s unusual for germs to grow inside a diffuser, because many oils actually have antibacterial and antifungal properties. But it can happen.
There are other potential issues: when you put essential oil into an aromatherapy diffuser still containing remnants of an old variety, the oil mixture can create an aroma very different than the one you were expecting. Some oils leave behind sticky residues, and the buildup can clog up the works. And the worst case scenario: oil residue or excess water can cause corrosion and render the diffuser unusable, while voiding your warranty to boot.
Cleaning an essential oil diffuser, thankfully, isn’t hard. You just have to remember to do it regularly.
There are two major types of aromatherapy diffusers, ultrasonic models and nebulizers. (Heat diffusers and evaporative diffusers are less effective and less-commonly sold.) Each must be deep cleaned in a different way, ideally once or twice a month. However, all diffusers should receive a quick cleaning after each use, and that’s done with the same basic method.
Let’s take the cleaning procedures one at a time, with a tip of the cap to diffuser manufacturer dōTERRA and Young Living for the some of these suggestions.
How to Clean a Diffuser after Using It
Quick safety tip first: always unplug a diffuser before cleaning it.
Regular cleaning of your essential oil diffuser is simple. If you’re in a hurry, you can just empty any leftover oil or water from the reservoir and wipe it out with a soft cloth (not a paper towel). A damp, soft cloth is even better, and a damp microfiber cloth is best.
If you have extra time, try diffusing a little lemon oil before wiping it out; that will loosen residue in the reservoir and water lines so they’re easier to get sparkling clean. If the machine doesn’t have a reservoir, use tap water to rinse out the diffuser nozzle and wipe it with your cloth or a cotton swab (like a Q-tip).
Plug it back in and you’re ready to go.
How To Deep Clean an Ultrasonic Diffuser
Most diffusers are ultrasonic models. They mix essential oil with water, and then use very high-frequency vibrations created by a small ultrasonic plate underneath the reservoir to create a fine mist. There are micro-particles of essential oil in that mist, which is diffused into the air.
To give your ultrasonic machine a thorough cleaning, turn it off, empty any standing water or excess oil, and fill the water reservoir halfway to the “fill line” with clean water. Then add 7-10 drops of pure white vinegar and let the diffuser run for about five minutes. Turn it off and drain the reservoir.
Now, take a Q-tip and dip it in white vinegar; use it to wipe down the edges of the reservoir and clean the ultrasonic chip underneath it. Rinse out the reservoir with more clean water, wipe it with your soft cloth and let it air dry. Finally, check the fan intake to make sure it’s not dirty or obstructed.
The entire process is an easy DIY project that should take about fifteen minutes, and it’s worth the time. Deep cleaning preserves the diffuser’s functionality and will ensure that your home smells wonderful the next time you turn it on.
How To Deep Clean a Nebulizing Diffuser
Diffusion via a nebulizer doesn’t require water. Instead, the machine uses pressurized air to break essential oils into microscopic particles, to be released into the air.
That makes a nebulizing diffuser easy to deep clean. Fill the reservoir with rubbing alcohol and let it sit for about an hour, making sure to swirl the top so some of the alcohol gets into the micro-tubing inside. (If it’s a model with a “quick change” top, you can just soak the entire top in the alcohol). Then wipe the whole thing down with a clean, soft cloth, and you’re done.
(If you have a heat diffuser that holds essential oil in a tray over a heating element, you can do the same thing with the tray that you would with the reservoir in a nebulizing diffuser.)
If you don’t want to deal with a huge amount of rubbing alcohol – and many people don’t – there’s a shortcut you can use. Just add half-a-teaspoon of alcohol to the reservoir and let it run for ten minutes. That won’t be quite as effective as the first method, but it will come close. Most importantly, it will clean out the micro-tubing where gunk is most likely to build up.
Don’t Forget to Clean
It’s human nature, at least for most people, to turn off a diffuser without cleaning it – and when it’s time to use the machine again, to think “I’ve got a lot to do. I’ll clean it next time.”
You can probably get away with that a few times, but it’s not a good idea. A dirty aromatherapy diffuser may pump out less-than-pleasant smells, and will be more prone to breaking down. Most importantly, it won’t be providing all of the health and wellness benefits you bought the diffuser for in the first place.
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