Can I Put Essential Oils in My Humidifier?

Colder temperatures mean it's time to dust off and plug in your humidifier. If you're thinking about adding essential oils, read this first.

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Humidifiers add moisture to indoor air during fall and winter when humidity levels are low. The Mayo Clinic recommends 30 to 50 percent humidity levels for indoor air to prevent dry skin, nose and throat irritation and itchy eyes. They also explain that humidifiers can help keep colds and flu at bay and alleviate symptoms when you’re sick.

The mist emitted by a humidifier is “unscented” because it is odorless water vapor. However, this leads to much interest in whether or not you can add essential oils to the humidifier’s water basin. The notion is that in addition to a pleasant scent, essential oils in the air may provide health benefits.

Can I Put Essential Oils in My Humidifier?

The short answer is no, it’s generally not safe to put essential oils in your humidifier. The longer answer is probably no, but ….

How Humidifiers Work

Most humidifiers emit cool mist by blowing water through a wet wicking filter. This is the type of humidifier that cannot be used with essential oils because the oils can erode the plastic tank and fan mechanisms or even clog the wet wicking filter. That’s why most major manufacturers of cool mist humidifiers recommend using a diffuser specifically designed for adding essential oils to your air.

There are also steam vaporizers that boil water before emitting any mist. However, most steam humidifier and essential oil manufacturers advise against using these two together because high heat can transform the chemical makeup of the essential oil, which can then change the scent and potential health benefits derived from the oil.

Humidifiers vs. Diffusers

Diffusers are made specifically for dispersing essential oils into the air. Diffusers utilize a nebulizer or fan to spray the oil directly into the air, or they can create a cool mist, similar to a humidifier.

Diffusers that use water, instead of just air and a fan, usually use ultrasonic vibration to create cool mist. A small, vibrating disc underneath the water tank breaks the oil up into teeny particles fine enough to leave the nozzle with the water mist.

A diffuser can technically humidify the air while dispersing essential oils. But if they have a water tank, it is usually small and not practical for use as a primary humidifier.

Humidifiers Made for Essential Oils

If you’re really set on humidifying your air and dispersing essential oils at the same time, opt for an ultrasonic humidifier that’s specifically made to be essential-oil friendly. This TaoTronics humidifier has a designated essential oil tray and more than 1,300 five-star reviews on Amazon. It earned top marks for its built-in humidity monitor, ease of cleaning and long life. This Mikikin humidifier also scores highly (and is less expensive).

Best Oils to Diffuse in Your Home

If you’re new to essential oils, consider giving these five a try:

  • Lavender: Long a bedtime favorite for those having trouble falling asleep.
  • Lemon: Said to purify your air and perk up your mood.
  • Peppermint: Helps with respiratory issues (and makes your house smell like candy canes).
  • Eucalyptus: Having trouble relaxing? This oil is believed to have a calming effect.
  • Wild Orange: Serves as a pick-me-up when you’re feeling sluggish and may help purify the air and boost your immune system.

All prices and links were current as of publication.

Veronica Graham
Veronica Graham is a freelance writer in Arlington, Mass. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and SheKnows. She's covered health, politics, high school football and everything in between. Graham enjoys learning about the world through a variety of lenses as a reporter.