Whether you take inspiration from Instagram (hello floating shelves laden with plants), or simply like to pay attention to the little details, more of us are upgrading our living environments than ever before.
It’s therefore unsurprising that there’s been an uptick in demand for candles, reed diffusers, and room perfumes. Experts call this focus on scenting the house “scentscaping”, aka zoning areas where scent will direct mood or energy levels. And by far the most popular and efficient way to achieve this, is by using essential oil diffusers.
These primarily fall into two categories. Some require filling with water laced with an essential oil of your choosing, while others rely on various technologies to propel the essential oils into the air.
There are pros and cons to both models. Those you fill with water add mist to the air and can be helpful if you live in a dry environment, or if the atmosphere in your house is dried out by central heating. On the flip side, if you have issues with damp in your house that might not be ideal. Additionally, you will need to empty out the water and gently dry the cylinder inside after use.
The options which don’t use water require less maintenance in that respect, but you need to get the knack of changing the essential oil scents in some cases, and may have fewer options of which essential oil can be used within.
How we tested
Each diffuser was tested separately from the others, and we looked for ease of use, how aesthetically pleasing they are, ones that didn’t make too much noise while operating, and their ability to diffuse the scent effectively into the room.
Below are eight of the best essential oil diffusers, and what you need to know about them.
The best essential oil diffusers for 2021 are:
Best overall – Aromatherapy Associates the atomiser pure essential oil ceramic diffuser: £120, Johnlewis.com
Best for an earthy aesthetic – The White Company electronic diffuser: £65, Thewhitecompany.com
Best for stylish design – Rituals perfume genie 2.0 wireless diffuser: £99, Rituals.com
Best in smaller spaces – Neom wellbeing pod mini: £50, Neomorganics.com
Best for large rooms – Muji large aroma diffuser: £89.95, Muji.eu
Best for children’s spaces – Tisserand aroma spa diffuser: £40, Tisserand.com
Best for travel – Muji portable aroma diffuser: £44.95, Amazon.co.uk
Best for ambient lighting and diffusing in one – Neom wellbeing pod essential oil diffuser: £95, Neomorganics.com
Aromatherapy Associates the atomiser pure essential oil ceramic diffuser
This was a stand out diffuser for its design, for the customisable options, and the sheer room-scenting chops.
Starting with the design, this is a ceramic diffuser topped with a metallic plate from which a little hole distributes the essential oil micro-fine mist. It is sculptural and sleek and was a welcome addition to the home office.
Once charged, all you have to do is select your Aromatherapy Associates oil (the brand makes five which can all be slotted into the heart of this diffuser), and choose the length of time you’d like it to run for (options are 30, 60, or 180 minutes). There are two modes: standard, for regular use, and boost, for when you want to speed up scent delivery (this option makes a little noise, humming as it goes to work).
While atomising, a soft light at the top of the diffuser switches on, and we liked this feature at bedtime, when the relax blend coupled with the halo of light felt like a lovely wind-down ritual. To change scents, you need to insert the provided plastic straws, which was fiddly the first time but once we had the knack, it was a quick and easy process.
Buy now £120.00, Johnlewis.com
The White Company electronic diffuser
Best: For an earthy aesthetic
Plug this in, fill the water tank with the jug included in the box, and add some drops of your favourite essential oil. Our favourite was The White Company lime and bay fragrance oil. Then, simply press the button to programme whether you’d like it to release scent for 60, 120, or 180 minutes, after which it’ll automatically switch off.
This was a good all-rounder, releasing scent effectively but quietly, and the wooden base capped with a white ceramic hood looked clean and the simple design would be ideal for interiors taking their cue from nature, or those with minimalist leanings.
Buy now £65.00, Thewhitecompany.com
Rituals perfume genie 2.0 wireless diffuser
Best: For stylish design
This chic and super clever diffuser went down very well in the kitchen, where it deftly scented the air after cooking and – on occasion – before anyone got home thanks to it being connected to Alexa.
You need to buy the Rituals-specific perfume cartridges inside it, with each one lasting 270 hours and costing around £35 – but they’re easy to pop into place and release scent steadily and without too much noise. Having said that, there is, on occasion, the little sound of the pump, but it’s minimal and wasn’t an issue whatsoever in the kitchen where a few other appliances like the fridge hum a little.
This scored highly for the design, which we loved, and for the Rituals scent options, which are memorable and create a comforting atmosphere. Though of course, the fact that you can’t choose another essential oil adds to the expense of this one.
Buy now £99.00, Rituals.com
Neom wellbeing pod mini
Best: In smaller spaces
This mini cylindrical diffuser comes in black or nude – and they both make for excellent additions to a travel bag. Pop open the hood, slip a Neom oil of your choosing inside, add the battery, choose the intensity of scent release (there are three available) and you’re good to go.
The scent distribution is powerful and we were impressed with how quickly it filled the bedroom but decided it would be perfect for use in a car or on a commute if needed. The battery is rechargeable via the USB cable provided, and when fully charged will release scent in vapour bursts for 50 hours. You can change scents without much ado – just take out one blend and put in the other. The change in scents is speedy and you don’t need to rinse or wipe anything in-between.
Buy now £50.00, Neomorganics.com
Muji large aroma diffuser
Best: For large rooms
This one is simple to operate and is compatible with whichever essential oil you’d like to diffuse. To use, simply fill the cylinder to the fill line, drop in the essential oil of your choosing, plug it in, then pop the plastic hood back on top
Next, press the “light” button to switch the ambient light on and click the “mist” button to start the scented vapour release for 30, 60, 120, or 180 minutes. This is a good one to go for if you have children who you’re concerned might break or knock your diffuser as it’s pretty robust and made of plastic. Plus, as it works speedy and distributes a good amount of scent, it would be ideal for larger spaces.
Buy now £89.95, Muji.eu
Tisserand aroma spa diffuser
Best: For children’s spaces
An affordable option that disperses a water mist essential oil blend, the stand out feature that differentiates it from the others is its colour options – press down on the “light” button to shift it from green to blue to red, choosing one for it to remain on, or letting it toggle between the colours. It offers two options – either press the “mist” button once for interval misting (30 seconds off, 30 seconds on), or press the “mist” button twice for a continuous and steady stream of scent.
If you want more than nice smells and are after a soft, coloured light for a room as well, opt for this. Though it is a shame it can’t be set for certain lengths of time as some of the other models can be, it’s still ideal for a short pre-sleep interlude. And we think that it’d be perfect in a child’s room, providing a dim night light for them as they drift off to sleep.
Buy now £40.00, Tisserand.com
Muji portable aroma diffuser
Best: For travel
Simpler than simple to use – and it really packs a punch on the fragrance front, this was a really impressive diffuser that can be charged via USB port. To use, open the cell, drop essential oils of your choice onto the little fabric pad provided, shut it again, then turn the top to the on mode (a light comes on when it’s in operation).
We were also impressed by how lightweight this was, making it perfect for popping in a travel bag without adding bulk. It also comes with a travel pouch, in which you could stash the diffuser, an oil (two at a squeeze) and the USB cable needed to charge it between uses.
It’s worth nothing that this works for eight hours after a full charge, and will automatically power off after two hours of continuous diffusing. So, it will be a safe option if you use it before sleep, or while travelling on, say, a long haul flight.
Buy now £44.94, Amazon.co.uk
Neom wellbeing pod essential oil diffuser
Best: For ambient lighting and diffusing in one
A beautiful design of a ceramic crossed with lines through which a gentle light is omitted, this diffuser is covetable both because it looks so good and because it works so very quickly. Guests complimented the scent in the room at the end of a dinner party after just a couple of minutes of it being on.
This one needs water to operate, after which you add your oil blend (Neom recommend using theirs in the machine to ensure the warranty remains intact), plug it in, and switch it on. It offers options of one, two, or three hours, and the light can be switched to a “night” option to make it a little dimmer.
Buy now £95.00, Neomorganics.com
The verdict: Essential oil diffusers
If your budget can stretch to it, we would heartily recommend the Aromatherapy Associates the atomiser pure essential oil ceramic diffuser – it is just such a pleasing diffuser in all respects and we found it was the one we most wanted in each room. If, however, you’re after a smaller and more portable one, the Muji travel diffuser is great.
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