How to Clean Your Essential Oil Diffuser in a Few Simple Steps

Stone oil diffuser on nightstand.

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While you may love your essential oil diffuser and the calming benefits of aromatherapy it brings to your home, nobody loves residue build-up. Nobody loves stagnant, mildewy water either. Keeping your diffuser in tip-top shape requires cleaning it after every use, and more thorough cleanings at least once a month. Don't worry—both types of cleanings are quick and easy.

With the help of Cindy Maricle, an aromatherapy expert, we've broken down the step-by-step directions of how to clean your essential oil diffuser.

Meet the Expert

Cindy Maricle is an aromatherapy expert, educator, and upper level leader with Young Living Essential Oils.

First things first, there are two types of essential oil diffusers to know: ultrasonic diffusers and atomizing diffusers. “Ultrasonic diffusers have a water reservoir and an ultrasonic plate which are exposed to water and essential oils,” Maricle says, who has been using essential oils personally and teaching workshops with them since 2006. “Atomizing diffusers may have a glass nebulizer or plastic tubing which is directly exposed to oils without water.”

Because both diffusers are different, each type has its own cleaning needs. But why do essential oil diffusers need to be cleaned anyway? Turns out, lots of reasons.

“Diffusers have various components which may degrade prematurely if not maintained properly,” Maricle says. “Exposure to tap water may cause mineral buildup, exposure to essential oils if left on surfaces may cause gummy residue build-up, or remaining essential oils may blend with the next oil resulting in changes in the aroma and constituents.”

Ultimately, if you don’t take proper care in cleaning your diffuser regularly, you’re likely compromising its lifespan. 

How Often Should You Clean Your Essential Oil Diffuser?

Ideally, you’d give your diffuser a quick clean-rinsing with clean water, then drying with a soft cloth—after every use, Maricle says (and this is especially important if you’re switching oils). You don’t want water to remain in the reservoir over extended periods of time, as this can cause mold and mildew to grow in the stagnant water, and oily residues to form on the surface. 

Depending on how frequently you use your diffuser, a more thorough cleaning is necessary once or twice a month. Deep cleans remove dust and residue build-up that affects how well your diffuser works.

As you’re following the directions below, remember to never submerge your diffuser in water; doing so could damage internal components.

Each brand of diffusers may have slightly different cleaning needs, so follow the manufacturer's directions for specific instructions. Going rogue could risk voiding a warranty, if you have one. Misplaced the manual? Check the manufacturer’s website or call their customer service. 

aromatherapy diffuser with a plant on a table in a white room

 melis82 / Getty Images

Things You'll Need:

  • Manufacturer's instructions
  • Cotton swabs
  • Soft cloth (preferably cotton)
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
  • Clean filtered water

How to Clean an Ultrasonic Diffuser After Every Use

  1. Turn off and unplug the diffuser. 
  2. Fill the water reservoir halfway to the fill line with filtered water.
  3. Run for two to five minutes.
  4. Empty the reservoir and wipe with a soft cloth.
  5. Clean the ultrasonic plate with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol to remove any buildup of essential oil.
  6. Rinse the reservoir with water, then wipe and dry with a soft cloth.

How to Clean an Atomizing Diffuser After Every Use

  1. Turn off and unplug the diffuser. 
  2. Dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol, then clean all areas of the diffuser. 

How to Deep Clean an Ultrasonic Diffuser

  1. Fill the water reservoir half-way with clean water, then add up to 10 drops of distilled white vinegar.  
  2. Run for several minutes.
  3. Drain the diffuser and clean thoroughly with cotton swab dipped in vinegar.
  4. Rinse with clean water.
  5. Empty diffuser, then wipe and dry with a soft cloth.

How to Deep Clean an Atomizing Diffuser

  1. Add 25 to 30 drops of rubbing alcohol into the glass reservoir, swirling to cover the entire interior surface.
  2. Diffuse the alcohol for 5 to 10 minutes to clean all interior passages.
  3. If visible buildup is present, soak the tubing and/or glass nebulizer in alcohol for several hours or even overnight.
  4. Rinse with fresh alcohol and wipe any reachable surfaces with a cotton swab.