This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. Further details can be found on the legal page.
More and more diffusers are being marketed as car diffusers. Certainly, there is a long history of air fresheners for cars, (remember those little tree shaped pieces of cardboard)? Choices for car diffusers include terracotta diffusers, passive heat diffusers that plug into your cigarette lighter, and even mini-ultrasonics and nebulizers. But which diffuser is best for your car?
What diffusers should I use in a car?
Terracotta diffusers include discs as well as discs on a string. These are an ideal choice for a small space such as a car as they tend not to be overpowering and the scent can linger for up to a few days before the disc needs recharging (how long the scent lasts depends on which oils you use). In summertime, the heat from the sun can help speed evaporation from these discs. The disadvantage is that the scent usually begins as strong and then slowly dissipates. This can also be an advantage as it helps to prevent olfactory fatigue in such a small space. One caution is not to hang anything from your rear view mirror that may obscure you sight (this may even be illegal where you live).
Car diffusers that plug into a lighter such as the Car Scenter are popular choices. Some cars now have USB outlets so you could even hook up a USB diffuser. These are essentially passive diffusers with heat. A drop or two of oil is added to a pad and the heat helps to promote evaporation of the oil.
Portable ultrasonic and nebulizers are available but may be too much for such a small, enclosed space. This is especially important if you have a long drive: you want a gentle aroma and you want to be able to take a break from the scent. Open the windows for a while to clear the air if you need a break. For this reason, passive diffusers are our top choice for cars.
Here is an article with more information on choosing a car diffuser.
What oils should I diffuse in a car?
When diffusing essential oils in your car you shouldn’t just choose based on scent. Why? Because some oils are calming and sedative and that is not what you want while driving. The following oils are recommended for driving blends. Please note that lavender on its own can be calming (road rage anyone?) so it should be blended with something more stimulating that promotes alertness.
Staying alert while driving
One benefit of using essential oils while driving is to promote alertness. Of course nothing substitutes for being properly rested. Oils to help with alertness include Peppermint, Cinnamon, Spearmint, Basil, Rosemary, and citrus oils such as Lemon, Lime, and Grapefruit.
There are many factors to staying alert while driving. Some other natural ways to stay alert while driving:
- Take breaks to stretch your legs
- Open the windows
- Sing along to music
- Listen to podcasts, talk radio, or audiobooks that will engage you (not bore you!)
- Don’t use sugar or caffeine as you may end up being more tired when they wear off—snack on healthy foods instead like nuts
Quelling motion sickness
Another common problem while driving is motion sickness. For more tips on dealing with motion sickness, see our post dedicated to nausea and motion sickess.
Essential oils that can help with car sickness include peppermint, ginger, fennel, and spearmint.
While oils can help with alertness and motion sickness while driving, the wrong oils can be detrimental while driving.
Oils that are sedative and should be AVOIDED while driving include:
Clary Sage, Chamomile, Sweet Marjoram, and Sandalwood. Lavender can also be calming and sedating, so as noted above, should be used sparingly and in conjunction with more stimulating oils.
What are your favorite oils to diffuse while driving? Mine is Rosemary.