how to diffuse without a diffuser

In 2017, there are so many choices for diffusers that you can find something to fit almost any budget. But what if you don’t want to invest in a one at all? Here are some easy ways to diffuse essential oils without a diffuser.

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What is diffusion?

To understand what we can use to diffuse oils, it is useful to start with what it means to diffuse. Oxford Dictionaries  defines diffusion as “the intermingling of substances by the natural movement of their particles.” When applied to aromatherapy, we are talking about the intermingling of essential oils with air.

How do we get essential oils into the air?

There are two ways we can get essential oils into the air. First, we can force them into the air by breaking the liquid up into a fine enough mist that it can be suspended in air. Secondly, we can let the volatile nature of essential oils work for us and simply let them evaporate. If you can smell the oils, they are diffused in the room.

Room Spray:

A room spray is a simple way to get essential oils into the air. It works by forcing the essential oil molecules into the air. The mister on your spray bottle breaks apart the liquid into a mist. A glass bottle with a fine mister attachment works best for this.

To make a room spray you will need a neutral smelling alcohol (vodka or grain alcohol work well), some distilled water, and your essential oils. Since essential oils don’t mix with water but partially mix with alcohol, we use the alcohol to help distribute the essential oils in the spray bottle. Despite this, it is a good idea to give your homemade room sprays a little shake before each use. This recipe uses a 2 oz. spray bottle.

  1. Pour 1 tsp to 1 Tbsp of alcohol into your spray bottle. More alcohol will make the solution evaporate a little quicker but the scent last a little longer. You can go as high as equal parts alcohol and water but I don’t find it necessary.
  2. Mix about 20-25 drops of your favorite essential oils into the bottle. Swirl gently to mix.
  3. Top up your bottle with distilled water and insert a mister. Shake before each use.
aromatherapy room sprays


Do you remember those wooden things your mom hung the laundry with?! They make an easy, super cheap, and clever way to diffuse oils pretty much anywhere. Some people glue a little pom pom to the clothespin and place their oils on that, but there is little reason why you can’t apply oils directly to the wood. If the wood starts to get stained and icky, just toss it and use a new clothespin.

Because you can buy a big pack of these for just a few dollars, you can use these throughout your house and your car. If you have forced air vents, you can even clip the clothespin to your heat register and the air and heat will help distribute the aroma throughout the room. You can do the same in your car, clipping it to the vent. (Image below is an affiliate link)

Even cooler is to get the kind of clothespin your Grandma used. Traditional clothespin have a rounded bulb end that you can dip in your essential oils.


I made a few closet diffusers out of large filigree lockets. You can put any sort of cloth inside them such as felt or leather to hold your oils. Attach a cord and you can hang it wherever you want.


Terracotta is used in aromatherapy jewelry, but you can make or buy pieces of terracotta to use as a passive diffuser. Bisque fired ceramic clay works as well as it is nice and porous.

You can also find large terra cotta beads or terra cotta garden balls (example) and fill up any container you choose with these.

Please note that while bisque fired clay and terracotta work well for this, once the pottery has been glazed and fired it is not absorbent. If you choose a piece that has a glaze, be sure that there are some unglazed surfaces available to put your oils on.

I have made a variation on this that I call my Desktop Diffuser. It is an absorbent clay disc in a metal tin. I can use it in my office at my desk and when I put the lid on it, the scent goes away. Perfect for people working in cubicles.

Cotton Balls & Tissues

This is another easy way to diffuse essential oils and is perfect for placing a few drops of lavender or marjoram on your nightstand or under your pillow.

Wax tart warmer

A wax tart warmer and an electric oil diffuser are pretty similar. I found one a while back on clearance at my local florist shop. So far, I have used it by placing some water in the ceramic cup and a few drops of essential oils in it. The base is essentially a mug warmer and gently heats the oils.

You could also melt a little wax (like beeswax) and add your essential oils to the wax. The advantage to this is when you are not using it, the wax will solidify and you can remelt it again later. With water, if you leave it, you will want to replace it after a day or two so it doesn’t get slimy.

aromatherapy candles


I add in this idea with some reservations—please be careful if attempting this as essential oils can be highly flammable I recommend a pillar candle for this method as it has a wider diameter.

Light the candle and let it burn for a few minutes until a pool of wax has formed. Blow out the candle. Let the candle cool for a few moments and then add a couple drops of essential oils. Let the wax solidify again before re-lighting. This is important so you don’t light the essential oils on fire—you want them to mix in with the wax.

This is best used to add a little scent to your room and is not recommended for any sort of therapeutic purposes due to the close proximity of the heat of the flame to the volatile essential oils (you will just burn them up).

So there you have it, 7 ways to get essential oils to mingle with your air, no diffuser required.