Image Name How to Clean an Essential Oil Diffuser | Quick & Easy Step-By-Step Guide

How to Clean an Essential Oil Diffuser

If you are a tried and true fan of essential oil diffuser for aromatherapy or are simply curious about the benefits of this type of oil use, you need to be aware of the occasional maintenance these products require. Keeping your diffuser clean from oil residue and water mineral build-up is a must for these machines- especially if you want to be getting the most out of their use.

If you are now panicking because you have never cleaned your diffuser or are thinking you don’t want to take on the care of one more product- put your fears to rest. Your current diffuser may not be working as well as you like because of this, but this is an easy fix so no worries. The following quick step by step guide below explains how to clean an essential oil diffuser both quickly and efficiently.

How Diffusers Work

A diffuser on a wooden table surrounded with flowers, compress stamps, and small crystal balls; at the back is a blurred image of a young woman's leg

First off, there are two types of oil diffusers: Ultrasonic and Nebulizers. The majority of diffusers sold both in stores and online are of the ultrasonic type due to their affordability and stylistic differences, and so this article is focused more on how they work and how to care for them. But I will address nebulizers as well, in case you have this type.


An ultrasonic diffuser has three parts: a water reservoir, a thin ultrasonic membrane that looks like a little metal plate, and a fan. The water is converted from a liquid to a water vapor due to the quick vibrations of the membrane. These vibrations also churn the water, and when oils are dropped into the water, it mixes and disperses them in the water vapor.


Nebulizing diffusers use a scientific principle of fluid dynamics. Without getting into great detail, these diffusers do not use water for oil particle dispersion, but rather depend on pressurized air to move oil through a narrow tube and atomize it into tiny particles for dispersal.

Reasons to Keep Your Diffuser Clean

Keeping your diffuser clean is vital to keep it running properly and making sure you are getting your full oil benefits. Although some companies may suggest that using a distilled water is better for cleaning and use, others claim that tap water and the natural minerals that occur in it are beneficial for helping water to diffuse into a vapor.

Personally, I always use tap water, and the choice is yours, but you may find that with tap water you need to clean your diffuser out a bit more often as these minerals can scale on the edges of your diffuser, as well as on the membrane plate. This can keep it from working as well as it should.

There really is no fear that you might grow molds or bacteria, however, since most essential oils are actually antimicrobial and antibacterial and keep this from happening. But ensuring you have fresh, unhindered water vapor and oil at work provides peace of mind.

How to Clean an Essential Oil Ultrasonic Diffuser in 5 Easy Steps

Depending on who you ask, there are different ways to clean out your diffuser- but I’m going to review my favorite tried and true application that I use on various diffusers I have in my own house. This way you don’t have to worry about going back to reclean if the residue is left behind, or having to wait too long before using your diffuser again.

Cleaning materials for diffusers: cotton buds, towel, vinger

What You Need

  • Soft Cleaning Cloth or Paper Towel (make sure your paper towel isn’t one that falls apart easily)
  • Q-Tip
  • Water
  • White Vinegar

Step 1: Rinse Out Your Diffuser with Fresh Water

white opened diffuser with dirt inside in white background

First, simply just rinse out the inside of your diffuser with fresh water. Be very careful to avoid getting any water on the outside or near where any of the electronics are housed (if you do get it wet, you will need to set it aside to dry out for a few days before checking to see if it still runs).

This quick rinse removes any loose scale (mineral build up) that may have occurred as well as initial oil buildup. It allows the next steps to be that much more efficient.

Step 2: Fill Slightly with White Vinegar- Let It Sit

woman's hand pouring vinegar to diffuser

Fill your diffuser up with about a half inch of white vinegar. This will break down any scale that may have accumulated on the membrane. It is VERY IMPORTANT that you do not try to scrape this off or put any pressure on the surface. They are very delicate and will indent easily and cause your diffuser to fail.

The vinegar will dissolve any minerals on this membrane, as well as those that might be along the bottom and edges where they accumulate when water is allowed to run out of the diffuser. Depending on how much of a build up you have you may need to allow it to sit for up to half hour to get it all broken down. Rinse out when done and repeat if you feel necessary.

Step 3: Refill Quarter Way With White Vinegar and Top Off with Water- Allow to Run

Mix a 1:4 ratio of vinegar to water and turn your machine on. Allowing this to mix and diffuse will break down any residues along the sides and top of the machine. If you see any scale buildup where the vapor is released, you can begin to gently wipe it away (it should wipe clean very easily, especially after a few minutes of diffusion).

Typically you only need to do this for about 10 minutes to be effective. When done, rinse quickly and wipe down with a soft cloth.

Step 4: Wipe Down Edges, Corners, and Plate

woman's hand wiping inside diffuser using cotton buds

Dip your q-tip in a little vinegar and wipe along the edges and corners, as well as the side of the plate. Be gentle when using it on the plate and avoid using too much pressure- this will loosen any scale if it still exists in these harder to reach areas.

Step 5: Rinse and Wipe Down

Give your diffuser a quick rinse and gently wipe it down. You are now good to go! Give your diffuser a quick rinse every week or so to keep it running smooth, and a good deep clean as described above usually doesn’t need to occur but once every few months depending on how often you use it. If you notice any scale build-up before then it’s a good idea to clean it out.

Quick Overview to Clean a Nebulizing Diffuser

As mentioned this type of diffuser isn’t as readily available as the ultrasonic option, and this often comes at a higher price point, but it too needs the occasional cleaning. Because it does not utilize water to help vaporize the oil droplets, your cleaning is more focused on getting rid of any oil residue that may have built up.

What You Need For a Quick Weekly Clean

  • A Dropper
  • Rubbing Alcohol


It is suggested to do a simple general cleaning every week if you use your diffuser daily. This is a quick process that simply requires you to drop a few milliliters of rubbing alcohol into the diffuser using a dropper and allowing it to run for 5 to 10 minutes. Simply pour out any leftover alcohol and allow to air dry.

What You Need For a Deeper Clean

  • Container Larger than the Glass Reservoir
  • Hot Water
  • Dawn Dish Soap


Once every month to 6 weeks, you should give the diffuser a deeper cleaning by removing the glass reservoir and placing it in another container full of hot water and dawn dish soap. Allow it to sit for thirty minutes to ensure all oily residue is removed and then gently rinse and wipe down. Set it aside to dry and then put it back in business!


Diffuser maintenance is important to the proper use and longevity of your machine, but it is an easy process that requires very little effort. A few ingredients are all it takes to keep any sort of diffuser clean and keep it running and diffusing as it should. If you haven’t cleaned your machine out like you should in the past, it’s time to get on that – you might be surprised at how much more effective it is!

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know below, and as always, please share!

Check out our infographic and don’t forget to share!

*You might also like: How To Use An Essential Oil Diffuser.

Infographic How to Clean an Essential Oil Diffuser

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