What Can You Put In A Diffuser Other Than Essential Oils?

Diffusers are low-cost, low-energy devices that are generally designed to spread fragrances from essential oils into your space. Many of us have started using diffusers for aromatherapy, self-care, or simply to bring an element of wellness into our homes. But have you ever wondered if there is anything besides essential oils that you can put in your diffuser?

You can put perfumes, vanilla extract, lemon/citrus juices, distilled water, dried herbs, and even vinegar in your diffuser. However, using products other than essential oils may invalidate the warranty of your device, and you may not be getting expected therapeutic benefits.

It is important to note that not every diffuser can support every one of these products, and there is a specific way you should be using these to ensure that your diffuser isn’t damaged or clogged. 

In this post, we cover the products that you can use in your diffuser besides essential oils, the proper method to use those products, and also provide caveats that you should be aware of before using these substances in your diffuser.

Let’s get started.

Things to consider before putting anything other than essential oils in your Diffuser

Although named an ‘oil’, essential oils actually have a watery consistency that allows them to mix well with water. As a result, almost all diffusers can break essential oils down into small particles and dissipate them in the air of your room.

As long as the product you intend on using is water soluble, you can therefore use it in most diffusers without any issue.

For other products, however, there is a risk of the diffuser being clogged up if it isn’t designed to handle the substance you’re using. We thus recommend that you pay attention to the following caveats.

  1. Products other than essential oils should not be used in a nebulizing diffuser. These types of diffusers are often waterless and work by directly breaking down oil into fine particles. They may become easily clogged up and may not work properly if other products are used.
  1. Ultrasonic, evaporative and heat diffusers can handle most fragrance products, but read through the instructions that come with your diffuser to make sure you are not missing specific warnings that you may need to be aware of.
  1. The warranty offered by your diffuser company may be invalidated if you use products other than essential oils. We recommend that you carefully read the label on your diffuser before you begin using other products.
  1. Remember that most substances need to be diluted before putting them in a diffuser. In case of dry materials like herbs, make sure that they are ground into a fine powder and mixed well with water before you put them in your diffuser.
  1. Understand that many therapeutic effects of essential oils may not be present if you are using other fragrance products. For example, vanilla extract will have the same aroma as vanilla essential oils, but you won’t be getting the same health benefits that come with the essential oil when you are using an extract.
  1. You need to clean your diffuser regularly to ensure that the products you are using aren’t clogging up your device.

What can go in a diffuser other than essential oils?

Now that we have the basics covered, let’s get into some of the products other than essential oils you can put in your diffuser.

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract can be used in a diffuser to spread vanilla’s classic scent into your space, but since extracts are not as strong as essential oils, you will need to add more of it to get the same level of fragrance.

Most of us are already familiar with the flavor of vanilla from its use in desserts and baking. What many of us don’t know about, however, are the numerous benefits of vanilla on our health.

Vanilla consists of a chemical substance called vanillin, which gives it the following benefits:

  • Vanilla has proven antibacterial properties.
  • It can potentially reduce chronic pain.
  • It can reduce anxiety and has shown benefits in depression.
  • It can even help control blood lipids and sugar levels.

Vanilla naturally grows as pods, which are dried and then processed to create the classic dark colored vanilla essential oil. On the other hand, vanilla extract is prepared by grinding chopped beans with water and alcohol.

You can use store bought vanilla extract for your diffuser, of course, but if you want to go that extra mile and make your own:

How to create your own vanilla extract

Materials needed:

Vanilla beans, Alcohol (vodka), glass bottles, and a funnel

  1. Put 4-6 vanilla pods in a glass jar. 
  2. Add about 8 ounces of alcohol. The most popular choice is vodka, but bourbon can also be used.
  3. Now all you do is wait! It can be ready in as little as 3 months, but the longer you wait, the stronger the extract becomes. We recommend waiting for about 1 year for best results.

There are recipes online that do not use alcohol and are often quicker to create, but for the best results, especially for a diffuser, our recipe works perfectly.

Now for the amount of vanilla extract to put into your diffuser, it needs a bit of trial and error depending on the strength of your extract and the nature of your diffuser.

We recommend starting with 2 teaspoons per 100 ml of water, then adjusting the concentration as needed.

Just keep in mind that you may need more vanilla extract than the normal amount of vanilla essential oil to get the same strength of scent.

Lemon Juice

You can use lemon as well as other citrus fruits like lime and oranges in your diffuser for a fresh, natural aroma in your room. For this, you can either put the juice itself or use other parts of the fruit like its zest. 

One of the biggest reasons we use diffusers is to bring a sense of freshness into our space, and almost nothing can do it as well as citrus fruits do.

Citrus essential oils, however, can not only be expensive but may not be available everywhere.

In that case, you can easily put lemon/orange juice into your diffuser to get the citrus-y freshness that we all know and love, as long as you make sure the juice is fresh and does not contain any pips or solids.

The aroma won’t be as strong as an essential oil, but it is usually noticeable enough to give you the pleasant effect you are looking for.

To make the aroma stronger, you can even consider putting in the peel or the zest. This part of the fruit usually has essential oils embedded in it. Just finely grate the peel and dilute it with water to get the same effect.

You should put 2-3 teaspoons of fine zest, or 8-10 teaspoonfuls of fresh juice for every 100 ml of water. 

You also need to know that fruits naturally contain sugars and other heavy oils that may clog your diffuser. As we had mentioned earlier, it is always a good idea to clean your diffuser immediately after use.


Perfumes or colognes can also be put in a diffuser to get a wide variety of strong and pleasant aromas into your room or living space. They can be used in a large range of diffusers, including basic reed diffusers, electronic diffusers or ultrasonic diffusers.

When it comes to smells, you don’t get a better (and bigger) selection than you do with perfumes and colognes.

Be it bright, happier scents like citrus or darker, cozier scents like pinewood, you can easily get perfumes almost everywhere, and not all of them are expensive! 

Additionally, since perfumes are often strongly scented, they make an excellent choice to use in diffusers to get a steady, very long lasting and easily noticeable scent in your house. 

Men’s colognes often have a lower concentration of fragrance in them, but they are still stronger than most other essential-oil alternatives we are discussing, and can definitely be used to get amazing results.

If your perfume comes in liquid formulation, consider adding 3-5 drops in 100 ml of water. You can use a dropper to do so. 

Even if your perfume only works via sprays, you can still use it. Just add water to your diffuser and closely add 3-5 sprays to the water, and you are good to go.

Herbs or Spices

Herbs and spices can also be added in your diffuser as long as you don’t use larger chunks of it, or else you won’t get a strong aroma, and your diffuser may even get clogged up.

Herbs like basil, juniper, peppermint and lavender do not only smell good but also have several health benefits.

Basil, for example, is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and has been used in the Indian Subcontinent for millennia to cure many respiratory diseases like flu and cold.

Further, spices like cinnamon and cloves can add a sense of warmth and homely feeling to any room, and are especially suitable for cold office spaces.

The problem with using these in a diffuser is their size. Diffusers work by converting larger substances into minuscule particles that can float in air, which is difficult to achieve, especially with herbs.

To use herbs and spices in your diffuser, you therefore need to follow the following steps:

  1. Make sure your herbs are dried first. You can either dry them in the sun or air-dry them indoors.
  2. Finely chop the dried herbs, or better yet, grind them into very fine powder. Even if you are using spices, consider grinding to a finer consistency to get better results.
  3. Put 2-3 heaped teaspoonfuls of the powder into water and stir.
  4. You may then strain the mixture to make sure larger particles aren’t being put in your diffuser. This step can be avoided if you think all the particles are fine enough.
  5. Finally, put the mixture in your diffuser and run it.

As usual, do not forget to clean the diffuser after use.


You can certainly put just water in your diffuser without any essential oil or a fragrant product added, in which case your diffuser will start working as a humidifier. You can use either tap or distilled water.

After all, the most common thing you put in your diffuser, irrespective of whether or not you add something else to it, is water! 

Of course, using just water means you won’t be getting any fragrance from your diffuser. However, you will still be getting a steady supply of moisture (or humidity) into your room. This can be especially useful in colder seasons when the natural humidity of air is low.

This has numerous health benefits, and can help you avoid problems like dry skin, chapped lips or a stuffy nose. Humid air even feels warmer, making this particularly suitable for winter. 

What water to use for your diffuser, however, can depend on the water you are getting in your home.

If your municipal water supply has hard water with a high mineral component, especially calcium, it can accumulate over time and clog your device. In such a case, we recommend that you use purified or distilled water instead. If not, water from your faucet is also fine.

You can easily get purified/ distilled water in most stores around you.

However, if you are looking simply to increase the moisture in your room and not concerned with fragrances, we recommend using a humidifier instead. Humidifiers produce larger amounts of mist and are designed to last longer than diffusers, which are typically meant to be used for shorter periods of time. 


You can put white vinegar in your diffuser to use as a low-cost deodoriser, but the smell can be pungent and the deodorising effect does not last very long. However, vinegar makes an excellent cleaning fluid for your diffuser.

We all have white vinegar at home, and it can act as a cheap and quick deodorizer if you want to quickly get rid of certain smells from your room or living space. 

This is because vinegar contains acetic acid, which can bind with alkaline particles and neutralise their odor.

Just add 3-5 teaspoons of vinegar in about 80-100 ml of water, and you can directly put it in your diffuser. Some people even put the solution directly in a spray bottle and use it as an air freshener. 

Unfortunately, doing this can leave a pungent odor that not everyone may like, and the deodorizing effect can quickly run out.

A much better use for vinegar would be to clean your diffuser device. For this, follow the steps below:

  1. Fill half of your diffuser with water and add a teaspoon of white vinegar.
  2. Run the diffuser to ensure that the mist goes through your diffuser’s pores properly. This should take about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Turn the diffuser off and remove all contents of the diffuser.
  4. Now, prepare a 1:1 solution of vinegar in water and use a cloth to gently wipe the inside of your diffuser’s reservoir.

Can I put soap in my diffuser?

You should not use soap in your diffuser as a diffusing fluid. However, mild soaps can be used to clean your diffuser. 

A diffuser is a gentle device that should not be exposed to harsh chemicals. Although some soaps may be particularly fragrant, we do not recommend using soaps, even when diluted, into your diffuser. 

Nevertheless, mild soaps make excellent cleaning solutions for your diffuser. To use it, follow the steps below:

  1. Prepare a gentle soap solution by mixing half a bowl of liquid soap with half a bowl of water.
  2. Use a soft fabric to apply this soap on the exterior of the diffuser. You may use Q-tips to get into crevices and nooks that are hard to reach.
  3. To clean the interior, we do not recommend using soap. Use our vinegar method as described above.
  4. Finally, wipe the whole device with a clean fabric dipped in purified water.


A diffuser is a versatile device that can handle many more substances besides essential oils, including extracts, essences, dried herbs, spices, fruit juices, plain water, and even vinegar.

However, such substances often have a weaker aroma and cannot provide the full range of therapeutic benefits that essential oils have.

Additionally, using these substances can make your warranty invalid, so we recommend doing your research and studying all instructions on your device before you put anything besides essential oils in your diffuser. 

Russell Singleton

Russell holds a Bachelor of Science (Environmental and Marine Geoscience) with Class I Honors. He is currently completing his doctorate in science and is passionate about all earth processes, especially isotope geochemistry and paleohydrology.

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