Air Purifier vs Diffuser – What’s the Difference?

Air diffusers are machines that disperse essential oils, filling your indoor space with scent. On the other hand, an air purifier filters out airborne contaminants like dust, smoke, and pet dander and can also effectively neutralize odors, allowing you to breathe freely in safe air.

Both the air diffuser and air purifier can help make the indoor air more welcoming, but use very different methods to do it. Where air diffusers are backed by studies in helping you relax, air purifiers boast a 99.99% efficiency in filtering pollutants from the air.

If you’re looking to improve the air quality at your place, this guide will help you understand what an air diffuser and an air purifier are, and will also help you choose between the two.

In this Air Purifier vs. Diffuser article, we are going to cover…

What Is An Air Diffuser?

An air diffuser improves air quality by spreading a pleasant fragrance across the room. Air diffusers have a chamber where essential oils can be poured in, which will then be dispersed across the room to improve the indoor air quality by making it smell better and letting you relax in the welcoming fragrance. Air diffusers are becoming a necessity as studies have found aromatherapy to be psychologically, spiritually, and physiologically uplifting.

How Do Air Diffusers Work?

Air diffusers have a fairly simple operation. The machine is also called an aromatherapy diffuser because of its application in therapy. Air diffusers break down the essential oil scents, making them into vapors and disperse them around the space.

The breakdown of essential oils into vapors is achieved through different methods. Where some diffusers use ultrasonic waves, others use heat to boil up the oil. The most popular types of air diffusers include:

Ultrasonic Diffusers

These use an ultrasonic vibrating disc that can break down oil into individual molecules. These oil molecules are mixed with water and are dispersed in the indoor air in the form of fine mist. Because the vibrations are ultrasonic, the whole process is silent and does not require any fan or heat to support the operation. 

Nebulizing Diffusers

The purest form of oil dispersal can be experienced with nebulizing diffusers. Nebulizing diffusers are nifty devices that use fine tubes and an atomizer, which breaks down the essential oils into atoms. As no water or mixing solvent is used, the concentration of the oil is high and can produce a similar effect to ultrasonic diffusers in less time.

Heat Diffusers

Heat diffusers heat the essential oil and as the oil warms up it starts evaporating. This evaporation process fills the air with a pleasant aroma. These have been in use since medieval times and are the slowest of all types. Although it gets the job done and is silent, it produces heat in the process.

What Is An Air Purifier?

An air purifier is any device that improves air quality by removing allergen particles, dust particles, and other unwanted particles from the indoor air. Apart from airborne particles, air purifiers can also neutralize tobacco smoke, VOCs, kitchen odors, pet odors, and other harmful chemicals. Air purifiers are backed by Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America as they are proven to alleviate asthma symptoms.

How Do Air Purifiers Work?

Air purifiers are simple machines that use a mix of mechanical and ion-based filtration processes. The device has mechanical filters, a fan, and some manufacturers can add a UV-C chamber or a negative ion producer to produce powerful filtration. 

The air enters the air purifiers through air inlets and is passed through a pre-filter. The pre-filter filters out the large particles before the air is passed onto a more efficient HEPA filter. The HEPA filter is rated for 99.97% efficiency and is recommended by EPA for indoor air purification. True HEPA filters and medical-grade HEPA filters are even more efficient as they can filter up to 99.99% of air contaminants. 

A three-stage filtration system in an air purifier has a carbon filter, apart from the other two, that can be placed on either side of the HEPA filter and can help bring down volatile organic compounds (VOCs), harmful chemicals, odors and can even tackle cigarette smoke efficiently. Recent studies have found HEPA air purifiers to be excellent against COVID-19.

The air is passed through all these filters with the help of a fan that drives the whole air purifier. It pulls in the air through the inlets, passes it through the filters, and throws it out through the outlets. Depending on the type of air purifier, it can also have extra stages of filtration where the air may be subjected to UV-C light or the outgoing air may be filled with negative ions.

According to studies, UV-C light can destroy the DNA of microbes, effectively destroying them. This is helpful in controlling the spread and growth of mold. Electrostatic air purifiers and negative ion air purifiers add another stage where the negative ions react with contaminants and make them too heavy to float in the air. This can create more dust which can easily be handled by the pre-filter and the HEPA filter in the air purifier.

Air Purifier vs Air Diffuser

Air purifiers and diffusers both work towards better air quality but take very different approaches. Air purifiers remove contaminants and make the air safe to breathe in, while air diffusers only mask the odors in the existing air with an aromatic fragrance.

EffectivenessAir PurifierAir Diffuser
Pet Dander
Helps relax

Air purifiers and diffusers both work towards better air quality but take very different approaches. Air purifiers remove contaminants and make the air safe to breathe in, while air diffusers only mask the odors in the existing air with an aromatic fragrance.

If you’re just looking for a pleasant fragrance in your room and are content with the existing air quality then essential oil diffusers will prove to be a great choice. On the other hand, if you’re looking to remove pet dander, mold spores, and other harmful particles from your indoor air, then an air purifier with a series of filters will prove to be a much better choice.

Essential oils can actually make asthma worse in some cases as the oils and dense aroma can feel a bit too much to breathe in. Essential oils scents can also trigger certain allergic reactions in some allergy sufferers or can aggravate certain allergy symptoms. 

Air purifiers have come a long way and even come in an essential oil diffuser combo that combines the best of both worlds and filters the air off fine particles and a strong smell while adding your favorite scent to the room.

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Can You Use An Air Purifier And Diffuser in The Same Room?

Yes, an air purifier and an air diffuser can be used alongside each other. They improve the air quality while also adding your favorite scent to the air. Some popular air purifiers pack a compartment for essential oils which act as a combo.

Essential oil particles exist in the form of organic compounds and while they might pass through a HEPA air purifier they are classified as pollutant particles when it comes to an activated carbon filter. Hence, a carbon filter is not recommended when both are being used together. A carbon filter will filter out organic compounds that essential oils are made up of. That means not all types of air purifiers can be used alongside a diffuser.

Air Purifier vs Diffuser – Takeaways

Air purifiers and air diffusers both use very different methods for bringing improvement in air quality. While air purifiers are great at removing allergens and harmful particles like animal dander, bed smell, and other airborne pollutants.

Air diffusers can quickly mask bad odors with an aromatic fragrance that you can enjoy and can also bring improvements in your mood and sleep quality.