How To: Make an Inexpensive, DIY Reed Diffuser

By: Chrisjob Mar 15, 2011

created at: 03/15/2011

You can pick up all you want, but the true indicator of how clean a home really is? The way it smells. During spring cleaning season, we wait for the days where it's warm enough to open the windows and air out the house, and do some serious scrubbing to get rid of the worst odor offenders. And when all's back to neutral, it's time to fill your home with a fresh, clean scent.

Most chemical-based air fresheners are 1) bad for you 2) bad for the earth, and 3) don't actually make your house smell better, they just add more pollutants to mask the smells and trick you into thinking they're doing something. As an allergy-sufferer, I've found that essential oils are the only aroma-makers that I can stand, and of course, I love finding ways to do things myself. So, I visited The Candle Lab and learned a bit more about aroma oils and how they work, and whipped up this easy DIY reed diffuser.

I love the idea of making my own diffuser oil, cause I can whip it up in small batches, and eventually, during produce season, I'd like to experiment with making my own essential oils. Until then, mixing up my own solution using a purchase essential oil is still way less expensive.

created at: 03/15/2011

  • Small vase or glass bottle
  • Mineral oil 
  • Vodka
  • Diffuser reeds
  • Essential oil

Any container will work. The best have wider base and a small openning at the top to discourage evaporation. I really wanted the Jonathan Adler Southampton diffuser, but at $70, I opted for the sorta-similar $2.00 FÄRM vase from IKEA. Mineral oil can be found at the pharmacy, and the vodka can be as cheap as you'd like, just make sure its not diluted. Although they may look similar, diffuser reeds are not the same as bamboo skewers. They might work in a pinch, but you can find the reeds for a dollar or two, and they're much more efficient.

created at: 03/15/2011

The mineral oil is used as a non-evaporating base to hold the essential oils. Start by pouring a 1/4 cup of oil into a measuring cup. Then, add 2-3 tablespoon of vodka. This won't mix naturally, so stir throughly to emulsify them. The vodka thins the oils to get it to the right consistency to move up the reeds.

created at: 03/15/2011

Next, add the essential oil to the mixture. Your ratio should be around 75% base to 25% essential oil. Stir thoroughly.

Then just pour everything into your container, and insert 5-6 reeds. After a few hours, flip the reeds over, and continue to flip every few days.

With the cost of the vase, reeds, and oil, I spent maybe $5.00, and I'll be able to keep whipping up refills for just a dollar or two. Excellent!

Happy cleaning.

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Hi I to tryed to make reed defuseers ,I used sweet amond oil a little vodka fragrance oil and I don't get a very strong smell but when up close the guava oil was Devine I would l would like it stronger can you help.thax ......karen.

How do I get the oil and vodka to stay mixed? Mine keeps separating out. Also, where did you get the reeds? All I could find was the bamboo skewers.

Farheen - 

Oils that are used in aroma lamps or oil warmers are typically pure fragrance oils in order to give the maximum amount of scent.  Fragrance oil in any kind of warmer is always the strongest way of scenting a space.  When you're making a reed diffuser, you have to dilute that fragrance oil with a base to make it the right viscosity to travel up the reeds and to preserve it from being exposed to the air.  Just as pure fragrance oil would not work in a diffuser, you would not want to put a mixture designed for reed diffusers in an oil warmer.   But pure fragrance oil for a warmer can be dilluted with reed diffuser base to make it work in a diffuser.  Hope that helps!


thanks for the tutorial for making the diffusers @ home i just wanted to know that what is the difference between burning oils & reed diffuser oils, can u pls help me by giving another option than vodka as in Pakistan we can not find it easily. 

Don't fear mineral oil. Use it in your diffusers with confidence. Don't give in to the fringe that insist all petroleum based products will kill you in your beds.

I tried this recipe with the vodka and without.  The reeds dry up quickly and I have to flip them every few hours.  I'm using 100% lemon oil and it doesn't seem to be traveling up the reeds.  Any suggestions?

You should know that mineral oil is toxic: even breathing it in is considered dangerous, especially for pregnant women. You can use all kinds of much safer carrier oils - grapeseed, safflower, sweet almond. There are plenty that aren't petroleum based and harmful. If it's not found in ecologically-approved products, you probably shouldn't use it, and mineral oil is never used in green products.

Three weeks ago, I purchased a 16 oz. diffuser oil refill and 30 diffuser sticks from Pier 1 for $21. I filled 3 handblown vases with 3, 5, and 8 oz. respectively. After 2 weeks, the smallest vase had completely dried up , so I checked the others and they are only one-third full. Do you have any idea why they are drying up so quickly? I've had 6 oz. Pier 1 brand diffusers before that lasted months. Did I get ripped off?

@Linda - Just like anything else, there are varying qualities of bases and reeds out there.  The bases are more similar, because there's a pretty specific recipe that makes all of this work, but there are a wide range of reed quality out there.  Its a trial and error thing, but if you put reeds in your oil and the level of your oil hasn't visibly dropped in one month, your reeds are probably bad.  6oz of base and oil should last you about 3-4 months, so if its taking much longer, your reeds are either cheap or they are filled with dust and need replaced.

Are all bases equal? Does it matter what kind of reeds you use?

Are there alternatives to mineral oil if we want to use a petroleum-free product?

Thank you for your help. I'll try getting the base all ready made up.


@Sonya - 

The reed diffuser base will handle both fragrance oils and essential oils, so you will be able to make a reed diffuser using your natural oils.   Its worth noting that one of the challenges of working with essential oils is they vary wildly in terms of the amount of scent that they throw into the air.   Some are very strong and will work great in a diffuser, and some are very faint and you won't smell them at all.  A reed diffuser is a more passive way of getting fragrance into a space, since its a slow and steady trickle of scent rather than an active burst of fragrance like lighting a candle or turning on a tart warmer. With that said, you can definitely experiment with which essential oils give you the best scent for your space.  Good luck!

Steve Weaver
The Candle Lab


What about for people that cannot handle artificial fragrance?  I can only handle fragrances from 100% nautral sources (essential oils).  Can it be done?

@Linda - Typical carrier oils like Almond won't work.  A reed diffuser needs to have a very specific viscosity in order to travel up the reeds.  After experimenting with many different "homemade" recipes, the simple truth is that none of them work as well as the base that is manufactured to specifically do this.  1 part fragrance oil and 3 parts reed diffuser base will give you a great result without wasting your essential oils.  There are several companies that sell the base, but here is one of them and its only $5 for 16oz.  From our testing, you can figure that 6oz total (4.5oz of base and 1.5oz of fragrance will last you about 3 months.

Good luck!
Steve Weaver
The Candle Lab

Help! I have tried to make an oil diffuser several different times. I have tried mineral oil and almond oil. I used 1/4, 3T. vodka and several drops of essential oil that I bought at a natural soap company that was suppose to be pure. I've also tired NOW 100% essential oil. The reeds don't seem to soak up the oils and the oils separate. It seems like the oil mixture is too thick. I don't know what else to try. Any ideas?

This is awesome, thank you. I found the reeds here on Amazon.

@Kama - 

There are specially made bases for reed diffusers.  They are unscented bases that will accept fragrance oil, and these bases work much better than homemade formulas because they are mixed to the exact viscosity needed to travel up the reeds and evaporate at the correct rate.  The bases themselves are not expensive - its usually the fragrance oil that is the expensive part.  Using good reeds and a good base will mean the best results.

Is it possible to replace the vodka with something that is not an alcoholic beverage?

You can get free, small bottles from Cracker Barrel. Some restaurants will even save them for you. (They are the glass bottles from the syrup and even have the screw on cap.) Another way to use the bottles if to glue them over the lights on a string of lights. Looks great!
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