How to Make Essential Oil Reed Diffusers?

Ask the Aromatherapist:
Two different people wrote to me asking about making reed diffusers....

I like the new bamboo/reed diffusers and would like to create some home fragrances with essential oils using all natural ingredients, but from what I've been reading people are adding chemicals so that the oils don't evaporate and will travel through the reeds more effectively. I was thinking maybe grapeseed oil but just don't know. Any suggestions? Also do you think there is a difference between bamboo and reed diffusers?
Hi: I’m trying to find out how to make my own reed diffuser oil…….I’ve searched to no avail…I was wondering if you knew where I could find the instructions and ingredients……..I need to know everything….what is used for the reed diffuser base? How much of the essential oils do I add? Do you have any suggestions as to where I would be able to find this out? Thank you so much

I have a "lavender" scented reed diffuser in my living room, and as it's quite clear the fragrance is synthetic, I also have wondered about making an essential oil reed diffuser.

Most essential oils are quite volatile and by themselves will evaporate much too quickly in an open container such as a reed diffuser jar. Plus, the aroma of an undiluted essential oil could quickly become overwhelming, depending on the oil. So, it's necessary to dilute the essential oil in another carrier substance. But, the usual aromatherapy carrier oils - sweet almond, grapeseed, olive, etc - probably won't work. These oils won't wick up the reed because they are much too viscous.

I haven't tried this myself, but there is a reed diffuser oil recipe on the Snowdrift Farm website that sounds as though it would work. Here's another recipe for reed diffuser oil. You'll see the recommended carrier is dipropylene glycol, a common cosmetic ingredient. It has the suitable properties of low volatility and solubility with both water- and oil-based ingredients. Perfect for reed diffusing with essential oils.

As to the reed wicking material, from what I understand, materials such as bamboo or any old type of skinny "stick" do not work well. Reed diffusers work well because reed is not a wood but a porous fiber that is very well-suited to absorbing and wicking the oil, and then slowly releasing the fragrance. So I'd stick to reed. It's not expensive: you should be able to find bundles of 100 reed diffusers - enough for several diffusers - for less than $10. See these instructions for making your own reed diffuser for more info.

For more detailed instructions for making reed diffusers, take a look at:
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Em said...

This is a great idea - I'm definitely going to try making my own reed diffusers with essential oils. It seems like homemade reed diffusers might be way less expensive than the ones I've bought ($10-20, usually). Home made reed diffusers would be fantastic gifts too!

Amie said...

Good luck with your reed diffusers, em. Leave a comment or write to me (see the Ask the Aromatherapist page for my email) and let us know how it goes!

Em said...

I tried making a reed diffuser using the dipropylene glycol, but I think it's too thick. The reed diffusers I've bought are pretty watery, and I think a thinner carrier would be better. So I bought a bottle "reed diffuser base" (no idea what's in it, the label doesn't have the ingredients) It's much more watery and I think it wicks better. Also I had to use A LOT of essential oil. I think I'll try a fragrance oil instead next time because the essential oil isn't strong enough (the smell isn't strong enough) and it's pretty expensive to pour 1 or 2 ounces of EO into a single reed diffuser. Just my 2 cents :)

Robyn said...

I read recently that you can use various carrier oils: such as: baby oil, apricot oil, and even canola oil. I will have a go at making this when I can find the reeds, as they are more difficult to find where I live.

mermaidsbath said...

Try IPM instead of DPG. it's thinner and wicks up the reeds readily.

Amie said...

Robyn, I'd be really interested to hear how those oils work for your diffusers. It'd be great if you could give us an update! :)

Thanks for the recommendation, mermaidsbath. (For those who don't know, I believe IPM stands for Isopropyl Myristate.)