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How to Make Reed Diffusers

Lacking the tacky and overwhelming stench of many commercially available air freshener products, reed diffusers have become an increasingly popular way to gently scent and freshen indoor air. Commonly used in homes, offices, public restrooms, and elsewhere, diffusers are a generally safe and long-lasting method of scenting the air without resorting to the open flame, hot wax, chemicals or electricity required by different commercial air fresheners. However, reed diffusers can be more expensive than these conventional options, so, to save money, you may want to make your own!


  1. Image titled Make Reed Diffusers Step 1
    Find or purchase a suitable container to hold the diffuser. Purchase narrow-neck glass bottles or clean and reuse bottles from old diffusers, finished perfumes, or other beauty products. Wider-necked bottles allow for some passive diffusion into the air, which can be helpful for thicker oils or if alcohol is not part of the recipe you are using. It's also a great idea to re-purpose less obvious containers, such as colored bottles, soda or beer bottles, antique milk and other bottles, flower vases, large salt and pepper shaker bottoms, and other similar items to make reed diffusers. Keep an eye out for possible reed diffuser bottles everywhere!
    • Use the term "reed diffuser" on Pinterest to get a great visual collection of what others have used as diffuser containers.
    • If you wish, you can decorate the diffuser container before proceeding; match it to your décor/decor!
    • Avoid using plastic bottles––glass is the purest and ceramic is also okay; plastic may leach chemicals when it comes into contact with the oils.
  2. Image titled Make Reed Diffusers Step 2
    Find suitable reeds (also known as sticks) to add to the diffuser container. Use new reed diffusers, as old reeds lose their effectiveness once they are over-saturated with oil. While you can purchase ready-made reeds suited to this purpose, you can also use thin bamboo skewers available from many grocery stores.
    • The reeds must be tall enough to stand well above the containers or bottles you chose. The reeds should stick out several inches (centimeters) from the top of the container. Increase the scenting ability of the diffuser by using reeds that are double the height of the bottle or more.
    • Ready-made reeds are usually sold in 10-, 12- and 15-inch (25-, 30- and 38cm) lengths.
  3. Image titled Make Reed Diffusers Step 3
    Decide on what oil or diffuser base you'll use. Choices for the diffuser base or oil include scented oil and dipropylene glycol (a plasticize with low toxicity[1]), or a reed diffuser base oil such as safflower or sweet almond oils. Alternatively, you can purchase bottles of scented reed diffuser oils that are already blended.
    • The best diffuser oils are made using high-quality essential fragrance oils. High-scent essential oils cost more, but you will tend to use less of them to achieve a pleasant scent. Overall, it will still probably be less costly in the long run than purchasing ready-made diffuser sets each time one runs out.
    • Don't use dipropylene glycol if you're concerned about the safety of plasticizers and would prefer "no" toxicity as opposed to "low" toxicity; it is used a lot in cosmetic products such as perfumes. (Note from a chemist: This is a common misconception, all the "natural" oils also have toxicity. Even drinking too much water is toxic. Dipropylene glycol is as safe or safer than any of the alternatives. Natural oils can be allergenic and normally contain low levels of contaminating fungal toxins, but this is normal and natural and not usually a concern. The toxicity of the base oil is nothing compared to the toxicity of many fragrances- you would not want to eat them.)
  4. Image titled Make Reed Diffusers Step 4
    Blend the essential oil with the dipropylene glycol or the diffuser base oil. Making the scented oil is a straightforward process, as follows:
    • In general, the blend will need to consist of approximately 15 to 25 percent essential or fragrance oil with 75 to 85 percent dipropylene glycol or diffuser base oil. Vary the amounts to increase or decrease the fragrance as necessary.
    • You may need to decrease the amount of essential oil if the diffuser-oil mixture cannot travel up the reed enough to scent the air effectively. This is due to the viscosity of the oil often being too heavy or thick to travel.
    • Another way to make reed diffuser oil is using vodka. Mix a dash of vodka with about 10 drops of your favorite essential oil or scent and a 1/4 cup of water. This method works well but needs to be refilled more frequently because the mixture tends to evaporate faster. It's a great way to use up unwanted tasteless vodka!
  5. Image titled Make Reed Diffusers Step 5
    Fill the diffuser bottles or containers to approximately 75 to 85 percent capacity with the reed diffuser oil. Do not fill the oil to the top of the containers––it may overflow when you put the reeds inside.
  6. Image titled Make Reed Diffusers Step 6
    Put reeds into the oil and allow them to sit for one hour. The number of reeds you need for each diffuser varies based on the strength of the fragrance of the oil, the size of the room and the size of the container you're using––judge it accordingly. Increase the number of reeds to allow more fragrance to enter the air and decrease the number if you want less oil to wick up. By the end of the hour, you should start to notice the sticks taking up the oil, slowly.
    • The more reeds you use and the taller your reeds are, the quicker your diffuser will require refilling or replacing.
  7. Image titled Make Reed Diffusers Step 7
    Flip the reeds over after an hour to saturate the top part of the reeds that stick out above the oil level. This helps to speed up the process of the oil soaking up from the bottom diffusing through the entire reed.
  8. Image titled Make Reed Diffusers Step 8
    Place the finished reed diffuser container somewhere suitable in your home. Place it where it won't be knocked or investigated by curious children or pets. Be sure to keep it well away from electrical appliances too, in case of a spill. Expect a light fragrance to start perfuming your room within 24 hours. Check weekly to see whether the diffuser needs a top up. Every few weeks the container should be emptied, cleaned thoroughly and new reeds added.


  • Handmade reed diffusers make great gifts for holidays, housewarmings and other events. Make diffusers for your family and friends in their favorite scents and use family heirloom bottles and containers. Tie festive ribbons onto diffusers and add other touches to make your gift unique.
  • You can add fragrance or essential oil to your reed diffuser oil if it starts to lose its fragrance before the oil is used up.
  • Sometimes you can improve the performance of used saturated reeds by rinsing them under warm running water and then allowing them to dry. Lay the reeds flat on a clean, absorbent surface, such as a towel. Put the reeds back in the oil after they are fully dry.
  • Cork the bottle and include the reeds by tying them on with a bow or packaging them with the bottle if you are selling or gifting your handmade diffusers.


  • Stickiness from homemade reed diffusers can build up on the container used, to the point where it's really an unholy mess to remove. Use lots of detergent and expect your fingers to be coated in it while cleaning it off.
  • Most essential fragrance oils are too thick to wick up the diffusing reed effectively. The reed diffuser base oil thins the fragrance oil, making it possible for the oil to travel up the reed.

Things You'll Need

  • Most reed diffuser supplies are available at local craft or hobby stores, as well as through the mail from craft supply catalogs or websites
  • Oil or diffuser base
  • Suitable container
  • Reeds (sticks)
  • Essential oil or scented oil
  • Other items as noted in steps for alternative methods

Article Info

Categories: Aromatherapy | Essential Oils