Homemade Air Fresheners: Essential Oil Reed Diffusers

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This post is part 1 of 2 in the series Homemade Air Fresheners

 Homemade Reed Diffusers with Essential Oils

Before we went “green” a few years ago, I think it’s safe to say that I was completely obsessed with commercial air-fresheners. Spray fresheners, plug-in fresheners, scented candles, you name it. Every room in our home had some sort of air-freshening device that left a strong, fruity, cheery scent in the air. 

Now that I know better (thank God!), commercial air-fresheners have become a thing of the past. And now that we don’t live with the constant strong scents in our home, it gets pretty overwhelming when we’re at a friend or family member’s house and all we can smell is those strong chemicals wafting through the air! Ughh, I still can’t believe we ever used those things, but as we’ve removed them from our home, our sense of smell has become much more sensitive to all those chemicals. I can barely make it through the cleaning and laundry aisle at the supermarket without getting a headache or watery eyes or a very irritated nose.

Homemade air-fresheners is an area that I’ve dabbled in only slightly because until now I was just in the “no smell is a good smell” camp. And that’s still very much true, but sometimes you just want a gentle, light scent to tickle your senses and lift your spirits. :)

I’m going to be experimenting with a few different options over the next few weeks, and today I’ll show you how easy it is to make some homemade reed diffusers – you know, those little jars of scented oils with all the sticks popping out of them? Yeah, those…

There are five items you’ll be working with here and all of them can be sourced pretty inexpensively. 


The Jars

I picked up these jars from the thrift store for $1 each. I didn’t know what I’d use them for but I knew I just had to have them, and I’m so glad I got them because they’re perfect for this project!

Homemade Reed Diffusers with Essential Oils

When choosing your jars, look for small, short jars with a narrow opening at the top. The smaller the opening, the slower your oils will evaporate. My jars had somewhat large openings but luckily, they came with cork tops, so I just drilled about a 1″ hole into the cork and voila! Smaller opening!

Examples of jars you can repurpose for this project include old perfume bottles, small oil bottles, small vases, spice jars and shakers, etc.

Homemade Reed Diffusers with Essential Oils

The Reeds (Sticks)

Technically, you’re supposed to use reeds made from rattan because they contain small channels that help the oil travel up the stick to scent the room. I used regular bamboo skewers the first time, which didn’t really work so well. So I ordered some of these reeds online, and they’re doing much better. Just make sure your reeds are about twice as tall as your jars so they can distribute the scent well. 

Carrier Oil (Base)

From what I’ve read online, it seems the most common carrier oils to use are safflower oil and sweet almond oil, as they are lighter oils that will travel up the reeds more easily. You’ll use about 1/4 cup of oil for each diffuser, depending on your jar’s size, so try to source inexpensive oil, even if you have to order it online.

If you can’t find these oils, or don’t want to use oils as your base, you may also use plain water as the base. However, your diffuser base will evaporate much more quickly. Also, you’ll need to add some alcohol to help the essential oils bind to the water (see note below).

Essential Oils (Fragrance)

This is where it gets fun! You can either play it nice and simple with one or two essential oils, or you can get creative and experiment with different oil blends to create all kinds of lovely aromatic concoctions. Here’s a great list of essential oil blends that you can try.

Homemade Reed Diffusers with Essential Oils

For your 1/4 cup of carrier oil, you’ll use about 10-15 drops, depending on how strong or light you want the scent. I blended 2 oils for each of my diffusers – cinnamon and lavender for the living room, and spearmint and rosemary for the bathroom.

You can find essential oils at your local health food store or order them online from Amazon or Mountain Rose Herbs.


You’ll also add a splash of alcohol (about a teaspoon) to the oil mixture to help the oils travel up the reeds more effectively. You want as high a concentration of alcohol as you can get – at least 90%. You can use either perfumer’s alcohol, rubbing alcohol, or vodka. I used 95% rubbing alcohol I picked up from the drug store.

Homemade Reed Diffusers (Air Fresheners)
Simple, easy, and inexpensive homemade version of commercial reed diffusers.
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  1. Small jar with small opening
  2. 5-6 reed sticks
  3. 1/4 cup carrier oil (safflower oil or sweet almond oil)
  4. 15 drops essential oils
  5. 1 teaspoon alcohol or perfumer's alcohol (optional, at least 90%)
  1. In a measuring cup, add about 1/4 cup of your carrier oil.
  2. If using alcohol, add into the cup and stir thoroughly to help it bind with the oil.
  3. Add about 10-15 drops of essential oils and swirl the mixture to blend well.
  4. Add the oil mixture to your jar.
  5. Insert the sticks into the jar.
  6. After a few hours, flip the sticks over and insert the dry end into the jar to saturate the other end.
  7. Continue to swirl the jar and flip the sticks over about every week or so until the scent has diminished. Then, you can just add some more essential oils to the mix, swirl, and start again!
  8. Once the sticks become completely saturated with oil, they lose the ability to diffuse and will need to be replaced.
Nature's Nurture http://naturesnurtureblog.com/

How do you keep your home smelling and feeling fresh all year long? What are your favorite scents to have around your home?


Want more recipes like this to help you detoxify your food, home, body, and medicine cabinet? 

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Sarah UmmYusuf is a former school teacher turned stay-at-home wife and mama with a passion for all things simple, natural, and homemade. She loves the natural world, and believes the solutions to many of the world’s ailments lie in nature. Her blog, , began as a way to document her family’s journey to a greener home, but has since become a thriving community and resource for those wishing to take small steps towards a more eco-friendly, natural and sustainable lifestyle. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

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  1. says

    It seems to me the oils would turn rancid quickly. I keep my sweet almond oil in the fridge because if I don’t, it turns rancid and smells awful in only a few days. Have you found that other oils are better? I’m going to try this soon so any advice you can give will be appreciated.

    • says

      Hmm that’s an interesting point but no, I haven’t had that happen yet. I did a ridiculous amount of research for this post and everything I read recommended using either safflower or sweet almond oil. Good luck!

  2. says

    I find those shakers you use for parmesan cheese work really well for reed diffusers :) Also you can add in some food coloring or vegetable based fabric dye, which is super cheap and make the oils pretty colors :)

  3. Heather says

    I tried these. The oil does not travel up the skewer. In order to get any scent, you have to turn the sqewers upside down every few days. Messy.

    • says

      The oils have to be light enough to be able to travel up the reeds, and that’s why safflower or almond oil are recommended. Other oils are much too heavy to be wicked up by the reeds, although you can definitely experiment to see if you can find a light enough oil. I know when I tried grape seed oil, it worked, but not very well. That’s why I ordered the safflower oil and it really made a world of difference!

  4. Trish F says

    I wouldn’t use rubbing alcohol as, IMO, it has a medicinal smell to it that would alter the scent of the EO’s.
    Vodka is readily available in small bottles (even airline size in some stores) so if you don’t drink you would use this up rather quickly so there are no left-overs hanging around.

  5. Samuel Schroder says

    I am a perfumer and aromatherapist researching for product development and I am loving the tips in this article.

    I highly recommend checking out these companies for exotic high quality essential oils:
    Ananda Apothecary

    They carry many hard to find top quality exotics like saffron attar and Agarwood.

  6. susan says

    I love this and have tried it with many empty reed diffuser bottles I have! But can you please tell me why mine are all cloudy and not clear?

  7. pin says

    I tried grapeseed oil but it became rancid after an hour or so. i chucked in more essential oil to cover the rancid smell but didn’t really help as the nice smell quickly dissipated within minutes.

  8. Jellybeenz says

    Hi there- great article:) Could you help with a question?

    I bought some diffusers on clearance online, and I think they are rancid. They are two totally different scent families, but both have the same unpleasant stale/soapy smell.

    It’s definitely not the scents themselves: The Bluewick one smelled like caramel when it arrived, but I stupidly left it on the windowsill for 2 months. When I sniffed it this week it had the rancid smell, and no trace of caramel at all.

    The Archipelago diffuser just arrived and smells exactly the same as the ruined Bluewick. I think it was subject to extreme temperatures and/or is old stock.

    I was wondering if it’s possible add new essential oil to the rancid diffuser oils I received in an effort to cover the rancid smell ? Because they were “deep clearance/ final sale”, they are not returnable.

    Thank you so much for your expertise:)

    • says

      I don’t think you can really do anything about rancid oils. I would buy new oil to replace it. Adding essential oils to already rancid oils will just be a waste of your essential oils.

  9. kathy says

    I was looking at the site you suggested for the oils ,but i can,t find the shopping cart to buy some. Ì know this seems silly, I want to purchase some oils. THANKS

    • Joan Poates says

      I’m an LMT and get my oils from Rocky Mountain Oils or Cosmic Flower. These may be a little more expensive but with my allergies I need a good quality oil and I find I have not problem with these. Also was wondering about Fractionated Coconut Oil…use this for massage and as a carrier oil.

      (Just a note for a previous post Jojoba is not an oil but a liquid wax.)

  10. says

    I make my own vanilla essence using vodka and vanilla beans, apparently it lasts for years. So now I am thinking of using this to make my own diffuser oil, I have had a brew that is 18 months old, so should be perfect for this. I would like to mix it with Jasmine, and wonder how much oil to mix with my home made vanilla essence. Margaret Western Australia

  11. Laura Lee says

    Great idea. My only hesitation would be to use caution with pure essential oils. Treat them like medicine and learn about the properties of each one that you’re planning on using.

    I would not want to sniff cinnamon in my blend because it can bring out anger and fighting in the household.

  12. Jennifer Parker says

    This blog is really remarkable. Thanks for sharing this great. Keep sharing more useful and conspicuous stuff like this. Thank you so much.

  13. Jenn says

    Sarah, what a great article. I followed your recipe precisely but am still not getting any scent coming from the diffuser unless I put my nose right up to it. I made mine as a remedy to keep moths away from my clothes but am afraid that the scent won’t be strong enough. Can anyone offer any recommendations on what I can do differently with the recipe? I’ve already tried doubling the amount of essential oil but that hasn’t worked. Thanks!

  14. Jane says

    Thanks so much for your DYI post. It was thorough and well-written and just what I was looking for!
    To the person who had a cloudy oil solution, two possible causes could be: a very cold room or stirring the mixture too vigorously.

  15. alan says

    Can anyone recommend a mix of oils that would effective against tobacco odours. I smoke cigars and while the aroma fresh is lovely the next day it is not. Thanks in anticipation.

  16. Emma says

    Thanks for the great article. Like Jenn, a few comments above, I followed these instructions but my reed diffuser isn’t making an aroma. I used Safflower oil and put in a bit of rubbing alcohol (it does have a medicinal smell but it was gone from my bathroom in about 30 minutes). I have reeds rather than bamboo skewers, and I bought the reeds from amazon- they had good reviews for working with reed diffusers. I used an orange essential oil- maybe 20 drops, and couldn’t smell anything. I left it for a few days and then gave up on it- even right after I flipped the sticks I couldn’t really smell much aroma. I tried a peppermint essential oil, thinking that it may be a bit stronger- I’m still not smelling anything. Any ideas what I’m doing wrong?

    • says

      I’m not really sure – it works pretty well for me. Maybe try using a different oil? I will say though that this will in no way smell as strong as the store bought diffusers that use artificial fragrance oil. But I do get a subtle scent from mine, especially in smaller spaces like the bathroom.

  17. malenia c says

    Hi there. Thank you for this recipe. I have tried it with Eucalyptus in my bathroom, and lemon in the kitchen. I can’t smell either!! I’ve added more essential oil to each… and I still can’t smell it!
    I’ve flipped the sticks, I’ve sloshed it around…. nothing. The only time I smell it is when I flip the sticks and get it on my fingers… that I smell.
    Help! Any suggestions?

    • says

      It could be either the oil you’re using, the reed sticks, or even the type of essential oils. This is in no way going to smell as strong as the store bought ones made with artificial fragrance oils, but it does impart a subtle scent for me – especially in smaller spaces like the bathroom.

  18. Fudge says

    Tho also didn’t work for me. I made two and placed each in our bathrooms and you cannot smell it at all! It’s a tiny space so I figured it would be perfect. I used fragrance oil 15 drops in each and in 50ml jars and almond oil and followed the steps exactly! :(

  19. pink daisy says

    I tried this with water and rubbing alcohol and it worked. Next time, I have tried with
    safflower oil and rubbing alcohol its not working … there is no smell coming
    out of the diffuser. I used bamboo skewers.

  20. John says

    Nice work Sarah. adding glycol nd more alkohol to ur recipe should solve d problem for those who could perceive nothing.

  21. says

    Thank you SO much for this blog post! I’m reviewing some essential oils, and I’ve never used them before. I have always loved the idea of using diffusers around my apartment, and your post definitely makes this undertaking feel easy. Great instructions! I got everything I need from you to head to the store and get what I need! Thank you!

  22. says

    Homemade diffuser is also my interest. For personal, I love terra-cotta necklace. For my house, my room, reed diffuser is my favourite. With the jars as you mentioned, the diffuser becomes a creative product. And follow you I also can use vases or small oil bottles for the project. It’s wonderful!

    • says

      Vegetable oil is much too thick so I don’t think it would travel up the reeds very well. It has to be a light oil like the ones mentioned in the post.

  23. says

    There’s nothing more comforting or invigorating than a home scented with essential oils. I am a huge fan of EO and thanks for sharing Homemade Reed Diffusers recipe. Cant wait to try this out.

  24. Alex says

    What’s wrong with plug-in diffusers? I think you’re talking about the cheesy plug-in scents you get from Bath and Body works and not the real ones. The real ones are meant to diffuse the essential oil you put in it and not buy with it, like this one: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FZ29ICO/ref=s9_simh_gw_p121_d0_i3?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=desktop-1&pf_rd_r=0C33VMP2YBV97NHY51KF&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=2079475242&pf_rd_i=desktop And many are eco-friendly.
    I put frankincense in mine, only about 2-3 drops, and it lasts for hours which puts me in a calm state before I sleep. Plus they actually save you money by diffusing less oil for the same smell that completely fills a small room.

    • says

      Hey Alex,

      This post is about making reed diffusers, which is a completely different product from the electric diffusers that you’re referring to. That being said, we love our electric diffusers as well! The reed diffusers just add a little bit of decor to a room, which some people like. :-)


  1. […] Reed Diffusers Not only do they smell yummy, but they add some cute fall décor to a mantle or table as well. Take a trip to the craft store for some glass jars and rattan reeds, then mix safflower oil or sweet almond oil with essential oils for a heavenly concoction. Try mixing essential oils together for your very own, unique scent! […]

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