How to Clean an Essential Oil Diffuser Without Vinegar

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An essential oil diffuser can spread the goodness of essential oils throughout your home or office. Your whole family can bask in the benefits of them. Unfortunately, far too many users assume that using one of these diffusers is a maintenance-free process, especially if you use a variety of different oils in your diffuser.

Sooner or later, you’ll notice that your essential oil diffuser is not working well, or it is making noise. It’s time for a cleaning. If you make a quick search, you’ll find that most recommend using white vinegar to clean the diffuser.

If you don’t have white vinegar on hand to clean your diffuser, you may be wondering what else you can use. In today’s guide, we’ll look at how to clean an essential oil diffuser without vinegar.

Things to Consider Before Cleaning Your Essential Oil Diffuser

Essential Oil Diffuser

Before you even touch your essential oil diffuser, take a quick look at the warranty info. If you’re using a relatively cheap diffuser, then this shouldn’t be a problem, as you can just quickly replace it if you run into any issues.

On the other hand, if you’re using a high quality diffuser, you may wish to keep your warranty.

Go through your diffuser’s instruction manual or find its warranty information on the internet to determine if opening it up will void the warranty. If it will and you’re using a high-end diffuser, try getting in contact with the manufacturer to figure out if there’s a way to clean it without voiding the warranty.

Even if your warranty does support cleaning your diffuser, you’ll want to get acquainted with the layout of your particular diffuser. Since you’ll often have to break down the diffuser to clean it as thoroughly as possible, you’ll want to be sure that you know how to put it back together when you’re done.

Why Wouldn’t You Want to Use White Vinegar When Cleaning Your Diffuser?

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So, if white vinegar is proven to clean a diffuser as efficiently and cheaply as possible, why wouldn’t you want to use it? For some, the issue may be that they don’t have any white vinegar on hand. And for others, the issue may be all in the scent: vinegar aerosols can be extremely offputting to some people.

When you use your diffuser, you expect the essential oil vapors emanating from it to smell pleasant, but using white vinegar to clean it will ensure the opposite of that.

While some users will argue that the smell of vinegar goes away after a little while, some with sensitive noses find that the vinegar can taint the smell of our essential oils for quite a while.

Even though you can certainly use white vinegar in a pinch to clean your essential oil diffuser, you have alternatives!

There are other ways to ensure that your diffuser gets as clean as possible without the sharp vinegar smell.

How Frequently Should You Clean Your Essential Oil Diffuser?

The answer to this question depends on how you use your essential oil diffuser and the number of oils that you use with it. If you’re typically using the same essential oil with your diffuser all the time, you won’t have to worry about cleaning it until it gets visibly dirty or starts performing less effectively.

However, if you use a variety of different oils with your diffuser, you should clean it out every time you swap those oils. This ensures that there isn’t any of the previous oil remaining in the diffuser, which could alter the smell or the effects of the next oil that you diffuse through it.

One of the main reasons why you should stay on top of cleaning your essential oil diffuser is because the oils themselves can gradually wear away at the plastic of the diffuser. While you can avoid cleaning it out after every use without any major downsides, you should still set up a regular cleaning schedule.

If you use a cheaper diffuser, you may not care about it breaking down over time, but if you’re using an expensive one, you should stay on top of that cleaning to ensure that it will last you as long as possible.

Keep in mind that there’s a difference between quickly cleaning your diffuser and giving it a deep cleaning, so you can optimize your cleaning methods based on how dirty your diffuser is and how much time you have available.

How to Clean an Essential Oil Diffuser Without Vinegar

What You’ll Need

Isopropyl Alcohol 91%

We recommend using a microfiber cloth to clean out your essential oil diffuser or nebulizer. This is because it won’t leave behind any bits or pieces like a paper towel might.

Over the course of multiple cleanings, you’ll end up leaving behind enough residue from a paper towel to hamper the performance of your diffuser.

Isopropyl alcohol is recommended because of how effective it is at breaking down oils, as it’s a solvent. Unfortunately, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, stocks of iso alcohol are at an all-time low.

You may struggle a bit to find it. If it isn’t available, you can substitute ethanol for it, but it won’t be as effective.

Finally, you can also use cotton swabs to clean out the hard-to-reach areas in your essential oil diffuser, but these have the same weakness as paper towels, leaving behind bits of the swab itself in your diffuser. If you can reach the nooks and crannies of your diffuser with your microfiber cloth, then don’t bother using cotton swabs.

How to Quick Clean Your Diffuser

Essential Oil Diffuser Jack and Rose

These guidelines are generic. Always check your individual manual for your diffuser, and defer to that.

Before you start cleaning your diffuser, make sure that it is unplugged so that you don’t risk damage.

Take out the reservoir tank of your diffuser and pour any remaining water out of it. That will allow you to clean the interior of the reservoir.

This part of the cleaning process depends on your exact model of diffuser. If you have a cheap, simple diffuser, it’ll probably feature a clamshell opening that allows you to easily access the interior. Owners of more expensive diffusers may have to dismantle them to fully access the interior.

When you’ve opened up your diffuser, use your microfiber cloth to wipe down the interior (without any of the rubbing alcohol). This will allow you to work away at the outer layer of dirt and grime before you bring in the cleaning solutions.

When you’re done wiping down the interior of your diffuser, it’s time to start using your rubbing alcohol. Dip your microfiber cloth (or cotton swab) in a small bowl of rubbing alcohol and start working away at the deepest layers of oil and grime on your diffuser.

When you’re done cleaning the interior, make sure to finish off by cleaning the exterior so your diffuser also looks squeaky clean. 

Essential Oil Diffuser Deep Cleaning

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What You’ll Need

  • Microfiber cloth
  • 90%+ isopropyl alcohol
  • Liquid soap
  • Cotton swabs (optional)

If you really want to go to town on your diffuser, break out the soap.

Once again, you’ll want to use a microfiber cloth to do the majority of the cleaning work, and try to find iso alcohol that will do a better job of cutting through the residual oils. Cotton swabs are optional, and they are used to get to any challenging spots that your microfiber cloth won’t reach.

The only thing we’ve added compared to the quick cleaning routine is liquid soap, and you can use a wide range of different soaps to deep clean your essential oil diffuser.

Castile soap like Dr. Bronners is often recommended for this, but you can use anything, including hand soap or dish soap.

How to Deep Clean Your Diffuser

Once again, start by unplugging your diffuser and draining its water reservoir. Take out your diffuser’s instruction manual or assembly instructions so that you can start breaking it down into its constituent pieces.

As you remove each piece from the diffuser, clean it thoroughly with your rubbing alcohol and microfiber cloth.

Take everything but the base of your diffuser (the part with the cord and the electrical circuits) and lay it to the side, giving it a more thorough cleaning once again. Prepare a bowl of warm water and add a few drops of your liquid soap of choice to it, until you start to see it bubbling.

Submerge all parts in the mix of water and soap (except for the base!) and thoroughly clean them with your microfiber cloth, once again. Remove everything from the soapy water and rinse it off with some more warm water to get any remaining soap off of it.

Finally, let the parts of your diffuser dry before reassembling it. Your diffuser has now been deep-cleaned!


White vinegar is a very easy way to clean a diffuser, but many of us just don’t like using it. By using iso alcohol and potentially soap, you can get your essential oil diffuser clean and working well, without any potential nasty vinegar after-smell.