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How to Make an Oil Reed Diffuser (so your House Smells in a Good Way)

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As satisfying as a well-written recipe, a smart and thoughtful DIY is our kind of lunch break reading. Bonus points if it's an easy project AND teaches us how to make something beautiful.

Today: Scent your home in a natural, inexpensive way—and with whatever fragrance you like (sorry, cucumber melon).

Reed diffusers are today’s potpourri—they scent a room naturally and also double as attractive room decor. But, they’re a lot more expensive to purchase than a handful of dried plants. I have spent so much money on reed diffusers. I have spent so much money on reed diffusers that smell like something I don’t like. The solution is embarrassingly within reach: Find a cool vessel, head to the kitchen for bamboo skewers and vodka and water, pick out some essential oils, and do it yourself. The skewers—which, if you don’t already have, can be found at any grocery store—act as reeds, siphoning fragrance from your solution into the air. Your home will thank you for the gentle, natural fragrance that’ll soon be wafting through its halls.

To make one diffuser, you’ll need:

A glass or ceramic container with a narrow top opening
5 reed diffusers or bamboo skewers (yeah, like the ones you make kebabs with)
1/4 cup tap water
1/4 cup vodka
20 drops essential oil(s) of your choice

How to make your reed diffuser:

1. Choose your container: You’ll want something glass or ceramic that has a narrow opening so your sticks can arrange nicely and the oils are released slowly. Look for interesting bottles: vintage milk jugs or maple syrup containers, flower vases, or beakers—or reuse bottles from a previous diffuser.


 2. Combine the liquids: The essential oils carry the fragrance, but they need some help moving up through the reeds. Alcohol evaporates quicker than water, making it the ideal liquid for drawing oils up through the reeds. You could use rubbing alcohol instead of vodka, but I’m more likely to have the latter on hand. Some use carrier oils (like safflower) instead of alcohol, but that makes for a greasy mess if the diffuser is knocked over. 

Heat the water in a kettle until warm but not boiling, then transfer it to your vessel of choice, along with the vodka and your essential oils. Which essential oils, you ask? They could really be any scent you want your room to smell like. You could use one, or mix a variety. Some suggestions for simple combinations:

  • Jasmine + lemon
  • Orange + anise + cedarwood
  • Sassafras + rosemary
  • Geranium + peppermint
  • Lavender + oregano


3. Shake: Plug the top with your finger and give the mixture a careful little swirl.  


 4. Add your diffusers: Stick the sticks into the oils. Four or five is a good number.


5. Be patient: Place your diffuser wherever you’d like it to do its thing—the bedroom, living room, or bathroom. The kitchen is not an ideal choice—because your kitchen should be filled with food smells. It will take a bit of time for the liquids to start moving up through the sticks, but you’ll eventually be hit with a great smell that’ll subside into something subtle but present. It’s what you always wanted from that plug-in.


6. Maintain: Flip the sticks every once in a while to keep the scent from fading. When the sticks are completely saturated with liquid, replace them. When your liquid is all gone, make a new batch—switch the essential oils up if you like. There are likely lots of rooms in your home that would be happy with their own reed diffuser. You might also have a mom who wants to be gifted one for Mother's Day.

Photos by Bobbi Lin

Tags: Home Decor, DIY Food, How-To & Diy, Homemade