i made it so: reed diffuser

i try to be mindful about what chemicals i bring into the home. for example, the majority of cleaning products i use i make myself. most involve some combination of water, vinegar, baking soda and essential oils. i add essential oils because the scent cuts through the sharp vinegar smell (i really don’t like the smell of vinegar), and also because some essential oils have antiseptic properties.

i’m far from perfect though (see “baby oil” below) and there’s always more i can do. one of these days, i’ll share my list of what i use, what works and what conventional products i use because i simply haven’t found a good enough alternative yet. maybe you could share your suggestions with me then.

but today, i want to talk about reed diffusers. i’ve seen these in stores over the last couple of years, and they basically look like a bunch of bamboo sticks in a pretty glass jar. aesthetically pleasing things.

the idea behind them is that the sticks carry the fragrance from the jar up to the top where they “diffuse” into the air. they are touted as being a safer and cleaner alternative to burning scented candles, because there is no flame, and no soot is released.

(as an aside: i like soy-based or beeswax candles, with lead-free wicks. these waxes don’t have petrochemicals and burn cleaner than conventional wax candles.)

i like a pretty smelling house just as much as the next person, but i’ve always hesitated to buy these. most of them have a long list of ingredients, many of which i can pronounce but only thanks to my years of taking organic chemistry through university!  others have only a few ingredients listed, like “alcohol, essential oil, fragrance.”  but all manners of sin and toxicity can be legally hidden under the term “fragrance.”

i decided to try making my own version of these reed diffusers. to work, they need the following:

  • a scent (i used pure essential oil.)

  • something for the fragrance to “stick” to (mineral oil is a good choice; i only had baby oil on hand, which is essentially mineral oil but alas with some “baby powder” scent added. you could also use a light vegetable oil.)
  • something to transfer the fragrant oil up out of the jar (any porous stick or twig will work, as will tightly rolled up pieces of paper; i used bamboo skewers from the dollar store with the sharp tips cut off.)

  • something to help emulsify and carry the oil up the stick. (pure vodka is a good choice; it is stronger than rubbing alcohol, and it makes people wonder what you’re up to.)

  • some vessel to hold this all together; preferably with a narrow opening (i used a vintage milk glass bud vase that i got at the thrift store for 49 cents; the narrow opening helps keep the alcohol from evaporating.)

here are the steps, they’re very complicated so read carefully. you may want to bookmark this page for future reference…

  1. fill the vase about half-way with the oil.
  2. add a splash of vodka
  3. add a few drops of essential oil
  4. put the sticks in the vase

that’s it! (i was joking about it being tricky.)

it takes a little time for the reeds to carry the fragrance up. i got a little impatient and flipped the sticks upside down so the whole length of bamboo was saturated with the oil. i do this periodically anyways when i find the scent is waning, to expose the oil-infused reeds to the air.

i’m going to play around with other essential oils and quantities. now that i look at it, i could have fit more sticks into the vase, which would help carry more scent upwards, as well as help keep the alcohol from evaporating.

so why could i not have just used essential oil? why add mineral or another “carrier” oil? well, pure essential oils are expensive, and i’d need a large quantity of it to saturate the reeds. but also, a little essential oil goes a long way in terms of fragrance. mineral oil helps dilute the scent.

so that’s it.  although the ingredients are more natural than those found in most store-bought diffusers, these are still chemicals that can be dangerous to pets and children.  so i display mine out of reach, on the mantle…

if you make this, let me know how it turns out. happy sniffing!


i shared this how-to on house of hepworths. thanks for the chance to share my creation, allison.

i also shared this at it’s so very cheri. thanks cheri!


© imadeitso, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to ana at imadeitso.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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10 Responses to i made it so: reed diffuser

  1. Corey says:

    LOL @ the Smirnoff comment.

    That’s an interesting tut’, Ana. Much thanks. I’m going to try it. Store bought reed diffusers are ,expensive!

  2. iMadeItSo says:

    you’re welcome corey. they *are* expensive in the stores. they are more potent too, like they really fill a room with a heavy scent, while the homemade ones are a lighter more subtle amount of fragrance. if chemicals aren’t a concern, they do sell just the oils for refilling the bottles (a little less expensive than the whole kit) and i guess one could just put that in a container and pop some reeds in.

  3. Sandy says:

    Hi Ana… just stopped by to see the Reed Diffuser you spoke of…
    very interesting and I will surely make one for my rooms…
    Checked the info you spoke of…. come by my site, check out the
    blog hop….number 85

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  6. Emsie says:

    I want to make a diffuser to disperse a vinegar scent in a room that has been heavily contaminated with cigar odor. At the moment, I have to lightly spray the room several times a day with a vinegar-water solution. I also have a lovely bamboo scented oil diffuser from Pier One, but it doesn’t penetrate the cigar smell as well as the vinegar. Any ideas on what, if anything, I need to add to the vinegar solution to cause it to diffuse?

    • imadeitso says:

      hi emsie, i’m really not sure what if anything you can do beyond spraying to get the vinegar smell in the room. if the room is near the kitchen, you could try boiling the vinegar-water solution to get the droplets into the air. (i only say that because i know when i run vinegar through the coffee maker, the whole house smells like vinegar for a while). alternatively, you could leave a bowl of vinegar and allow it to evaporate. have you tried sprinkling baking soda onto the fabric/carpets? test a small spot first, but baking soda is good at absorbing smoke odour, and you can vacuum it up after letting it sit for a while. one note re. vacuuming baking soda… if your vacuum has a hepa-filter, the fine baking soda particles can clog the filter so follow the vacuum instructions accordingly.

      good luck! hope you find something that works (let me know!)…

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  8. Lisa S. says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful recipe/tip. I’m putting together a kind of sympathy basket for a friend who’s brother just passed away, and needed an idea for something more to put inside. (I’m a candle maker by trade, so as you can imagine, I love DIY crafting type stuff, and have a lot of odds and ends around the house!) So far, I’ve made homemade Lavender-Eucalyptus Sugar Scrub and some Vanilla Coffee Scrub. I’m getting ready to make a candle, some lotion, and a bar of soap, but I felt my gift basket still needed a little something. This is PERFECT!

    Oh, and I realize Emsie’s comment was left last year, but if you’re still anywhere around, my husband is a cigar smoker, but coming into our house, you’d never know. This is going to sound really weird, but the reason why is because I used Citronella Essential oil. It can be in a candle that you burn for an extended period of time (all at once, not interrupted uses), a spray that you use on the carpet (or if you have wood floors, put a couple drops of it in the cleaning product you use to clean the wood. If you use Swiffer original, just put some drops in the container the wet cloths are kept inside.), and take your curtains down, soak them in a warm/hot water and baking soda combination, or use an Oxygen based bleach, for about an hour. Then wash them in hot water, using your normal detergent/fabric softener. If your curtains can’t be washed, steam clean them. If you still have the smell, get a vaporizer, and put the vinegar in it. Hope this helps if your problem wasn’t already solved.

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