How to Clean Air with Essential Oils

Essential oils not only smell good, but are very effective at cleaning the air. Whether at home, in the office, or your car… there are several options to purify. This is especially important for runners, who can sweat up a car after their run. Let’s dive into how these powerful oils clean the air, diffuser types, dangers, and top 11 best essential oils for clean air.

How Do Essential Oils Clean The Air?

So are these oils just like other products that help “clean” the air? Companies market too many products to simply mask an odor. These products actually do nothing for the quality of the air your breathing, odor aside.

Essential oils, however, have some scientific evidence for being able to actually purify and clean air. Here is what they actually do that does more than just masking smells.

Increasing Atmospheric Oxygen

One of the first things they have demonstrated is an ability to do is increase oxygen levels, including atmospheric oxygen. EO’s naturally carry a high concentration of oxygen. When you diffuse them in a room, you are unlocking that oxygen. Generally, higher oxygen levels are associated with cleaner air because pollution and toxins remove that oxygen.

Increasing Negative Ions

Over the last 30 years, the idea of ionization has been part of air purification devices. The idea is simple, create a negatively charged ion, which will help reduce the development of bacteria. 

High quality oils provide this ionization affect without the use of electricity, giving them an antibacterial property. Using high voltage electric current in other ionizing devices also produce ozone. This can be hazardous in small, unventilated areas. Oils provide the right effect without the potentially hazardous side effect.

How Do You Diffuse Essential Oils?

Using these amazing plant-derived oils is exceptionally simple, and just about any age can do it safely. The use of a diffuser is a widely used and simple method for cleaning the air. There are three different types of diffusers, with differing ranges of effectiveness.

Water-Based Diffusers

These are probably the most commonly used diffuser. They use water, with a relatively small amount of oil, usually ranging from 3-10 drops. This helps with adding some additional moisture to the air, as well as diffusing the oil itself. 

Some devices act more as a “vaporizer”, adding more water to the air than oil. People who are more concerned about the water vapor than the oil itself tend to prefer this style.

The down side to water-based diffusers is that they can be messy, very similarly to the mess possible with most vaporizers. The device can leak if not used correctly, not to mention the risk of spilling water in the refilling process.

For that risk, though, you have the most control over the concentration of the aroma from the oil, based on how much you use. That also means you have the most control over your cost as well.

Waterless Diffusers

Some diffusers do not use water. Rather, you attach your bottle of oil directly to the device, and vaporize and diffuse the oil without added water vapor. This feature is helpful for large spaces or anywhere a stronger concentration of oil may be of benefit. However, it can be overpowering in normal living spaces. Car diffusers have risen in popularity, and are a type of waterless diffuser for those on the go.

Water Solution In Spray Bottles

Adding a few drops of oil to a spray bottle filled with water is a great way to diffuse the oil in a pinch. 

There is little in way of proper studies to demonstrate this is an effective method to diffuse. This may not as effectively diffuse the oil as effectively being the vapor is not nearly as fine. Further, there is the water falling in greater concentrations that may lead to a mess.

However, if you do not have a proper atomizer may be a great option. Additionally, if you need to cover a large area quickly to deal with an odor, this may just do the trick. Oil does not dissolve in water, so be sure to shake your bottle frequently.

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Caution On Using Oils

The use of these oils is generally considered safe. However, there are a few cautions you should exercise.

First, be careful of the quality of your oil. Oils are not all equal in quality and function. Many inexpensive oils have fillers and synthetic scents in the bottle, not just the oil you desire. These can be dangerous for a couple reasons in your home:


According to Dr. Josh Axe, a naturopathic practitioner, this is especially cats and small dogs. Low quality oils with chemical additives can be toxic to animals, causing severe respiratory issues including death. Further, using them too potently can be equally harmful. Be sure you do not lock your animal in the same room you are diffusing oils. Check with them to see if it is a good fit. If you hold it down for them to smell and they back away, be cautious. Likewise, if they run from the area where you are diffusing, they are giving you a warning.

Small Children

Dr. Axe further explains that the wrong oils can also cause respiratory distress among young children, generally under 2 years old. Use lower concentrations when you diffuse, and avoid extremely strong oils like eucalyptus. The same caution about chemicals from animals also applies to young children.  

What Are The Best Oils For Clean Air?

So now that you know why and how to use essential oils for cleaning the air, what oils should you use? Here are the 11 we recommend based on the properties listed in the 8th edition Essential Oils Desk Reference


Probably one of the most widely used and recognizable oils is lavender. In addition to being something to promote calming, it also has strong antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial properties. This makes it an easy pick to diffuse to clean the air. Further, with its wide use across many consumer products comes a wide acceptance, so you run a low risk of people disliking the aroma.

Do be cautious as some people are allergic to lavender plants. These people may experience allergy type symptoms when exposed to the oil.


Peppermint is another widely used plant derivative. Popular products include baking extracts as well as oil for diffusing and personal care or cleaning products. As an oil, it is strongly antibacterial. It also seems to have an effect of making people more compliant. This has made it popular for use in school offices, and among salespeople like real estate agents.

Cinnamon Bark

One oil many people may not think about is cinnamon bark oil (different from cinnamon leaf oil). This carries the strong smell of cinnamon, and has strong antibacterial and antifungal properties. When diffused, many people report this reminds them of Christmas, and find it comforting. If you want a fun smell that works really well for cleaning the air, try one drop of cinnamon bark, two drops of lemon, and a drop of eucalyptus.


Another widely accepted aroma is that of lemon. It is used widely in many cleaning products. When you diffuse this oil, most people will immediately associate that with a clean environment. In addition, this is strongly antifungal, so freshens a room where a musky smell has set in. Lemon is also very uplifting to an environment, so some people refer to it as “happy in a bottle.”


Many people associate the smell of eucalyptus with over-the-counter respiratory care products, including rubs and vaporizer solutions. For that reason, some people love the smell, while offending the olfactory system of others. From an ability to clean the air, it is strongly antibacterial. Be careful with this oil around animals and small children. Use a very low concentration and allow animals a way to get away from it if possible.

Tea Tree

Tea Tree oil has grown in acceptance greatly over the last few years. While not a particularly pleasing aroma to most people, it does have some incredible personal care properties. Melaleuca, the actual name for Tea Tree oil, is strongly antibacterial and antifungal. This makes it a great option for cleaning the air.

Again, due to the unusual aroma, some people may like the aroma while others do not. The best use of this oil is when you have a strong need that is not dependent on people “approving” of the smell. You may also add another oil to a blend to help provide a more pleasing aroma.


Akin to lemon, lime is also a widely accepted smell, also being used among home cleaning products. As with most citrus oils, this has a very uplifting effect on people. For cleaning the air, it does have good antibacterial properties. If you want something a little different, you might try a couple drops of lime with a drop of peppermint in your diffuser.

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One oil that most people would not think to use is rosemary. Rosemary is steam distilled from the flowering portion of the plant, unlike the needles used in cooking. Given its use in cooking, some people are strongly attracted while others do not care for it at all. It is strongly antibacterial and antifungal in nature, so is perfect to use this application.

Again, might be best used in a large space, or where your need for clean air outweighs the need for aroma acceptance. Combining it with something more woodsy, like Black Spruce, may also make it more appealing without affecting its usefulness.


Lemongrass has a pleasant warm and sweet aroma to it, but is not nearly as widely known as some other oils. Due to the allergic reaction some have to the plant, there may be concern to its use when people with allergies are present. From an effectiveness perspective, it is strongly antibacterial. It is also known for its ability to repel some insects. That makes using it in spaces like a sunroom or screened porch a good idea.


Citronella is most widely known for its insect repellent properties. Used is some topical insect repellants as well as candles and torches, most people are familiar with the aroma. What most people do not realize is it is strongly antibacterial and antifungal, along with have deodorizing properties. This makes it a perfect choice for diffusing where you need to clean the air. You may blend a drop or two of this with another more pleasing oil such as lavender.


When thinking of basil, most commonly think more about Italian food than cleaning the air. However, basil oil is strongly antibacterial, making it an exceptional oil to use when you need to purify the air. It is uplifting and some people report it being energizing. Just keep in mind that not all people will appreciate its strong aroma.


With the abundance of essential oils available to clean the air, you are sure to find a scent you like. The key is to identify how you want to diffuse, and if you will diffuse on the go. If you are a runner, having a diffuser in the car for after your run might help with the sweaty air.

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