Make Your Own Reed Diffuser Liquid


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When I decided I wanted to make my own reed diffuser liquid to refill my cute little bottle, I did what most folks do – I consulted Google so I could hopefully learn how.

And that’s when I ended up bouncing all around the internet trying to figure out which homemade reed diffuser recipe was the best.  And maybe you’re reading this right now trying to figure out the same thing!

For sure, there’s lots of different recipes, but there’s also a consistent thread through all of them too.  So after searching and reading, and comparing and thinking, I ended up doing what I usually do.  I  just made my own mixture!

Reed diffusers bottles filled with homemade refill liquid

Choosing Ingredients For Homemade Reed Diffusers

Once I decided to make my own reed diffuser refill liquid, I soon learned that I had some decisions to make about the ingredients too. Here are the things that needed to be considered:

The Base Liquid – Oil or Water ?   The first thing I realized was that some  recipes were using oil as a base and some were using water.  Because reed diffusers work by the liquid being absorbed up into the reeds, it seemed to me like water would be more easily absorbed than oil.  It also seemed like oil was a messier choice if the bottle accidentally got knocked over.  I decided on water for my base liquid.

The Binder:  Vodka or Rubbing Alcohol?  Because a homemade reed diffuser liquid is scented with essential oils (and oil and water don’t mix) there needs to be a binding agent to help the oil bind with the water.  Alcohol is used for this purpose.  A homemade reed diffuser recipe will usually call for either vodka or rubbing alcohol for this ingredient.  I didn’t have any vodka, but I did have rubbing alcohol and it was also the 99% variety that’s recommended, so that’s what I used.  Does this mean my lovely mixture ended up smelling like rubbing alcohol?  Nope, the alcohol smell faded fast and didn’t come back.

The Sticks:  Reeds or Bamboo Skewers?   Once the refill liquid is made, the next thing to decide is what type of reeds to use with the liquid.  A common strategy is to get a package of bamboo skewers from the dollar store, although some folks insist they can’t do the job of absorbing that reeds sold specifically for a reed diffuser can do.  The bamboo skewers seemed pretty pourous to me so I opted for the cheapo bamboo skewer option.  (I’ve already used homemade diffuser reeds from my grass plants too!)

The Fragrance:  Essential Oils!  At least there was consistency on this last ingredient. Essential oils are the preferred way of scenting the reed diffuser liquid and that’s my choice too.

Ingredients to make homemade reed diffuser liquid

Once my choices were made for the ingredients I came up with my recipe. I combined 1/3 cup of distilled water with 2 teaspoons of the rubbing alcohol in a small bottle. I opted to use distilled water as I felt that could help against anything that could start breeding in a mixture like this that will just be setting out.   However the rubbing alcohol added to the water will probably help in this area too if you’re just using tap water.

Then I added 20 drops of essential oils. I chose to do an energizing citrus blend of 10 drops lemon and 10 drops of orange. But of course this is an area where you can definitely be creative and use any combo of oils that are your favorites. Lavender + Lemon, Peppermint + Orange, and Spearmint + Rosemary are some fun choices to try.

Small bottles and reeds to use with homemade reed diffuser liquid

When choosing a bottle, remember to use a bottle with a small opening too as this keeps the liquid from evaporating away too quickly. You can recycle small vases or jars for this purpose, just remember to look for small openings at the top or you can purchase reed diffuser bottles made especially for this purpose. I was lucky to find just the bottles I wanted at a local dollar store that sells some unique items that can’t always be found at the larger dollar store chains. {Sometimes I use these for flower vases too – they’re perfect for just a couple small stems that children will pick for you πŸ™‚ }

Finally, I’ve found that turning the reeds over from time to time so that the moist ends are outside of the bottle can help, especially if you are just using the thrifty bamboo skewer option.

Homemade Reed diffuser liquid in small reed diffuser bottles

This recipe is also easy to double or triple depending on the size of your bottle and how much liquid you wish to make. Another handy bonus of making your own!

Make your own reed diffuser

Note: This post was originally published 3/30/14 and updated 11/29/20. You may have seen this original photo floating around Pinterest!

Homemade Reed Diffuser Liquid

Enjoy the fresh and energizing scents of essential oils with this simple homemade way to make refill liquid for a reed diffuser.
Author: Beverly


  • 1/3 Cup Water (I use distilled water)
  • 2 tsp Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol (99% preferred)
  • 20 Drops Essential Oils of your choice

To use the refill liquid you will need:

  • Short bottle with a small opening
  • Bamboo Skewers or diffuser reeds


  • Combine the water and alcohol in a small bottle.
  • Add in about 20 drops of essential oil of your choice. (I like to use 10 drops lemon and 10 drops orange).
  • If you are using bamboo skewers (rather than store bought diffuser reeds), you will need to cut the skewers to a size about twice as long as your bottle, cutting off the pointy end of the skewer in the process.
  • Put several of the trimmed skewers into your diffuser bottle with the liquid.

More Thrifty Homemade Ideas:

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  1. Actually, the bamboo has interruptions that block the flow of the liquid up the reed to diffuse in the air. The fibrous Rattan reeds work correctly. And they are cheap at about $5 per 100!

  2. Hi Beverly,
    I have read all the comments and your recipe. But I’m a little confused. There is no carrier oil in the recipe, but sweet almond oil is mentioned. Should I only use alcohol, water and essential oil/fragrance oil? I will not use Essential oil, I will use Fragrance oil. I would be very happy if you help me πŸ™‚
    Thank you,

    1. I would like to know about almond carrier oil too do I use it in with the water ,rubbing alcohol and the scent oil or leave it out , I’m new to this am I’m just a bit confused as others have told me to use it Please help Thank you

  3. Thanks for your detailed way for making Reed diffuser scented liquid for refilling, from now I won’t run back to the shop to buy my next Reed Diffuser. Thanks again for the tips.

  4. Me again lol I read you have to be careful where you purchase essential oils, because they may not always be what the label says. So where do you suggest. Thank you

    1. I often buy the Now brand of essential oils from Amazon. I also like to buy essential oils at my local health food store. However it’s becoming more and more common to find essential oils at big box stores like Target and Walmart now too.

  5. What is a essential oils and where do you purchase them. Or they different some how. Also why not buy a pint of vodka that seems to solve a lot of problems

  6. I”ve been collecting items to make my own natural diffuser and will giving it a go today or tomorrow. Thanks for your recipe.

  7. I’ve tried a few ways of making the diffusers but can’t get them to smell hardly at all. My diffuser reeds are quite thin and wonder if this makes a difference. On line I’ve seen fibre reeds which get excellent reviews but more expensive but wondered if they were worth trying.

  8. I’m confused as to rubbing alcohol for diffuser making. Where do I get it from on the high street and does surgical spirit from Boots fit the bill. Superdrug sell one with ethanol so is this OK. There seems to be a household surgical spirit or a more general one used for such as makeup removal or sanitizer? It is my first attempt so don’t want to waste money on wrong type. Thanks

    1. Yes, surgical spirits can be used in the same way as the rubbing alcohol sold here in the US and can be substituted in when making this recipe.

  9. Thank you for the tip. I didn’t think of alcohol to bind the essential oil and water. The one I made, the oil is floating on top. I’ll try adding some alcohol.

      1. Thank you for sharing the knowledge, please what is a dish liquid? Is it the same liquid soap for washing dishes?

  10. that was easy enough I should make some for my house. Peppermit and what else will make my house smell like Christm
    as? Cinnamin

  11. Just refilled an empty Yankee candle diffuser bottle with lavender and cedarwood. Thank you so much for doing the research!

  12. Can I use perfume, along with the alcohol, for the liquid? (I don’t wear perfume like I used to and I hate to throw it out.)
    Thanks, Kathy

    1. I think that would depend on if your perfume is alcohol based or oil based. If it’s alcohol based, you might be able to just dilute it with water and use it that way as diffuser liquid. If it’s oil based, then I think I would still use a mixture of alcohol and water, and add a bit of your perfume in instead of the essential oils. Either way, I think you would still want some water in the mixture to absorb up the reeds and to keep the perfume from being too potent smelling.

  13. can use witch hazel in place of alcohol? my alcohol is onlt 50% ( but going see if walmart carries higherer percentage)….or can use witch hazel nd 50% alcohol… if so what ratio do u suggest?

    1. Yes, I think you could use witch hazel in place of the alcohol. I think it would would still work as a carrier for the essential oil. I would just leave the alcohol out then, and use 2 teaspoons of the witch hazel instead.

    1. Sometimes I have seen gin used in these type of recipes. However if you don’t have vodka, I’m not sure if you would have gin either!

  14. Beverly, thank you SO much for this recipe. I have seen them at other sites in which they are so complicated you just give up. This is so simple, I have used it once and loved it, couldn’t find the recipe (likely I forgot to write it down) so I just searched and here you are! So great, it works so well and makes the air smell like we would like! Fun to try new essential oils!! Thank you for taking the time to share this recipe.

    1. Hi I am just starting making reed defusers.
      I am not getting the percentage and how to work out how much oils you need. Thank you

  15. You did well! My family has used reed diffusers for years, and I was taught that bamboo works excellent for water based diffuser blends, while the more traditional porous reeds should be used for oil due to its thicker consistency. If you use traditional diffuser reeds in a water based liquid, they will become over saturated quickly and therefore will become clogged and useless quicker. Using the bamboo in an oil mixture will discount the scent availability of the diffuser.

  16. Just made a double bath of this and put it in a bowl. Have diffuser reeds on order and no bottle yet! Smells great. Thanks for the recipe.

  17. Hey I tried making this but my oil turned rancid in a week. I live in a really humid and hot place so is there any way to prevent the oils from turning rancid? The reeds also turned black on the edges. Tried making this with the base as water and the same thing happened. smelled totally foul! Please help!ο»Ώ

    1. You may want to try diffuser reeds sold strictly for that purpose, rather than bamboo skewers. I noticed some molding on my bamboo skewers but not until many weeks had gone by. I don’t usually see this with diffuser reeds made strictly for that purpose. Also, did you use distilled water? That should make a difference too as opposed to just tap water.

  18. I’ve just followed this recipe but the oil is just sitting on top of the water, any suggestions please. I’m delighted to find you can make your own diffusers as I spend a lot of money on them

    1. Lynda….you have to mix your essential oil with a carrier oil. I use sweet almond oil. You also have to use an essential oil with a powerful scent. I use 4 reeds and never change them. I just dip one of the reeds in the oil and dab it on the other 3 reeds.

  19. It sounds like a great idea but it did not work for me.
    The water and essential oil did not mix. I followed the instructions just as stated.
    I just wasted very high quality essential oil. \
    What did I do wrong?

  20. Loved your version. So easy and smells so nice. Like another commenter, my oil just laid on top. I stirred it rigorously with one if the reeds and the problem was solved. Thanks!

  21. Great recipe! From your photo I can get an idea of how big your cute bottle/vase is. How long does your fluid last before you need to refill it? I’m wondering how many days, or weeks. Also, do you refill it when your bottle/vase is half way through the fluid or all the way finished?

    1. Based on my experience it should take a few months before you can see the fluid is going down. Even if the fluid isn’t completely gone, it’s sometimes nice to make a new batch just to make it in a new fragrance πŸ™‚

      1. May I ask one more question – rather than 20 drops of essential oil how about 1/8 cup (give or take) of a hydrosol? Have you used hydrosol in lieu of essential oils? If so, how much?

        I’ve got several that a friend distilled for me and I like the idea of mixing vodka, distilled water, and some hydrosol.

        If some readers don’t know that is – it’s the run off water from when essential oil are made and therefore its a water with a lighter scent than the oil gives off, just lovely!

        Thank you so much !! xo

  22. Hi

    What a lovely website. So user friendly. After looking at loads of expensive reed diffusers in the shops I thought I bet you can make your own …so like you I googled it. Loads of recipes till I came across your website and it was just so matter of fact and friendly – wanted to let you know. Hate those bland business like web sites for creative stuff ! So am gonna try your recipe. Am from UK so don’t know where to source the rubbing alcohol will try DIY shops and let you know how I get on !

  23. I used your recipe and I notice that my essential oil didn’t mix it floats like little bubbles in the bottle. What did I do wrong? Smells great though. Help, I want to sell these in bottles I have decorated for Christmas at a craft show.

    1. The rubbing alcohol in the mixture is supposed to help the oil and water mix. Perhaps you could try adding a little more rubbing alcohol to the mixture to help the essential oil mix in to the water.

  24. Thanks for this. I tried an oil recipe first but it wasn’t dispersing any scent. Then I found yours and it works better. The liquid travels up the bamboo skewer faster – they are already saturated after just one day. I used orange, grapefruit, bergamot and lime essential oils. I went looking for jars and vases with small openings and couldn’t find one so for the time being I’m using a clear flower vase. I don’t mind if it evaporates too quickly as I just want the scent to freshen my room. Since the liquid is a yellowy green from the bergamot, I added red food colouring to make it prettier.

  25. Wow…thanks for all your tips……..I was going to use sweet almond oil but will do your ideas instead with water and isopropyl alcohol. Can’t wait to try it. I hear of another recipe with just water and no alcohol which worked fine too.

  26. I did the same thing. Made one from a recipe out of my Mary Jane Farm magazine. They used 1/4 Sweet Almond oil and 30 drops E.O. Nothing happened, no smell at all. I’m going to try the water and see if it makes a difference. Thanks.

  27. Hi Beverly,
    I just made your recipe for Reed Diffuser Liquid, Thank you thank you thank you πŸ™‚ I tried unsuccessfully with another handy dandy web recipe recommending Safflower oil – big mistake, that just smelled like urm as my mum delicately put it, doggy poo….the safflower oil seemed to react against the essential oil blend I used…. your Recipe on the other hand was amazing, and so simple to make.
    I stumbled across your website, and will be sure to bookmark. Thank you again

    1. So glad you’re enjoying this recipe Jen! Very interesting to hear your experience with the safflower oil – no one wants a doggy poo scented reed diffuser! πŸ™‚

  28. Would like to add that I’ve made perfume for 40+ years and I use grain alcohol instead of regular, there is no odor to it once mixed, the amount would be the same as your recipe. Thank you for sharing this Beverly, I didn’t think to use the skewers, but I will now!!

  29. Where can you find the essential oils at rock bottom prices? Is there a place online? I live in the country and there aren’t many stores close by that sell specialty items.

    1. One idea is to get started with a reward program like Swagbucks where you can earn Amazon gift cards. Then you can order them online from Amazon for free using the gift cards you have earned.

  30. I will be going to the dollar store today. This will be so much fun to do. Thank you for all the information. What a wonderful and informative job you have done. I will be looking for other great ideas that you share. I’m off to the dollar store…..thank you!

  31. This is awesome, Beverly! Thank you so much for these tips. I really can’t wait to do it and make everything smell soooo good. I’m excited πŸ™‚ So glad to have found you through Wine’d Down. ~Jenna // A Mama Collective