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How to make your home smell good

Essential oil diffusers vs. incense sticks

Nothing kills the mood in a space like foul odors, but traditional odor control methods like sprays and plug-ins contain perfumes, fixatives and other ingredients which may not be your cup of tea if you prioritize natural products free from synthetic fragrances. 

Essential oil diffusers and incense sticks are great options for setting the mood in your home and making your space smell fresh. 

Essential oil diffusers are good for long-term, subtle fragrance, whereas incense sticks provide an intense burst of fragrance to your space when you need it most. Read on to learn more about these products and which is best for you. 

Essential oil diffusers

Essential oil diffusers are used to disperse essential oils into the air as a method of odor control. They're also used for relaxing or spiritual practices and are a great way to set the mood in a space. 

You can choose to diffuse a sleep essential oil blend to get ready for bed, a peace blend if you're feeling stressed, an awake blend to get ready in the morning or a happy blend to lighten your mood. You can also diffuse individual scents, such as woodsy, floral sandalwood essential oil, to make your space smell exactly how you want it to. 

Essential oil diffusers cost anywhere from $15-$60. Higher-end models include the ability to schedule automatic turn-off timers as well as additional aesthetic features, such as the calming, subdued colors of this color-changing model, the organic shape and wood grain pairing of a round essential oil diffuser or the beautiful stony finish of this essential oil diffuser.

What you'll love about essential oil diffusers 

  • Essential oil diffusers make your space smell great all day long with continuous, flameless fragrance. 
  • Easily swap out scents by changing the essential oil you're diffusing at any given time. 
  • Diffusers with large reservoirs can run up to a full day without replenishment. 
  • They're often aesthetically appealing and can be used as décor.

What you should consider about essential oil diffusers

  • Essential oil diffusers are sometimes a bit bulky and will require designated surface space, plus they must be used near an outlet. 
  • While essential oil diffusers are an all-around budget-friendly method for making your home smell fantastic, the price of essential oils can add up. 
  • Diffusers don't stop odors dead in their tracks like incense sticks can, but rather provide a subtle, relaxing scent to the air. 

Best smelling essential oils for home

Aura Cacia Aromatherapy Mist Essential Oil Diffuser

An ultrasonic diffuser which preserves the aroma profile of your essential oils through heatless diffusion. Features an auto shut-off at 1 or 4 hours. 

Sold by iHerb

Artnaturals Aroma Oil Diffuser

This diffuser is heatless and ultrasonic. It includes seven LED colors and runs quietly. It consistently receives high reviews for its ease of use and chic look. 

Sold by iHerb

Renwer Essential Oil Diffuser 

This Renwer diffuser shuts off automatically when the liquid reservoir is empty. The wood grain on this model is aesthetically pleasing, and the remote control allows you to easily control its heat-free diffusion and lights from anywhere in the room. 

Sold by Amazon

Incense sticks

Incense sticks have been used as part of spiritual and meditative practices and ceremonies throughout history. The earliest documented evidence of incense burning is in ancient China and ancient Egypt, and incense has been used independently in various cultures since then for a variety of purposes, making it perhaps the most ubiquitous, universal tool for controlling aroma in the world. 

What you'll love about incense sticks 

  • Incense sticks provide a fast, powerful fragrance boost and can be used for controlling odors in a room right away, such as after opening your kitchen compost bin. 
  • Incense sticks can really set the mood in your home and can add a lot of value to your life when burned as part of a morning ritual, for example, or alongside a yoga or meditation routine. 
  • If you like strong, whole-room fragrance, you'll likely favor incense sticks to the often more subtle fragrance of an essential oil diffuser. 
  • Incense is made from a variety of materials like herbal powder, bamboo and fragrance oils. 

What you should consider about incense sticks 

  • Incense sticks leave behind a line of ash as they burn, which falls and can create a mess. An incense holder should be used to catch the ash. 
  • Incense sticks can pose a fire hazard (albeit a minor one) and should always be watched whenever burning.
  • Some landlords don't approve of burning incense, candles, etc., so you should always check your lease before burning incense sticks. 
  • It isn't safe to use incense around small children and pets, because the burning tip could cause an injury. 

Top incense sticks

Satya Sai Baba Nag Champa incense Sticks 

This is an iconic incense. When a lot of people think of the scent of incense — a sweet, floral and earthy scent — they're thinking of this. Made from herbs, floral extracts and bamboo. Reminiscent of sandalwood.

Sold by iHerb

Gandhanra Most Popular Premium Hand Dipped Incense

This set offers a great deal on a variety of incense scents, so you can experiment with different scents to find your favorites. Includes scents like amber, jasmine, lemon, patchouli, sandalwood and vanilla. It receives high ratings for strong aromas.

Sold by Amazon

Simply Vedic 7 Chakra Premium Agarbatti Incense

These incense sticks come with information on the seven chakras, which are focal points used in a variety of meditation practices and originating in Hindu traditions. This set comes in a variety of pleasant scents and includes an incense holder. The scents are intense — too much for some users, but generally popular for their lingering strength. 

Sold by Amazon

Should you get an essential oil diffuser or incense sticks?

It would be hard to pick just one. Incense sticks are excellent for their rapid, intense burst of aroma and transportability, but they can create some ash mess and aren't approved for use in all rentals or around children or pets. 

On the other hand, essential oil diffusers provide all-day fragrance and don't require close monitoring, but they won't quickly banish bad smells from a space the way incense can, and they're a stationary device, typically requiring an electrical outlet and some surface space for operation.

The verdict? Don't pick, keep both on hand — incense for fast odor control and essential oil diffusers for all-day, relaxing aromatherapy.  

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Evelyn Waugh writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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