Sometimes a scented candle simply won’t cut it. For a fragrance that you can catch a whiff of every time you walk by, it’s got to be a reed diffuser.
From floral and fruity to woody and musky to scents that transport you around the world, there’s one for almost every house, room or taste (though having a diffuser in every room is, perhaps, overkill).
But whether you like the fragrance or not isn’t the only thing to consider. Many of the ingredients used in essential oil reed diffusers carry a host of other benefits. Do you need something calming and relaxing? Try lavender or jasmine.
What about an olfactory wakeup call in the morning? Something citrusy like orange or ginger should do the trick.
Are you one of those people that switches up their scents between seasons? Florals usually suit spring and summer, but for autumn you’ll want something woodier with seasonal fruits. Are the ingredients eco-friendly? The options are endless.
Aesthetics are also important. A diffuser isn’t just something to hide in a corner. A stylish bottle can act as a centrepiece on any surface.
A narrower top will ensure the fragrance doesn’t fade quickly, but if it does a shake of the reeds, or even turning them upside down, will instantly refresh a room.
Longevity is really what you’re after. Not every diffuser will tick this box but a general ballpark figure to watch out for is 12 weeks – take it from us that they usually last much longer.
We tested a range of all of the above and found there really is something for everyone.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Urban Apothecary oudh geranium reed diffuser
There’s something about this diffuser that really hits the spot. Combining the smoky, aromatic woodiness of oudh with the fresh and rosy tones of geranium – not to mention a bit of amber, vetiver, patchouli and praline, for the olfactory nerds – has resulted in a scent that is just musky enough, without being overbearing.
We placed the diffuser – a simple but luxurious black hand-blown apothecary bottle, which is ever so slightly Harry Potter-esque – by a doorway, so each time we passed it we’d get a whiff of something mysterious and magical. It also lingers long after it’s been placed and has great longevity – the brand offers refills so you can continue to enjoy it long past the 12-week recommended diffusion time (and save the planet one wizard potion bottle at a time). Or if you wanted to switch it out for something more autumnal, the fig tree scent is lovely.
Buy now £42.00, Urban Apothecary
M&S white jasmine and rose 150ml diffuser
With two of what most people in the perfume industry consider to be the most important scents (or “foundation stones” of perfumery, as The Perfume Society puts it), M&S’s addition to this list certainly has the credentials. This is a very floral fragrance, but not to its detriment: the rose adds lightness and crispiness while the jasmine brings its signature intensity, making it perfect for the start of spring or the cooling tail end of summer. To make the most of this diffuser, the reeds do need to be turned every now and then to refresh the fragrance in a room. We love its packaging, a stylish black and white patterned cylinder that we’re desperate to find a way to repurpose.
Buy now £15.00, M&S
Neom scent to de-stress real luxury reed diffuser
What better way to calm your senses during a pandemic than with a literal “scent to de-stress”. Neom’s luxury reed diffuser, a 100 per cent natural fragrance featuring an expert blend of the utmost calming scents – lavender, jasmine and Brazilian rosewood – definitely does what it says on the tin. The combination of notes not only smelled wonderful, but helped us wind down and relax – the perfect scent for the bedroom for people with difficulty sleeping or to chill out before a massage. There’s even a tutorial video on the Neom website demonstrating mindful breathing techniques when using products from the range. The diffuser did, however, struggle to circulate the scent in a large room; we found it worked best in closer quarters.
Buy now £38.00, Neom
Rituals of karma fragrance sticks
Housed in a stylish tall bottle, Rituals’ blend of holy lotus and white tea adds a touch of the spiritual to the world of diffusers. Lotus, with its soothing and caring properties, and white tea’s fresh, clean and green fragrance create a distinctly summery fragrance, with subtle flowery notes that instantly enhance your mood.
On longevity, this diffuser has quite a respectable benchmark of three months, providing you don’t turn the sticks, as the brand recommends. The ritual of karma range, unsurprisingly, is about attracting good karma and “immersing yourself in the positive vibes of summer all year round”. Well, far from transforming into a guru at the first whiff, it’s a nice scent to have around the house in the warmer seasons.
Buy now £24.90, Rituals
Cowshed active diffuser
Most of the diffusers on this list offer various calming benefits, but if you’re looking for something a bit more invigorating, Cowshed’s blend of lemongrass, ginger and rosemary essential oils has quite a kick. It’s described as a light fragrance, but we found it to be quite citrusy – in a good way – and ideal for when you need something a little stronger, such as the kitchen or bathroom. And, in line with the brand’s plant-based philosophy, it’s au naturel: 100 per cent vegetarian, no animal testing and free from parabens, mineral oils and silicones. So you can feel quite smug as you sniff.
Buy now £30.00, Cowshed
Molton Brown orange and bergamot aroma reeds
Perhaps we’re biased about these aroma reeds from Molton Brown because we love pretty much everything from the brand, but they certainly doesn’t disappoint. With top notes of bergamot, lemon and mandarin, heart notes of orange, ginger and cinnamon and base notes of neroli and musk, it’s a lively and zesty scent that transports you straight to Seville. For many lovers of the brand, this is somewhat of a staple fragrance for your home, but is also the perfect entry point for someone unfamiliar with it. At £45 it is perhaps more of a gift for a new homeowner (or an occasional indulgence for yourself), but it does last and the bottle is stylish too.
Buy now £45.00, Molton Brown
Rituals Orris mimosa fragrance sticks
Another contender from Rituals, this time “inviting spring into your home”, is the orris mimosa fragrance, which is a sophisticated floral scent with hints of violet and orris, strengthened with distinct leathery and woody aspects. Similarly to the ritual of karma, these fragrance sticks draw their notes from different parts of the world – orris from Tuscany and mimosa from Morocco, Egypt, India and Southern France – so it really is like bringing the outside in. You can really smell the essence of spring here. Enjoy that atmosphere for up to five months, but again Rituals recommends not turning the sticks to ensure they give off their wonderful subtle fragrance.
Buy now £44.50, Rituals
Skandinavisk hav reed diffuser
Each scent from Skandinavisk is designed to capture the essence of the Scandinavian region. Well, hav, meaning “sea” in Swedish, with a blend of salt spray, seaweed, hawthorn and beach rose, certainly comes close. This powerful scent won’t be to everyone’s taste, and probably better suits an airy beach house than a cosy flat in London, but it is fresh, enriching and long-lasting without being overpowering.
The sea theme also extends to the part-recycled, brushed glass bottle, which is an ocean-blue with white symbols to represent the story of Scandinavia. As an added bonus, the whole thing is B Corp-certified, FSC-certified and vegan, which in layman terms pretty much means it’s all environmentally and ethically friendly, so you can’t go wrong there.
Buy now £45.00, John Lewis & Partners
Aldi lime, basil and mandarin reed diffuser
We can confirm that the rumours are true: Aldi’s budget reed diffuser really does smell as good as the expensive stuff. Lime, basil and mandarin might not seem like a winning scent combo to the untrained nose – it’s somewhat of a modern classic – but it strikes just the right notes to lift a room, especially during those autumn nights to come.
Aldi claims the scent can last for up to eight weeks, but while it was more than capable of filling a room, the black rattan sticks needed refreshing every few days to fully enjoy the fragrance. Both the luxury glass bottle and scent are inspired by Jo Malone's signature diffuser, but this one costs a fraction of the price and lasts far longer than you'd expect from an affordable fragrance. Unsurprisingly, this is currently out of stock online, but you can check if your local store has stock on Aldi's website.
Buy now £3.49, Aldi
The verdict: Reed diffusers
Urban Apothecary’s oudh geranium is the scent of the summer. The bottle is stylish, the fragrance delightful and it lingers and lasts a long time to boot. For a cheap but undeniable hit, Aldi’s lime, basil and mandarin diffuser is not to miss. Meanwhile, for something citrusy and stimulating, try Molton Brown’s orange and bergamot or Cowshed’s active diffuser.
For more interiors inspiration, read our guide to the trendiest candlestick holders