12 best reed diffusers: Relaxing fragrances to help you focus and unwind

One thing our writer learned when testing reed diffusers is that good, cheap ones are hard to come by (iStock/The Independent)
One thing our writer learned when testing reed diffusers is that good, cheap ones are hard to come by (iStock/The Independent)

Reed diffusers might only spring to mind when you need a Christmas present for the mother-in-law, but you’d be doing them a great disservice by thinking they’re boring or fail-safe.

Indeed, they are a low-maintenance home fragrance option that don’t require the constant vigil, smoke and mess of a candle and if you have pets or small children, they reduce the chance of serious accidents.

A diffuser offers a more subdued scent than a candle, but unlike candles, you can leave them to their own devices. Meaning you get in from work and walk into a pleasant-smelling living room and leave home without thinking, “did I remember to blow the candle out?”.

Plus, you can adjust the volume of scent by adding or removing the wooden reeds as desired – and to dial the scent up even further, simply turn the reeds every so often.

They gently fragrance a room without being too overpowering. And if you can’t seem to smell them, don’t despair, they might just need relocating. “If your reed diffuser isn’t working it’s always a good idea to try them in another spot in the room,” advises Sarah Jackson of Manchester Candles. “Scent is a funny thing and can circulate around rooms differently depending on drafts and how the air in the room moves.”

How we tested

We tried a range of diffusers in different rooms and noticed the ‘throw’ (how well the scent travels), how strong it smells with all the reeds included and the originality of the bouquet – and whether we could stand living with it at all times of the day (your sense of smell is stronger in the morning). The ones that really stood out were those we ‘noticed’ without noticing them - and those which guests commented on, too.

The one thing our writer learned when testing reed diffusers is that good, cheap ones are hard to come by. If you want a nice fragrance that doesn’t make your home smell like chemical carpet cleaner, you need to splash out unfortunately. We whittled it down to the below eight, including one or two purse-friendly options.

Most diffusers should give you 12 weeks of fragrance, or more depending on how many reeds you use in them. Save your candles for a romantic dinner or cosy night in – and stock up on these amazing aroma sticks instead.

The best reed diffusers for 2022 are:

  • Best overall reed diffuser – Etro Dafne diffuser: £135, Harveynichols.com

  • Best reed diffuser for cold mornings – Imogen’s Luxuries revive lemongrass, grapefruit and basil: £16, Imogensluxuries.co.uk

  • Best reed diffuser for adding a homely feel – Bon Parfumeur 02 coriander seed, honey and tobacco leaf: £53, Bonparfumeur.com

  • Best reed diffuser for nostalgia – Ruth Mastenbroek Oxford musings: £48, Roullierwhite.com

  • Best reed diffuser to help you nod off – Neom perfect night’s sleep reed diffuser: £39, Neomorganics.com

  • Best reed diffuser for an English floral scent – Floral Street lady Emma: £34, Floralstreet.com

  • Best reed diffuser for alertness – Lalique vetiver Bali diffuser: £55.80, Perfume-click.co.uk

  • Best reed diffuser for clearing your sinuses – Manchester Candles eucalyptus and mint reed diffuser: £13, Manchestercandles.co.uk

  • Best reed diffuser for large, airy rooms – Ormonde Jayne night oudh scented reed diffuser: £185, Harrods.com

  • Best reed diffuser for the kitchen – Molton Brown orange and bergamot aroma reeds: £48, Lookfantastic.com

  • Best reed diffuser gift for men – Von Norten bergamot, oakmoss, leather and tobacco diffuser: £29, Vonnorten.com

  • Best reed diffuser for escapism – Eight & Bob The Hamptons Sagaponack diffuser: £75, Thescentcity.com

Etro Dafne diffuser

This latest addition from the Italian label, is the scent equivalent of having Sofia Loren greet you as you walk through the door. Bringing La Dolce Vita in spades, it dazzles with a burst of intense citrus including Italian bergamot, mandarin and bitter orange, amplified with a rich floral heart of neroli (orange blossom) and creamy woods and sandalwood that are beautifully smooth and mellow.

Our tester recently moved house and placed this in the hallway to get rid of any lingering industrial cleaning smells – using all of the reeds, they got a pleasant sparkle of citrus whenever they happened to walk past it. The effect is akin to having a guest whose beautiful perfume lingers after they’ve left. Just truly stunning and worth the hefty price tag. (It will make for a beautiful housewarming gift too.)

Buy now £135.00, Harveynichols.com

Imogen’s Luxuries revive lemongrass, grapefruit and basil

This blend was inspired by a feeling the founder had after having a massage on the beach, which is a good starting place for any scented creation. Great for adding a touch of freshness to places like the kitchen or bathroom, the sharpness of the lemongrass and grapefruit is punchy but perfect for getting your brain in gear when you’ve just woken up and feel a little groggy (citrus scents are known for their uplifting, energising qualities). Each diffuser is handmade in Berkshire using therapeutic grade essential oils, and this definitely holds its own among pricier global brands.

Buy now £16.00, Imogensluxuries.co.uk

Bon Parfumeur 02 coriander seed, honey and tobacco leaf

If you’re a homebody, then this sweet and smoky concoction is sure to float your olfactory boat. Its nuanced, gender-neutral blend is a far cry from the ‘mumsy’ florals many reed diffuser scents are associated with. The aromatic tobacco leaf and coriander seed notes are slightly bitter and sweet, amplified by an enveloping honey accord, evoking blankets and board games, accompanied by tea and cake on a slow Sunday afternoon.

The brand’s sustainability credentials include prioritising natural raw materials (or ‘safe’ synthetics if there’s no equivalent), as well as 100 per cent recyclable glass bottles and Forest Stewardship Council-certified cardboard. So you’ll be helping the planet as well as enhancing the ambience of your home.

Buy now £53.00, Bonparfumeur.com

Ruth Mastenbroek Oxford musings

Oxford Musings is Ruth Mastenbroek’s tribute to the city where she studied chemistry as an undergraduate, an olfactory love letter to Britishness, creativity and happiness. Boasting a zesty and energetic blend, its bright character is underscored with the richness of vetiver, oudh and vanilla to give it soul and staying power. It conjures walks along the river, surrounded by college spires and channels the dynamic energy of eager undergrads looking to make a name for themselves. All in all, making for a sparkling, romantic and highly addictive concoction.

Buy now £48.00, Rollierwhite.com

Neom perfect night’s sleep reed diffuser

If you regularly find yourself at the mercy of the sleep gods, a good tip is to make your bedroom a place that your brain associates with sleep. That means no laptops or TVs, and the same goes for work files and office clutter. It should instead be a place of tranquility where your mind can easily switch off.

Neom’s reed diffuser with English lavender, jasmine and sweet basil adds to the effect, and while it didn’t fully cure our insomnia (we weren’t expecting it to) it certainly helped us relax, with its spa-like fragrance. To maximise its effects, we recommend turning the reeds just before bed, and tag-teaming with the brand’s lavender pillow spray (£20, Neomorganics.com).

Buy now £39.00, Neomorganics.com

Floral Street lady Emma

Emma is one of those quintessentially English names that conjures up someone bright, unassuming and effortlessly charming . This scent is just as pleasing, named after 18th century model and muse Lady Emma Hamilton, a society beauty with a “shady courtesan past” whose portraits are displayed in the National Gallery.

The diffuser has a potent blend of apricot-tinged roses and fresh leafy accords with green apple notes, its modern take on the floral which, like its namesake, isn’t traditional or “grannyish” in the slightest. Plus, the pink holder makes a fetching addition to any bathroom sink or living room coffee table.

Buy now £34.00, Floralstreet.com

Lalique vetiver Bali diffuser

While some people might think of reed diffusers as somewhat pedestrian and mumsy, not all are created equal, nor do they invariably smell of floral air freshener. Lalique raises the bar with its punchy perfumes, and its vetiver reed diffuser is case in point.

Vetiver is a fragrant tall grass found in India and Haiti, famed for its warm, earthy scent which is why it often pops up in men’s colognes. Apparently, inhaling the essential oil improves alertness and brain function, which makes this reed diffuser a great desk-side companion. It boasts a generous, leathery scent, which isn’t too “bachelor pad”, yet is sophisticated enough to jazz up any room in the house.

Buy now £55.80, Perfume-click.co.uk

Manchester Candles eucalyptus and mint reed diffuser

There are few things worse when you’re under the weather than also being trapped in a sour-smelling, stuffy bedroom. Not only does this diffuser provide a blast of freshness, it can also help you breathe easier – plus, it smells nicer than a dollop of Vick’s Vaporub melted in a bowl of hot water. One of the best budget-friendly diffusers we’ve tried (and trust us, there aren’t many) the mint also apparently helps sharpen the mind and improve focus.

Buy now £13.00, Manchestercandles.co.uk

Ormonde Jayne night oudh scented reed diffuser

Based in Mayfair, Ormonde Jayne fragrances bring the glamour and then some, created to be worn ideally with a tiara and floor-trailing gown – and their home scents capture that same spirit. Their night oudh fragrance is a rich, earthy blend of dry amber, musk and gaiacwood, taking the already luxurious leathery-spicy heart notes of oudh to grand new heights.

Its founder Linda Pilkington has spent a lot of time in the Middle East and the scents she encountered inspired her journey into perfumery – so it’s safe to say she knows a thing or two about oudh and how to use it effectively. Walk into a room smelling of this and you’ll feel like Scheherazade in One Thousand and One Nights. And a top tip from perfumer Linda Pilkington: "If you are expecting guests and entertaining, turn all the reeds two hours before the party starts!"

Buy now £185.00, Harrods.com

Molton Brown orange and bergamot aroma reeds

At university, we saw Molton Brown as a byword for “posh bubble bath” – and its aroma reeds are equally as expensive-smelling. It would no doubt make even the shabby, rat-infested student house we used to rent feel like a palace.

Its orange and bergamot bouquet is legendary among fans of this brand, and for good reason – a refreshing, happy citrus scent guaranteed to cheer up the gloomiest of days. In the form of a reed diffuser, it cuts through any remaining whiffs of cooking oil and garlic in the kitchen, while the zesty scent can enhance the energising effects of your Monday morning coffee.

Buy now £48.00, Lookfantastic.com

Von Norten bergamot, oakmoss, leather and tobacco diffuser

There’s a type of bloke who listens to Marc Maron podcasts who is inevitably a nightmare when you have to buy them gifts. Luckily this concoction will make a pleasing alternative to yet another pair of socks or bottle of scotch.

If you think reed diffusers are all about florals, think again. This one is the “rock n’roll” alternative, the Ronnie Wood of reed diffusers if you will. A smooth scent that conjures up leather jackets and handmade wooden furniture, it will keep his man cave elegantly fragranced, with a dash of debonair flair.

Buy now £29.00, Vonnorten.se

Eight & Bob The Hamptons Sagaponack diffuser

We have to admit, we had a rocky start with this one. We used it with all the reeds in at once, which we realised was overkill for a one-bedroom flat. Whittle it down to three or four and it really comes into its own, emitting a delightful whiff of lychee (which can smell very acrid in large doses), peach and rose.

With fewer reeds, we positioned it by an open window and let the scent waft in on the breeze, making us (almost) believe we were sunning ourselves in the Hamptons – the name “Sagaponack” being a ritzy town in the famous Long Island hot spot.

Buy now £75.00, Thescentcity.com

Reed diffusers FAQs

Reed diffusers vs electric diffusers: What’s the difference?

A reed diffuser is a great way to add constant fragrance to a room without having to remember to plug it in or the need for heat. They deliver fragrance using a wick system whereby a series of wooden reeds absorb the fragrance from the bottle and release it into the air, continuously filling your home with your chosen scent. Unlike electric diffusers, this type cannot be turned off and you cannot control the level of fragrance that’s released.

While electric diffusers work in a similar way, infusing the air around you with fragrance, there are some key differences. To use an electric diffuser, you simply fill the water tank with water, add some essential oils and plug it into the wall. Many models allow you to change the level of fragrance that’s emitted or you can set a timer so that it only works at a time that suits you.

The verdict: Reed diffusers

Any reed diffuser worth its salt should make a house smell like a home, and one that’s a joy to step into. Etro’s Dafne diffuser adds a welcome dose of Italian glamour to any abode – our tester was knocked for six by how it made their new place smell welcoming and inviting in just a few hours.

For more interiors inspiration, read our guide to the trendiest candlestick holders