Second only to (maybe) plug-in air fresheners, reed diffusers are the simplest of all household odor-busters. In fact, a 100mL bottle of oil and 5–10 rattan reeds can deliver 3–4 months of continuous fragrance. But there’s one question common of beginners: are you supposed to flip your reed diffuser sticks?

Here’s the TL;DR:

You’re supposed to flip reed diffuser sticks when the scent begins fading, or you want a fresh burst of fragrance. Once a week, remove the reeds over a sink and return them to the bottle with the dry end up. If flipping the reeds doesn’t strengthen the scent, your reeds may be clogged or saturated.

Womp, womp. As it turns out, reed diffusers aren’t quite as set-it-and-forget-it as they first appear (or to those of us who don’t like to read instructions). So keep reading to learn more about how reed diffusers work and what that means for why, when, and how to flip your reeds.

Why You Need to Flip Reed Diffuser Sticks

To fully grasp why you need to flip your reeds (in a general sense), you need to understand the science behind how reed diffusers work and the diffusion process.

How Does a Reed Diffuser Work?

Typical reed diffusers feature three main components: reed diffuser oil, a narrow-necked glass bottle, and a bundle of rattan sticks (also known as “reeds”). More often than not, the diffuser oil will already be in that sealed jar, although, sometimes, it comes in a separate vessel instead.

Now, the image below is what a new reed diffuser will look like while in use. The bottle is uncapped, the oil is inside the bottle, one end of the reeds is in the oil, and the other end of the reeds is exposed to the air.

how to use a reed diffuser

Inside diffuser reeds are extremely narrow pathways, channels, and nodes. These small tunnel systems will slowly suck up the oil in the jar and allow it to travel gradually toward the opposite end of the stick.

If you want to get scientific, these tubes are called “capillaries,” and the average reed has just about 20 of them.

As the diffuser oil travels the entire length of the reed, it also evaporates. This is why you’ll notice an extra burst of fragrance about 10–30 minutes after setting up your reed diffuser for the first time. 

After 10–30 minutes, flip the reeds over for the first time to expose the saturated end. This first flip sets you up for days (or weeks) of beautiful home fragrance.

However, with time…

You’ll Notice the Scent Fading

And not because of “noseblindness” (AKA: olfactory fatigue).

In fact, a reed diffuser’s scent will gradually begin to fizzle thanks to a combination of three main factors:

  1. Evaporation: Once the oil travels up the reed, it slowly evaporates, releasing a beautiful fragrance. Unfortunately, the fragrance oil’s evaporation also weakens the overall scent.
  2. Clogging: A reed diffuser could lose its strength when dust particles block the tunnels that allow the oil to flow through the reed.
  3. Saturation: Similar to dust-clogging, diffuser reeds can become saturated with fragrance oil with time. This over-saturation prevents them from absorbing more scented oil and dials back the scent.

Interestingly, those same three factors are also the main reasons you should flip your reeds consistently.

Flipping the reeds exposes the oil-soaked ends, giving them more fragrance to release into the room. This regular reed-flipping will also maintain the flow of scented oil throughout the reeds. As a result, you could potentially prevent clogging and saturation.

If your diffuser’s scent has completely faded and there’s still oil in the jar, flipping the reeds will help return it to full strength.

On the other hand, if your reeds are still releasing a semi-steady aroma, flipping them will result in a powerful burst of fragrance. This scented burst is ideal when inviting guests over.

Brief sidebar: Even with perfect reed diffuser care, your reeds may become clogged and saturated with time. The average reed will last about six months before it needs replacing.

When to Flip Reed Diffuser Sticks

Many diffuser brands recommend flipping all* the reeds in a diffuser about once a week for longevity and a consistent room fragrance. Other fragrance brands push for much longer (closer to every two to three weeks) or much shorter (every few days) schedules.

* I specified “all” reeds because some users flip only a few reeds every few days for a subtler burst of daily aroma.

If You Flip Your Reeds Too Often…

Flipping them too often will make your reed diffuser smell stronger for longer. Yet, unfortunately, this method also exposes more oil to the air and makes the diffuser oil evaporate faster. This increased air exposure can shorten the lifespan of your oil.

If You Don’t Flip Your Reeds Often Enough…

By not flipping your reeds upside down often enough, you’ll likely wind up with dust-clogged or saturated reeds and a scent that all but disappears.

Find Your Schedule for Reed-Flipping

Before you fully commit to a reed-flipping schedule, let’s do a little experiment.

First, set up a reed diffuser in your room of choice. You can follow the directions provided above. Oh, and don’t forget to flip your sticks for the first time about 10–30 minutes after set-up! 

After set-up, wait about 3–4 days before officially “re-checking” the scent. By this point, you’ll notice that the once-powerful burst of fragrance is now more of a subtle and lingering aroma. 

If you can walk into the room and not smell the scent at all, flip the reeds and stick to an “every-few-days” schedule moving forward. Otherwise, give it a few more days and check in again at the one-week mark. 

If, after seven days, the smell is gone or nearly faded, once a week is a more logical schedule. If not, continue re-evaluating the aroma every few days to determine whether it’s still detectable and at your preferred intensity. 

Take note of how many days pass before the scent becomes too subtle, and consider that your loose “flipping schedule.”

If you don’t really care for schedules, you can flip your reeds whenever you want to strengthen or revive the scent of the fragrance in the room. Just keep in mind that the more often you flip ‘em, the quicker you’ll run out of fragrance oil.

Flipping your reeds too often may also lead to an unbearably strong fragrance. Check out Reed Diffuser Too Strong? Here’s Why [+ How to Fix It!] to learn why this happens.

How To Flip Reed Diffuser Sticks

If the idea of “flipping” your reed diffuser sticks sounds incredibly easy, that’s because it is.

It’s exactly how it sounds, but I’ve broken it up into four simple steps for clarity:

  1. Bring the reed diffuser to the nearest bathroom sink. You can also do it over a garbage can, paper towel, or a non-porous surface that won’t absorb the oil and leave damage.
  2. Remove the reeds from the jar by grabbing them from the middle—roughly just above the neck of the jar—and pulling them directly up and out.
  3. Rotate your hand and wrist so that the dry end (the end previously exposed to the air) is now facing down. 
  4. Return the reed sticks to the jar with the dry end now submerged in the oil.

Here’s a visual of this simple process:

how to flip reed diffuser sticks (diagram)

After completing step four, you should notice a fresh burst of fragrance within minutes.

Final Thoughts

The simple answer to this question is “yes.” The longer answer is, “if you aren’t flipping your sticks at least every few days or weeks, then you’re not using this odor-busting tool correctly!”

Flipping your reeds regularly guarantees a consistent aroma release. It also extends the life span of your fragrance oil while warding off some of the most common diffuser annoyances, like clogging.

If you’ve never flipped your reeds… now would be the time.