A typical reed diffuser set comes with 8–10 reeds, and each reed set lasts 3–4 months (on average). That means you’ll blow through some 24 to 40 reed sticks annually. But what if you don’t want to add to America’s 292.4 million tons of trash sent to landfills yearly? Can you just reuse reed diffuser sticks?

Here’s the TL;DR:

You can’t clean reed diffuser sticks. Rattan sticks will become saturated with diffuser oil after about 3–4 months and will no longer release the fragrance as effectively. You can technically reuse somewhat new sticks with the same fragrance. However, the reeds may already be partially clogged.

Generally speaking, you should open a new set of diffuser sticks every time you begin a fresh bottle of oil. (*loud exhale*) Keep reading to learn why you actually shouldn’t rinse your old diffuser reeds off in the sink or wipe them down with an old rag.

Why You Shouldn’t Clean or Reuse Diffuser Reeds

reed diffuser bottle and sticks next to plant

Attempting to “clean” your reed diffuser sticks with rinsing or wiping will result in soggy rattan sticks or a dish rag that smells of that scent.

Yet, beyond those, there are a few other reasons not to clean (or reuse) diffuser reeds, such as:

It’s Impossible to Actually “Clean” Them

Each diffuser stick has a mini “system” of tunnels that allow the reed diffuser oil to travel up from the end submerged to the exposed tip.

The “magic” behind reed diffusers happens when the fragrance oil contacts the air and releases its scent. However, as the oil travels upward through the reed, it can also leave traces of residue in those tunnels. 

This—along with regular exposure to humidity and high temperatures—can cause a reed to clog and block the oil’s flow over time (which is natural). Reeds can also become clogged due to airborne dirt, dust, and debris.

Soaking or rinsing a reed in water can trigger that same clogging effect. Bamboo and rattan reeds are porous (or holey) and can become extremely waterlogged when drenched. Unfortunately, water-logged reeds will likely no longer absorb oil as effectively.

A mini experiment: I tried rinsing my current diffuser sticks with water and let them air-dry for a few hours to see what effect (if any) it had on them. I’ve had these reeds in my diffuser for several months now, and they’re noticeably less efficient at carrying a fragrance.

They also have visible bending/warping, as you can see below:

visible warping in old reed sticks
Old reed diffuser sticks with visible warping and bowing

Here were the key takeaways:

  • No matter how much water you use, the sticks will still smell heavily of whatever oil they soaked up.
  • The outsides of the sticks will still leave behind an oily residue.
  • Rinsing reed sticks with water doesn’t clean them.

It Is Possible To Reuse Reeds for the Same Scent

While reusing diffuser reeds is far from the gold standard, you can theoretically dry reeds with either paper towels or a dry cloth. All you have to do is dab them firmly to remove any excess oil. Then, lay them out on a towel in a well-ventilated room to air-dry completely.

However, the air-dry method only works with gently used reeds and for future refills of the same exact scent. For example, if your first jar of oil outlived the original reeds, you replaced them, and then the fragrance oil lost its oomph shortly after that.

Of course, drying the reeds won’t “undo” or reverse any clogging within the tunnel system. So these semi-new reeds may only have a few weeks or months left in them rather than the typical 3–4-month lifespan.

You can see the months-old reed below is not only a darker color than the fresh reeds, but it also has visibly clogged pores:

fresh vs used reeds
Fresh reeds (left) versus months-old used reed (right)

You Might Wind Up Mixing Fragrances

Unfortunately, the “reed-drying hack” has one major flaw that makes it a bad idea in every other circumstance: residual fragrance. The residual fragrance in a reed is the previous scent left behind from a fragrance oil, even it completely evaporates.

Using these old reeds with different oil may mix the aromas of the two scented oils—for better or worse. A fresh batch of reeds is ideal for your home’s aroma, especially if you introduce a brand-new scent.

New Sticks Are Decently Affordable + Lightweight

Rattan, on its own, is typically a recyclable material. However, you usually can’t recycle rattan reeds when they’re saturated. And, since you can’t fully “clean” them of their prior scents or clogging, only one option remains: using brand-new reeds.

Fortunately, rattan sticks are insanely cheap—at least as of April 2023—and leave behind a relatively small eco-footprint.

Regarding cost, rattan sticks typically come in value packs of 50, 100, 120, or more per box—often costing mere cents per stick. So now, if I ballpark a few cents per stick and you use roughly 24–40 sticks per year (for a single diffuser), your reeds will cost some $1–$2 annually.

That pack of sticks could last you a solid few years!

Environment-wise, a box of 100 10-inch reeds may weigh about 2.89 ounces—likely including the weight of the box. But if I overlook the box, on the high end, using 24–40 sticks total per year amounts to just 0.69–1.156 ounces sent to the landfill annually. Compare that to the 292.4 million tons of garbage in 2018.

I’d recommend T&C Natural Rattan Reed Diffuser Sticks, which come in a pack of bulk pack of 120 reeds (link brings you to Amazon). These reeds measure 10 inches (25.4 cm) long, carry a scent well, and actually appear to have tiny channels traveling the length of the sticks. You can see that below:

T&C reed diffuser sticks channels

How Long Do Diffuser Sticks Last?

Diffuser sticks generally last 1-6 months before they require replacement, with 3–4 months of use being average. However, you may need to replace them earlier if they’re clogged with oil, you flip them more than once a week, or they’re exposed to direct sunlight or heat.

But aside from these somewhat vague calendar estimates, how do you know when to swap out your old ones for fresh reeds?

Here are five common situations that call for brand-new reeds:

  1. You’re opening (or pouring) a new oil bottle—even if it’s the same oil blend.
  2. The diffuser’s scent is noticeably fading despite a regular flipping schedule.
  3. You notice the reeds are becoming discolored, warped, bent, or broken.
  4. The reeds smell more like strong odors other than the fragrance oil mix, caused by the reeds absorbing these scents from your home. Examples include smoke or cooking smells.
  5. You’d like to try a new type, color, or style of reed.

Again, you can try to dab dry gently used diffuser reeds with the same fragrance. However, replacing the entire batch of reeds with new ones is often the simplest solution.

signs its time to replace your diffuser reeds (infographic)
Learn more about how often you should flip your reed diffusers in my article Are You Supposed to Flip Reed Diffusers? [When, How, + Why].

Final Thoughts

Flipping your diffuser reeds will usually revive the fading fragrance unless the reed is completely clogged. If that doesn’t work, and you’re confident you haven’t become nose blind to the scent, you’re better off just replacing the reeds with new ones.

On the other hand, if you have to replace your reeds every month (or sooner), you should reconsider the location of your reed diffuser. Try a space that’s not in a corner and isn’t in the path of direct sunlight, high humidity, vents, or blowing heat.