Did you know that wool makes an exceptional diffuser for essential oils? Wool felt is a highly porous natural fiber, allowing air to pass through rather than around it. Because of this, wool felt can be used as an eco-friendly portable diffuser for your favorite scents. You may have seen diffuser necklaces that use felt liners, or felted wool diffusers, but my favorite way to use felt to diffuse naturally scented oils is through cut-felt ornaments.
At just a few cents to make, they’re PERFECT small gifts for the holidays, or when you need to make gifts for lots of people on a very tight budget. A few extra touches- like using real wool, stiffening the material with cornstarch, and packaging in a cellophane bag- give this craft an artisanal “wow” factor.
I first experimented with this project a few Christmases ago. I’d returned to grad school that year and needed to scale down my Christmas gift-giving in reflection of a tighter budget in a city with a might higher cost of living. That year for Christmas, I gave many small gifts- among them were small felt Christmas tree ornaments I’d cut from various shades of wool felt, stiffened slightly using cornstarch (instructions for stiffening felt here), added a twine tie for hanging, and sprinkled with essential oils.
This isn’t a complicated project- and wool felt in literally any shape can be used as an essential oil diffuser for home, office, car, gym bag, etc- but in this post, I’ll walk you through the simple steps of creating an autumn leaf-shaped felt diffusers- plus all the extra hints to make them look a cut above a typical DIY.
WOOL FELT – I really recommend 100% wool felt, it’s thick, breathable, and will really elevate the final project. 35% wool felt can work too, just be sure not to skip the stiffening step, as it adds body.
CORNSTARCH – Regular kitchen cornstarch, boiled into a thin paste, is needed for the optional but recommended step of stiffening the felt.
JUTE STRING – thin jute twine will be easier to work with and create a better final result than a thicker type.
For this project, you might even want to use my hand-drawn Christmas ornament template. Download the printable template below for free:
How to Make Felt Diffusers
1. Pre-Treat Felt to Stiffen (optional)
For easier cutting and longer-lasting crisply-cut felt edges, dunk your felt sheets in a stiffening bath prior to cutting out the shapes of your air freshener ornaments. Here’s a really good tutorial on this step, so I’ll skip describing it in detail.
2. Dry Felt
Let the felt dry flat. I like the final look a little better when I press the felt with an iron after the stiffener has dried. This creates an ultra-straight, uniform fabric.
3. Cut Shapes out of Felt
Pick your shape and cut out. If you are just doing a few or want a unique pattern, you can hand cut. For creating intricate patterns or for creating these in volume, you’ll definitely want to enlist the help of a Die Cutting Machine.
(PRO-TIP: if you live in a large urban area with craft co-op’s, like Seattle ReCreative, you may be able to use a die-cut machine and dies in a shared craft space for free!)
4. Embellish or Layer Each Felt Diffuser Cutout
You can leave your shape unembellished, stitch around the edges, or even needle-felt other colors of wool felt onto the cut shape.
If you’re using 35% wool and your diffusers are feeling a little thin, you can double them up. Two shapes stacked with a quick running stitch around the edge can create a more substantial diffuser.
5. Add Hanger to Cutout Felt Diffuser
Punch a hole near the top (or cut a tiny slit using the tip of very sharp scissors) and thread a length of string, twine, or jute. If you are making a huge batch of these, do yourself a favor and get a hammer-style hole cutter to make fast work of the batch.
I usually cut my twine for making hangers at 7″ long. If you’ll be hanging in your car, remember you might need to get it around the rearview mirror so you might want to wait to tie off the top until you are hanging it in your vehicle.
6. Add Essential Oil
At the last stage, I add essential oils. 2-3 drops create a strong enough scent for a small space like a small office or car. For these autumn leaves shaped diffusers I ended up ordering some cinnamon-scented oil after taking these photos- I just couldn’t stand the thought of peppermint-scented fall leaves!
A NOTE ON DISCOLORATION: Definitely spot test, but my experience is that most pure oils on most felts won’t leave a stain once the oil has diffused through the fabric (about an hour). If your oil appears to discolor the felt in places it’s sprinkled, try a different oil, a darker color of felt, or apply the oil using a spray bottle and a dispersing agent.
Thursday 11th of March 2021
How long will the scent last with 3 drops of essential oil?
Friday 12th of March 2021
I'm not sure- it probably depends on the concentration of your oil and how much fresh air moves through the area where you hang it.
Saturday 26th of September 2020
Will the felt mold over time from constantly adding oil?
Saturday 26th of September 2020
Great question! These diffusers will not mold unless it's in an extraordinarily humid environment without sunlight and fresh air.
Mold needs moisture to grow, and oil- even though it can fee wet- actually prevents mold by coating fibers with moisture-resistant oil molecules. If you use wool felt you'll have even more mold-prevention protection, as wool fiber is naturally mildly antibacterial, antimicrobial, and water-resistant thanks to the lanolin present in the fiber.