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What is an Atomizer?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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An atomizer is a device that converts a stream of liquid into a fine spray. These devices are used in the perfume and pharmaceutical industries, as well as in kitchens and for cleaning supplies. Most people use an atomizer of some form or another at least once a day, although it might be known by another name. Squirt bottles, inhalers for medications, cooking sprays, and perfume bottles which emit a mist all fall under this definition.

There are several components in an atomizer. The first is a bottle containing the substance to be turned into a spray. A tube is designed to fit into the bottle and connect to a nozzle. When someone wants to use the device, they can squeeze a bulb or depress the top of the nozzle to create a flow of air across the nozzle, which pulls the liquid up the tube and through the tip. As the liquid passes through the nozzle, a screen causes it to disperse in a fine spray.

Typically, these devices are used to dispense something in small, controlled amounts. An atomizer for medical use is probably the most precise type, because it is designed to deliver a metered dose of the medication to the patient. Other are less exact, but they still dispense far less material than other delivery methods, such as pouring the material from an open topped bottle.

When used for perfume, an atomizer creates a light, even spray that covers a reasonably large area. As a general rule of thumb, perfume should not be smelled by anyone except the person wearing it, or people who are in very close physical proximity with that individual, so applying it in this way helps to dispense a small amount so that the wearer is not drenched in it. Perfume spray bottles are often made from glass and other ornamental materials, so that they are decorative as well as functional, and many are available at some specialty stores.

In cooking, spray bottles are extremely useful for dispensing small amounts of ingredients. Cooking oils can come in a can that dispenses a fine spray that will cover a cooking pan; other ingredients come in similar bottles or cans so that cooks can add a dash of flavor to a dish. Bartenders sometimes use atomizers to add a faint flavor to a drink without overpowering it. Many companies sell tools designed for the kitchen that can be filled by consumers with a substance of choice.

When purchasing a substance that comes in an atomizer, shoppers may want to see if the bottle can be refilled. Many cleaning supplies, for example, come in such bottles, as well as in bulk containers. Since the spray bottles are more expensive, an individual may want to refill it from a bulk container and reuse it, rather than purchasing a new bottle every time. This also helps to reduce waste, and is better for the environment. In the case of medications, atomizers are usually part of a throwaway package, so that they will not become contaminated with substances which could hurt patients.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By wecallherana — On Jul 28, 2010

Many different things have atomizers attached. Think about air freshener sprays and even things like glass or an all purpose cleaner. These all make a liquid in a bottle turn into a finer mist which makes cleaning a lot, well, cleaner. Imagine having to dump Windex on your windows every time rather than being able to spray it.

By abiane — On Jul 28, 2010

@win199 - I see where you're coming from. I think you mean any normal fragrance that comes in a bottle has a specific means of atomizing a perfume from liquid to spray. While perfumes are still technically a liquid, the purpose of the atomizer isn't to turn it into a gas and most people don't realize this.

By win199 — On Jul 28, 2010

@doppler - Atomizers might have been used a lot back then in movies, but they are still used today to create unique perfume bottles. I think Britney Spears has an atomizer in one of her recent scents. Many people don't think of these things, but even the normal perfume bottles have an atomizer built in to the construction of the bottle.

By doppler — On Jul 28, 2010

Atomizers were big in old black and white movies made in the late 30s and 40s. You often see the diva or leading lady of a movie using one back in her bedroom when getting ready for a big date or being just plain awful. Mommy Dearest comes to mind, but I'm not sure she ever used one in that movie.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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