Atomizer, Cartomizer, and Clearomizer: What’s the Difference?

The wild world of vaping can be a bit overwhelming to the uninitiated. With all sorts of different hardware, blend options, and jargon, it’s easy to get lost. Today, we are going to tackle one of the most confusing areas of vaping. What is the difference between an Atomizer, Cartomizer, and Clearomizer? By the end of this blog-post, we are hoping that you will have a better understanding of the three, so that you will be able to make an informed decision when it comes time to buy! So let’s get started:

How They All Work

All electronic cigarettes have an atomizer of some sort. Both Clearomizers and Cartomizers utilize an atomizer to vaporize e-liquid. The main difference between the three is how your e-liquid is delivered.

That being said, all atomizers have a minimum of two posts: one positive and one negative. These posts are connected by a coil that is attached to a wicking element such as silica or cotton (though some coils are now made out of an absorbent ceramic material). When you apply e-liquid to the wicking material, it is absorbed through the process of osmosis, keeping the material saturated until all the e-juice has been used up.


An atomizer is a device for emitting water, perfume, or other liquids as a fine spray. For vaping, this is the device that turns the e-liquid into the vapor or clouds for inhalation. The majority of the vaping community refers to rebuildable dripping atomizers (RDA) or simply rebuildable atomizers (RBA).  This system of e-liquid delivery takes a little extra work to operate, due to the fact that the user must either learn to wrap their own coils or purchase pre-wrapped coils. RDAs also require the user to  carry a bottle of e-liquid for re-saturation of the wick after about 5-10 drags from there vape.  The advantage of using a RDA/RBA lies in taste optimization, and a more convenient method of switching flavors, without needing to empty out your tank.

Atomizer Examples

Four different styles of atomizers


A cartomizer is a is a basic type of atomizer that often comes in a longer case. They can be described as “extended atomizers.” The main design consists of a single metal wire inside a metal tube that is surrounded by an artificial filler know as polyfill. This polyfill ensures that the coil is always surrounded by e-liquid. More often then not, cartomizers are found in one-and-done style e-cigs. Think cheesy imitation cigarettes, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Cartomizers are refillable. However, the effort involved in refilling and lingering flavor issues have made cartomizers obsolete in today’s vaping industry.

Cartomizer example

An example of a typical cartomizer-style vape pen


Last but definitely not least, we have Clearomizers. A clearomizer is a tank that houses your replaceable/disposable pre-built atomizer. The tanks are made out of plastic or glass with most clearomizers consisting of four main parts. You have the mouthpiece (or drip tip), where you put your mouth to start inhaling. From there, you have the tank itself. This is where you will store your e-liquid, and I would personally recommend using a clearomizer with a glass tank to avoid the chance of some flavors cracking and ruining your tank. Then, you have the base. This screws onto the bottom of your tank, keeping the e-liquid contained inside the tank. The base also serves the purpose of holding your replaceable atomizer. An advantage of the base lies in the ease of coil-changing by unscrewing the used atomizer and screwing in a new one. Quick side note for new users: be sure to hold your tank upside down when changing coils to avoid spilling juice all over yourself. This is something I wish I had been told when I first started!

Clearomizer example

A basic Clearomizer


And that does it, vape fans! I hope you now have a better understanding of what an atomizer, cartomizer, and clearomizer are. I know the difficulty of trying to figure out all the different aspects of vaping, but luckily, you are in a great place to start! The Mt Baker Vapor team has put together a plethora of vaping information in easy-to-understand formats for our customers. Be sure to check out our other posts, and never hesitate to reach out to us if you feel lost or have questions. Until next we meet, vape on!

Andrew Figgs

Photography Major from Western Washington University . I joined MBV back in December 2014 and am happy to be working in an industry focused on helping others.

  • Elisabeth says:

    Been vaping for more than a year and a half. This is still a good read to refresh my memory! I can never seem to recall the difference between an RDA or RBA, maybe now it will stick. ?

  • teresastrasser3780@comcast.net says:

    Started out building Kayfuns and have been building my own stuff ever since. I hope I can get supplies after the FDA gets a hold on us. Might be a good idea to learn how to build because the FDA is coming. Learning to mix my own juice also. Going back to smoking is not an option !!!

    • Andrew Figgs says:

      It definitely wouldn’t hurt to learn how to build your own. We have a lot of great content on how to get started for those that are interested.

  • […] post Atomizer, Cartomizer, and Clearomizer: What’s the Difference? appeared first on Mt Baker […]

  • Junior says:

    I tried using RDA but it’s too much hassle, the only thing I fear with clearomizers is the health risk aspect of it I get paranoid and start thinking that I am vaping plastic wicks lol.

    • Josh Hanna says:

      The wicks are not plastic but the tanks are. You just need to be sure not have super citrus flavors in them so they do not crack.

  • Della Neil says:

    Thank you for the info! I’ve been vaping for about 4 years but have never really learned anything about the devices. Now, there are so many options available that I need info like this.

  • Tim Owens says:

    Thank you for the clarification and knowledge. I understand a lot more about vaping and delivery. Thank you.

    • Josh Hanna says:

      You are very welcome! We try to inform everyone about different things vaping. Even if people reading it only learn one thing, it is worth it to us 🙂

  • Steve says:

    Good to know

  • Ken C says:

    I remember when I first started vaping the terminology seemed pretty confusing. Nice little guide.

  • TAMMY MURPHY says:

    Very informative. I’m new to vaping and that made it so much easier to understand. Thanks

    • Josh Hanna says:

      Awesome! We are glad to hear this. We try to make sure everyone is informed. When we see we have helped educate someone, it makes it all worth it.

  • Mike D says:

    Very nice guide, always nice to learn something new.

  • Luke says:

    This is pretty interesting. I always noticed the different options when looking for a coil but I never really knew what it meant. Kinda awesome that you guys focus so much on education.

  • Mandy says:

    Thanks for the clarification on so many questions I have.

  • Robert says:

    This was very helpful.

  • […] of cartridges, Vaporfi Pro e-cigs use a cartomizer and atomizer together to produce the vapor. This has several benefits – it ensures that the […]

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