HOW TO STORE ESSENTIAL OILS TO MAXIMIZE OIL LIFE
THE IMPORTANCE OF PROPERLY STORING ESSENTIAL OILS
The shelf life, quality, beneficial properties, and safe use of an Essential Oil depends largely on the way in which it is stored. When kept in the proper vessel and at the proper temperature, an Essential Oil can achieve its maximum shelf life with a conservative estimate of at least one year. On the more liberal end of the scale, properly cared-for Essential Oils may even last for ten years or longer, depending on the type of oil and the storage conditions
DO ESSENTIAL OILS EXPIRE?
Eventually, all Essential Oils will expire and become unsafe to use, thus correct storage and appropriate handling are advantageous to all oils. The quality of an oil begins to progressively decline with the process of oxidation, which causes them to lose their aromas as well as their nourishing benefits. On a more encouraging note, Essential Oils do not all degrade at the same rate; while Essential Oils from citrus fruits are known to oxidize faster than all others – expiring and losing their scents and benefits as early as six months after being opened – Essential Oils with earthy or woody aromas, such as Patchouli and Sandalwood, tend to smell even better with maturity, taking much longer before beginning to weaken in potency and aroma; thus an oil’s lifespan may fluctuate greatly depending on the quality of the source botanical and the harvest, the extraction method and the conditions under which the oil is distilled, the batch/lot, storage and handling of the oil when it is first received by both the supplier and the customer, and the manner in which the supplier bottles, stores, and handles the oil.
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF ESSENTIAL OILS HAVE GONE BAD? WHAT DOES EXPIRED OIL SMELL AND LOOK LIKE?
There are four main ways to tell if an Essential Oil has deteriorated:
1) Its aroma has become stronger and likely unpleasant or it has weakened, depending on the oil
2) It has changed in color and has become darker, lighter, or even colorless, depending on the oil
3) It appears murky/foggy
4) It has thickened in consistency
There might be times when an oxidized Essential Oil will not exhibit the classic signs of deterioration, thus these are general guidelines. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that all oils be properly stored, handled, and used before they expire.
CAN YOU STORE ESSENTIAL OILS IN THE REFRIGERATOR?
Yes, Essential Oils can be stored in the refrigerator. This option is especially ideal for those who use their oils infrequently – for example, a couple of times a year.
CAN YOU STORE ESSENTIAL OILS IN THE FREEZER? IS IT ACCEPTABLE FOR ESSENTIAL OILS TO FREEZE?
Yes, Essential Oils may be stored in the freezer. If they freeze or form crystals that cause its appearance to become foggy, simply allow them to naturally return to room temperature before using them. The time it takes to “thaw” will depend on the oil and can range from minutes to several hours. Some crystallized oils can begin to liquify as the bottle is held in the hand and others may benefit from a warm water “bath” (placing the bottle in a bowl of shallow warm water). Whichever method is used, ensure that the bottle’s cap is kept on loosely, otherwise the valuable volatile constituents will quickly escape. If there is too little headspace in the bottle and the cap is left on tightly during heating, the Essential Oil will build up pressure in the bottle and, when the cap is removed, the oil will spray all over. Leaving the cap loosely on the bottle will help prevent this.
PLACES WHERE ESSENTIAL OILS SHOULD NOT BE STORED
Do not store Essential Oils in hot, bright, or humid areas, such as in the bathroom, near a stove, on a window sill or other sunny area, and any places where constantly shifting room temperatures might potentially cause the quality of the oil to deteriorate faster.
WHICH FACTORS INFLUENCE AN OIL’S SHELF LIFE?
Due to their flammable nature, Essential Oils should never be kept near open flames or any sources of heat or fire, such as sunlight, candles, and stoves. Leaving them vulnerable to high temperatures could lead to them reaching their unique flash points, which are the individual temperatures at which oils will ignite. Being frequently exposed often to heat will hasten an oil’s deterioration.
When oils are exposed to air/oxygen, they become oxidized and their volatile constituents begin to fade, which means their fragrances – among other qualities – fade. This is largely caused by the oil’s bottle cap being left open for long periods of time. To prevent or slow the processes of oxidation and evaporation, it is important that bottles remain capped when Essential Oils are not in use. Oxidized oils, while not suggested for topical use or aromatherapy, can still be used for other applications, such as household cleaning.
When Essential Oils are kept in sunlit areas, their properties will be negatively impacted, and these include their aromas, appearances, and general effectiveness. For this reason, Essential Oils are sold and stored in darkly-colored bottles (most commonly amber, although dark blue, green, violet, and black have also become popular) to prevent UV radiation from penetrating the bottle. Regardless of the dark color of the bottle, it is still best to avoid placing oils in direct sunlight, as the recurrent heating and cooling will facilitate the oils’ oxidation.
Moisture can enter oil bottles when they are left uncapped for an extended period, leaving the oils looking cloudy. The insides of the bottles will also form water beads. To reiterate, this can be prevented by keeping bottles capped.
HOW TO PROLONG SHELF LIFE AND KEEP TRACK OF OIL FRESHNESS
- Follow the oil company’s SDS documents or product pages, which outline handling and storage conditions.
- Do not store Essential Oils in direct sunlight; store them in cool, ambient areas.
- Prevent oxidation by displacing any oxygen in a bottle’s “head space” with Nitrogen, an inert gas that is heavier than oxygen and that does not react with any Essential Oil constituents.
- Make note of the date on which you buy an Essential Oil. This date can be marked on the product itself, either on the label or on the cap.
- Do not keep undiluted Essential Oils in dropper bottles, as the rubber will become gummy and spoil the quality of the oil.
- Ensure that the bottle cap is always screwed on tightly.
- Aim to keep Essential Oil bottles as full as possible; any empty space or “headspace” in the bottle is filled with oxygen, which can speed up the oxidation process. If necessary, transfer the oil into smaller containers that will be fuller.
- Do not insert any objects directly into the bottle; first, pour the necessary amount into/onto sterilized equipment, dilute, then apply as preferred.
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