Where Do You Store Your EOs?
This week I have been thinking about the best way to store my essential oils. My collection is growing and I often wonder if I am storing them in the best way possible. Typically, I just keep them in a lovely little cabinet that is dedicated to my oils. As fond as I am of this little storage unit, I am considering relocating them to a better place that will help protect them and extend their shelf life.
Do you have a collection of oils? Are you concerned about using them up before they expire? You might be able to extend the shelf life of your oils by making some small changes. Essential oils are not cheap and doing what we can to ensure they last longer would be great for the pocket book and the environment.
So, this week’s article is all about essential oil storage. 🙂
Do Essential Oils Expire?
In the past I was never really concerned about my essential oils expiring. This is probably because I use them up quite fast! I love my oils! Now that my collection is expanding, I felt it was time to find out the best way to store them to keep them as long-lasting as possible.
There are three main external elements that can change an essential oil. Before getting into that, it’s important to understand that each essential oil has a specific chemical formulation, and it’s these formulations that determine the benefit we receive. If we change the formulation, then we change the effectiveness of the oil.
In a nutshell, exposing essential oils to external elements will break down our oils. If we expose our EOs to damaging external elements we can assume they would expire quickly. If we care for and protect our oils then they will last longer. So, it is a little difficult to pinpoint an exact expiry date so to speak, however there are some general guidelines that I will share below.
So what are the three outside forces that can change our essential oils and what can we do to keep our oils in the best condition possible?
Three External Elements that Can Change Our Oils are….
Oxygen, sunlight and heat! Yes, exposing essential oils to these three elements will change their chemical makeup.
Exposing essential oils to oxygen can change the chemical composition of our oils. I know it is downright impossible to protect the oil from some exposure as we have to actually open the bottle to get to that precious oil, right? If essential oils are exposed to oxygen then the chemical composition changes. Always be sure to replace the lid and ensure it is closed tightly as soon as you are finished using it.
When the amount of essential oil in a bottle is getting low, consider transferring the remaining oil to a smaller bottle to decrease the amount of oxygen in said bottle.
Exposure to sunlight can cause essential oils to oxidize. To avoid deterioration and protect the therapeutic and aromatic properties of your essential oils, store them in dark glass bottles. Amber and cobalt blue glass are fairly common. You may have also seen essential oils in green and violet bottles as well. Clear glass bottles are not harmful to essential oils, however they do not protect the oils from the damaging sunlight.
What about plastic bottles? Plastic, regardless of the colour, should generally be avoided. Some essential oils can break down the chemical composition of certain types of plastic leading to a change in the chemical structure of your essential oils. This doesn’t sound good!
Keep your oils out of direct sunlight. You may be tempted to keep them on your bathroom counter or in another location for convenience or aesthetic purposes, but its best to keep them in a closet or inside a drawer. Sunlight can cause oils to oxidize within just a few months. Every oil is different and oxidization times vary, but as a general rule avoid the sunlight.
The ideal place to keep your essential oils is in a cool, dark, dry place with a well-regulated temperature. This brings us to the third element that may change the chemical composition of our oils. Heat.
Over time, most essential oils will oxidize. Heat promotes oxidization and once it starts it’s difficult to stop. According to Robert Tisserand however, oxidization is a very slow process – it takes months.
Robert TisserandSo if you accidentally leave your oils in a hot car for a few hours, don’t worry-they will still be fine. And changing temperatures either way does not bother them, so long as they are cool most of the time.
It seems to me if you live in a cool climate then your oils are probably fine to leave in a dark, dry, cool area of your house. I have not had any issues with my essential oils. I do however go through oils relatively fast, and I live in a generally cool environment (Canada). With all that being said, Robert Tisserand does suggest keeping your oils in the refrigerator.
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According to Mr. Tisserand, the temperature of most refrigerators are great for essential oils. He says oils can be kept in the freezer too but the additional cooling won’t bring much added benefit.
If you do choose to keep your oils in the fridge there are a couple of things to consider:
- Some food may start to taste like essential oil. To avoid this from happening keep oils in a container. A plastic container with a snug fitting lid would work nicely or store in bags that can be sealed.
- Essential oils can become progressively more viscous
when placed in a fridge. This won’t noticeably affect most oils however, some may be slower to pour. If you need to slightly warm up an essential oil in order to use it, hold the bottle in your hands for a few minutes, this should do the trick!
Keeping your essential oils in a fridge is probably a good idea for everyone providing you have the space to do so. If you lack space in your kitchen fridge, you may want to consider purchasing a smaller fridge for your oils.
Refrigerated EO Shelf Life Recommendations
Here are some general guidelines for refrigerated essential oils as per Robert Tisserand:
- Citrus, Neroli, Lemongrass, Frankincense, Tea Tree, Pine and Spruce oils: 1-2 years
- Virtually every other essential oil: 2-3 years
- Sandalwood, Vetiver, Patchouli: 4-8 years
For non-refrigerated essential oils, in warm climates, it is recommended to cut these timelines in half. Considering the shelf life and how quickly you use your oils, you may want to consider storing some, if not all, of your oils in your fridge. My Citrus essential oils are certainly going to be stored in my fridge from now on! Their shelf life seems pretty short and I just purchased a large bottle of Lemon not too long ago. 🙂
How Can You Tell if an Essential Oil has Oxidized?
Essential oil oxidization is a slow process, and it may not be easy to identify at first. You may notice it when you purchase a new oil, the aroma is fresher. This is good to know when smelling a tester bottle in a store; these bottles are constantly being opened and exposed to the air. Many tester bottles are probably well on the road to being oxidized. Any bottle that is sealed will have a fresher scent.
When citrus oils oxidize, they can appear cloudy. Personally, I would toss any oil that looked like this, but apparently it’s possible to save a portion of the oil for further use. It occurred to me as I was writing this article that it would be difficult to identify an oil (visually) that has started to oxidize as they are generally sold in dark glass bottles….right? So, if you are concerned that an oil may have started to oxidize (and you desire to save as much as possible). I would suggest pouring the oil in question into a clear bottle to check for cloudiness. If you see discoloration, let bottle sit for several hours to allow sediment to settle to bottom of bottle. Use a clean pipette to transfer the good oil out. As I said, I think I would just toss out the entire bottle.
I hope this article has been informative and helpful. I learned a few things about essential oil storage. As I said, I think I will definitely be storing my citrus oils in the fridge from now on. If I can extend the shelf life as long as possible this is a positive thing!
I love learning about essential oils and I truly enjoy the process of writing and sharing the information I have collected with you. If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear from you. Take a moment and use the box below to leave your thoughts!
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Have a fantastic day and stay happy and healthy!
Angela (Founder of Your Aromatherapy Store)
Essential oils are very potent. If you are currently taking any prescribed medication speak to your doctor before using essential oils. Some oils are not recommended for children. Some oils are not recommended if you are pregnant or nursing. Essential oils are considered “complementary and alternative medicines” and are not a substitute for professional medical intervention and advice. If you are experiencing severe physical or mental illness contact a medical professional. This information is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.