How Long Do Essential Oils Last? 3 Signs of Spoilage


Oily liquid essences with persistent and bright aromas are commonly referred to as essential oils. They are practically insoluble in water and have no color except for a slight tint. Unlike ordinary oils, essential oils don’t stain paper. This is because they are able to evaporate quickly even at room temperature. Aromatic oils are obtained from plant raw materials, which deteriorate over time. This means that to keep their therapeutic properties intact and avoid getting allergic reactions, you should learn more about the shelf life of the essential oils.

Essential Oils Storage 

The label of each product indicates the minimum shelf life. That’s how long it will last if you follow all the rules of oil storage. During this period, the manufacturer guarantees the high quality of the product and the maximum expression of its therapeutic properties. Another important thing to keep in mind is that the expiry date indicated refers to a bottle that hasn’t yet been opened. After the product comes into contact with oxygen, its shelf life becomes significantly shorter. 

Storage at low temperatures within the permitted thermal range helps to reduce the oxidation rate of most oils. The shelf life is also greatly affected by the quality of raw materials.

How long do essential oils last?

The shelf life of citrus oils (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, bergamot, petitgrain, tangerine, mandarin, bitter orange, blood orange, yuzu) in a closed bottle is 1 year. When the bottle is opened, they retain their properties for three to four months. If you detect a slight fishy smell, stop using them.

The shelf life of resin oils (frankincense, myrrh, elemi, palo santo) is 2 years.

Other oils are stored for an average of 2 to 5 years. Nevertheless, these terms are rather conditional. With proper storage, the shelf life increases, with improper storage, it decreases. Oils such as verbena, frankincense, sandalwood, benzoin, jasmine, vetiver, rose, neroli, sage, myrrh and patchouli might have no shelf life at all if stored correctly. Treat them right and they’ll only get better with time.

Freshly prepared aromatic blends and compositions will keep their therapeutic properties for about a week.

Carrier oils (almond, grape seed, coconut, jojoba, olive, etc.) must always be fresh. They should be used no longer than three to six months, depending on the oil. To preserve their freshness, store them in the refrigerator but don’t use them for cold massage.

Once an essential oil is added to a carrier, its shelf life is drastically reduced to just a few months. So prepare your products in small quantities assuming you must use them within three months or so.

Wheat germ oil can be added to aromatic blends to increase their shelf life (it’s a natural antioxidant). Jojoba oil also has good preservation characteristics, not to mention its amazing properties as a moisturizer.

The signs of essential oil spoilage

Before using a fragrant essence, consider the main characteristics of the product. Any change might be an indication that the oil has gone bad. We advise you to pay attention to the following signs:

  • Change in color and transparency: it’s become cloudy.
  • Change in aroma: it got unpleasant or less intense.
  • Change in texture: it has become sticky and dense.

All fresh oils are characterized by transparency and a pleasant aroma. If the original qualities are lost, the fragrance may diminish, disappear, or become unpleasant. Spoiled product becomes more viscous and stickier on the skin. If your oil is cloudy, it’s a good reason to dispose of it. Besides the fact they lose many of the properties they are valued for, expired oils can eb bad for health.

Can you safely use essential oils after the expiry date?

Considering the fact that some fragrant essences have practically no expiry date, one can assume they can be used even after they have expired according to the information on the label.

Is it true? On the one hand, yes. Many oils don’t spoil, and if they haven’t been opened throughout the shelf life but are opened after the expiry date, they are unlikely to be unusable.

But is it worth the risk? Not really. The fact is that oils that have already been bottled and have had minimal contact with sunlight or plastic lids cannot be perfectly usable.

And the reason for that is the oxidation process.

Why can oxidation be dangerous? The thing is it provokes unpredictable reactions, can cause allergies or mild burns. In rare cases, oxidation can even cause severe skin cancer.

This is why it’s better not to risk your health and to refrain from using expired oil. It’s also worth noting that essential oils can spoil even during their shelf life, in case they weren’t stored properly.  So you should always make sure that all your fragrant products are treated properly and haven’t gone bad.

How to store essential oils: a step-by-step guide

In reality, handling these seemingly delicate products isn’t as difficult as it might seem. The main thing is to take into account all the basic steps of the rules of storage.

Step 1: Choose the right essential oil

Before you buy the product, pay attention to its packaging. It should be in a dark glass bottle that doesn’t allow light to pass through. Also, it’s best to choose a product without a protective rubber band on the cap: rubber and oil shouldn’t come into contact.

Step 2: Always keep the bottle upright

Even if your glass container comes without the rubber band, the cap of the bottle will still be plastic. Try not to let the oil and the cap touch.

Step 3: Always close the cap tightly

The oil tends to evaporate quickly and oxidize on contact with the air. Try to minimize this risk.

Step 4: Keep the glass container away from water

Another enemy of essential oil is water. Don’t rinse the cap, don’t refill the bottle with water. Take care not to let it get there by accident.

Step 5: Observe the temperature

Essential oils should be stored in a cool and dry place. The ideal storage temperature is room temperature but it can range from -5 to +30°C. Citrus oils should be kept in a refrigerator, while resinous ones – in warm places (up to +40 °С), so that they don’t thicken.

Step 6: Keep your oils away from fire

Remember that these fragrant substances are highly flammable and shouldn’t be put near an open fire or even a heater.

Step 7: Keep aromatic blends out of the reach of children

Children are often unpredictable, so you shouldn’t store essential oils in an easily accessible place. Better yet, put them on the top shelf to avoid unpleasant consequences.

Essential oils storage rules

  1. If the essential oils haven’t been stored correctly, further use might lead to undesirable effects. Allergic reactions, itching, redness, and even skin burns are possible.
  2. The shelf life of the fragrant essences in a sealed container is 5 years or longer. But the product quickly loses its properties once the seal is broken, even if you keep the bottles tightly closed.
  3. Essential oil should be stored in an opaque glass container with a tight-fitting lid. This minimizes the interaction of the contents of the bottle with sunlight and other sources of light.
  4. The use of plastic and metal containers for storing these aromatic products is highly undesirable. Some of their active ingredients can react with metal and synthetic compounds. This leads to a change in their chemical composition and can even result in their toxicity.
  5. Normally, when these products are bottled, they are sealed with plastic caps. Containers should therefore be kept in an upright position to prevent the contents coming into contact with the cap.
  6. During use, the bottle shouldn’t be left open even for a short time, due to the high volatility of its components. Besides, interaction with oxygen leads to oxidation of the product, which significantly reduces its quality. For the same reason, the cap should always be screwed on as tightly as possible.
  7. Don’t keep the fragrant essences in large containers. The air space between the contents and the lid is a persistent oxidizing agent for the product. Therefore, it’s better to pour the remaining oil into a smaller container so that it is at least 93 – 97% full.

The shelf life of essential oils can even be extended if you follow all the rules and recommendations for their storage. It’s important to keep an eye on all the properties of these products. If signs of a spoiled substance are detected, you should know not to use it. Improper storage and use, on the contrary, leads to a shortened shelf life. If you follow the tips and tricks above, you can enjoy these amazing essences for a long time.

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