How to Make Lemon Essential Oil: 2 Methods


Lemon oil can be used in many different ways. To name a few, it can be used as a natural detergent and as a component of various skincare products. To make this citrusy essence yourself, you’ll need coconut or almond oil (grapeseed is also suitable) as a carrier product, a few fresh lemons, and a jar with an airtight lid. You can make it the quick way, on the stove. Or you can go the slower cold distillation way, which takes about 2 weeks. 

Things you’ll need

  • 5-6 fresh lemons
  • A peeler, a paring knife, or a grater
  • A steamer pot, a saucepan, or a regular pot
  • Water
  • Glass bowl
  • Strainer or gauze
  • A jar with an airtight lid
  • Any kind of carrier oil (coconut, grapeseed, or almond)

Making lemon essential oil by steam distillation

Step 1
Wash and dry 5-6 lemons. If there are paper labels on the lemons, remove them and wash the lemons with cold water. While washing, rub the lemons with a sponge or vegetable brush to remove pesticides and dirt. Afterward, dry the lemons with a kitchen towel or paper towel.

The lemons should be washed thoroughly to prevent pesticides from getting into the lemon oil.

Step 2

Peel the zest off the lemons with a vegetable peeler or a peeler knife. If you don’t have either, peel with a regular knife or grater. Fold the strips of zest into a bowl and set the bowl aside.

It’s the zest (the top yellow layer of lemon peel) that contains the essential oil. Try to cut off the zest in a thin layer, without capturing the white layer underneath.

Step 3

Bring half a pot of water to a boil, then reduce the heat. If you have a steamer pot, you can use it as well. If you don’t have a double pot, use a regular one. Fill the pot halfway with water, put it on the stove, and turn on high heat. When the water comes to a boil, turn down the heat to a low setting.

If you use a regular saucepan, keep in mind that a bowl must fit on top of it without touching the water.

The heat should be reduced so that the water stops boiling. It’s very important to set the burner temperature to the minimum so that the aromatic liquid doesn’t boil over.

Step 4

Put the zest in a bowl and add 1 cup (250ml) of coconut oil. If you are using a steamer, place the coconut oil and lemon zest in the top pot. If you have a regular pot or saucepan, put the oil and zest in a bowl that you place on top of the pan of boiling water.

You can use almond or grapeseed oil instead of coconut.

Step 5

Carefully place the bowl on top of the pan of boiling water and heat for 2-3 hours. Make sure the liquid doesn’t boil over. Wear oven mitts so you don’t burn yourself. 

Slow heating allows the fragrant essence to be extracted from the zest and then get absorbed into the coconut base.

Step 6

Allow the liquid essence to cool. Turn off the burner and remove the bowl from the pan. Wear oven mitts to prevent burning. Place the bowl on a table and cover it with foil or plastic wrap. Cool the oil to room temperature (for 2-3 hours).

Step 7

Strain the lemon oil through a strainer or gauze to remove bits of zest from it. If you’ve done it right, the lemon essential oil has blended with the carrier oil. Store it in a tightly sealed jar. This allows it to retain its properties for a longer time.

Step 8

Place the jar in a cool, dark place such as a refrigerator or cellar. Don’t put it in the freezer! The shelf life of this lemon oil is about one month so be sure to make it in small quantities and use it before it expires.

Making lemon essential oil by cold pressing

Step 1

Wash 5-6 lemons in cold water. Use a stiff sponge or vegetable brush under cold water. Remove any labels from the lemons. Wipe the lemons with a kitchen towel or paper towel. Lemons should be washed to remove dirt and pesticide buildup from them.

Step 2

Using a vegetable peeler, paring knife, or regular knife, peel the zest off the lemons. Stack the cut strips of zest in a jar with an airtight lid. You’ll need a jar of at least 500 ml.

Remember that you need to cut off the thin top layer of yellow zest – this is where the essential oils are contained.

Step 3

Pour 1 cup (250 ml) of carrier oil (almond, coconut, or grapeseed) into the jar with the zest. Make sure the liquid completely covers the zest. Close the jar tightly with a lid and shake.

Step 4

Place the jar on a sunny windowsill for two weeks and shake it daily. The lemon essential oil will gradually absorb into the carrier oil and gradually mix with it.

Step 5

Strain the oil over a bowl through a strainer or gauze to remove the zest. Discard the zest in a trash can.

Step 6

Store lemon oil in a cool, dark place for no longer than a month. Make sure the jar lead is tightly closed and never leave it open for a long time. 


Lemon essential oil is phototoxic. This means that if you use it as a part of skincare products, your skin might become more sensitive to UV radiation. Be sure to use sunscreen before going out in the sun.

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