Essential oils can work miracles (like curing foot pain) and enhance your quality of life, but if they are not stored properly they can lose their effectiveness quite quickly. These oils are not cheap so it’s worth investing a little money and time to make sure they last.
Quite often, we are asked how to store essential oils. While there are many opinions on the best way to store essential oils circulating, all we can do is tell you our preferred methods and what has worked for us.
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What are essential oils?
Essential oils are compounds extracted from plants that retain the natural essence of that plant. These essential oils have various uses (i.e. using essential oils for massage) but can be dangerous in high concentration.
To learn more, check out our list of the best books about essential oils.
How long do essential oils last?
Unfortunately even the best smelling essential oils will go bad. How long the essential oil will last depends. It is difficult to predict the shelf life of essential oils because there are many variables to consider such as:
- Type of essential oil
- Freshness of the botanical used
- The oils chemical stability
- How it was distilled
- How it is stored and cared for
The only factor above that can be controlled by the consumer is the way that the essential oil is stored. Each essential oil is different but some when stored properly can last five or more years. Buying high quality essential oils and storing them properly will make a big difference in how long the oils last.
What causes essential oils to breakdown?
Since essential oils are made from various parts of plants and trees, they don’t last forever. Over time exposure to heat, light, and oxygen will breakdown essential oils and they will lose their effectiveness. An oil must be treated with care and respect to maximize its useful life.
How can you tell if essential oils are expired?
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if an essential oil has gone bad. It needs to be examined closely. Look for a change in the smell, viscosity, or color of the oil.
Tips for Storing Essential Oils
Many consumers do not care for their essential oils properly. If you want to preserve your essential oils, follow these essential oils storage tips:
- If possible, buy essential oils in small quantities and replenish when you need more.
- Don’t store essential oils in plastic containers since some oils will eat into, and in some cases, melt the plastic.
- To keep light out use a dark amber or cobalt glass bottle, I suggest something like these.
- Take any rubber droppers off when storing the essential oils. If possible use an orifice reducer instead. An orifice reducer is a small, clear insert inside the bottle opening that acts as a built-in dropper, and is usually made of a material that can withstand exposure to essential oils.
- Make sure the lid of the essential oil bottle is airtight. Close it securely as soon as you are finished using it and never leave the lid off for long periods of time. You want to minimize the exposure to oxygen and risk of evaporation.
- Store the essential oil glass bottles upright.
- Do not store the oils in direct sunlight. Ideally the oils should be stored in a dark place.
- Keep the essential oils cool (further clarification on temperature below)
- Once you have used half or so of the essential oil, decant it (use a funnel like this into a smaller bottle to protect them against oxidation.
- Be sure to keep the different essential oils labeled so that you know which one is which. Depending on the essential oil storage container used, it may be easier to put labels on the tops like these. If you prefer labels on the side of the bottle, these are pretty and waterproof.
- Keep the essential oils out of reach of children. If you store the oils in the refrigerator, children could mistake it for a drink. You may even want to consider a lock. Better safe than sorry!
- Essential oils are flammable, so it is important that they are stored away from heat and fire sources.
What temperature should essential oils be stored?
The ideal temperature for storing most essential oils is 40 - 50 ℉. If you have a small mini-fridge like this that you can dedicate to storing the oils that is ideal. If not, make sure that you put the essential oils in a wooden box with a lid or another type of sealed container before placing them in the refrigerator. This helps prevent the smells from co-mingling with other food and drinks.
Keeping the oils in a refrigerator will protect them from sunlight, reduce the chances of air exposure, and help keep the oil stable in the cooler temperature. Citrus oils are the most prone to oxidation so they need to be kept in the fridge. Massage and most carrier oils will also benefit from cold storage.
Don't be alarmed if some oils congeal or solidify at refrigerator temperatures. Just take the oils out of the refrigerator approximately 12 hours before you'll be using them so they have time to return to liquid state. This does not adversely affect the quality.
Can you freeze essential oils?
Yes. It is ok to put essential oils in the freezer, but in many cases it does little to extend the shelf life. Some essential oils will freeze into a solid state while others may not. Just be careful to defrost them at room temperature before using.
Best Essential Oil Storage
Now that you understand why it is important to store essential oils properly, it’s time to consider investing in the right essential oil storage products. I don’t recommend an essential oil rack because it doesn’t offer any protection against the elements that over time can damage the oils.
An essential oils storage box will assist in preserving the oils by protecting against light and providing a little insulation from extreme temperature fluctuations. It can also help keep your essential oil collection organized.
There are plenty of different storage containers on the market, so to help you narrow it down here are a few of our favorites:
This beautiful wooden two-tier essential oil box from MP is perfect if you have a large collection. It's designed to hold 85 5-15 ml bottles.
This essential oils case from Tress Wellness hold 70 5-15 ml bottles plus accessories. The inner pouch under the lid is perfect to store labels, pipettes,etc. As a bonus, the case comes with an essential oils bottle opener and sticker labels.
Tress Wellness is so confident that you will love their products that they offer a full guarantee. If for whatever reason you are not 100% happy with this purchase, just send them a message and they will send you a replacement or give you a refund.
If you are looking for a little bit of a smaller essential oils case, this one from Bes Chan can hold 42 5-20 ml bottles. It comes with DIY lace handwritten waterproof label stickers, bottle wrenches, and a key chain.
Sometimes you may want to bring essential oils along with you when you travel. Given the luggage restrictions, it’s not practical to take everything with you so a smaller essential oils carrying case is ideal. Bonus points if it's cute and instagramable.
See more essential oils travel cases available on Amazon here.
How do you dispose of expired essential oils?
Your older essential oils which can no longer be used on skin, can be used as cleaning products once diluted. Old essential oils that you are not going to use need to disposed of properly. Please don’t pour them down the drain as we don’t want it ending up in the groundwater.
It’s best to put a bowl of baking soda in the garage, dump your oils into it and let it evaporate. (Be sure to keep this out of reach of small children or pets.) Alternatively, take the expired oils to your local hazardous waste site (the same place that accepts old paint and other chemicals).
How to Store Essential Oils
Check out this video for helpful essential oil tips.
In summary, it’s important to minimize the exposure of the essential oils to light, heat, and oxygen. If you follow the proper protocols for storing essential oils it will increase the shelf life. It doesn’t make sense to spend money on high quality essential oils if you are not going to take care of them.
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