Essential Oil Shelf Life and Storage
Essential Oil Shelf Life from the Time of Distillation
An important part of maintaining your essential oil collection is knowing the shelf life of each of your oils. Whether it is months or years, every oil has a shelf life. As oils age, they go through a process called oxidization. Oxidization can cause skin irritation as well as sensitization. This process begins when the oil is distilled; therefore, shelf life is determined by distillation date (year and month) and not when it is purchased.
At Aromatics International we ensure that an oil’s expected shelf life and batch distillation dates can be found on each oil’s description page. We also label the specific batch number on each bottle of oil so that you know exactly which batch that oil is from and can see when it was distilled (along with other specific info regarding that batch). With this information, you’ll be able to determine when the estimated expiration date will be for every one of the oils and carriers we carry.
As an example, here are a few of our oils and their respective shelf life:
1. Frankincense Oil (Boswellia carterii)
Shelf life: 3 years
2. Bergamot Oil (Citrus bergamia)
Shelf life: 4 years
3. Chamomile Roman Oil (Chamaemelum nobile)
Shelf life: 5 years
4. Lavender Oil (Lavandula angustifolia)
Shelf life: 6 years
5. Patchouli Oil (Pogostemon cablin)
Shelf life: 20 years
So, looking at the batches on each oil’s page, a bottle of Frankincense oil from batch FRK-118 that was distilled in June 2017 will expire in June 2020, whereas a bottle of Patchouli oil from batch PTC-106 that was distilled in November 2016 will not expire until November 2036.
Of course, there are factors that can change the expected shelf life of an oil. For example, if an oil is not stored properly, its shelf life can decrease significantly.
Essential Oil Storage
Proper storage is key to getting the full expected shelf life out of your oils. Exposure to light, heat, and air can accelerate the oxidization process. Here are a few simple guidelines for storing your oils properly:
- Store in a cool and dark location.
- Keep the bottles tightly closed.
- If a small amount of oil remains in a large bottle, transfer to a smaller bottle to reduce the risk of oxidization.
- Store essential oils in dark-colored glass bottles only. Carriers and carrier blends can be stored in PET plastic containers.
What To Do with Your Expired Oils
Have any oils that are expired or close to the end of their therapeutic shelf life? Don’t throw them away! Expired oils make wonderful oils for cleaning blends, such as kitchen and bathroom disinfectant sprays, etc.
Are you new to using essential oils in all-natural cleaning products? Read our learning guide, "Going green at home: natural cleaning with essential oils"
General Shelf Life from a Chemical Family Perspective
You can also get a good idea of how long an oil will be good for based on its chemical family. Here is a general shelf-life grouping based on the major chemical families.
- About 1-3 years - Monoterpene rich oils, Monoterpene/Oxide (cineole) rich oils, Monoterpene/ Aldehyde rich oils, Monoterpene/Monoterpenol rich oils.
- About 3-5 years - Monoterpenol rich oils, Monoterpenol/Ester rich oils, Ketone and Phenol rich oils (Phenols are closer to 3 years).
- About 6-8 years, or longer - Sesquiterpene rich oils, Sesquiterpenol rich oils.
If you would like to learn more, the Aromahead Institute offers a wealth of information regarding every aspect of essential oils and aromatherapy. You can check out their courses offerings HERE. Or if you are already a student, you can search for specific information, such as shelf life, within your classes.
The Aromahead Institute offers classes ranging all the way from their amazing (and FREE!) Introduction to Essential Oils class to the full Aromatherapy Certification Program that does require a tuition. If you’ve never visited their website before, we highly recommend it!