Storing Essential Oils
It’s warming up and people are asking us about storing essential oils.
This topic is important because proper storage can increase your oil’s shelf life, help it retain its full therapeutic value, and keep your family safe.
Properly stored essential oils can last for years (and a few such as sandalwood, vetiver, and patchouli can even improve with age), but most oils will eventually degrade with age as oxidation occurs. Citrus oils that have high levels of limonene are especially prone to oxidation—they typically have a shelf life of only one year.
The five key words to keep in mind when storing essential oils are Glass, Dark, Cool, Snug, and Safe. Let’s look at them one at a time.
Essential oils should always be stored in glass bottles, never in plastic. Undiluted essential oils can break down or even melt plastic containers. Our essential oils come in amber glass bottles, and you can buy extra bottles (in brown or blue) here.
Since carrier oils, lotions, shampoos, etc., contain lower concentrations of the essential oils, it’s fine to store them in plastic.
Ultra-violet light can damage the constituents of essential oils, so make sure the glass bottles you purchase and store your oils in are dark rather than clear. And while occasional exposure to light is okay, even essential oils in these dark bottles should never be stored in a spot like a windowsill where they may be exposed for long periods to direct sunlight. Instead, keep your essential oils organized in a dark and cool spot in your home. Many aromatherapists keep their oils in dedicated storage boxes, such the one we sell on the right. This is an easy way to have your oils organized in one place, dark, and safe from temperature fluctuations.
Although not as damaging as light, extreme heat can also affect the efficacy of your oils. A few hours in a hot car is not going to ruin most oils, but they'll stay potent longest if kept in a cool location. This is especially true for citrus oils, which (as mentioned above) have a shorter shelf life than most oils to begin with.
Some people keep their essential oils both dark and cool by storing them in their refrigerator. (The fridge is also a great place to keep balms and salves that can melt in the heat of summer.) Most oils stored this way can just be warmed in your hands for just a few minutes before using them, but some oils such as star anise, rose otto, and fennel contain natural waxes that can solidify in the fridge, so you may need to remove them and let them sit at room temperature for an hour to two before use.
Essential oils are volatile and will both evaporate and deteriorate if exposed to oxygen for too long. Oils can lose their aromatherapeutic value when this happens, and some can even then become skin irritants. So get in the habit of checking to be sure your oil’s cap is on nice and snug after each use. It’s especially important to do this if you have pets or children in your home.
As essential oils are becoming more popular, calls to poison control centers are increasing. The majority of these are cases of young children ingesting essential oils, which can be fatal, even in small amounts.
Please do not confuse natural with harmless. While the oils are extracted from plants, it takes many pounds of plant material to produce small amounts of the oils, so the potency of these oils is not what you’d find in nature. Children and pets are naturally curious and some oils have appealing scents, so treat all bottles of essential oils the same as you would medicine and store them safely out of reach. Essential oils are also flammable, so never leave them near candles, woodstoves, or other possible sources of ignition.
Summer is delightful here in the mountains of Asheville, NC, where we make our home. We are lucky to have access beautiful drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway (where this photo was shot) as well as cool, refreshing waterfalls, and quiet hikes in the woods. We hope you have a safe and sun-filled summer full of wonderful adventures wherever you live.