Shelf Life of Essential Oils: Do They Expire?

Shelf Life of Essential Oils Wondering about the shelf life of your essential oils? Specifically, do essential oils expire? Read on my friend!

So you’ve purchased your first bottle of essential oil. Yay! Welcome to the club! Right about now you’re taking in the whole scent. Wondering just how you’ve gone all these years without having amazing aromas around you!

On that note, you may be wondering a few things too. Because essential oils are so concentrated, some recipes only require 1-2 drops. A 5ml bottle of essential oil could last years depending on how often you use it! So you may be thinking, “How long can I keep my oils?” and, “Do essential oils expire?”

The quick answer is yes, they do, but they can last years before that happens. The range of time can vary widely based on the properties of the oil.

Storage Conditions Matter

The storage conditions of the essential oils can also contribute to how long they keep. For the best conditions, most oils should be kept at or just below room temperature and away from light. It is ideal to have an orifice reducer at the opening of each bottle. This not only helps control the amount of liquid coming out, but it protects the essential oil from light and the air to a certain degree.

Always pay attention to several factors when using oils that are a few years old. If these don’t add up, you could be working with some materials that are past their due date!

3 Clues Your Essential Oils May Be Expired

1.    Color- If an essential oil seems to look different in color or has any solid masses floating in it, that is probably a sign your oil is no longer fit to use.

2.    Odor- If the odor changes or is not as strong as you remember it, the essential oil could be breaking down and losing efficacy.

3.    Production date- Since your essential oil bottles won’t have an expiration date, you may want to check the GCMS reports (we’ll get to those in a minute) from the batch of essential oil you bought to see when it was produced. This won’t give you an exact expiration date, but if you know when it was made you can estimate how long it will be viable. Especially if you have a handy dandy table like the one I provided for you (you’re welcome!) at the bottom of the post.

Keep those things in mind when using essential oils, especially when putting them in a blend or product with other carrier oils. Any ingredients that are water-based drastically reduce the shelf life. These products are typically good for about 1-2 months.

Back to GCMS reports

How can you use GCMS testing when looking at the authenticity of essential oils? GCMS stands for Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry. It’s fancy scientific testing that literally breaks down your essential oil! The report is a list of the chemical compounds and their amounts in that bottle of oil. Pretty cool huh? Then you compare that to the standard report for that essential oil.

If the amounts of each compound are similar, you probably have pure essential oil from a botanical source.  If not, you may have an oil that could be going bad or contains contaminants or fillers. While it is good at identifying adulterations, the GCMS cannot detect pesticides. Moreover, it cannot tell you if each compound is natural or man-made. As you can see, these reports are limited. But, when used with other types of analysis, can be helpful for quality control.

For more in depth science information on this topic check out this very thorough article from the Tisserand Institute.

Sign up for our Subscriber Library at the bottom of our home page for access to a free PDF table on how long some common oils will last based on their chemical properties. They really do vary greatly, with some of the citrus oils, like Lemon, lasting 1-3 years. While others that are usually base notes, like Vetiver, can last upwards of 6-8 years. Definitely good to know!

**Note: This table is not all inclusive. Depending on the actual amounts of each chemical compound in that particular batch (they can vary slightly based on environmental factors), your essential oil may go bad sooner or later than these estimates. Contact your vendor to check the GCMS reports if available!



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