How Long Do Essential Oils Last? What You Need To Know

A woman smelling essential oil.

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Essential oils are quickly becoming the go-to solution for anything from common colds to anxiety. They're also a great way to add some critical creativity into your life. The only thing you have to be concerned about is how long do essential oils last?

There are varying durations for multiple types of essential oils. For instance, citrus essential oils like lime and lemon last from 1-2 years. On the other hand, citronella and thyme can last from 3 to 4 years when stored correctly and in a climate-controlled environment.

Do Essential Oils Expire?

When you buy essential oils, there is typically a “best before date” on the bottle. But, how long are essential oils good for after that? When do essential oils expire or spoil and lose their potency?

The general answer to this question depends on how the oil was distilled.

There are some distillation methods where it's hard for oxidation to happen. You may not have been told, but there is a shelf life for essential oils! While they are all-natural and excellent products to use in your home or on the go, some last longer than others.

Essential oil enthusiasts often hear that their favorite pure product does not expire because it's an organic product. However, this couldn't be farther from the truth. Every year, new batches of these come out with different expiration dates, so you'll never know when yours will run out until it's too late!

How Do You Know If Your Essential Oil is Expired?

Essential oils and flowers

There are a few different ways to tell if your essential oil is past its expiration dates. One way would be to smell it like most people do when they go into their storage areas. A good indicator of degradation is the aroma.

Suppose you smell an essential oil that doesn't have a robust and rich scent or smells different than it should. In that case, this could indicate oxidation or expiration and can lead to diminished medicinal efficacy in some cases.

Those who work with oils professionally (or at home) need to keep up-to-date on their knowledge about essential oil safety when they are expired and what they might look like once oxidized so that problems don't arise down the line.

Essential oils are made of organic molecules that tend to separate and become cloudy as they oxidize or expire, especially citrus essential oils. This is why you need to check the color and clarity against your spec sheet before use!

Common Reason Essential Oils Expire

Essential oils are fragile and need to be protected from light, heat, or oxygen. When you open a new bottle of essential oil for the first time, it starts changing—oxidation occurs when exposed to air, changing its composition over time.

Amber-colored bottles provide better protection against ultraviolet light than clear ones that let in more UV rays keeping essential oils fresh longer! 

However, essential oils can break down quickly if not properly stored, so make sure they're out of direct sunlight at all times and keep them away from an area where there's any possibility of significant temperature fluctuations, such as windowsills or heating vents, etc.

What is the Average Shelf Life of Essential Oils?

Essential oil bottles with orchid and mortar and pestle

Since there are different types of essential oils, the expected shelf life will depend on the specific product. However, the general rule is that you should replace your essential oil after about 6 months. 

However, this can vary depending on how often it's used and if it's a cold-pressed or synthetic oil. Take a look at some single oils and their extended shelf-life duration.

1-2 Years

2-3 Years

3-4 Years

4-5 Years

6-8 Years

  • Orange Blood
  • Orange Sweet
  • Tangerine
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Mandarin
  • Grapefruit Pink
  • Black Pepper
  • Chamomile German
  • Bergamot
  • Cypress
  • Rosemary
  • Saro
  • Frankincense
  • Balm Mint Bush
  • Citronella
  • Coriander Seed
  • Eucalyptus Dives
  • Fennel Sweet
  • Star Anise
  • Thyme Thymol
  • Allspice
  • Peppermint
  • Turmeric CO2
  • Ylang Ylang
  • Clove Bud
  • Blue Cypress
  • Cedarwood
  • Palmarosa
  • Buddha Wood
  • Patchouli
  • Sandalwood Australian
  • Sandalwood Indian
  • Vetiver

How Do You Extend the Essential Oil Shelf Life?

Flower, mortar, and essential oils

You'll be amazed at how many essential oils you've collected over time. It's easy to let them sit in a corner and become forgotten, but some simple guidelines will help make the most of each bottle! 

Essential oils can feel delicate sometimes. However, with proper storage methods, they should last as long as possible during their lifetime. A few tips include the following:

1. Keep them in a cool, dark place away from sunlight.

Dark and cool places in your room or your kitchen are perfect for keeping the essential oils fresh. Store them in a dark glass bottle or jar as well, best with a tight seal to keep out light and air that can cause oxidation. 

You should also store essential oils at room temperature (or cooler), and don't place them next to a stove or on top of the radiator!

2. Store the essential oil bottle upright with the cap on tightly.

This will help avoid leaks and provide an airtight seal to prevent bacteria from growing inside of it. If you notice that there's condensation build-up around your essential oil bottles or they appear murky, it's time to clean them. 

If you see a change in color or consistency of the liquid, throw away any unused portion and recycle the bottle if possible.

3. Use small containers if possible.

Another way to preserve the vitality of your essential oils is by using appropriately sized containers for the amount you will be storing. This might seem like an obvious rule, but it's one that often goes ignored and can help minimize oxidation when exposed to oxygen-less frequently.

Next time you buy a large batch of essential oil, make sure to transfer them into smaller bottles. This could even involve proportioning out specific quantities if there are only so many uses in each container!

4. Don't go for the dropper caps as lids.

The dropper caps on essential oils can break down and transfer bacteria to the bottle, ruining your expensive purchase. To altogether avoid this problem, it's vital to use a new pipette or dropper for each oil you are using and make sure that they do not touch any other liquids in between uses.

Tell-Tale Signs Pure Essential Oils are Going Bad

Woman smelling her essential oil bottle

Aroma can be a tricky thing. Some essential oils like limonene-containing citrus oils that smell too strong alone need to have the scent of oxidation lessened for them not to overwhelm other ingredients or your senses as well.

How can you tell if your essential oil is oxidized? 

It will start to smell like vinegar. Other signs are that the oil begins to feel sticky or becomes cloudy instead of clear. If any of these things happen, then throw out the bottle and get a new one!

Sometimes, an oil's color will change to a vibrant green shade when exposed to sunlight, like peppermint and chamomile. Others may thicken with time or become more viscous. For example, lavender oil is a go-to for many people to soothe skin and ease headaches, but it can cause irritation or allergic reaction when used on the skin in its oxidized state.

How Do You Get Rid of Expired Essential Oils?

Essential oils in small bottles

Essential oils depending on their use, can affect your skin or affect your health. Therefore, it’s critical to know how long they're suitable for so that you can get the most out of their benefits.

Some pure essential oils are best if used within a year or two, while others could last up to five years. However, if you need to dispose of essential oils in your home that have gone bad, consider a couple of these situations.

1. Consider Proper Hazard Waste Management

Essential oils are a little dangerous to handle because they're flammable, but you should use protective gear and avoid excessive inhalation of vapors. For disposal, small spills can be wiped up with paper rags and tossed into a metal container that's sealed shut.

Check with your city/county/municipality to see how you can properly dispose of essential oils. The rules and regulations may differ from place to place, so ensure that you are up-to-date on what the area requires for disposal.

2. Use it as a Cleaning Substitute

Tea tree oil is the ultimate solution for fighting off nasty bacteria that threaten your family's health. The antibacterial, antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiviral mixture has been found to effectively ward off viruses such as influenza or norovirus while also preventing them from coming back up in a matter of hours.

Lavender is a beautiful way to add fragrance and cleanliness. It boosts mood, has antibacterial properties, and it's also safe for children. They're great for cleaning mattresses and couches, making for an excellent addition to any household cleaning routine of both kids and adults alike.

3. Evaporate them Using Baking Soda

Put a bowl of baking soda in your garage or shed and drop all the oil dirty clothes you can find. The next time you use an old shirt, it will smell like clean laundry because baking soda is good for getting rid of sour smells on the cloth.

How Dangerous is it to Use Expired Essential Oils?

Essential oils with dropper and flower

Certain types of pure essential oils can have a severe effect on human health. Lavender is one of the safest types, but some oils that are high in camphor can cause skin and eye irritation. Avoid using any expired essential oil to avoid health risks.

Oxidation is one of the biggest threats to essential oil safety and can lead to spoilage. Spoilage means that your oil has been contaminated or altered somehow, such as through light exposure, which may cause irritation or sensitization like skin rashes and burns, among others.

Conclusion

Essential oils can be used for a period that varies from one type to another. In general, essential oil shelf life is about two years if stored properly in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and heat sources. 

Did you like our pro tips for keeping an essential oil bottle? Let us know in the comments which one sparked your interest.

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