Essential Oils Blog

Do Essential Oils Expire? Here’s the Scoop

When you think of something expiring, the thought of curdled milk or rancid juice may come to mind. Will the same thing happen to that precious bottle of Lavender Essential Oil you love to use so much? Not really. While they don’t “expire” in the way we usually think of that word, they do change, and it’s important to know what that means.

Unlike foods, there are no firm expiration dates for essential oils. But if you open up a bottle of Lemon from three years ago and expect it to smell and work the same way as it did originally, prepare for disappointment. That’s because there are three main things that can change the chemical composition of an essential oil: oxygen, heat, and light (check out THIS  blog for a more in depth look at how these can change your oils).

So don’t expect mold or mildew to start growing inside your bottle, but do expect some change.

Oils have a shelf life, which is recommended to make sure you are getting the most out of your essential oils. To better help you understand the topic of essential oil shelf life, we are happy to present a handy chart!

Plant Therapy Shelf Life Charts

Since it’s impossible to know under what conditions essential oils are stored and used, the times listed are approximate. To learn more about how proper storage can make a difference in the shelf life of your essential oil, check out this blog:

Proper Essential Oil Storage

Once the essential oil reaches you and you open the bottle, the clock starts ticking on shelf life! Keep these tips in mind to make sure you are getting the most out of your essential oils:

  • Colored bottles help keep the oil out of direct sunlight.
  • Keep your bottle capped tightly.
  • Keep it cool! The ideal temperature is 35-38 degrees fahrenheit, the temperature of most refrigerators. Keep the oils in a container (like a wooden box or plastic bag) unless you want your food to start tasting like your oils!
  • Some oils become thicker as they cool. This is totally normal! Just warm the bottle up in your hands for a moment to return it to a more liquid state.
  • You can tell if your oil has oxidized if it does not smell as fresh as it did originally.
  • Citrus oils can go cloudy. If this happens, let the sediment settle to the bottom of the bottle and use a clean pipette to transfer the good oil into a clean bottle.
  • Using a personal inhaler? Refresh it about every 3 to 4 months, since inhalers get frequent exposure to the air.

Interested in learning even more? This blog post from our colleague Robert Tisserand has done a masterful job of explaining this in his blog post Lemon on the Rocks: keep your essential oils cool.

6 thoughts on “Do Essential Oils Expire? Here’s the Scoop”

  1. Thanks so much for this article and the charts. I knew oils had a shelf life, but hadn’t found a source that had the shelf lives listed in a short and sweet source so easy to refer to. This is something to definitely add to my ever increasing reference notebook.

  2. I understand that heat, light, and oxygen can change the chemical composition of an oil, and therefore it may be less effective for certain uses. But are old/oxidized oils harmful to use at all? Either topically or diffusing?

    1. I’m not sure if it harmful but I once read a tip that said to use your old oils in cleaners & such… I thought that was a good idea to avoid wasting them.

      1. Using oils beyond their shelf life in a cleaner is a better option than topical use or diffusion however, there is still a chance that the oxidized constituents will irritate the skin or respiratory system. This can happen when the molecules spread in the air and land on exposed areas or when we inhale the cleaner.

    1. Hi Debra, refrigeration is certainly ideal, especially with oils that have a shorter shelf life like the citrus oils however, storing in a cool, dry, dark environment is most important. Essential oils can be stored in a cabinet that meets these requirements so long as it is not in an area where temperatures fluctuate drastically (i.e. bathrooms). I hope this helps!

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