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Essential Oils
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The Complete Guide to Storing Essential Oils: Preserving Potency and Prolonging Shelf Life

Updated: Oct 6, 2023


Essential oils have gained popularity for their various therapeutic benefits and versatile uses. These potent aromatic compounds require proper storage to preserve their potency, fragrance, and therapeutic properties over time. By understanding the factors that affect their quality and implementing the right storage practices, you can ensure that your essential oils remain effective and enjoyable to use for an extended period. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know about storing essential oils properly.


Row of amber essential oil storage bottles on a shelf

Understanding Essential Oils


Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts that capture the unique aromatic compounds of plants, providing them with distinct scents and therapeutic properties. These oils are obtained through processes such as steam distillation or cold pressing, which extract the beneficial compounds from various plant parts like flowers, leaves, bark, or seeds.


The concentration of these oils is incredibly potent, as it takes a large amount of plant material to produce a small quantity of essential oil. For example, it may take hundreds or even thousands of rose petals to produce just one drop of rose essential oil. This high concentration gives essential oils their powerful fragrance and therapeutic benefits.


However, it's crucial to understand that essential oils are volatile substances. Volatility refers to their ability to evaporate quickly when exposed to air or heat. This volatility is what gives essential oils their strong aroma, but it also means that they can degrade if not stored properly.


Factors Affecting Essential Oil Quality

Amber essential oil bottles in sunlight

To store essential oils effectively and maintain their quality, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of the factors that can degrade them. Exposure to light, heat, air, and moisture are the primary culprits that can cause deterioration and alter the chemical composition of essential oils, ultimately diminishing their therapeutic benefits.


Exposure to Light


Essential oils are sensitive to light, especially ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can accelerate the breakdown of the oil's constituents. To protect essential oils from light damage, it is recommended to store them in dark-colored glass bottles, such as amber or cobalt blue, which act as a barrier against harmful UV radiation. These tinted bottles help to filter out the damaging light and maintain the stability of the oils.


Exposure to Heat


Heat is another significant factor that can negatively impact the quality of essential oils. High temperatures can cause the volatile compounds in the oils to evaporate quickly, leading to a loss of their aromatic and therapeutic properties. It is essential to store essential oils in a cool environment away from direct sunlight and heat sources, such as radiators, stoves, or windowsills. Exposing the oils to excessive heat can result in the degradation of their chemical constituents, reducing their effectiveness.


Exposure to Air


Air exposure plays a crucial role in the degradation of essential oils through a process known as oxidation. When essential oils come into contact with oxygen, they can undergo chemical reactions that alter their composition. This oxidation process not only reduces the oils' therapeutic benefits but can also lead to the formation of potentially harmful byproducts. To minimize air exposure, it is vital to ensure that the storage containers are tightly sealed after each use. Using bottles with built-in orifice reducers or droppers can help control the amount of air entering the bottle during dispensing.


Exposure to Moisture


Moisture is a factor that should be carefully considered when storing essential oils. Essential oils are hydrophobic, meaning they repel water. However, if exposed to moisture, such as high humidity or accidental water contamination, essential oils can be compromised. Water can introduce impurities into the oil, leading to bacterial growth or chemical reactions that alter the oil's properties. It is best to store essential oils in a dry environment and avoid storing them in areas with high humidity, such as bathrooms or kitchens.


Oxidation is a significant concern when it comes to storing essential oils. The chemical changes that occur during oxidation not only affect the aroma of the oils but also diminish their therapeutic qualities. By understanding the factors that contribute to oxidation, such as light, heat, air, and moisture, you can take appropriate measures to protect your essential oils and extend their shelf life. Proper storage in a cool, dark place, tightly sealed containers, and minimizing exposure to air and moisture are key practices to ensure the longevity and efficacy of your essential oils.


Choosing the Right Storage Containers

2oz Amber glass dropper bottle for essential oils

Selecting the right storage containers is of utmost importance when it comes to preserving the quality and integrity of essential oils. Dark-colored glass bottles, specifically amber or cobalt blue, are widely considered the best choice for storing essential oils. These dark hues provide optimal protection against light, particularly harmful UV rays, which can degrade the oils over time. These bottles are available on our shop page in various sizes, ranging from small vials to larger containers, allowing you to store different quantities of oils according to your needs.



Proper Handling Techniques

Woman handling essential oils with a dropper and amber bottle

Proper handling of essential oils is crucial to maintain their integrity. Use clean droppers or pipettes to extract the oil from the bottle, and avoid touching the dropper or bottle opening with your fingers to prevent contamination. Always remember to close the bottle tightly after use.


Essential Oil Shelf Life


Each essential oil has a specific shelf life that depends on its chemical composition and storage conditions. Citrus oils generally have a shorter shelf life compared to others. It's important to be aware of the shelf life of your oils and use them accordingly to avoid using expired or rancid oils.


Essential Oil Storage Do's and Dont's


Follow these essential oil storage do's and dont's for optimal preservation:

  • Do store essential oils in dark glass bottles away from heat and light.

  • Don't store essential oils near open flames or heat sources.

  • Do label your bottles with the name and date of purchase.

  • Don't store essential oils in plastic or clear glass containers.

  • Do keep essential oils out of reach of children and pets.

  • Don't store essential oils in the refrigerator.


Traveling with Essential Oils


Traveling with essential oils requires additional consideration. Pack your oils in a sturdy, leak-proof case to prevent spills and protect them from sunlight and extreme temperatures. Keep in mind any travel regulations regarding liquid volumes and carry-on restrictions.


Reviving and Disposing of Expired Essential Oils


If you notice changes in the aroma or consistency of your essential oils, they may have expired. To revive them, store them in optimal conditions for a short period to see if the scent improves. If not, it's time to dispose of them properly. Research local regulations for disposing of essential oils safely.


Final Thoughts


Proper storage is vital for maintaining the quality, potency, and therapeutic benefits of essential oils. By understanding the factors that affect their longevity and following the recommended storage practices, you can enjoy the benefits of these precious oils for a longer time. Remember to choose appropriate storage containers, maintain optimal conditions, and handle the oils with care. With these guidelines, you'll be well-equipped to store your essential oils properly and make the most of their incredible properties.

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