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An Essential Oil Expert On How To Store Your EOs So They Last Longer

August 31, 2020
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Essential oils have become a standby in many modern medicine cabinets—but how long do they really last? And more importantly, how can we make them last longer? To find out, we consulted founder of The Artistry of Essential Oils, Valencia McClure, for expert tips on how to get the most out of our favorite scents.

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How long do essential oils last?

Generally speaking, all of your essential oils should last at least a year if stored properly, but some have a shelf life of up to six years. It depends on the type of oil, how it's stored, and the speed of the oxidation process. "Once you open an essential oil bottle," McClure says, "oxidation begins to occur due to the oil coming in contact with oxygen."

On average, "the shelf life for essential oils is two to three years," she says. "Citrus oils such as lemon, sweet orange, and lime are a bit shorter, about one to two years."

"Oils such as Australian sandalwood, vetiver, and patchouli," she adds, "have a much longer shelf life—up to six years."

How to know they've expired.

If you have a feeling some of your oils may have gone rancid, do some quick searching to find out what the average shelf life is for the specific oil. You can also take note of how the oil smells: If it doesn't smell as strong (or even as good) as when you first got it, it could be on its way out. Additionally, certain oils will begin to separate, causing them to look murky as time goes on and they oxidize.

This is why it's important to note the appearance of your oils when you first get them, along with their scent.

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How to store essential oils so they last longer:

  1. Make sure your oils are stored in dark-colored glass bottles. McClure notes amber glass bottles are standard, adding "dark-colored glass bottles are preferred as they provide protection against ultraviolet light."
  2. "Store in dark, cool, and dry locations," McClure says. This might mean your bathroom cabinet isn't the best (or most dry) place for your oils. Some folks like to keep theirs in the fridge, to keep them in the dark and maintain a consistent temperature—just let them get to room temp before they use them.
  3. This might go without saying, but definitely don't keep them anywhere with sunlight or moisture. McClure notes it accelerates the oxidation process.
  4. Because a little goes a long way, oils will last a long time. As such, it's better to use smaller glass bottles to store them (15 ml or smaller, according to McClure). Less oil in the bottle means less oil that could potentially be wasted.
  5. Remember to always tightly close the bottle after each use. 
  6. On that note, McClure says it's worthwhile to limit the time the cap is off the bottle at all. The less oxygen, the better.
  7. Lastly, don't remove the plastic orifice reducer over the mouth of the bottle. It helps the oil flow one drop at a time—but also limits the amount of air that gets into the bottle.

From bug bites to stress relief, there's no shortage of ways to incorporate essential oils into your well-being routine. And given how long they can last, they're a wonderfully affordable way to offer yourself some TLC. Be sure to store them properly so you can enjoy your favorite oils for years to come.

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