Do Essential Oils Expire? Shelf Life, Expiration Dates & Tips

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Naturally Blended

Do Essential Oils REALLY Expire?

By Tyler Hagan, Certified Aromatherapist & SEOR Facebook Admin

Do essential oils expire?

One question we see often here at Plant Therapy: Do essential oils expire?

So let’s talk about essential oil expiration and shelf life! This is a question that we see a lot. There are a lot of misconceptions stemming from the significant increase in popularity essential oils have gotten over the past several years and I think it’s time we really dive in and take a deeper look.

Let’s start with the misconception itself. I’m sure at some point in your essential oil journey that you have heard someone say, “Well, if the oil is pure it does not expire.” You may have also heard that essential oils don’t grow mold, mildew, or yeast. All these things are true. Now you are probably staring at the screen thinking to yourself what a loon I am. Well, that may be true, but I’m not done.

So, do essential oils expire?

Essential oils do not expire. They do not grow mold. They also do not grow mildew or even yeast. The false hope these facts cause is that essential oils will last forever and that they have an indefinite shelf life. This is very far from the truth, and I’d like to explain why.

The Science

Plant Therapy NovaFuse diffuser on a tableOxidation. Such a simple, yet complicated word.  Oxidation is the process or result of oxidizing or being oxidized. Oxidized means to undergo or cause to undergo a reaction in which electrons are lost to another species. But wouldn’t that result in an oil becoming something else? Bingo. That’s exactly what it means, and why essential oils most definitely have a shelf life.

When you look at essential oil safety, you’re really sitting down and looking at the chemical constituents that make up an oil, not really the oil itself. You look at the different constituents that an oil is composed of, the levels of each constituent, and the safety information attributed to each constituent. This is why GC/MS reports are so important because they tell you what exactly your oil is composed of and how much.

Throw oxidation back into the mix. The constituents that make up your essential oil start to break down and turn into new constituents altogether. What do they turn into exactly? Nobody knows. It depends on the constituent, the amount of time it’s been oxidizing, etc. The only way to tell for certain is to retest the oil.

Breaking It Down

Hopefully, by this point, you understand where we are going. While essential oils don’t “go bad” the way food does, they do change over time. And because they change over time, and we don’t know what’s in them, the safety of an oil can’t be fully determined. But the good news is, there are things you can do to slow down the rate of oxidation and extend the “life” of your oil but you need to know what contributes to an essential oil’s oxidation process.

Oxygen, heat, and light. Three everyday forces that greatly impact the shelf life of essential oils. Oxygen is probably the biggest contributing factor to oxidation since oxidation can’t happen without oxygen. Heat and light also contribute to oxidation, but for different reasons. Reasons we are not going to dive into, because, well… nobody wants this to turn into a full-blown chemistry lesson.

Oxygen

Oxygen exposure can be reduced by ensuring your recap your essential oil bottles tightly and quickly. Don’t let your bottles sit out on the counter opened for too long. This allows oxygen to penetrate the bottle and increase the rate of oxidation. A pro-tip to consider is decanting your oils into smaller bottles as-needed. If you buy a 10ml bottle of essential oil and use 5ml or more, consider pouring the remaining oil into a smaller sized bottle.

Heat

Heat exposure can be reduced by keeping your essential oils in a cool place, like a fridge. According to Robert Tisserand, the ideal temperature for essential oils is between 35 and 38 degrees. There are some things to consider, though. Because essential oils are so powerful and aromatic, they do have the ability to alter the taste of the food and beverages stored with them in the fridge. You can help reduce these effects by storing them in separate containers in the fridge. Or, you could do as I did and buy a whole separate fridge.

Light

Light. Naturally, the way to reduce light exposure is to keep essential oils stored in a dark colored bottle and keep them in a dark, cool place. If you can’t afford a fridge for your essential oils, and you don’t have the room to store in them in your regular fridge, consider storing them in another dark and cool place like a cabinet.

Putting It All Together

Looking back on what we’ve learned, there is a whole lot of science and chemistry behind essential oils and their respective constituents. The problem is that while the oil may not go “bad” but it doesn’t stay the oil you know and love forever. It will begin to change and break down. And while there may not be an exact science behind the “shelf life” of an oil, there is a pretty good idea on how long an oil should last if stored properly.

You can check out our recommended shelf life chart here.

So now the question is, when does the shelf life start?

We cannot speak for every company’s essential oils, but Plant Therapy’s essential oils are stored in a barrel topped with a nitrogen barrier that helps keep oxygen out. This prevents oxidation while it waits for bottling. Once the oil has been bottled, we have a strict forecasting structure to prevent oils from sitting on the shelf for prolonged periods of time. Because we have these procedures in place, it gives us confidence that the shelf life of your oil will start as soon as it arrives to you.

Still need help?

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns… please feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] or by joining our Facebook group, Safe Essential Oil Recipes (SEOR).

170 thoughts on “Do Essential Oils REALLY Expire?”

  1. Great article and information! I’ve had friends insist there must be an issue with the oil if it ‘expires’ or has a shelf life. I will definitely be sharing this post!

  2. This blog is super helpful. I knew oils had a shelf life but didn’t understand exactly what that meant. Thank you for clarifying. I am still pretty new to oils and this helped so much.

  3. So neat to have this explained so clearly! Thank you! I’ve always heard the shelf life starts when we “crack the seal”. Thank you for clarifying and educating your consumers. I’d also like to say, I appreciate Plant Therapy’s commitment to safety. You always err on the side of caution and that’s something I can get behind.

  4. This is a GREAT article to read! I knew oils ‘expire’ but loved reading more on how and why. The charts are an extremely handy tool to have. I have them saved for easy reference 🙂 Thank you for all you do Plant Therapy!

  5. Thank you for this info! I had NO idea oils expire. Will be throwing out my old MLM ones and restocking on some PT!

  6. Thank you for this article it is very helpful in making sure we get good use of our oils and the full benefit.

  7. I bought a Vetiver four years ago. I went to diffuse it this week and it would come out of my bottle. I took off the stopper and used a toothpick to try and clear the way, but it has become very viscous and sappy. I was able to add 2-3 drops to my diffuser by pouring carefully, but the stopper is useless now. Is it bc this oil is starting to “go bad”?

    1. Kaylee, Vetiver is one of the longest-lasting oils, with a shelf life of 6 to 8 years. Vetiver is a very thick oil and can kind of crystalize making it tricky to come out of the bottle. If you’re able to transfer it to a clean bottle that may help, or you can choose to use a pipette instead of waiting for it to come out of the dropper 🙂 But I highly doubt it is starting to “go bad”…however, if you’re still concerned, please reach out to our team of aromatherapists at [email protected] to discuss this further. I hope this helps!

  8. Thank you for clarifying this!! I’ve been struggling to understand how oils “can’t go bad” yet they have a shelf life. Never thought about them oxidizing into something else. I’ll definitely be paying closer attention to the shelf life.

  9. The blog was very interesting but even better was the shelf life chart (the link was included in the blog). Not only is it SO informative, I printed it out and the colors are really cool, too. It is fascinating to compare different oils and their shelf lives

  10. Something I have never thought about before. Thank you for this information!!! I will be keeping better track of when I receive my oils esp when I have duplicates!

  11. Thank you for this informative article! I see it says that the shelf life starts the day we receive an oil. Is this when the oil is opened or are there other factors like storage that would still effect the oil even if unopened?

  12. Very good information to have. For a newbie things like this are important to know and the blog was written in a way that is easily understandable.

  13. I am fairly new to essential oils, so I found this article very helpful. I am very big expiration dates with anything I eat or use on my body. I have heard so many different thoughts on the life of essential oils. Thank you for this helpful information.

  14. This is very helpful information, especially for someone new to EO like myself. Thanks you Plant Therapy for being straightforward and caring about the wellbeing of your customers.

  15. Thanks for the information, I store my oils on a closet that is kind of cool and away from light, I don’t do anything about the “oxygen” though so I would still like to know roughly how long is the shelf life of an essential oil (not stored on a fridge nor decanted into smaller bottles). Many thanks!

  16. This was an extremely helpful blog, and something I have wondered about. I am thankful that the research was done for me in this blog, and I know some tips now to help keep my oils as fresh as possible. Thanks so much!

  17. Looks like I may have to move my lesser used oils to the chilly basement, unti I can find the perfect mini ( but not too mini) fridge.

  18. Thanks for clarifying when shelf life begins…I always thought it began when we opened them…not when we receive them…since I always open them to smell when I get them it’s actually works out the same 🙂

  19. I’ve been using EO for over 20 years and PT has become a favorite. Its nice to know exactly when our oils are bottled and shelf life.

  20. Helpful information, thanks! I keep my oils in the 1-2 year expiration range in the refrigerator. I need to clear out a cabinet on an outside wall (very cold in winter) to keep the others cool and move them to a cooler place in summer. They are all in closed, dark storage boxes. Thanks again!

  21. This is some really interesting information. I have noticed some of the oils I’ve purchased change in scent and consistency much more quickly than others… I’ll be keeping a close eye on my oils and reconsidering how I store them! Thank you for your commitment to making sure your customers are educated on their purchases. I’m taking some time this morning to really explore your website and get to know your company and so far, I am really impressed!

  22. Thank you so much for this information. I don’t have room to store my oils in the fridge, but I do keep them in a wooden box. I learn so much from your blogs. I appreciate the time Plant Therapy takes to educate me and others about essential oils. That is one of many reasons I love this company and will continue to buy from them.

  23. I found that when I used MLM brands of oils that I never wanted to use them unless I HAD to, not because I wanted to diffuse them just to make my home smell nice. And when I did diffused them, I was stingy in how many drops I used, because they were SO expensive. I would have oils lasting for years.

    With PT I diffuse every day, in every bedroom, and main living space, plus my car. There are some oils that I only use when needed, and I’m glad to know the shelf life, because I’m sure I’ll reach them. But because PT is so affordable, I use them enough that I won’t hit the shelf life.

    Thanks for the great info!

  24. This information changed the way I look at essential oils. I was one of those who thought they had an eternal shelf life. I’m so glad I found PT and the wealth of knowledge you share! Thank you!

  25. Thanks so much for this information, I knew oils expired, but I didn’t know what to see or smell or expect when that happened.

  26. Thanks so much for this information, i knew oils expired, but I didn’t realize what that really meant or what to expect to see or smell when that happened.

  27. wow, i love this blog post. It’s so useful, because i never really knew what the shelf lives of essential oils are.
    I do have a predicament though. I have had essential oils lemongrass and sweet orange for more than 2 yrs. While they still smell the same because I’ve kept them in cool, dark place, they have kind of ‘thickened’ and leave sticky residue in my diffuser after it’s finished diffusing. Any reason why this happens, and can i still use the EO?

    1. We recommend that if you notice a difference in your EO, especially when it’s a citrus as those have the shortest shelf life, to maybe retire those oils into cleaning products, rather than diffuse them or use topically. Differences may not always present themselves as a change in aroma, which I’m sure you’ve noticed since the consistency has obviously changed and not the smell. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our aromatherapists at [email protected] if you want more information about your particular situation. Sometimes it helps to have a one-on-one conversation so you can really dissect the changes your oil may be going through. I’m pretty positive they will recommend that you consider getting new oils though, since, at least for the Orange, the shelf life has been reached. 🙂 I hope this helps!

  28. Thank you for the great information . Very helpful! Sounds like Plant Therapy is doing a great job insuring their oils are preserved before shipping them to us.

  29. I love that this company always goes above and beyond to make sure all their customers have all the important information. I have been using EO’s for six years and I have learned so much of what I know from this amazing company!! Keep up the good work!

    1. What an excellent article! I would have never thought to decanter and I didn’t realize oils need to be kept cool! Time to guy shopping for a new frig. Hmmm I wonder if my beautiful wood box can go in the frig

  30. Thank you for this great information and thank you for the chart on shelf life. This helps clear up so many “opinions” out there. Oils are an investment in our family’s health and learning more through your blogs and articles helps us along this journey.

  31. I always recap my oils immediately and store in a dark cabinet in the coolest room, but your information is priceless! Thank you!

  32. Thanks for this information on the shelf life and how to store the essential oils, i’m new to this and learning more and more everyday thanks PT.

  33. This is great info, I have always kept my oils in a hard shell case(s) with foam holes to insert the oils in and kept the cases in a cool dry place. I also find entering them in an essential oils database app keeps all the info on any particular oil right at hand.

  34. Thank you for this chart! I have collected about 75 oils in my 2 year EO venture and have often wondered about the ones I don’t use frequently. Now I know 🙂

  35. Thank you for always being so informative! I’m learning so much along this oily journey. Love that you are so committed to your customers.

  36. This is one of the best blogs I’ve read. Thank You so much. I’ve heard people mention they keep oils in the frig, but I never knew why. Also, to recap bottles right away. You gave so many great tips & the reasons behind these tips.

  37. “Or, you could do as I did and buy a whole separate fridge.” – I wish I could do this, but we live in a 48 sq m condo… I guess having a mini-fridge would be an option, but then again, my entire EO collection won’t fit in it, hahaha. Thanks for the reminder. So I guess I don’t have to panic about my citrus oils going bad in a year or 2 right?

    1. Don’t worry — I daresay many of us EO lovers don’t have the money or space to dedicate a whole fridge to our oils (myself included!). As long as you keep them stored in a dark place where they aren’t exposed to too much heat and the cap is on tightly, your oils will be just fine! As for your citrus oils, they do have a shelf life of 1-2 years, so do pay extra attention if their aroma begins to change. If your not quite sure if they’re still “good” and don’t want to risk it, many people like to use them in their cleaning products 🙂

  38. Thank you for such a clearly written article on oil expiration. Helps me to understand much better and is appreciated.

  39. This was so helpful! I’ve noticed that some tree oils get very thick with time, but the chart says they last for 6+ years. Do you have any suggestions on how to revive these oils that thicken overtime, but are still useful?

  40. I appreciate this post and the accompanying chart. Guess I should start to use up some of my citrus oils soon. Thank you for this useful info.

  41. Thank you so much for this informative piece. I just purchased my first oils EVER from Plant Therapy! I’m truly excited to dive into all the oils and start making an array of different things for my family and friends! We are on to better health all around 🙂

  42. Thank you for this info! I spent some time last weekend labeling my oils with the date I bought them and their shelf life range so I can make sure I am using them before they start to lose their therapeutic value. Turns out I’m doing better at using my oils than I thought.

  43. I’ve made a habit of tracking every oil I buy, as soon as I receive it. I add the date that I received it…in case I don’t use it up, and let’s say, want to use it in a year or 2 (or 5!) from now. So far, I’m using my oils up…so this is not a concern! Thank you for the education 🙂

  44. This was extremely helpful information. I know I have oils beyond the shelf life. I love the idea of dating them, and marking shelf life. My question would be is there anything that i can do with the ones i have that are past their date or are they trash?

    1. Danielle, for oils that are past their shelf life (especially citrus oils as those do not have a long shelf life) many people still enjoy using them in cleaning products, but this is a completely personal decision 🙂

  45. This blog is very helpful. It answered many of my questions about shelf life. I did purchase a fridge to keep my oil shelf life at it’s peak as long as possible. Keep up the good work!

  46. Thank you for the well written, easy read, informative article. I would like to share an easy method for keeping track of your essential oils. I’ve made a spread sheet to keep track of the oils I purchase. I have the oils listed with the purchase date and size, as well as the expected shelf life. If I purchase duplicates during the year, I also place a small sticker on the bottle with the newest purchase date. This method has worked well for me in keeping my oils organized and using them within the expected shelf life. A small refrigerator works great for storing the wooden boxes of oils as well as carrier oils, well worth the investment.

    1. Thank you EO Mama. I like your idea, and I’m going to use it. Thank you PT for this informative article. I just purchased one of your storage cases to keep my EO collection organized. I didn’t realize that keeping them stored in one of these wooden boxes would also help to prolong the life of my oils be keeping them in the dark. Great topic!

  47. I love that I can just go to the blog to answer almost all of my questions! Thank you so much for the information on shelf life, sometimes it’s hard to remember when I bought the bottle. Is there a way to tell on the bottle itself when it was packaged?

    1. Yes! On each bottle we have a code listed near the bottom. Our newer bottles have the letter/number combo written pretty brightly, but if you have a bottle that’s a bit older you may need to shine a flashlight on the bottle to find the code. The last 4 numbers on that code refer to the year and day it was bottled. For instance, if the last 4 are 8303 that means it was bottled in 2018 on the 303rd day of the year. Hope this helps!

  48. Thank you. This is really good information to know. I always wondered how Plant Therapy was able to pause the shelf life clock when it was still in their possession. Now we know.

  49. Request: Would you be able to do a similar blog post on carrier oils? I’ve thrown out carrier oils more than once because I wasn’t sure if an oil was expired and, if so, what that meant for using the oil. Thanks PT!

  50. Oh my! I am going to start adjusting my storage and useage practices right away! Thank you for the clear and concise information!

  51. An amazing amount of understandable and vital information for me as a beginner I truly appreciated this post and will be saving it for future reference!

  52. Thank you for always giving such complete explanations… I never even thought about expiration dates. Now I need to find for DIY recipes to use up some of the oils I have had longer 🙂

  53. Honestly I never considered this but thanks for the information. The chart was really helpful too! There is so much to learn as a new oiler but your helpful information is making it much easier!

  54. You answered a question that’s been lurking in the back of my mind. Thank you for such helpful and practical posts!

  55. I only order oils for specific reasons and keep in the refrigerator. Always wondered if I was missing something, not having a big collection. Now I see, if I did have a lot of oils, they will most likely get old before I can use them all.

  56. Wow. I didn’t know that essential oils actually have a shelf life. I always thought that essential oils won’t go rancid like carrier oils do. Now I know how actually challenging my path will be if I want to continue to the path of being an aromatherapist. But this will not steer me away from this path as that will only make me work harder. Thanks.

  57. I love when you share the science of the oils! It’s nice to know the cold hard facts! I also love the nitrogen barrier, super cool!

  58. Thank you for this! Using actual degrees instead of “a cool, dark place” is so much more helpful. I only found out about refrigerating oils when I joined the SEOR FB page. Luckily, It’s been cold & they’re mostly all new. I appreciate your company and all that you teach us!!

  59. Thanks for this blog post. I have now stored my oils in my wooden box in my fridge so that they last longer. Thanks for the info.

  60. Great information! It is really awesome that you break this dowm for us. Some companies tell their clients that oils dont expire. I appreciate that PT cares about their customers enough to give us safe and factual information.

  61. Such a helpful summary! I keep my oils in a cool dark place and I put a little date sticker on them when I receive them.

  62. This was very concise and informative. This is something that I never considered before and am glad I am now aware as I start my essential oil journey.

  63. The information here is so helpful. Thank you for posting the shelf life chart. I have printed it and will start to track this now that I have a good collection of oils.

  64. Much needed information, thank you. I’ve only had 2 bottles turn bad…grapefruit and cinnamon. And there was no wondering if they had crossed the line. Now that I have learned more about storage, I feel more confident. I purchased 2 of the big wooden boxes and several travel cases. My oils are always in the dark. I am going to add an oily fridge soon….before summer for sure. Texas summers are hot!

  65. Excellent information. Oil safety is important and I love the way this company promotes safety. I’m so happy I found Plant Therapy. All the misinformation out there, it’s hard to know what to trust unless you really do a lot of research. Very happy I did the research and made the wise decision to switch from a MLM to PT. Thank you Plant Therapy for all you do for your customers. This truly is a company that cares about it’s customers rather than just caring about getting their money.

  66. Thanks for the great information I love my oily fridge and feel like I’m getting the best shelf life available using it.

  67. Excellent tips and reminders here. I keep all of mine in my fridge regardless. With how much money I spend on them, I don’t want to even chance them oxidizing! Definitely worth getting a mini fridge if you’re a fellow oil junky.

  68. Excellent article. It’s nice to learn more about the oils. Shelf life is such a hot topic. Thank you for clearing it up Tyler.

  69. Really informative article. I think it would have been helpful to mention that different oils have different shelf lives, and included a chart.

  70. LOVE, love, love this post. There is so much posting and confusion around this on SEOR and there are some really unpleasant people who feel it is their duty to point out everything someone is perceived to be doing wrong with essential oils. I mean everything from how many oils they choose to buy to how they store the oils to how they use the oils and more often than not, among all of the very positive help, there is a really negative or judgmental comment. I mean just because someone forgets to add a dilution ratio into a post doesn’t mean that they don’t dilute. The most often asked question I see is around the life of oils and I see some real trolls on the FB page. So much so that I have backed off from posting because somebody is so quick to correct what they perceive as an ‘error’. Instead of clarifying, they accuse or correct in a negative way. It’s a real turn off, unfortunately, because otherwise it’s a really nice page and I love the positive way that Tyler admin’s! But I do believe you would get more interaction from your 100K followers if there was some guidance on how to comment and some correction when someone is an obvious troll. So thank you for the clarification so we all have a great resource to reference when we’re wondering how long our essential oils last!

  71. I’ve always wondered how they came to the time periods they do for different oils. It makes sense that oils would oxidize, as any cooking oils we use can do so as well, but they all do at different rates. The rancid smell is the giveaway for them, but with essential oils I was never totally sure. I love the education aspect of this blog!

  72. One thing I always do is put my essential oils in the refrigerator right after purchasing them. I have heard that it does help double their shelve life. Citrus essential oils have the lowest shelf life. I use a lot of them, but I don’t want them to go bad.

    However, I do have a question for you? Is the rancid smell a myth? I have heard that if your essential oils smell rancid they could be going bad. Personally, none of my essential oils have ever smelled rancid or anything.

    1. Garen, oils can change in aroma when they oxidize, but don’t typically smell “rancid.” That smell associated with “rancid” products often comes from bacteria and mold, which essential oils do not grow 🙂 Hope this helps!

  73. Great information! I had started marking my bottles with the date of the test result, I will reconsider to use the date of purchase. Great hand out, I will add it to my binder!

  74. You say that once we receive them there shelf life begins So if this is true how do we know how long it’s been on your shelf? I was told the shelf life didn’t start until we opened them.

    1. Tammy, PT has a strict forecasting policy that prevents bottles from sitting on our shelves for very long. However, once a customer receives the oil we cannot make any guarantees, since we have no idea how that bottle will be stored, regardless if it has been opened or not. Please reach out to our awesome Customer Service Team at [email protected] if you have any more questions 🙂

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