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

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Essential Oils Blog

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).

110 thoughts on “Do Essential Oils REALLY Expire?”

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 🙂

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. “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 🙂

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

  11. 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?

  12. 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.

  13. 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 🙂

  14. 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.

  15. 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 🙂

  16. 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 🙂

  17. 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!

  18. 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!

  19. 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!

  20. 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.

  21. 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!

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

  23. 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!

  24. 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 🙂

  25. 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!

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

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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!

  30. 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!!

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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!

  37. 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.

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

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

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

  42. 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!

  43. 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!

  44. 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!

  45. 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!

  46. 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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