Home Living Do Essential Oils Expire? How to Spot Them If They Do

Do Essential Oils Expire? How to Spot Them If They Do

by Simple Happy Home

Just like any other product, essential oils do expire. The good news is that they typically have a long shelf life, but it’s important to know how to spot them if they do go bad. In this blog post, we’ll talk about what happens when essential oils expire and how to tell if they’ve gone bad. We’ll also give you some tips on how to extend the life of your essential oils!

Do Essential Oils Expire? Storage Tips to Extend Shelf Life

Checking the expiration dates on food is, without a doubt, the correct course of action.

However, given the magnitude of a nuclear catastrophe and the fact that we may not know when it will occur, it appears excessive to discard staples or personal care items because they are a few days past their printed expiration date.

However, for certain items, the problem isn’t as straightforward.

Essential oils, for example, lack water and have inherent antiviral and antibacterial characteristics. These features ensure that they won’t develop mold, yeast or mildew in the long run.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Not only can essential oils go rancid, but using old oils may induce undesirable side effects.

So, how long do essential oils last in storage? What measures can you take to extend their shelf life? Let’s have a look.

The Shelf Life of Essential Oils Aren’t All The Same

That gallon of milk you picked up at the corner shop? The shelf life of that packaged milk will be shorter than the organic milk available at Whole Foods. That’s because quality counts.

In addition, many goods marketed as essential oils are of doubtful quality and may not be legitimately compared to pure essential oils offered by organizations like Public Goods. Some of these lesser products are genuine oils that have been combined with cheaper oils derived from nuts or seeds in order to increase the amount sold by the vendor.

Not all bargain oils are pure plant extracts. They’re not extracted or pressed from plants, but rather manufactured to seem identical to the real thing.

The problem with ‘fake’ oils

The cost of all these “false” pure essential oils is the most significant factor in their popularity. They won’t give the expected benefits when utilized in aromatherapy, and they’re more prone to go rancid.

Even when using high-quality, 100% pure essential oils, there’s another “X factor” to consider. Because essential oils have a strong smell, they’re generally mixed with carrier oils to lessen the irritation of the skin.

After only six months, carrier oils like black currant and borage have the shortest shelf life and can go rancid after that, with popular kinds such as grapeseed and soybean oil typically lasting just a year. However, coconut and jojoba oils will survive longer than this.

So the lesson is: don’t just look at your essential oils’ GC/MS numbers (gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, which measure the oil’s chemical composition) to determine the quality of your essential oils (don’t forget that not all essential oils are created equal). The shelf life of essential oils is also determined by the carrier oil used to dilute them.

What Causes Essential Oils to Lose Effectiveness?

Pure essential oils are not susceptible to the same problems that other fragrances are, such as yeast, mildew, and mold. Essential oil bottles that have been properly sealed and stored in a dark, cool place can retain their fragrance for a long time.

However, when the oils are exposed to elements in nature, issues arise. The therapeutic effects, scent, and safety of essential oils may be jeopardized by these external factors.


The active components in essential oils are largely responsible for the therapeutic effects and benefits. Monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and monoterpenoids are the most significant ones, but both of them will oxidize when exposed to air.

Oxygen seizes electrons from essential oil components and changes their chemical composition in a similar way that oxygen steals electrons from iron and causes it to rust over time. This change does not always imply that the oils will become rancid or damaged, but they will no longer deliver the services for which you are paying.

Light and Heat

Chemical changes in essential oils can occur rapidly, especially as a result of light. This effect occurs because UV radiation creates oxygen-free radicals in the oils, changing their chemical composition and even creating new ones over a brief period.

Sweet fennel oil, for example, changed significantly in composition after being exposed to light for two months in a 2005 study. After 50 minutes of UV exposure, Sweet Orange essential oil displayed substantial changes. In fact, after UV exposure, 12 new chemical components were discovered in the oil. 

There’s also some evidence that high heat can modify the chemical composition and makeup of essential oils. While more study is needed to fully understand the influence of heat on essential oils, most manufacturers advocate keeping them out of direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.

How to Tell if Essential Oils Have Gone Bad

What factors should you consider if you don’t know how long your essential oils have expired? Some, such as limonene-containing citrus oils like lemon and grapefruit, will have an unpleasant odor. However, oxidation-induced aromas are typically less noticeable in most oils.

In this example, there are alternative methods to see if your essential oil has shortened its shelf life. Others, such as peppermint and chamomile, will alter color; additionally, others may exhibit a significant variation in viscosity.

When essential oils are used in any of these methods, the therapeutic effects are decreased or lost. After this deterioration, the items are only useful for skincare applications.

However, certain oils, like tea tree and lavender, might actually irritate mucous membranes or the skin, as well as induce sensitization and oxidation, if applied after they’ve oxidized.

So, How Long Do Essential Oils Last?

Because they all have unique chemical compositions, the answer varies depending on the oil. Unless they contain one of the aforementioned volatile carrier oils, most will survive at least two years before beginning to deteriorate. Some may even endure for 15 years or longer without losing their efficacy.

To be safe, most experts recommend replacing essential oils every three years. The exceptions are patchouli, ylang ylang, vetiver, and sandalwood, as they actually get better with age. However, for some other essentials, three years is on the short end of the lifespan spectrum.

How to Store Your Essential Oils

The greatest way to keep your essential oils fresh is to store them correctly. The key to keeping your essential oils fresh is proper storage conditions, no matter the type of essential oil you use. Fortunately, maintaining your essential oils in excellent form is simple if you know how and where to store them.

You should use dark-colored glass bottles to prevent UV light from entering the container when it comes to the bottle. Store-bought essential oils are often sold in an amber-hued glass bottle with a UV-reflective film, which shields them from the sun’s rays. Plastic bottles can harm essential oils, so they should always be transferred to a glass container.

Although the dark amber glass blocks UV rays, it is crucial to keep the bottles away from sunshine. Heat can accelerate the oxidation process, as we’ve said before. Keep your essential oils in a cool, dry spot to lengthen their shelf life.

Keep the bottles tightly sealed and stored upright to minimize oxidation and evaporation, especially if you’re storing them for an extended period. Always keep heat and flames away from essential oils so that they are safe. Keep the oils out of reach if you have children in the house, and don’t forget to remove all traces of them when they’ve been used!

When refrigerated, the bottles are less susceptible to heat-induced oxidation. While certain oils, such as aniseed, fennel, and rose otto, may solidify in colder temperatures without being harmed, they won’t be affected. Remove the essential oils from the fridge about 12 hours before using them. If waxy particles are floating around, give it a good shake.

The majority of these rules are also followed by manufacturers of 100 percent pure essential oils. Nonetheless, if you’re a DIYer who makes your own oils at home or simply buy them off the shelf, you’ll need to follow these same practices.

What’s the Risk of Using Expired Essential Oils?

Even if you believe your essential oil is no longer effective, you may be concerned about possible side effects. When the chemical composition of essential oils is oxidized, it has a wide range of effects.

In certain situations, rancid essential oils might cause skin irritation, rashes, burns, and other negative effects. When tea tree oil and lavender oil are oxidized, they are known to irritate the skin.

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