How long do essential oils last?

Do Essential oils expire?

Knowing how long your essential oils would last is important in protecting your oils collection.

Whether it is months or a decade, every essential oil has a storage life. 

When after being distilled, they go through a process called oxidation.

A spoiled oil may even trigger skin inflammation and sensitization when used topically. Read on and learn how to get the most bang from your buck.

How Long do Essential Oils Last? Do Essential Oils Expire?

The answer is different for different oils. The shelf life of essential oils varies, because they all have different chemical compositions. In general, you can expect:

The typical shelf life for monoterpene oils is nine months to one year. This type includes cypress, frankincense, and citrus.

Monoterpenol oils typically last 2-3 years. You can find this constituent in Peppermint, Lavender, Tea Tree, Basil, Thyme.

Sesquiterpene rich oils such as cedarwood, ylang-ylang, patchouli, ginger, vetiver are expected to last longer: 3-5 years.

AromaEasy advises replacing essential oils every year to be safe.

Keep in mind that the shelf life is impacted by the storage and usage of the oil. If you do not store oils properly, their shelf life will be shorter than you think.


How do Essential Oils Expire?

Obviously, there are factors that can change the expected shelf life of essential oil. If an essential oil is not kept appropriately, its storage life can reduce significantly.


The beneficial properties of essential oils are largely based upon the active ingredients in them. Sesquiterpenoids and monoterpenoids are easy to get oxidized when exposed to the air. Keep an eye on the production date of your citrus oils.

As oxygen takes electrons from iron and makes it rust over time, oxygen saps electrons from these key essential oil components and modify their chemical structure. This change does not always mean the oils will get rancid or spoiled, but they will not offer the benefits you purchase them for.


There have actually been researches proving that heat possibly alters the chemical structure in the oil. AromaEasy would recommend keeping them away from high temperatures or sunlight.


Light promotes the development of oxygen-free radicals. These are reactive enough to alter essential oil rapidly by changing compounds in them. And this process even results in the formation of unexpected new chemicals.


How long essential oils would last also depends on the carrier oil it’s diluted with. It would last much shorter when diluted with a carrier oil that could get oxidized easily. 


How to Store Essential Oils Correctly

Appropriate storage is crucial to getting the full life span out of your oils. Exposure to light, heat, and oxygen can accelerate the oxidization and expiration. 

Here are a couple of basic guidelines for storing your oils correctly:

Keep the bottles tightly closed.

The key to maintaining the freshness of essential oils is the proper storage approach. And it’s not difficult actually! Simply keep them in sealed containers and avoid exposure to air except when in use. 

Exposure to air makes any essential oil easily spoiled. It triggers the loss of active constituents. Oxygen reacts with particular constituents of the oil, altering them or making them break down. This process, oxidation has a negative impact on your essential oils collection and its stability.

Keep the right temperature

Heat accelerates the process of oxidation and shortens the shelf life of essential oils.

Keeping the ideal temperature level can help you extend the life span of your oils. AromaEasy would suggest storing them in a cool and dark place and avoid exposure to sunlight. 

The ideal temperature to save your oils collection is 36-43 ° F (2-6 ° C). 

We recommend keeping the citrus essential oil in a fridge. For avoiding cross-contamination, you may need a dedicated refrigerator for essential oils. 

Many essential oils become more viscous when stored in lower temperatures, while some even develop crystallization. To loosen the oil back up, you can simply warm the bottle with your hands or in warm water.

Darkly colored glass bottles

Amber and cobalt glass are the ideal containers for long term storage of essential oils. Store your collections in a cool and dark place. Keep the bottles capped, as they protect essential oils from light.

Use small containers for storage.

Another way to maintain the effectiveness of your essential oils is to keep them in appropriately sized containers. This method is pretty useful in reducing oxidation by minimizing exposure to oxygen. People, however, always ignore this approach.

After purchasing them in bulk, move your oils to smaller sized containers in time. Do not leave a small amount of oil in a large bottle. If you always use some oils in a specific amount, try to pre-portion it into those sizes.

Avoid using dropper caps as lids.

Another frequently neglected practice is avoiding the use of dropper caps. Use screw lids instead, as they make a difference. The rubber material of the dropper can break down because of continuous exposure to the active constituents, resulting in spoiling your essential oils.

Additionally, use one dropper or pipette for each oil for avoiding cross-contamination. AromaEasy recommends sanitizing your dropper or replacing them with a new one periodically.

Never keep undiluted oils into plastic bottles. 

Most undiluted essential oils will react with the plastic bottle and start degrading them. Diluted oils and blends like lotions and massage oils, however, can be stored in PET plastic containers. The concentration of organic oils is much lowered through the mixture with the other components.


Other storage instructions

  • Do not store your oils in high locations, where those darkly colored bottles may break after falling down.
  • Considering most essential oils are flammable, you should keep them away from any fire hazards. An open flame or heat source, including candles, gas furnaces, fireplaces, and matches, could be dangerous.

Risk of Using Expired Oils

An oxidized oil may trigger skin inflammation and sensitization. 

Oxidation degrades the essential oils’ aromatic and therapeutic properties. Spoiled oils like tea tree and lavender may result in skin irritation or sensitization, if used topically after the shelf life expired. Observative symptoms can be skin rashes, burns, peeling skin, or other unpleasant side effects. 

So, How to Know if an Essential Oil got Expired?


Some oils can change color and usually darkens. Particular one, like chamomile, peppermint can change color from its original one to another.


Another indicator of degradation is the scent variation of the essential oil. Oxidized or spoiled oils have less aroma or may even smell different than they should. Particular citrus oils like lemon and grapefruit containing limonene, may have an unpleasant scent. But with most oils, the sign of aroma variation can be less obvious.


One helpful indicator is the clarity of oils.

Some oils, especially citrus have the tendency to become cloudy as they oxidize or expire. 

In a word, an oxidized oil is noticeable once you have organoleptically experienced fresh one. In some cases, however, oxidation won’t be quite visible. There’s no guaranteed way to discern whether your oil is truly fresh. Therefore, stick to the production date on the label with keeping those indicators in mind. Follow the proper storage guidelines above and use them up before they go bad.

How to Make Use of Expired Oils?

Have any oils that are expired or close to their best-before-date? 

Actually we don’t have to toss those oils away, especially if they’re just a few days past their printed expiration date.

Don’t waste your expired essential oils, as they are still valuable when used for cleaning blends. For instance, we can utilize them in the bathroom and kitchen as disinfectant sprays.

Note: Oxidized oils could only be used for cleaning. Don’t use them in a diffuser or apply them to your skin!

Do Essential oils expire?

How do you take care of your collection? Have a useful tip we missed? Leave your comments.

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