How to Tell When Your Essential Oils Have Expired.


Do you have a few oils at home that you love to use, but are unsure what the shelf life may be or if the oil has gone bad? Whether you are an essential oils aficionado or a newbie to oils…knowing the expiration date of the oil(s) will help you in the long run in regards to your safety.

I have looked at some of the oils I own and only 1 out of 3 had an expiration date. I have bought oils from three different companies. I have about 25 oils from one brand, and my favorite company doesn’t have a expiration date listed on their bottles. 😦 I am disappointed because listing this information on the bottle or label would be so beneficial to their consumers. However, they do have the shelf life listed on their website. You probably are curious as to what brand i am talking about; but I would like to keep this brand anonymous because I respect them and don’t want to drag their name through the mud.

4 Ways an Oil Can Go Bad:

  1. Oxidation: This happens when you leave the cap off for too long over an extended period of time and too much oxygen enters into the oil.
  2. Heat Exposure: All oils need to be stored in a dry, cool place such as your pantry, linen closet, or under your sink. If the oils are placed in direct sunlight, the sun will heat up the compounds of the oils causing separation and evaporation. If this happens, the structure of the oil will change, and the oil will become unusable.
  3. Light Exposure: All essential oils are stored in brown bottles to protect the oil from UV rays. Other glass colored bottles such as clear, green, or cobalt blue have a harder time protecting essential oils from UV Rays. When ultra violet light seeps into the essential oil bottles, it can promote free radicals. Free radicals occur when an oxygen molecule splits into single atoms that pairs up with electrons to search the body for other electrons due to oxidative stress. When free radicals form, this causes damage to your body’s cells, proteins, and DNA. So by exposing light to the essential oils, you can potentially be harming yourself with free radicals. Please store your oils properly!!
  4. Age: If you have had an essential oil on your shelf for over two years, the more likely it has expired or is about to expire; but there are oils that last up to 8 years.

How to Tell if an Oil Has Gone Bad:

  1. Consistency: This is the first clue that an oil has expired. If the oil used to come out like a waterfall, but now is dropping like a leaky faucet…then the liquid has gotten thicker and it is time to throw it out. The thicker it is, the harder it is for the oil to come out. Although, there are some oils that are naturally thick like vetiver and cedarwood.
  2. Smell: If you open up your essential oil bottle and it smells brand new or still has a good strong scent…then the oil is still good and ok to keep. If it smells rancid, different, or puts off a weaker aroma, it may be time to change up your oils.
  3. Skin Test: Take out your favorite oil and add a 1-2 drops to your arm. See if a rash occurs. I recommend adding fractionated coconut oil, jojoba, or almond oil to help protect your skin.

Option 1 and 2 are your safest bets.


Shelf Life for Essential Oils:

1-2 years: Bergamot, Camphor, Cypress, Fir Balsam, Frankincense, Lemon, Lime, Mandarin, and Oregano.

2-3 years: Blue Cypress, Caraway, Cardamom, Cinnamon Bark, Cassia, Eucalyptus, Geranium, Helichrysium Gymnocephalum, Juniper Berry, Laurel Leaf, Lemongrass, Marjoram, Peppermint, Neroli, Melissa, Tea Tree and Rosemary.

3-5 years: Birch, Black Pepper, German Chamomile, Roman Chamomile, Cinnamon Leaf, Clary Sage, Jasmine, Lavadin, Lavender (French, Greek and Spike), Ylang Ylang, Spearmint, Rosalina, Fennel, and Basil.

6-8 years: Blue Tansy, Cedarwood, Copaiba, Ginger, Helichrysium Italicum, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Myrrh, Rose, Rosewood, Valerian, and Wintergreen.

Keep in mind that the shelf life can vary with each company. If you have a brand you know and love you may want to go to their website to see if they list the shelf life of the essential oils you already have or are thinking of buying.

If you are new to essential oils, I would suggest to research different essential oil companies to see what works for you in regards to purity and price. All oils are not made the same. Some essential oil companies add a carrier oil like coconut oil or jojoba to their oil in order to reduce the retail price.

What You Can Do with Expired Oils:

There are a few options here.

A. You can throw the bottles way.

B. You can discard the expired oil, and reuse the bottle. Just make sure you thoroughly clean the bottle first before reusing it.

C. Make Candles. If you are a candle maker or fancy the idea of making your own candles, try using the essential oils in your candles to see if it will still provide a nice smell. You may need to use more drops than necessary to get the scent you are going for. Smell the essential oils first to make sure they are not rancid. If they still put off a good aroma, read up on candle making and flash points before making your homemade candles. Flash points are important in regards to making sure you don’t catch your kitchen on fire.

D. If the oils are about to expire with in 1-6 months and you feel you are done using them, you can always give them away to a friend or family member, or try selling them online. Just make sure you let the person know the oil is about to expire.

I hope this has been beneficial for you. Have a great day!


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