Shelf Life Of Essential Oils:

Essential oils have a fantastic place in bath and beauty products. However sometimes, they get overshadowed in soap making by the plethora of unique fragrance oils available. You can find a fragrance oil for thousands of scents. In addition, many fragrance oils are able to stand up to the harsh environment of CP soap making. Today, we’ll discuss essential oils more in depth, as well as ways of extending shelf life of essential oils.

Something to keep in mind as you browse selections of essential oils is, not all essential oils are created equal. They can differ in quality based upon the supplier/manufacturer. When we reference “quality” we mean the purity of the essential oil itself. Oftentimes, better quality essential oils also have a steeper price tag. When making cold process soap for selling purposes, this often deters many first time soap makers. 

shelf life of essential oils

A crucial step in getting investments back, is being able to use everything that you purchase as a maker. Oftentimes, oils or fragrances that you were once high on using for your next project, tend to sit on the shelf for a bit longer then you intended. Its crucial to optimize longevity for all of our ingredients. 

In this post we’ll discuss essential oils, and what things we can do to extend there shelf-life. 
A post a while back, we discussed homemade soap(s) shelf-life, and how much of it’s longevity has to do with the oils used in formulation. One oil that has a shorter shelf-life can effect the longevity of the bars. In addition, can alter how you choose to store your finished soaps. 

Why They Lose Their Potency?

why essential oils lose there effectiveness

First off, why do essential oils expire or “lose their effectiveness”? Like many things that have an expiration date, it has to do with chemical processes. Once an essential oil is exposed to air (oxygen specifically), something called oxidation begins. This process changes the bonds within the oils. 

Another factor is exposer to light. Ever purchase an essential oil and notice they are sold in dark colored bottles? The presence of this darker colored bottle is another protective element. The bottle protects the essential oil(s) from the over-exposer to ultraviolet light. 

Finally, heat. Heat may also change the chemical structure of the essential oil(s). 

Overtime, essential oils loose their strength when exposed to certain elements (oxygen, light, and heat), this is inevitable! However, there are things we can do as sellers of bath and body products to increase longevity while waiting to use them in our next project. 

Furthermore, essential oils themselves, also impact longevity. We’ll discuss this in a moment.


Extending Shelf Life Of Essential Oils:

The next part of this post discusses how we can extend the shelf life of essential oils. Indeed, this is the main take away from the article. How we, as makers, can utilize tactics to;

  • save money,
  • or to simply increase the usage time of our favorite essential oils.


how you store essential oils is important
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For us, the most essential thing to do (pun intended) is to store them appropriately. What does this mean exactly? Firstly, is to make sure after each and every usage, the lids are on tight, simple! 

The more essential oils are exposed to oxygen, essentially the quicker they can lose the effectiveness or strength of bonds (chemical composition). Not only does this effect the aroma over-time, but they can become more unstable. The last thing you want, as a soap maker, is unstable aroma oils in your $20, $30, $50 (or more) loaf of soap. 

Secondly, don’t store them near candles, fires or other sources of high heat, as they are flammable.


Keep Them Cool:

keep essential oils in cool climates
Cold warm thermometer. Temperature weather thermometers meteorology celsius fahrenheit scale, temp control thermostat device flat vector icon

Essential oils, don’t do well in high heat. This is another reason we keep them away from direct sunlight, besides the exposure to UV light. At elevated temperatures, the oxidation process can speed up. Thus, leading to a decrease in longevity of the essential oils. For some oils, this can be harsher then others. 

Some articles suggest a refrigerator as a good host for keeping your essential oils. While the temperature may be ideal, it’s probably not the best idea to have around food. Also, a place where people are regularly going in and out of. If you can, dedicate a refrigerator for your oils. We like to keep the temperature around 7 degrees. However, it is possible to store from 2 degrees to 10 degrees C. 

Tip: Some essential oils may start to solidify if to cold, make sure to check consistency before use. If they have solidified slightly, allow them to rest at room temperature (ex. Star Anise)!

Pay close attention to the environment (over-all) that the oils are being stored in. You want just the right climate to increase longevity. Maintaining a consistent temperature with as few temperature fluctuations, can be a crucial step for lasting effectiveness.

The Supplier:

buy essential oils for reputable suppliers

Purchase from reputable suppliers or manufactures. Not all essential oils are created equal. Some lack purity. This can be a reason some are cheaper then others. Oftentimes, you get what you pay for, when it comes to essential oils. For example, some oils are not made from 100% pure plant extracts. Specifically, with cheaper versions. This can effect product results of your soaps! 

Having said that, does this mean they wont smell good? Not necessarily. However, for people who tend to use oils for therapeutic purposes, this is certainly something to keep in mind.


Small, Dark Containers Work Well:

We talked about this a few times. Keeping oils stored in darker bottles, is best. If you order from a supplier and they come in light colored bottles (which they should never!) transfer them to dark colored glass bottles.

In addition, it’s beneficial, (because oxygen effects the increased oxidative effect), to place them in bottles that coincide with the amount of oil you have. Then, cap tight, store them in a cool, dark environment. 

don't store essential oils in plastic
don’t store essential oils in plastic

No Plastic:

One final note on the bottles/storage vessels.

Pure essential oils should not be stored in plastic. They should always be dark colored glass. In this case for a different reason.

Essential oils are potent, there chemical makeup can react adversely with plastics, eating through the material. This means breaking down the plastic, essentially damaging the purity of the oils. 


Tip: Don’t use medicine droppers made of plastic. If you leave the plastic dropper in the undiluted oils, the same issue can arise. Use a glass dropper instead. 


Common Essentials Oils Shelf-Life!


1-2 years

  • Lemon
  • Mandarin
  • Sweet Orange
  • Yuzu


2-3 years

  • Bergamot
  • Fir Needle
  • Frankincense
  • Juniper berry
  • Lemongrass


3-4 years

  • Cardamom
  • Clary Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Jasmin


4-5 years

  • Cedarwood
  • Cinnamon Leaf
  • Peppermint
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang Ylang


6-8 years

  • Patchouli
  • Sandalwood
  • Vetiver


Final Thoughts!

We love essential oils!

They can hands-down, make for some of the best smelling soaps. However, like anything else in soap making, knowledge is key! Make sure to learn the basics about your chosen oils. Then, over-time through trial and error/as well as research, you will learn the best ways to manipulate and utilize your oils.