Tuesday, April 19, 2016

How Long Do They Keep & What to Do with Expired Essential Oils



There are five items in my life that I will spend money on (yes, I am about to get personal). Normally,  dear reader, I am ultra-frugal... except when it comes to a good cup of coffee, hardcover books, quality dark chocolate, pantry jars and finally, essential oils (no, call me crazy but you won't find diamonds and jewels on this eccentric list). Essential oils are a huge part of our medicine cabinet! How many times in the middle of the night I am searching for the right oil to help that certain weird ailment and how many times I am rewarded with help. They are a big blessing to us and I have invested a pretty penny into them. It would only make sense to know how to store them properly and how long do these "medicinal jewels" really last? The answer to the last question has not been easy to find.


The conservative time that the medicinal value of an essential oil decreases appears to be at about 2 - 3 years (and these dates are broad as some claim they will last up to 5 years and some claim forever!). However, there are some exceptions:



~ Citrus oils are believed to have a shelf life of 6-12 months and should actually be stored in the refrigerator.

~ On the other hand, the "thicker" oils like vetiver, sandalwood and patchouli seem to enhance with age.

According to doTERRA (which is where I purchase my essential oils and I do realize they sell them so the information may be biased):

"All doTERRA essential oils that are approved for internal use are required to contain a printed expiration date on their packaging. doTERRA cannot guarantee the oils after this date because essential oils naturally lose some of their potency over time. However, essential oils are very stable. We are currently conducting shelf life testing and have found no problems even after 5-10 years. Properly stored essential oils will maintain their potency for a long time!"


"The oils should be kept in brown or dark-colored bottles away from light, heat, and dampness. Keep the tops tightly closed when not in use."

For optimal storage of essential oils, keep them in a cool, dark and dry location with the caps firmly in place. Keep them out of direct sunlight as heat, light and oxygen will destroy their medicinal properties.



It was 15 years ago, for our first child, for our home birth, that I purchased our first set of essential oils. They were from Young Living and I splurged as this was to be my natural medication during  (what was to be, a long, long, long!) labor. Now, staring at the leftover bottles which I haven't the heart to throw away, one wonders, what can you do with "expired" bottles of essential oils?

"The therapeutic life of essential oils is about two years, although some would argue that they last longer than this. Certainly their antibiotic and other properties can still be utilized in nonbody methods such as air fresheners, kitchen surface wipes, perfumes, or celebratory and gift purposes, when their aromas are a crucial aspect of their use."


Unlike vegetable oils that go rancid, an essential oil is different as it is not technically an oil but the essence of the plant. It will simply lose strength (deteriorate and/or oxidize) and is therefore still safe to use in many areas (and may still retain some of the beneficial properties as a bonus). Here are some things you can do with your expired oils so that you don't have that unfortunate feeling of wastefulness (because sometimes in life, it is all about the aroma!):
  • Use it in your homemade cleaners for the wonderful aromatherapy.
  • Use it in your homemade fabric softeners.
  • Add it into homemade potpourris to freshen up the scent.
  • Use them in your candle making adventures (just make sure the wax cools a bit before adding).
  • Once an unscented candle is lit, add a few drops to the oily reservoir for additional scent.
  • Add it into handmade soaps.
  • Use it in room sprays (approx. 1 cup water, 10 drops of essential oil, 2 tsp. of vodka).
  • Add a few drops onto a cotton ball and place in your drawers for a lovely scent.
  • Add a few drops to stationary when sending a letter.
  • Use them for traditional aromatherapy by inhaling the aroma (such as lavender to calm).
  • Place them in diffusers for a lovely scented home.
  • Add the seasonal scents to your firewood before burning for a luxurious fire.
  • Add them into homemade bath salts (1 cup of epsom salt to 10 drops of oil, mix and use).

Be careful to store your older oils in a separate location to make sure you use them for the utilitarian purposes we shared. Keep your current fresh supply of oils in another safe location as part of your family medicine chest.


These are our most favorite essential oils. Perhaps I will share how we use them in a future post?


What are your favorite oil "flavors" and what other ways would you use the "expired" oils?



26 comments:

  1. Thank you for this information, I didn't realize they had a shelf life, but I guess I should have known. Would be very interested in what you use your favorites for. Thank you for sharing. Guida

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    1. Thanks Guida! I will have to do that! Have a wonderful week and thank you for sharing! :)

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  2. Jes, the DoTerra Essential Oils aren't cheap so I don't use them in my soapmaking. I was given a sample kit plus another bottle of EO by a young girl who sells DoTerra. They certainly seem to be a really good quality product. That is interesting about refrigerating citrus EOs. I must check my collection and see if I have any lemon left as I did use some a while back. If I have I will put it in the fridge. Thanks.

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    1. Yes, Nanna, the doTERRA are not cheap and I wouldn't normally use them in something like soap making either but I would use the EXPIRED oils for soap making for the scent! :) I buy less expensive oils for crafty projects and use the doTERRA strictly for medicinal purposes. They are my over the counter medicine... Thank you for stopping by! :)

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    2. Great article, thanks for sharing.
      When I use essential oils on my soap, despite using arrowroot powder to anchor the scent, the smell disappears quite quickly, my question has been for a while is the properties of the oil last beyond the fragrance. Can you offer some thought on the subject? Tks.

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    3. Hmmm... The only thing I can offer is that if the oils are placed into something boiling hot, the properties may dissipate. I haven't tried making soap yet so I am not sure what point the oils are added and if that is an issue. However, if the oils are added without any hinderance from extreme heat, I would think the medicinal value remains although the scent isn't strong enough to shine through. However, that is just "off the top" thinking... Sorry I couldn't be of more help!

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    4. Sure, no prob.
      But as a rule of thumb, if the scent is gone do you think the properties are also gone?

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    5. Ok, this is just my way of thinking... If I was to open a bottle of rosemary essential oil (for instance) and it no longer smelled of rosemary then I would assume the properties were gone...

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  3. Thank you for sharing your list of excellent uses for expired essential oils. I love using good quality essential oils for medicine, and I've used the lesser quality ones in my soap making for 20+ years. I don't worry too much about recently expiration dates unless I detect something off.
    Have a great Wednesday!

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    1. Exactly! I do the same thing! I buy less expensive oils for crafty projects and use the doTERRA strictly for medicinal purposes. In my case, I had some quality oils that were 15 years old that I didn't trust as much... But I LOVE that I can still use them in many other ways! :) Happy Wednesday to you too!

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  4. I didn't realize the shelf life was so short for the citrus type oils. My favorite oils!
    Thanks for sharing the great post :)

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    1. Yes, I was surprised to learn that too. They are the cold pressed oils and tend to oxidize rapidly. If treated properly, they should be at their best until about 12 months and they will decrease in strength... Nice to hear from you Sandra! :)

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  5. I put a couple drops of older oils on the tube inside my toilet paper rolls. I also make my own "Poo-pourri"!

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    1. Great ideas Kathy! Thank you for sharing! :)

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  6. Jes, as always I'm left with so much wisdom every time I visit :0). I'm also a deTerra fan but have yet to purchase their oils. I have received some as gifts :0)!

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    1. Gifts are the best way to acquire these oils! :) They are wonderful and I try to save them for our medicine cabinet and use the less expensive oils for crafty-ish projects. Have a wonderful week Mari! :)

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  7. Hello JES! Thank you for working to research this out for us, and I did not know that about citrus oils. Thank you for sharing that information! I need to check the expiration dates on my oils, I guess! Hope you are having a wonderful week :)

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    1. Yes, yes, it was news to me too! Thank you for stopping by! :)

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  8. I see we are kindred spirits...I too am very frugal but will go all out for good chocolate, good books and essential oils.
    My favorite oil is On Guard. I use it almost daily after brushing my teeth. It has helped my gums so much and is the best product for keeping my immune system up. I love to breathe "Breathe" it smells wonderful. And I use Lavender oil in my diffuser at night to rest well.
    God's peace be with you and your loved ones JES....

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    1. Just my kind of woman! Thank you for sharing! On Guard, Lavender and Breathe are a part of my top 5 favorite too. I like the idea with the On Guard!

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  9. I am also a lover of DoTerra essential oils.

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    1. Aren't they wonderful! We use them every day in such a variety of ways! So handy to have around! :)

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  10. Never heard about keeping the citrus oils in the fridge, but they are the ones I go through the quickest! Those thick ones that get better with age . . . they also get more difficult to get out of the bottle!

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    1. So very true Abi!!! Plus they are the more expensive oils! I don't own any of them... though I think my mother lent us the vetiver once.... We tend to go through the citrus oils quicker too.

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  11. I had no idea they would lose their potency, I need to check my oils. I pinned JES, your posts are always so helpful. Thanks for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop!

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