Expired Essential Oils? When to Spring Clean Your Scents

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expired essential oils

All good things must come to an end. Even when it comes to your beloved essential oil collection! After a certain period of time, those small bottles need to be thrown away and replaced. Failure to do so can cause a number of serious issues to occur. For starters, the scent may dull or change in some way, making it less effective. The expired oil may also irritate the skin or cause a reaction. Worried about expired essential oils? It is time to understand when to spring clean your scents.

How to Tell if You Have Expired Essential Oils

There are many reasons to use essential oils. Some reach for these aromatic oils to ease headaches (peppermint is ideal for that purpose), relieve stress (lavender is commonly used for anxiety relief and stress reduction), and improve focus (sandalwood and other grounding oils work well for this). Others like to add a few drops to a diffuser to enjoy all of that incredible natural fragrance. Whether you prefer to use your essential oils for mental and emotional well being… or simply enjoy the scents…it is vital that the oils used are safe. Here are a few different ways to determine whether you have expired essential oils in your home.

Consider the Shelf Life

How long has that bottle of essential oil been in your possession? How long was it sitting on a shelf before that? Both are important factors to consider when it comes to expired essential oils. Some companies clearly state the production date (either on the bottle, on the exterior packaging, or on the website where the oils were purchased). Other companies are not as transparent with that kind of information. So…you may or may not be able to determine the exact shelf life based on the production date. It all depends on what information you have on hand.

There are also general timelines to keep in mind. Some essential oils have a shelf life of one to two years. (It can vary based on the type of carrier oil used.) For example, citrus essential oils, like lemon, tangerine, lime and orange blood. Most essential oils last for approximately three years. For instance, oils like bergamot, roman chamomile, cypress, fir, frankincense, neroli, and tea tree all have a shelf life of three years. There are also some oils that last longer. Like lavender (four to six years depending on the carrier oil), eucalyptus (four years), clary sage (four years), ylang ylang (four years), and patchouli (four to eight years). Once you know the general shelf life, it will be a whole lot easier to determine whether your essential oils are expired.

Pay Attention to How it Looks and Smells

Another way to tell whether you have bottles of expired essential oils on your hands? Notice whether there have been any changes to the way the oil looks and smells. Thanks to oxidation and exposure to light…certain oils can start to look different. One example? Essential oils like chamomile and peppermint can start to change colour over time. They may actually become slightly cloudy or foggy in appearance. Other essential oils may become noticeably thicker in their overall consistency or start to separate.

The smell may also be an issue. One of the main reasons people reach for essential oils is has to do with the fantastic (and beneficial) scents. Unfortunately, over time, the smell may start to change. Do your essential oils smell dull? Bitter or sour? These are clear indications that you have expired essential oils on hand. However, not all essential oils will have an obvious change in aroma. So, consider the shelf life, overall appearance, and the smell.

Do a Patch Test on the Skin

There is another way to determine whether you have expired essential oils. For instance, you can always do a small test patch on the skin. If you normally use essential oils in your moisturizer, lotions, or other skin care products…it may be a good idea to test out your oils every now and then. Especially if you think they might be close to expiration.

Dilute a few drops of the essential oil with a carrier oil and rub a small amount onto your forearm. Wait 24-hours. If there is any reaction, rash, or irritation…that is a good indication that your oil has expired. Something to keep in mind? Certain essential oils, like lavender and tea tree, can irritate the skin and cause increased sensitivity if they are used after oxidation has taken place.

How to Keep Track of Your Essential Oils and Stay Organized

The easiest way to avoid the negative effects of expired essential oils is to do what you can to keep track of them. When you treat yourself to a new essential oil…look for the production date. Or at least, write the purchase date somewhere on the bottle. That way, you will always have a reference. Another idea is to write the dates into a notebook to reference every so often.

It is also important to store your essential oils appropriately. Homemade essential oils or essential oil blends should always be stored in glass containers. (Preferably dark colored glass containers.) Also, be sure to keep your essential oil collection away from sunlight and in a dry area. This will prevent the oxidation process from taking place sooner than it should.

Is it time to spring clean your scents? This is the perfect opportunity to do just that. Go through your existing collection and look for any expired essential oils. Clearing them out will give you a little peace of mind…and ensure that all your oils are safe to use.

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