How To Store Essential Oils
One of the first questions newcomers to aromatherapy ask is “What’s the best way to look after my essential oils?” And given the financial investment that we all make in our trusty oils, it’s surely in everybody’s best interest to know the answer.
As is often the case in aromatherapy though, there’s more to this subject than you might think because there are several contributing factors. Get it wrong, and you’ll end up throwing your oils away because they have spoiled, Get it right, and your oils will keep in perfect condition for much, much longer.
First things first . . .
It may seem obvious, but you need to ensure that the oils were fresh when you first bought them, otherwise they may have already begun to oxidize (deteriorate) which reduces their therapeutic properties. Once the process of oxidation has begun, it can’t be reversed and will accelerate over time. This is why it’s so important to buy your oils from a specialist aromatherapy company, rather than a health food store where they may have been on the shelves for many months under less than ideal conditions.
Next, the oils you buy should be packaged in dark coloured glass bottles, since the colour filters out the sun’s ultra-violet light. For many years dark amber was always the colour of choice in glass bottles for essential oils, but now dark shades of blue, green and violet have become more popular and they all offer some protection to your oils.
In the dark
Irrespective of the colour of the bottle, never leave any type of oils in a place where the sun will shine directly onto them, such as on a shelf in front of a window in the kitchen or bathroom. Over a period of months this would dramatically speed up the process of oxidation due to them heating up and cooling down. Choose a cool, dark place to keep them safely away from heat and also inquisitive children. This is an important safety point that’s often overlooked.
And since they are moderately volatile, essential oils will evaporate fairly quickly so be sure to replace the cap tightly when you have finished using them. You don’t want the essential oils evaporating up towards the heavens! Don’t leave them lying around after using them, always return them to your safe storage place.
Citrus essential oils are the most prone to oxidation, so to extend their shelf life keep them in the refrigerator, if you have enough space. Massage oils and carrier oils will also benefit greatly by storing them this way. You don’t need the refrigerator temperature very cold, anywhere between 5 – 10 degrees Celsius is fine, and much better than on the window-ledge in the kitchen!
If you do store your essential oils in the fridge you will find that Rose Otto, Star Anise, Cedar Virginian, Fennel and a few others will become waxy or solidify at this temperature due to certain chemical constituents. If this happens just allow them to warm up naturally before you use them. Simply holding a bottle of Rose Otto in your hand for a minute produces enough heat to dissolve the natural waxes which solidify just below room temperature. Some other essential oils may need to stand for a few hours to return to normal.
When it is particularly hot, you can also store your Carrier oils in the fridge too, since they can be particularly vulnerable. To make sure they are ready to use take them out of the fridge 12 hours before you need to use them to allow them to naturally adjust to room temperature, because some carrier oils form fatty particles when they are stored at low temperatures. These particles should be dissolved before you can use them, and after reaching room temperature a quick shake of the bottle is all that is needed to ensure they melt back into their normal state.
Jojoba oil will set into a solid, butter-like consistency at cool temperatures, and this is an indication that the oil has not been ‘extended’ with a cheaper carrier oil. Unrefined Avocado may also react in a similar way, although the refined oil will remain liquid since most of the essential fatty acids have been removed during the rectification process.
Essential oil storage boxes
If you do not have the space in your fridge to store your oils, you should consider a storage box of some sort to keep your oils protected in. It does not have to be a fancy box, just something to keep them all together in one place and away from light and extreme temperatures.
If you prefer to buy a box specially designed for the job, take a look at our hand-made Essential Oil Storage Boxes since they are excellent value for money. A good storage box really helps to extend the life of your oils and is an investment that will soon pay for itself.
Essential oils are flammable, therefore never leave them near sources of ignition such as cookers, fires, candles or any naked flame. To help put this into perspective; vodka and many other spirits are also flammable, but if you store them safely and sensibly they are not a problem. Since safety is a very important matter when using essential oils, be sure to read our Safety Guidelines if you are new to aromatherapy.
One final but very important point, – under no circumstances should you ever decant your undiluted essential oils into plastic bottles, since most oils will eat into, and in some cases, melt the plastic. Diluted essential oil preparations such as massage oils and lotions are fine in plastic since the concentration of essential oil is very low.
Copyright © Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd 2014. Written by Geoff Lyth