Updated: April 25, 2022

Like food, essential oils also have an expiration date. Of course, the shelf life of your oil depends on the type of oil itself. As a general rule, most essential oils have a shelf life of around three years when properly stored.

Do essential oils expire?

Yes, essential oils are organic compounds and are subject to oxidation (deterioration).

The shelf life of an oil depends on its chemical composition, storage conditions and how it is handled. Oils high in monoterpenes, such as citrus oils, tend to oxidize faster than those higher in sesquiterpenes, such as vetiver and patchouli.

The most common sign of oxidation is the formation of sediment at the bottom of the bottle.

This sediment usually consists of residue from the plant material used in the distillation or other impurities that have settled over time. While not harmful, using this sediment can cause rancidity and other side effects when oxidized oils are applied topically or used aromatically.

The best way to extend the shelf life of your essential oils is to store them out of direct sunlight in alloy (aluminum) bottles with tight-fitting lids.

Be careful not to expose your essential oils to excessively high or low temperatures. When essential oils are exposed to extreme temperatures, they can become cloudy at room temperature or even solidify and form a gel.

How do you know if they've expired?

The expiration date is usually listed on the oil's label, but can be difficult to find. If you have oil that has been lying around for years and you're not sure if it's expired or not, there are a couple of ways to check.

First look at the month and year on the label. If the date is more than a year old, it has probably expired. Then open the bottle and smell it. If it has an unpleasant musty smell, this indicates that it is probably spoiled. If any of the tests indicate your oil is spoiled, don't use it! You might experience skin irritation or other negative side effects from using an expired essential oil. Also note that some oils (like citrus oils) can spoil before the printed expiration date!

There are many companies that put a two or three year expiration date on their essential oil bottles, but that doesn't mean the oils are spoiled. It means that the company uses additives

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