Essential oils, like most volatile liquids, need to be stored appropriately to ensure they maintain their therapeutic qualities. Preserving your precious essential oils requires a few simple steps.
First lets talk a bit about the four basic categories your oils fall into. Each oil category has slightly different requirements for storage.
- Pure steam distilled single oils and blends.
- Pure steam distilled oil blends in a carrier oil.
- Cold pressed or expressed oils.
How to store pure steam distilled oils
This covers the largest selection of your essential oils. These are obtained as steam passes through pressed plant material which unites with the oil. This is then collected where the oil and water separate.
Storing your essential oils at normal room temperature (not above 80 degrees F.) allows them to retain their many therapeutic qualities indefinitely. If going camping or to the beach, you may want to place the oils in a baggie and then in your cooler.
Please note: subjecting the oil to short periods of higher heat is not a problem. If your oils get too hot, say in your car or at the beach, keep the lids closed and let them sit at room temperature for several hours before using.
How to store pre-diluted steam distilled oil blends
These oils are mixed as a blend WITH a carrier oil, such as olive, sesame, jojoba, or almond oil, etc. These oils require a little more care. (Note: essential oils blended together without a carrier oil fall into the category outlined above in #1.)
Carrier oils are pressed from seeds. By their natural fatty nature, the carrier oil will begin to degrade even without excessive heat over time. The essential oils mixed in with the carrier oil serve partially as a preservative, keeping fats/oils from going rancid.
If you plan to use your carrier oil blends within a year of purchase, and they are stored at normal room temperature, they should stay good. When collecting oils to be “stocked up”, you should store the extra blends in a refrigerator or cold storage room, and be sure to use them within two years.
If you're like me and carry some of these blends with you, don’t leave them in your car. When taking your oils camping or to the beach, keep them cool in your ice chest.
How to store cold-pressed or expeller pressed oils
These describe citrus oils that are pressed from the rinds of the fruit. These include:
Citrus oils can be damaged at temperatures above 100 degrees (F), and should be stored at room temperature. While it is fine to carry these oils and blends containing them with you, storing them in a hot car for long periods can cause their molecular structure to breakdown over time. The key to remember is over a period of time… this does not mean one trip to the grocery store.
These oils will last and retain their therapeutic values for a good year. For longer term storage, you should refrigerate them.
How to store Absolutes
Absolutes describe a few oils where the plants' delicate volatile liquid can not be extracted through steam distillation. These include:
Because these plants are incredibly difficult to distill without causing damage, most companies use chemical solvents in which trace amounts do remain in the finished product.
A quick note on Young Living oils… YL sets themselves apart from other oil manufacturing companies by how their absolutes are processed. Instead of using chemical solvents, Young Living using the state of the art carbon dioxide extraction technology that leaves no processing residue.
These oils can be damaged at temperatures above 90 degrees (F). Use the same care for these oils as you do for expressed oils. Shelf life is one to two years, depending on temperature storage.
Direct sunlight will destroy all essential oils, changing the chemical composition into a substance that no longer has any therapeutic value. For this reason essential oils should be packaged and stored in dark amber or blue glass bottles and kept out of direct sunlight.Direct sunlight will destroy your essential oils. Keep EOs out of the sun.
- Keep caps tightly closed when not in use
(do not over-tighten… tightening caps too hard will cause the caps to split)
- Do NOT store in direct sunlight.
- Avoid exposure to high heat and light for prolonged periods.
- Store at normal room temperature.
- Take a periodic inventory of your oils and rotate to use what is getting older.
- Use your oils! It makes no sense to hoard them. Use the oils you buy!
There are many ways you can store your oils to ensure they stay out of the sun and are convenient to use. When not traveling, we keep our frequently used oils in a box case (ones designed for nail polish work great too), some oils on a a spice rack in one of our master bedroom closet, and duplicate back up oils in a large case up on a shelf in one of our closets.
Other options to keep your oils easily accessible while also keeping them ready to go in case of moving, traveling, or to keep put away on a shelf include handy cases with individual oil slots to help keep your oils protected. As a military family who moves every 2-3 years (sometimes more), and often lives full time in an RV, these are my personal favorites:
There are also gorgeous options to display your oils on the wall. Please note the times of day the sun peers through your windows throughout the year so you're not hanging your oils in an area that may see direct sunlight.
Many people also opt for a stand for their oils that displays them on a counter or shelf for easy access and use. We love this option for our bathroom and kitchen!
Following these simple steps and using our storage ideas will help you remain confident that your essential oils are kept at the highest quality and are ready to use.
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