How should I store my essential oils?
This is one of the most popular questions that I tend to get during the classes I teach, and for a good reason. The information we find online usually recommends placing them in the refrigerator, but seldom explains the why and how. And when you are a family of five and your refrigerator is already packed, this can become a head scratcher! Here are some facts to help you decide how to store and organize your essential oils, according to your needs.
1. Light and Heat Can Damage Essential Oils.
Essential oils are, by definition, the most volatile, aromatic constituents of a plant. Heat and sunlight can deteriorate the precious compounds in essential oils and reduce their shelf life. To prevent damage, essential oils are sold in tinted bottles (amber, green, blue…), and can be stored without a problem at a comfortable room temperature.
Take care to keep them away from heat sources such as a heaters or fireplaces, and out of direct sunlight. A shelf on the wall away from sunlight can be just as good as a dark cabinet.
2. Oxidation – Mind Your Monoterpenes!
Essential oils with a high content of monoterpenes should be considered with care. They include the citruses, pines, Frankincense, Cypress and Juniper berry, amongst others. Monoterpenes are very light, volatile and fragile compounds that can degrade quickly when they are in contact with oxygen. This is called oxidation, and oxidized essential oils, if used on the skin, can potentially cause skin sensitization. Oxidized oils can still be diffused or used in cleaning products, but contact with the skin should be avoided. If an oil has oxidized or gone “off”, you may notice a loss of aromatic vitality, change of aroma, or possibly even a cloudy appearance. The shelf life of citrus oils usually ranges from 6 months to a year.
When buying bulk amounts of oil (2oz., 4oz. or more), make sure to pour it into smaller bottles to reduce the surface in contact with air (head space), and place an orifice reducer on top. The oxidation process can also be slowed down by placing these essential oils in the refrigerator.
3. To Refrigerate or Not to Refrigerate?
That is the question. Well, the answer is: it depends.
Mostly, what matters is that the temperature remains stable, and your essential oils are away from direct heat and sunlight.
Choosing to keep your oils in the refrigerator or not eventually comes down to considering how often you use them. As an aromatherapist and a teacher, I use essential oils on an everyday basis; they come and go rather fast, and I do not buy them in bottles bigger than 1oz. This means that my citrus oils are used within 6 months to a year, and do not need to be refrigerated.
If you are not using your monoterpene-rich essential oils regularly, and/or if you are buying bulk amounts of these oils, consider placing them into the refrigerator.
4. Practically Speaking…
Depending on the way you use essential oils, think about how practical your storage will be.
I like the idea of an organized box with dedicated slots and round labels on top of each cap. This is perfect when you have less than 30 bottles (you can find multiple size boxes).
But this is an example of what doesn’t work for me personally, as I am constantly going through my oils, and need to have quick and easy access. A box would never suffice to store all my oils, I would find myself struggling to find what I’m looking for, and would probably not place them back where they belong. Another option is using an alphabetized classification system on a wall shelf, which is an interesting choice if you are working as an aromatherapist, and have enough space to showcase all of your essential oils.
If you are a nomad aromatherapist or teacher, consider purchasing a travel satchel to store your essential oils. These usually come with a decent number of slots and elastic bands to keep your oils straight. You can also make storage fun by using a label-maker, color coding, etc… be creative!
Remember how you like to work with your oils and keep that intention in mind as you create the perfect storage solution for you.