As an Essential Oil teacher….
…..this is one of the most popular questions I tend to get during the classes I teach: “How should I store my essential oils?” It’s a great question, and I have few quick tips to make it easy. 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 organize your essential oils storage, according to your needs.
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 problem at comfortable room temperature.
Be careful not to keep them near a heat source such as a radiator or a fireplace, or in direct sunlight. A shelf on a wall away from sunlight can be just as good as a dark cabinet.
Oxidation of Essential Oils : Mind the Monoterpenes
Essential oils with a high content of monoterpene should be considered with care. They include citrus, 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 the essential oil, if used on the skin, can potentially cause skin sensitization. Oxidized oils can still be diffused or used in cleaning product, but contact with the skin should be avoided. The shelf life of citrus oils usually ranges from 6 months to a year.
If you are buying bulk amounts of oils (2oz, 4oz and more), make sure to pour it into smaller bottles to reduce the surface in contact with air, and to place an orifice reducer on top.
The oxidation process can be slowed down by placing those essential oils in the refrigerator.
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, as long as your essential oils are away from direct heat and sunlight.
Now, the fact that you choose to keep your oils in the refrigerator eventually comes down to how 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. It 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-high essential oils regularly, and/or if you are buying bulk amounts of these oils, consider placing them into the refrigerator.
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, which 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, as I am constantly going through my oils, and need to have a quick and easy access. A box would never suffice to store all my oils, and 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 an alphabetized classification on a wall shelf, which is interesting if you are working as an aromatherapist, and need enough place and a quick overview of all your essential oils.
If you are a nomad aromatherapist or teacher, consider purchasing a travel satchel to store your essential oils. They usually come with a decent number of slots and elastic bands to keep your oils straight.
Remember to set your intention and think about how you want to work with your oils. You can also make storage fun by using a label-maker, a colors code, etc… be creative!