Most of us that have essential oils around the home and use them for treating illness or for other therapeutic reasons know that you cannot use these oils forever. While essential oils don’t go rancid, they do start to break down, oxidize and deteriorate with age…and generally after 2-3 years you want to replace your oils for new ones if you plan to use them for any sort of treatment purposes. But that doesn’t mean you just have to trash everything and start over. There are still many ways you can use old essential oils without just tossing them out.


Signs your Essentials Oils Have Gone Bad

Essential oils that are old won’t usually harm you, but they generally are not as effective as they get older. There is no set perfect age for oils but it is always best to use them as quickly as possible and it’s smart to buy as little as possible whenever you can. I have definitely been guilty of buying more than I could use in a 2-3 year period and in the end, I just wound up throwing out the oils. So learn from my mistake and buy as small a portion as necessary.

Here are a few sure signs that your oils have gone bad:

  • The aroma is very different from when you bought it
  • The oil is very thick or sludge-like
  • The oils is no longer clear but instead cloudy or opaque
photo credit: SimonQ錫濛譙 via photopin cc

photo credit: SimonQ錫濛譙 via photopin cc

How to Use Old Essential Oils

  • Add a few drops to drains and toilets to freshen them — Just a couple drops is plenty to freshen drains without causing problems in your local water plant or sewers. A couple drops is akin to what you’d have in other bathing product you use but essential oils are flammable and should certainly not be allowed to leech into the public water supply or vegetation since they can be harmful when ingested in high doses.
  • Put them in your shower to jump start your morning — Again, just a few drops works great here. While you can just drop them anywhere in your shower basis, I actually like drop them on the shower head which heats them a bit and the smell lingers longer. Citrus essential oils are great in the morning since they help you wake up and can also give you a personal happy boost.
  • Make your own room diffuser — This is a really simplified version of a diffuser but you can put oils in a small dish or even on candles to freshen the air in your room. Old oils often won’t give you the same aromatic effects as newer oils, but they can still make the air smell better.
  • Put some on a rag, cotton ball into your vacuum, closet, drawers, etc — This is a great way to keep clothes, towels and other things fresh between washes.
  • Add a few drops to fabric softener or your laundry detergent — I put a few drops in my detergent ball or when I fill in the fabric softener. Don’t let the oils get in contact with your clothing or other materials, though, as it can leave stains.
  • Repel pests — Flies, mosquitoes and other creatures won’t care too much if your oils are fresh or not — as long as they still smell strongly. Add oils like citronella to a candle (careful, though, they are flammable), into potpourri or fill in a small dish to keep bugs at bay. By the way, bees are not a fan of peppermint or other strong smelling oils.


How do you use up your essential oils as they reach the end of their life? Please share your ideas below!