Essential oils are all the rage right now in the world of wellness and natural healing. These concentrated plant extracts are known for their many health and aromatherapy benefits.
I’ve been using essential oils for years in my diffuser, skin care routines, and even cleaning products. I’ve often wondered if essential oils can freeze.
Recently, I learned about the ‘freezer test’, which checks oil purity by freezing them. Apparently, if they freeze, they are considered impure. This surprised me, so I decided to investigate further.
My research showed that essential oils can freeze, but this doesn’t harm their quality or purity.
Keep reading to understand how freezing and other extreme temperatures impact essential oils, and to learn about freezing oils, signs of expiration, and more.
What Happens When You Put Essential Oils in the Freezer?
When you expose essential oils to freezing temperatures, many of them will solidify or crystallize, especially those high in compounds like menthol. For example, if you put peppermint oil in the freezer, the menthol can crystallize, turning the oil thick and cloudy looking.
However, the oil doesn’t harden into a complete solid. When you take the bottle out, the crystals will start to melt quickly from your hand warmth. The oil will likely drip and pour out still, just thickened by the menthol crystals mixed in.
The point at which an essential oil will freeze depends on its unique chemical composition. Citrus oils high in monoterpenes like limonene won’t crystalize as easily as peppermint. But if you get the temperature low enough, even these lighter oils will eventually freeze.
The most important takeaway is that freezing does not damage, adulterate, or impact the quality of essential oils at all. It simply causes the formation of crystals in oils with higher melting points. Once thawed back to room temp, the oil returns to its regular consistency and integrity. So the “freezer test” is debunked!
Factors That Affect Essential Oil Freezing Points
Multiple factors determine the specific temperature at which any essential oil will solidify when frozen:
- Molecular size – Oils with smaller, shorter chain molecules require colder temperatures to freeze than oils with larger particles. For instance, short chain monoterpenes in citrus oils need very cold freezing to solidify.
- Temperature – The colder the temperature, the more likely an essential oil is to freeze. Most home freezers only get down to 0°F/-18°C. Lab freezers can get much colder and freeze almost any oil.
- Surface area – The greater the surface area of exposed oil, the faster freezing can occur. For example, a shallow tray will crystallize faster than a narrow test tube.
- Air circulation – Loose bottle caps allow the escape of vapor from oil evaporation. This vapor saturation limits further evaporation until the air is circulated. Opening the bottle provides fresh air contact to continue evaporation and freezing.
So if you really want to freeze your essential oils rapidly, use a wide vessel with plenty of headspace in the coldest freezer possible, and leave the cap loose!
Should You Freeze Your Essential Oils?
Freezing is actually a smart way to store essential oils long-term. The consistent cold temperature minimizes oxidation while keeping the oils in the dark. The closed bottles also prevent evaporation and air exposure.
Some key tips if you want to freeze your oil collection:
- Allow frozen oils to thaw at room temperature before use – don’t try to heat them!
- Keep bottle caps loose during freezing to prevent pressure buildup.
- Use smaller bottles to limit air space and oxidation potential.
- Track freeze dates – freezing extends but doesn’t eliminate shelf life.
The only downside is that you have to let frozen oils warm up before enjoying their aroma and benefits. But storing in the freezer is ideal for stockpiling oils you don’t use frequently.
How to Store Oils Without Freezing
If thawing frozen oils sounds like a hassle, you can maintain them just fine without freezing. Simply follow these guidelines:
- Keep bottles in a cool, dark place like a pantry away from heat and sunlight.
- Always ensure caps are tightly closed to prevent evaporation.
- Transfer to smaller bottles to limit oxidation-causing air exposure.
- Write the opening date on each oil and follow usage times.
- Don’t let oils get too hot – heat damages many oils severely.
Proper storage at moderate room temperature can maintain your essential oils beautifully for many months. Just be diligent about keeping lids sealed and away from light or heat.
Signs Your Essential Oils Have Gone Bad
Over time, even with ideal storage methods, essential oils will eventually expire and oxidize. Here are some signs your oils have degraded:
- An unpleasant, strong aroma or complete loss of smell
- Change in oil color – may turn darker, cloudy, or even clear
- A thick, gummy texture with clumps or crystals
- Passed the manufacturer’s expiration date
If you notice any of these, discard the oil – expired oils can cause skin irritation or other undesirable effects if used. Always check and adhere to expiration times, especially for delicate citrus oils.
The Effects of Heat on Essential Oils
While we’ve focused on freezing, heat can be even more damaging to essential oils due to increased evaporation. Exposure to high temperatures causes:
- Faster evaporation and oxidation
- Potential to reach the oil’s “flash point” ignition temperature
- Degradation of delicate oils like citrus, floral, and absolutes
To avoid these effects, always store oils away from direct sunlight, stoves, candles, or any other heat sources. And never intentionally try to heat an oil – this radically alters its composition as compounds vaporize.
Some tips for preventing heat damage:
- Keep away from windows and ambient warm spots
- Never leave in hot vehicles or outside for delivery
- Use amber or blue bottles to limit light absorption
- Allow warm bottles to fully cool before opening
Treating your oils gently by avoiding extremes of heat or freezing will maintain their integrity and shelf life. Be especially cautious with expensive oils like Young Living’s Jade Lemon!
Hopefully this post clarified the answer to “can essential oils freeze?” for you! While low temperatures can cause temporary crystallization, freezing doesn’t affect oil quality or purity at all. Refrigerating and freezing oils is actually great for long term storage and preventing degradation.
Just be sure to allow frozen oils time to thaw fully at room temperature before using. And always keep bottles sealed and away from heat, light, and air to extend their shelf life. With proper care, you can enjoy your favorite essential oils for many months without losing potency, aroma, or therapeutic power.