Does Lavender Oil Go Off? Why, When, and How to Tell, a Guide


Lavender oil is a very popular essential oil. So the question does lavender oil go off often naturally arises – usually, when you come to use that bottle you may have lurking around in a dark drawer or from the back of your essential oils collection!

While the time, period, or conditions in which essential oils go off does differ, in this article we’ll focus on lavender oil, and whether or not Lavender oil goes off.

So first, here’s the quick takeaway answer, then we’ll get into some of the details and some guidance too!

Does lavender Oil Go Off? Lavender oil goes off 6 years from the period of distillation. Distillation is the point at which the oil is extracted from the plant and it’s this process that determines the approximate date that lavender will go off. The distillation starts from the day you unscrew the bottle, which is worth keeping in mind.

As a general guide though, most essential oils – unless labeled with an expiry date – should be kept no longer than 3-4 years. But here we’ll continue with our focus on lavender oil…

Why Does lavender oil go off?

Most natural-based products go off at some point, they all pretty much lose their potency after some time. That period of time just varies – depending on the ingredients!

So this means products like lavender oil have a shelf life or expiry date …in the same way that other more conventional medicines do.

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This is because as these products are natural, their components and compositions become altered over time, be it through external environmental conditions or general degradation of its natural materials.

What is meant by “Go off”

When we say “does lavender oil go off”, this doesn’t mean lavender oil goes off or “bad” in the same way we think of food.

For the most part, unused lavender oil doesn’t develop mold and smell, etc. Instead, this simply means that the lavender oil will deteriorate in its effectiveness over time.

The following chart gives you some indication of how this process works. From the point of distillation, the lavender oil will begin to degrade over the time shown.

One of the main reasons why lavender oil goes off is because of oxidation. Oxidize means to undergo a reaction that’s mainly instigated by a combination of oxygen and heat.

This reaction would result in the electrons within the oil changing irrevocably. So this is the first and most major reason why lavender oils go off.

And this is also one of the main reasons why experts like myself recommend lavender oil be stored under correct essential oil storage conditions – to extend or make their shelf life last as long as possible. 

Lavender oil has such a wealth of benefits and mixes beautifully with another of my favorite oils, ylang-ylang. Head over to my other helpful article to find out more!

When does lavender oil go off?

The time when lavender oil goes off is called the shelf life. And shelf life for lavender or pretty much any other essential oils starts from the moment the oil is produced – much in the same way food degrades from the point of making it.

Again, when I say “produced”, I mean the point at which the oil is extracted or distilled from the lavender plant material. 

Usually, reputable essential oil suppliers will provide the year of distillation on the bottle or container, along with the shelf life or period the oil will go off or expire.

So as an example, if you buy lavender essential oil with a distillation date of July 2019 and an expected shelf life of 6 years. This means that the oil will expire by July 2025. That is from the year of distillation 2019 to six year’s front, which stands at July 2025.

But don’t mistake this for the “expiry date” we see in conventional medications like six years from the day of purchase or so on. 

If you’re harvesting your lavender oil of course, then you should add these dates on some little stickers so you have your record.

Labeling bottles, with the expiry date or shelf life not only looks handmade and cute, but it will also help you keep track of when your supplies of lavender oil will go off.

Another common problem many have is when they don’t see an expiry or distillation date on their lavender oil bottle.

Identifying how or when these lavender oils go off – when they don’t have a shelf life or distillation date can be pretty tricky to deal with. So let’s get into that next. 

keeping your lavender essential oil in tip-top condition is important for using in your diffuser and getting the best benefits. Lavender is well known for its relaxing effects, so head over to my other helpful article to find out my curated list of best oils for calm and relaxation.

“Labeling bottles, with the expiry date or shelf life, not only looks handmade,
and cute but helps you keep track of when your supplies of lavender oil will go off.”

How to identify when lavender oil goes off when there’s no expiry or distillation date

Many people buy essential oils from stores and other places – which isn’t from the direct manufacturer. 

So the manufacturers or distillers ship these essential oils in “Bulk” to essential oil distributors and suppliers who will re-bottle these oil into small-sized glass bottles that are sold to you.

So generally the distillation point will be from where the manufacturer supplies it for distributors and suppliers. So it’s quite normal for us to think that these bottles expire pretty soon. 

However, the distributors and suppliers often add a preservative.

This preservative creates a barrier between the oil and oxygen and is there to help slow down the oxidation process, slow the escape of volatile compounds, and thereby extends the shelf life.

…Or in other words, reduce the period when you lavender oil will go off!

So for oils with preservatives, the distillation period should start from the day you unscrew the bottle to use it, and according to approximate estimations, the oil will stay in good condition for up to 3-4 years. This estimation is a general calculation – based on the bottle being stored under appropriate and healthy conditions.

But there is of course a chance are that your lavender oil can go off even before this 3-4 year shelf life period – depending on the conditions you keep it in.

By checking the expiration date on your lavender oil you can make sure it’s in the best condition to help you or your partner find relief and comfort from sleep apnea, head over and find out how!

“…for oils with preservatives, the distillation period should start from the day you unscrew the bottle to use it”

However, you can always look for signs and evaluate if the oil has gone off…

One main thing you can do is make a small smell check, this can often give you an indication of how potent the oil is.

It’s also a good idea to evaluate the smell and remember to write down the date details when you first unscrew the bottle …and then you might be better able to assess it later – whenever you feel the oil might have gone off. 

Also, you can evaluate the appearance of the oil. This can sometimes be hard in some of the darker bottles, so you might need to hold it up to the light, or shine a light through the bottle.

Sometimes lavender oil can “separate” and look somewhat cloudy when it’s gone off. So when you first obtain a bottle, it’s always a good idea just to have a quick check on it to make sure the oils are still mixed – and hey, maybe just apply a bit of oil to check.

Again, adding a little tick to the bottle means you checked it when you got it and it was all fine.

When checking your oil, if any of these factors – or the dates – look wrong to you, then it’s best to discard the oil …along with the bottle too. Better to be safe. This is what I usually do!

knowing that your lavender oil is in optimum condition, you can get the best benefits from mixing it with tea tree and other power-packed essential oils! head over to my other info-packed article to find blended, balms, diffuser recipes and more!

I hope this has been useful in answering the question does lavender oil go off, and even helping you understand a little more about why oil goes off at all and what that means.

if you’re looking to gain more essential oil know-how. why not find out ‘Can You Use Essential Oils on Plants?’ or maybe you might want to know, ‘Do Essential Oils Firm Breasts?’ and for those of you who are diffuser lovers, check out my helpful article about ‘ How Much Oil In A Diffuser, Drops, Sizes, A Guide!’ for some inspiration!

This content has been checked and verified by a medical professional or aromatherapist The article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.

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