Oils are becoming more and more useful outside the kitchen. In Nigeria, coconut oil has been used as a cosmetic product for a long long time but is now proudly joined by oils like Hemp Seed Oil, Sweet almond e.t.c.
A fairly common problem with oils is that they get spoilt or they go rancid. And we don't want that, so this post is about storing your oils to last.
It is fairly easy to tell when oils have gone rancid - they smell "off"
So what is the big deal with rancid oils? Why should we be bothered by our oils going bad at all?
1. Ewww, rancid oil is spoilt oil. You don't want that on your skin or hair. Think dermatitis.
2. You also don't want to use rancid oil in cooking. Thanks to the oxidation process, rancid oils are swimming in free radicals. Free radicals, amongst other things are known to cause cellular damage - which means that they can damage cells. And we all know that we are all made of cells, right? If you don't know what free radicals are about, please read here.
So what is Rancidity? How do Oils get rancid or spoilt?
Good Ol' Chemistry!
The most common way to rancidity for oils is via oxidation. Basically, an exposure to oxygen. But that is a really simplistic way of looking at it as there is much more which I can't go into here.
There is also a denaturing process due to exposure to heat and light.
Decomposition rate of an oil increases as the temperature it is at increases.
Most oils are made without heat because they are so delicate. Exposing them to direct sunlight will not only denature them, it will cause them to go rancid quickly because light facilitates oxidation.
High wattage bulbs
So, yeah. That dressing table with bright lights is not a great place to store oils.
This is usually not considered as a factor as most people will not put water in their oils.
However, these days, a lot of "naturals" mix oil and water in their spritz bottles for spraying on their hair.
These mixtures may remain in the bottles for weeks or months. A big no no as water introduces bacteria e.t.c which degrade the mix.
My advice - unless you have a preservative and an antioxidant in the mix, keep your water and oil separate.
So, now that we have a fair idea what causes our oils to go rancid, what can we do?
1. Keep your oils in a dark, dry, cool place - this is the most comprehensive advice that you will get. If you want to get down to the weeds, please keep reading.
2. Buy oils in dark bottles. If your favourite oils do not come in dark bottles, consider transferring the contents to darker bottles.
It is worth mentioning here that there are some clear bottles that are UV treated.
Shameless plug for our Natural Nigerian Oils. They already come in dark bottles.
3. Don't purchase oils that have been left out in the sun. When you go to the market and see those oils that have been left under the sun? Don't buy those. Ask for a new one that has been stored inside the store.
4. Do not mix your oils with water unless you have a way of slowing oxidation and or preserving it.
5. Buy a small quantity at a time. Gauge your oil consumption and buy accordingly. It is not so much of a bargain if you buy a large quantity of oils and then have to throw a large percentage of it out when it goes bad.
6. If you can manage it, add some anti-oxidant like Vitamin E to your oils to extend its shelf life. You can also store most oils in a fridge to extend their shelve lives.
7. Don't leave bottles of oil open longer than necessary. remember oxygen is not our friend in this case.
8. Educate yourself on the shelf lives of most oils. Good list here.
Natural oils are great and will not only help in yielding nice meals but also feed your skin some nutrition when topically applied. If you store them right, you get more bang for your buck.
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