Essential Oils Will Not Mix With Water!

Essential Oils Will Not Mix With Water!

Based on their chemistry, pure essential oils obtained via distillation will NOT mix with water. Not only will they NOT mix with water, their specific gravity in most cases is lighter so they will float on top. Anyone who disputes this fact had better do some research on how essential oils are extracted from plants. I have included a simple yet colourful diagram to demonstrate this process to those who are unfamiliar with essential oil distillation.

Steam Dist DiagramIf you are reading this and are sure that YOUR essential oils will mix with water, think again. If they do, they are probably already diluted with a solvent or alcohol which is a favorite trick of many essential oil companies. How do you think they can sell commodities such as these at a cheaper price than everyone else?

Conversely some will make ridiculous claims that their oils are sooo pure they’ll mix with water which is a false justification to charge excessively higher prices. The irony is that if it is a pure undiluted essential oil with no chemical alterations. it will not mix with water.

There are many chemicals which can solubilize essential oils so they become miscible with water but only a few are on the natural side. One is glycerine, a non-fermented alcohol which is very skin friendly, inexpensive and easy to obtain. It does not completely break down all essential oils, but does enough of a job that the essential oil is dispersed safely when adding water.

The other option is alcohol, either pure ethyl alcohol (grain) or denatured alcohol which must be at least 60% while 100% (anhydrous) is optimal. Pure ethyl alcohol is strictly controlled in Canada and costs a small fortune creating a barrier for the average person to obtain. Denatured is relatively inexpensive and not controlled, but there are few suppliers out there. For those of us in Canada, vodka is not useful as our liquors are limited to 40%.

Contrary to many written resources, witch hazel can’t dissolve an essential oil either.  I’m not sure where this myth comes from other than the idea that commercial witch hazels tend to contain up to 30% alcohol with the concentrated plant extract and the rest water.  This is not nearly enough alcohol content to dissolve an essential since at least 60% is required.

An average ratio is 1 I.U. drop essential oil to 1 ml glycerine or alcohol. This can vary slightly with different essential oils and the amounts you wish to dilute. Once the essential oil is solubilized, you can add any amount of water required. If you do not take this step, you could end up with either an ineffective product or painful application.

For example if you create a room spray by adding essential oils and water in a bottle and shake before use, the essential oil will not make it to the bottom long enough to be sucked up through that little hose to the sprayer. As the spray is used up, the essential oil will continue to float on top of the water. What you are left with is a mess of oxidized essential oil in the bottom of the bottle. Ineffective product!

If you intend to add essential oils to a bath without premixing, your sensitive body parts will have an uncomfortable encounter with the pure essential oils which are still floating on the top of the water. Painful application!

Enjoy your bath…

Sandy Powell

Comments ( 11 )

  • Patricia

    I’m from Argentina and I don’t understand what “I.U.” stands for in this formula: “1 I.U. drop essential oil to 1 ml glycerine or alcohol”
    Could you explain? Thanks.

    • Admin

      it means “International Unit”. For further context there is approximately 20 I.U drops in 1 ml of liquid. Hope this helps

      Sandy Powell

  • Katrina Williams

    Thank you! Thank you! I have been looking for this type of information and I found you-this blog. This was EXTREMELY helpful. I had white willow bark and I could not get it to solubilize with my oils and it was either on the top or at the bottom. I added the white willow extract to vegetable glycerin and IT WORKED! Thanks and Many blessings to you!!! Now I can finalize my final body oil formulate as I now know how to solubilize it with glycerin. The water was in the white willow bark extract and not in my actual carrier oils. When I tried to add the white willow bark to my carrier oils it just sat on top of the oils. Thank you for this insight.

    • Admin

      Glad it worked for you and that we have been helpful. You will find glycerine to be a multi-faceted ingredient which is safe, simple and inexpensive. Good luck with your formulations!

      Sandy

  • Andrea basile

    This segment was very nicely explained. Thank you.
    I am new to essential oils but am wondering if the process of emulsification could also serve to even out the aroma emission from my diffuser.
    I am frustrated by the fact that my diffuser seems to emit the peppermint aroma preferentially, and later during the day, the other components of the EO mix come out by themselves. I would prefer a balanced mix of smell throughout the day.
    Advice?
    -ab

  • Kait

    Your blog is so informative, thank you!

    I am interested in making a facial oil with a few different carrier oils as well as White Willow Bark extract. I have found different WWB extracts — some with alcohol as the solvent, some with just water, some with a mix of water and alcohol.

    Can vegetable glycerin be used for these extracts (regardless of the solvent) to mix the WWB in with my carrier oils?

    If I used the extract with alcohol and water, is the alcohol enough of a preservative (190 proof), or would I still require a preservative?

    Thanks!!

    • Andrea Ashley Ellsworth

      Hi Kait,

      If you are making a facial oil, first off you would not be using anything water soluble such as an extract. However if you are wanting to make a serum that includes this WWB extract you would then need to do an emulsion in which just mixing alcohol and water will not work. In answer to your preservative question, with a product like this containing both oils and water/ alcohol based extracts you will need a preservative.

  • Shannon

    Hi
    should this work for fragrances and preservatives

    • Andrea Ashley Ellsworth

      Hi Shannon,

      It depends. When working with fragrances and preservatives because you would need to know if they are oil soluble or water soluble so it would be a case by case scenario in which you need to look at your entire ingredient list for a specific answer.

  • Faye

    Hello! Thanks for this. I have also read that pure aloe Vera gel or shop bought aloe Vera gel is suitable. Is this correct on your opinion?
    Thank you

    • Andrea Ashley Ellsworth

      Hi Faye,

      Great question, however aloe is not suitable for diluting essential oils as it is nearly 100% water based so it does not contain the chemistry required to break down an essential oil properly. Hope this helps.

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