Essential oils and fragrance smell nice and can give your home a pleasant aroma. With a diffuser, you can scent your entire house easily. However, you may wonder what the oils actually are. Many people who use them have no idea how essential oils are made.
At Whole Home Scenting, we know that you want to understand the products you are bringing into your home. Below is our guide to oils, how they are made, and what effect they have on you and your home.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are ones made from the aromatic parts of plants. In other words, they are the extracted “essence” from the plants. These oils are all-natural and produced by the plant itself.
Plants create essential oils for different reasons. Some produce them to attract pollinators so they can reproduce. Others use their oils to repel animals that may eat them. Some other plants use their essential oils to prevent other species from growing nearby. In some cases, the oils may help protect the plant against pests and microbes.
Some essential oils are produced on the surface of plants and others internally. Touching the leaf of a lavender plant will leave some oil on your finger. This aromatic oil is the plant’s essential oil. Eucalyptus, conversely, needs to be broken open to access the oils. In both cases, however, the oils are produced naturally by the plant’s glandular system.
People have used essential oils for thousands of years to promote wellness and healing. While there have been many outlandish claims about the potential of essential oils, they have some clinically-studied benefits. For example, some oils have anti-inflammatory properties. Others emit a soothing aroma that can help fight stress and promote restful sleep.
Today, essential oils sometimes get a bad rap due to misleading claims. However, there are a few undeniable facts about essential oils: They are naturally produced by plants, they are helpful for aromatherapy, and they smell fantastic.
What Are Some Common Essential Oils?
Common essential oils include flowers, fruits, herbs, and other plants. These are a few of the most popular:
- Tea Tree
Different essential oils have their own properties and effects. For example, many people find citrus oils to be invigorating, whereas lavender is more relaxing. The physical characteristics affect which extraction process is ideal for the plant.
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How Are Essential Oils Made?
As mentioned above, essential oils are made from the aromatic, “essential” parts of different plants. The oils themselves are actually produced by the plants naturally. However, they need to be extracted to be used for aromatic and wellness purposes. Furthermore, essential oils are typically concentrated to make them more practical for transportation and use.
There are several techniques used for extracting essential oils. Each has different benefits and may work better for certain types of plants:
- Steam Distillation: This is the most common method of extraction. The plant material is placed in a container called a still. Steam is allowed into the still from below. As the hot steam rises, it carries the volatile compounds that make the essential oils with it. The steam is cooled, creating a water and oil mixture. These are then separated to create essential oils and floral waters.
- CO2 Extraction: This process uses carbon dioxide as the carrier to remove the essential oils from the plant material. CO2 is pressurized so that it becomes liquid while still in a gaseous state. This is then pumped through the plant matter. The mixture is sent through a pressure-reducing valve to a separator. This process, although more complex, produces more consistent quality.
- Solvent Extraction: In this process, a food-grade solvent is passed through the plant material. This produces a waxy, aromatic compound. This compound is mixed with alcohol and heated, releasing the oil particles. Finally, the oil particles are sent through a condenser, creating the final oil product.
- Maceration: This process uses a carrier oil as a solvent. The carrier oil is passed through the plant matter, picking up the volatile compounds. The remaining solid residue is pressed to recover all the liquid. The mixture is filtered then strained and expressed. This produces what is often called “infused oils.”
- Enfleurage: During this process, the plant materials are placed in an odorless vegetable or animal fat, often lard or tallow. The mixture is allowed to sit while the scent enters the fat. This process is repeated with new plants until the fat is sufficiently saturated. Finally, alcohol is used to separate the leftover, unsaturated fat. This can be done either hot or cold.
Water Distillation: This process is very similar to the steam distillation process. However, rather than passing steam through the plant material, the materials are placed in water. The water is heated, creating steam carrying the volatile compounds. The rest of the distillation process is the same.
- Cold-Press Extraction: The plant material is placed into a device that ruptures its oil sacs. The plant materials are then pressed to squeeze out the remaining oil. Using a centrifuge, the oil and other byproducts are separated and siphoned off into appropriate receptacles.
Different extraction processes suit certain essential oils. For example, solvent extraction is often most effective for plant materials that yield a low amount of essential oil. Water distillation is used for more fragile essential oil plants such as flowers. Cold-press extraction works well for whole fruits. Finding the right extraction process helps essential oil producers get the best possible results.
Although these processes all extract the essential oils from the plants, the term “essential oil” typically only refers to distilled and cold-press extracted oils. Solvent-extracted oils are often called absolutes. Macerated oils are often called infused oils. The fat from enfleurage is sometimes called pomade. The result of the CO2 process may be called essential oils or CO2 extract.
How Are Fragrance Oils Made?
Unlike essential oils, fragrance oils are manufactured. You can think of the essential oil process as being extracting the raw material. Conversely, the fragrance oil process is combining materials to create a product. Although essential oils are frequently used alone, they are also often used as a component of fragrance oils and other products.
Some of the common ingredients in fragrance oils include carrier oils: alcohols, esters, aldehydes, and synthetic compounds. They also often include essential oils, absolutes, and resins. Other ingredients may be lab-made, synthetic compounds.
The manufacturing process depends on the product being created. Some are simple mixtures of carrier oils with aromatic ingredients. Others may involve the transformation of ingredients to improve their aromatic qualities. Fragrance oils are a much more varied and expansive category of aromatic products than essential oils.
How Do Different Oils Compare for Quality?
Essential oils are completely natural, which is something that a lot of people seek. However, something being natural doesn’t necessarily mean that it is superior. For example, the choices for essential oils are significantly more limited compared to fragrance oils because not every plant can produce essential oil.
Additionally, fragrance oils are typically much more stable. If you want to scent your home, for example, the fragrance oil is likely the better choice. It will stay aromatic for longer. These oils are typically purpose-designed for specific applications. Essential oils, conversely, are naturally produced for completely unrelated, evolutionary reasons. This means they aren’t always well-suited for our purposes.
Of course, essential oils also offer more of the positive characteristics of the plants they are from. Additionally, fragrance oils may include a lot of synthetic substances, which may be less ideal depending on your preferences.
Overall, the quality of each depends greatly on the producer who manufactured or extracted the oil. You can always try to make homemade essential oils too. Frequently, the best option is a natural fragrance oil that combines essential oils with carrier oils and other ingredients. However, there are plenty of excellent aromatic essential oil concentrates and synthetic fragrance oils. The key is to find what works for you.
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Bonus: How Are Perfumes Made?
All this talk of fragrances and oils may leave you wondering how perfumes and colognes are made. Their manufacturing process combines elements of essential oil extraction and fragrance oil production.
Traditional perfumes are made using essential oils that are extracted using the methods described above. These provide the major scents of the perfumes and colognes. However, dozens or even hundreds of ingredients may be used to achieve the desired aroma.
These fragrant ingredients are combined in alcohol and water. High-end perfumes are then aged for months or even years. This helps create pleasant and complex fragrances with top, central and base notes.
The blending process depends on the type of perfume being manufactured. If you are like many people, you likely think that the difference between perfume and cologne is based on the target market — perfumes are for women and colognes are for men. However, this is incorrect.
The real difference between the two is the concentration of perfume oils. Full perfumes have 10% to 20% oils with 80% to 90% alcohol and a small amount of water. Colognes have a much more diluted mixture of 3% to 5% oil in 80% to 90% alcohol with the rest being water. An eau de toilette has only about 2% oil with 20% water and 60% to 80% alcohol.
Some perfumes are synthetic, which makes it easier to produce with more consistent quality. However, if you want the traditional style, it has to be with natural ingredients, alcohol, and water. Now you’ll never need to wonder “how is cologne made” again.
How Can You Enjoy Fragrance Oils or Essential Oils in Your Home?
Aromatic oils have many uses and benefits. We use them at the spa or while getting a massage, we spray them on ourselves to smell nice, and we can even use them to treat stress. Of course, one of the best uses for these pleasant aromas is to scent our homes. Having a relaxing or invigorating fragrance at home can help us enjoy better home lives.
The best way to achieve this is with a whole-home diffuser. This can connect to your home’s HVAC to spread the wonderful fragrances throughout your living space.
Whole Home Scenting offers top-quality fragrance blends sourced from the USA. They are phthalate-free, paraben-free, skin safe, vegan, and IFRA compliant. All our natural ingredients are organic. We occasionally use synthetic ingredients to achieve a safer, more effective fragrance. Our full catalog of fragrance blends is safe for people, pets, and furniture.
Get Your Home Fragrance System Today
If you want to enjoy relaxing fragrance throughout your home, you need the Whole Home Scenting whole-home diffuser. It is easy to use, highly effective, and will leave your home smelling great. The diffuser uses a cold diffusion technology that nebulizes the fragrances, preventing oil residue from spreading around your home.
Explore our full catalog of fragrances. We have choices to match every season and mood. For example, you may want to enjoy the autumn smells of Apple Crate or the light and floral Cactus Blossom. No matter what scent you are looking for, we have something that is just right for you.
Place your order today to enjoy the fresh scent of a whole-home diffuser. Contact us today to learn more.