Fragrance Oil vs Essential Oil: A Comprehensive Guide - Whole Home Scenting


Fragrance Oil vs Essential Oil: A Guide to Their Many Differences and Similarities

Fragrance oil essential oil bottlw with cork lid

When you dive into the world of oils, it can be intimidating to be faced with all the options. You will find variations of natural and synthetic oils, and it can be hard to spot the difference or know how to use each one. Fortunately, we are here for you. We’ve learned a thing or two from scenting your entire home. This comprehensive guide can give you a thorough understanding of the difference between fragrance oil and essential oil and how both can be used.

Is There a Difference Between the Two Oils?

In a word, yes. While many people assume that all oils are similar or are created equal in terms of their scent factors and properties, the truth is that they are different. This disparity lies in their composition and creation method. Let us take a closer look at fragrance oils vs essential oils to help you have a clearer understanding of this difference.

What Is Essential Oil?

Essential oil

The most popular version of scented oil is essential oils. When people think of these, they often imagine a diffuser spraying a gentle mist that wafts the fragrance around a room. That is, thanks in part, to the widespread sale and use of popular brands. However, if you want to understand what makes these oils different, you need to know how they are created.

For essential oils, the essence of plants and herbs are taken directly from the source as a highly concentrated extract. For example, citrus oils come from the rinds of citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges, while rose petals are the source of rose oil. Then, it can be combined with a carrier oil to be used for aromatherapy massage, left as pure oil for diffusers, or diluted down into various other formats to be used as cleansers, soaps, room sprays and so much more.

What Is Fragrance Oil?

On the other hand, you have fragrance oils. These are not drawn straight from nature, like essential oils. Rather, these are created in a laboratory and have a specific composition. This composition is made up of various chemical aroma elements and natural elements, such as resins, extracts, and essential oils. This generally allows you to choose from more scent options than with essential oils, simply because you can create more types.

When it comes to these oils, you have two categories to choose from. The first is synthetic oils. These are composed in a laboratory and use a combination of chemicals and some natural ingredients. The second is natural fragrance oils, which are also created in a laboratory. However, natural oils use raw products from nature to create a complex scent, which is what gives it the natural component even though it is not directly taken from nature.

The key difference is that one is naturally sourced from nature and the other is synthetically created in a laboratory. Both are safe for use and both have different benefits. Before we dive into more, let us take examine where oils originated.

Learn more about how essential oils and fragrance oils are made.

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Where Do These Oils Come From?

Beautiful blooming for fragrance oil or essential oil

Essential oils have become widely popular in recent years as the benefits of using these oils are no longer sacred secrets of ancient civilizations and are now shared wholeheartedly with the world. The first recorded usage of these oils was as far back as 2000 B.C. in Egypt, India, and China. Later, records popped up of the oils being used in Greece, the Roman Empire, and Europe. In the beginning, oils were used for much the same purposes as they are now, including for natural medicines, cleaning, perfumes, and religious rituals.

Scientific advances throughout the centuries have provided us with the knowledge to create the synthetic fragrance oils that many people use but may not be aware of. Before we help you discover how to use them, let us talk about safety.

Are These Oils Safe?

Many people who are just starting out in the world of oils wonder if using them is safe. After all, essential oils are plant extracts in high concentrations, which means they are incredibly strong. Simultaneously, synthetic oils are created in a laboratory, often with chemical compounds. That does not sound like it would be safe for humans to use.

So, is there a difference between the safety of fragrance oil vs essential oil? The truth is that these oils are perfectly safe, but only if you know how to use them properly.

Essential oils are generally thought to be safe and packed full of health benefits since they come directly from nature. This is true, but you need to make sure to dilute the potent oil with enough water to ensure that it is not too strong.

Fragrance oils are not taken straight from nature and have chemical elements. Therefore, there should be some precautions when using them. To be safe, choose oils that are phthalate-free, as phthalates can cause health problems. Reputable companies will stick with the research regulations that prohibit the use of these harmful chemicals. This is why you should always check the ingredients on whatever oils you purchase, so you know exactly what you are using. Indoor air quality is an important consideration when choosing which fragrances and oils you use in your home.

Also, if you have sensitive skin, you may want to dilute the oils more than usual, although you will lose some of the scent. However, it is better to be safe than to irritate your skin.

Next, we will look at some of the common applications for fragrance oils and essential oils. If you are worried about using too much oil for any given project or diffuser, don’t worry. We have included the recommended amount to help you feel more at ease using these oils. Let’s dive on in.

How Can You Use These Oils?

When people first foray into the world of oils and fragrances, the main question is usually something along the lines of how to use fragrance oil or essential oil. Well, the directions for using oils is dependent on the type of oil you want to use and the purpose you want to use it for. Some of the common uses for both natural and synthetic oils include the following:

  • As a room spray

  • As a household cleanser

  • To deter bugs

  • To make soap

  • To make perfume

  • To make candles

Once you determine what you want to do with the oil, you can identify the method to do it. It is important to understand that the composition of essential oils make these safe to be used in a diffuser. However, fragrance oils can damage some types of diffusers because of the chemical makeup and may not be safe to use in that manner. That being said, you can still use synthetic oils in the following ways:

  • Make your own candles: 

    Candle made from fragrance oil or essential oilDoing this project requires careful attention and precise measurements (for an easier alternative you can make wax melts). First, you must melt the wax you want to use. Soy wax is a great option. Then, you measure out the amount of fragrance oil to add. Because candle size can be different depending on your project, the general rule of thumb is to use no more than one ounce of oil for every pound of wax. Anything more than that can cause the candle to burn improperly and may also cause health problems. As an alternative, consider switching to an HVAC air freshener system (learn about HVAC systems). Here’s a great detailed tutorial on how to make candles.

  • Use a fragrance oil burner: 

    This is an ancient method that uses a basin that sits above a heat source, such as a candle, and is similar to a diffuser. You place a few drops of oil, although no more than five, in the basin and then dilute it with water. As the mixture heats up, it evaporates into the air and allows the scent to spread throughout the room.

  • Create an air freshener spray: 

    Knowing how to use fragrance oil for this project is easy. You simply take an empty spray bottle and add a few drops of the oil you want to use. Then, fill the bottle with water and shake it thoroughly to properly mix the solution together. After that, you’re good to go. All you have to do is spray it around the room and enjoy the freshness in the air. For more ideas check out these 10 homemade air freshener recipes.

  • Make your own bath salts: 

    Bath salts from fragrance oil or essential oilBefore you begin, make sure the oil you chose is safe for skin. Some ingredients can be harsh on skin, which is why checking the ingredient list is vital. Then, all you have to do is mix regular Epsom salt with the oil. It is recommended to use no more than four drops of oil per one cup of the salt. For a more detailed tutorial, check out this bath salts tutorial.

  • Create a sachet: 

    This fragrance oil project can help freshen up a drawer or closet. To do this, you need a small piece of cloth, your oil of choice, and baking soda. First, you combine the baking soda and oil by mixing them together. Then, fill the cloth with the mixture and tie it up tightly before placing it where you want it. In terms of measurements, use one drop of oil per 1/8 cup of baking soda. You can also make a dried flower and herbal sachet.

  • DIY foot or body scrub: 

    Body scrub from fragrance oil or essential oilThis could be a great gift option or simply a way to pamper yourself. To make a foot or body scrub, first ensure the oil is safe for contact with skin by checking the ingredients. Then, add one cup of granulated sugar to a mixing bowl before slowly adding in either coconut or olive oil and mixing until it becomes grainy and a little wet. Then, add in a few drops of the fragrance oils you want to use and mix again. In the end, you’re left with a scrub that can help exfoliate your skin and that smells nice, too. Try one of these 5 DIY Recipes.

  • Customize your own perfume: 

    Sometimes, the perfumes you can find at stores smell heavily of chemicals and set off allergies. Instead, you can make your own using synthetic oils and a small perfume spray bottle. Simply fill the bottle with distilled water and witch hazel, add the oils you want, and shake well. For a 10-ounce bottle, you’ll need one cup of water, half a cup of witch hazel, and between 10 and 20 drops of oil.

For these methods, you want to ensure that you do not use too much of the fragrance oil, as it can cause irritation to the eyes, skin, nose, and throat depending on the method being used. This is why diluting it is so important, as is keeping an eye on how many drops of the oil you use. If you want to make larger batches of some options or different sizes, be sure to scale the measurements appropriately for the best results. You’ll also want to swap out the fragrance or oil you use on occasion or you can go nose blind.

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Which Type of Oil Is Right for You?

To answer this question, you must first decide the type of project you want the oil for. In some cases, essential oils are the better choice while in other situations synthetic oils would be better. For example, fragrance oil tends to last longer with stronger scents than natural oils when placed in candles and soaps. If you are looking for natural scents or want to take advantage of health benefits, you may want to choose essential oils. On the other hand, if you want access to a wider range of scents, the synthetic oils may be more ideal for you.

Ultimately, the fragrance oils you use are up to you. This is your opportunity to create your own aromatherapy environment, whether through the use of a diffuser or homemade products. Therefore, you first need to decide on the type of project you wish to use oils for. Once that is decided, you can choose the appropriate vehicle based on your wants and needs.

Add a Little Fragrance to Your Life Today

The world of oils can be confusing with all the different options and methods for doing things. We understand that, which is why we created this guide to help you out and to show you the difference between natural and synthetic oils. You also now know how you can use fragrance oil to make your own products and add scents to your spaces. If you want to learn more about fragrances or want to install a fragrance system in your home, our team is here for you. Whole Home Scenting will help you get started today so you can enrich your life and your home with delightful scents.

Photo credit: Pixabay (candle and labeled essential oil bottle), Mareefe (fragrance bottle and bath salts), Linda Prebreza (body scrub), Palo Cech (blooming purple flowers)
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Don't Fragrance Your Home Until You've Eliminated These Five Common Odor Areas.

In 5 easy steps, we show you how to get your home ready for scenting, so you can be confident it smells the way you want.

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