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How to make orange essential oil

by Cybele
It’s no secret I have a crush on orange oil. It smells amazing in home fragrance diffusers. It’s also one of my favourite oils for home cleaning products, because it contains a lot (sometimes up to 95%, according to the editors of Green Living Tips) of d-limonene a cleaning agent.
Essential oils aren’t cheap. On the other hand orange peels often end up in the garbage, so it’s nice to find a use for them and save the cost of buying essential oil. The only real cost here is the vodka and a cheap one will do the trick.
In the past, I have made a pretty potent lemon oil, using the infusion method, but I wanted to have a go at making an orange essential oil at home (without a still), as essential oils are believed to be more potent and pure. The result using the method below is not as pure as cold pressing, but it does mean you can do it at home easily.

Orange essential oil

How to make orange essential oil

IngredientsHow to make orange essential oil

Orange peels (as many as you have available) with as little of the white pith as possible
Glass jar with a tight fitting lid
Vodka (I didn’t use the fancy pants vodka in the picture, it’s just that the el cheapo one had an ugly bottle and I couldn’t bring myself to take a pretty picture of it) or undenatured ethyl alcohol (I haven’t tried this, so it best to follow the instructions in this post) but not rubbing alcohol
Coffee filter or cheese cloth/muslin
Paper towel or cheese cloth/muslin

How to make orange essential oil

Dry the orange peels on a paper towel somewhere warm and out of direct sunlight until they are hard. This usually takes about two days, depending on the humidity (it’s faster if you tear the orange peels into smaller one-inch pieces.)
How to make orange essential oilCut the dried orange peels into smaller pieces with a sharp knife. Pop the diced peels into a glass jar. Warm the alcohol, by placing the bottle of vodka into a bowl filled with hot tap water. Pour the vodka into the jar until it covers the orange peel.
How to make orange essential oil
Screw on the lid and shake the jar. Shake it vigorously for a couple of minutes. Do this a few times a day for three or more days. The more you shake it and the longer you leave the peels in the vodka, the more oil will be extracted.
How to make orange essential oilStrain the peels into a bowl using a coffee filter or cheese cloth. Squeeze all the liquid into the bowl. Cover the dish with a kitchen paper towel or cheese cloth. Be careful not to let the towel fall into the liquid. Let it sit for a few days and when the alcohol has evaporated, what remains will be orange oil.Oil
Cybele x

About BlahBlahMagazine

Cybele Masterman (Bele) trained as a beauty therapist, aromatherapist and journalist. After working as all of the above has found herself on a quest for a beautiful and meaningful life that doesn't cost the earth. Follow on google: +blahblahmagazine twitter: @blahblahzine or Instagram: BlahBlahMagazine

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  1. Love this!!!!! Also since citrus-time has begun yet again…
    I love citrus too… To eat/ drink/ in my food. But also in my cosmetics, synergies of oils, in my little oilevaprate-thingy….

    At this moment my peels go into a jar with vinigar, to make my own cleaning-spray (just let them soak a few weeks, sift and… spray). As soon this yar if full, ill go and make this!!!

    Oh and also… very pretty pictures! 🙂

  2. Hi Annet, I’m so happy to hear others love citrus as much as I do. Orange and lemon are such uplifting fragrances. I can’t but help but smile. Not something I usually do when cleaning! Enjoy citrus season!

  3. Wouldn’t some of the more volatile components of the orange peel evaporate if you dry the peel (zest)? Is that an essential step?

    • It’s true that anything we do can destroy the particularly volatile compounds, so it’s a matter of trying to keep as many as possible. According to my Aromatherapy chemistry text book high temperatures are the biggest issue for volatile compounds and direct sunlight is not great either. So, you’ve brought up a good point that I should’ve clarified to air dry the peel somewhere warm, but out of direct sunlight.
      The drying is important to maximise the purity (not that this will be as pure as essential oils from a still), because drying in air will take a lot of the water out of the peel, therefore leaving a higher ratio of oil. I hope this helps x

      • can i use rubbing Alcohol instead of vodka . try to keep all alcohol out of my .

        • Do NOT use any alcohol other than drinking spirits. These alcohols can be extremely toxic when ingested. Hand sanitizer is 60% ethanol (the drinking stuff) so it won’t kill you, but sanitizers and rubbing alcohol are denatured so they aren’t drinkable. Not so, for example, with OTC medicines like NyQuil. They HAVE to be drinkable.

          You can let your infusion sit exposed to air and much of the alcohol will evaporate over time (but not all will) leaving the oil behind. You may consider “EverClear” instead of vodka. It’s more expensive because there is more actual ethanol in the bottle (taxes 🙂 and much less water. It should evaporate more quicky.

      • Hello & thanks for this post : ) Just curious what books you use/like?

  4. How do you know when the alcohol has evaporated?

    • The smell will tell you when the alcohol has evaporated and I noticed that it evaporates a lot faster in warmer weather, so it’s worth leaving it in a warm spot while it evaporates. Enjoy!

  5. I just have to try this recipe. thanks for the great info. im off to buy some oranges…..

  6. and the resulting oil should be used in cleaning? not sure exactly what to clean or how?

    • It’s great to use for cleaning. I add it to vinegar for a household cleaning spray. In fact most of the recipes in this post: http://blahblahmagazine.com.au/homemade-cleaning/ I now use orange oil instead of lemon oil. Hope this helps.

      • I keep a couple of half-2/3 filled gallon jars around (filled with vinegar). When I use limes, lemons or oranges for a recipe I toss the peels in the jars. After a couple of months I strain them and use the vinegar with water in a spray bottle for cleaning. This is my lazy way of not wasting if there are any other busy folks like me that need a shortcut to clean.

        Well, anyway, I didn’t realize just how much citrus we use. I am now the owner of 12 gallons of Citrus Vinegar (and that’s after giving a lot away). So, I have been saving the peels of my citrus fruits (minus the white part) in the freezer. Would your method work on the frozen peels or should they be fresh?

        Also, thank you for sharing so many wonderful tips with those of us out in Internet Land. I, for one, really appreciate learning new ways to do things. Thank you.

  7. What is alternate to alcohol or vodka for making orange oil

  8. Kristen Gonzalez

    I was wondering if this oil could be used in making soaps/body scrub or in your bathwater? Also, could this apply to herbs as well or just citrus peel ?

    • I’m glad you asked about using this technique for herbs, because I wondered the same thing! So I did a little experimenting using this technique to make lavender oil, sadly it didn’t work very well. So, I don’t think it’s a great technique for herbs and flowers. It seems to break the plant down. I prefer the infused oil method for herbs and flowers.
      The reason I hesitate about recommending this method for body and beauty products is because I don’t know of a way to make sure there is absolutely no alcohol remaining. Alcohol can be drying for the skin and that’s why I use this method in this lemon oil post for skin products. I hope this helps x

  9. Hi, as you have indicated, the oil infusion methods works for both lemons and oranges, but will the alcohol method also work for lemons?
    Also which of these two methods creates the purest form of essential oil for lemons?
    And for oranges?

    • Yes, you’re absolutely correct you can use both the alcohol and infusion methods for both oranges and lemons. Technically, the alcohol method will create the purest essential oil for all citrus, outside of using a still, however it’s impossible to remove all traces of alcohol from the oil.
      This is why it’s important to consider what you’re using the oil for. When I make cosmetics I always use the infusion method and actually infuse the peel into the carrier (coconut, olive,etc.) oil I want to use in the product. However, the alcohol method is create for air fresheners, diffusers and cleaning products. I hope this helps.

  10. Thanks for the clarification regarding the “alcohol” method vs the “infusion” method.
    Have you tried the “cold press” method for citrus?
    This title seems a bit of an anomaly to me as heat (although below 120F) is applied to help extract the oil.
    Is it worth trying?

  11. Hi Peter, I haven’t tried the cold press method, because I want to do some more research into the temperatures (I agree it seems quite the oxymoron!), but I’d love to hear if anyone else has tried it how they went?

  12. Does wine work as a substitute for Vodka? We just happen to run out of Vodka, but still have some wine at hand.

    • Unfortunately wine won’t work as it is not pure enough. Vodka is really the only regular alcohol that works because of its purity. It’s ideal to use the pure alcohol used by chemists but it’s not that convenient to buy. I hope this helps x

  13. Can i make bitter orange oil (citrus aurantium oil) using the same method ?

    • Excellent question! I had to put my thinking cap on for this one and eventually came up with an answer: It depends! If you want to create an oil from the peel, then yes, this technique works really well. However, citrus aurantium oil is often called Neroli oil and it’s a bit misleading because Neroli oil is actually made from the bitter orange blossom and has a delicate floral fragrance. Unfortunately, this cannot be made using this technique and I’m yet to find an easy way to extract this beautiful perfume at home. I hope this helps x

  14. thanks for the reply. I hope you will find the way very soon. I will be waiting for your reply!

  15. Hi, I wanted to use bitter orange oil for application on skin. So can i make it using infusion method

    • Hi, you could certainly use the peel in the infusion method. I am not sure what the properties are of the bitter orange peel and if it can be used on the skin. My trusty ‘Complete Guide to Aromatherapy’ doesn’t list the properties of the peel, only the flowers. It’s not sounding so ‘Complete’ 😉 What are you planning to make?

  16. Hi, actually i read one blog, in which about natural whitening using ayurveda is written. In which they said that applying mixture of few drops of bergamia and aurantium oil mixed with 100 ml almond oil for one month on face will make the skin fair. I got bergamot oil, but i am unable to get aurantium oil !

    • Hello, sorry for the delay. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with the oils and skin whitening treatments. If you wanted to make the aurantium oil you could infuse the peel in the sweet almond oil using the lemon oil method. The thing that slowed me down replying to this post is that I can’t recommend using citrus oils on the face, because they can cause the skin to be sensitive to the sun. So, if you do use this combination then it’d be best to only use the oils at night and wear sunscreen during the day. I’m sorry, I can’t be of more use!

  17. Please help me!

  18. Can i use bergamot oil ?

  19. Hello beautiful Niteen, I have to say that your skin colour is gorgeous and unfortunately, bergamot is a citrus as well and has the same photo sensitivity issues!

  20. Can you use this technique with anything? Like vanilla and herbs?

  21. Hi. Cybele,

    Thanks a lot for these great ideas! Where I live we consume lemons on a daily basis and I have been racking my head for a nice science fair project involving reusing and recycling for my students. I’m going to use it at home as well!

  22. Thank you for sharing your recipe! I have some tangerine peels that I’d like to try this with, but was wondering if there’s anything else I could use aside from the vodka. Can rubbing alcohol be used? The only spirits I have at the moment are a cheap Scotch & a 99 Proof Apple Schnapps which is only about 50 % ALC./VOL.

  23. I haven’t used rubbing alcohol but I believe it’s probably not a good idea, according to this post http://www.offthegridnews.com/2012/04/09/how-to-make-your-own-essential-oils-and-perfumes/.The other option is undenatured ethyl alcohol. The idea is to use a ‘pure’ alcohol so your lovely schnapps might get you in a sticky situation 😉
    I would love to hear how you go x

  24. is that true, because I am
    making a research about that oil.

  25. Hi can you use Rubbing Alcohol instead of vodka? Or is there another alternative?

  26. In getting orange oil can I use boiling method.

    • Dear Diana, my apologies, somehow I missed your question. It’ probably too late, but the problem with boiling is that the high temperatures can destroy the more volatile aspects of the oils and can caramelise the oil. I hope this helps.

  27. Hi, would the essential oils made from this work in candle making?

    • They should work well. I used this in some candles and I’m really happy. Next time I would probably increase the quantity of oil used as the fragrance isn’t as potent as commercial oils. I hope this helps. I’d love to hear how you go x

  28. I’ve already zested my oranges. Can use the zest in the same way? And would it have as much oil content as using strips of the peel? Which method is better?

    Also I was hoping to use it in a spray bottle to get the smell if chlorine out if my sins hair and skin after swim practice. Any thoughts?

    • Don’t worry, it’s fine to use orange zest, at worst you may need to strain it twice. However, it’s not a great one for using on the skin as there will be some alcohol residue and that can be very drying, which could compound the dryness of chlorine. The other issue is that citrus oils can make the skin a bit more sensitive to the sun, so that may be a consideration. However, if you’re not staying in the sun, then a potent infused oil might be a good option like using orange instead of lemon in this post.

  29. Hi Peter, Vicky here again. What about putting some of the mixture in his shampoo or liquid soap, wonder if that would help with the smell. We’ve tried many shampoos and soaps and hr still has a lingering smell of chlorine.

    • Apparently, peppermint, lavender and citrus are the best natural fragrances for masking smells and I’ve heard of some people eating an orange and rubbing the peel into the skin and hair when getting out of the pool.
      You’ve got me thinking. I’m actually trialling a couple of spray fragrances for skin, but the oils take several weeks for the fragrance to infuse, so I won’t know the results for a couple of weeks. Would he use a lotion? This is a peppermint foot cream recipe: http://blahblahmagazine.com.au/foot-cream-recipe/

  30. Hi Cybele,
    First of all, sorry for calling you Peter on the last note, don’t know what I was thinking, oops!
    Regarding the lotion, yes he would use it.
    And the reason I am looking for a pure form of orange oil, is because I noticed that if I ever get bleach on my hands and then peel an orange, the smell of the bleach is gone. It is not masked, for there is actually a chemical reaction that occurs which neutralizes the bleach.
    The thought has crossed my mind of rubbing an orange peel all over him and squirting it in his hair, but realistically I’m looking for an easier solution 🙂
    I have three questions:
    First, is an essential orange oil the same thing as the oil from the orange rind? What is the difference?
    Second, what exactly comes out of the rind? I know it’s part oil, but obviously it hurts your eyes when it accidentally squirts into your eye. So what else is in it? And which component does the neutralizing?
    Third, how can I bottle it……and squirt it all over my stinky chlorine boy?
    Thanks Cybele!

    • Hi Vicky,
      No worries, I quite like the name Peter. It sounds like you’ve made quite the discovery. Yes, pure essential orange oil is from the oil in the peel. Hence we use dried peel to maximise the oil extracted over the water soluble materials. I’m not exactly sure what’s causing this chemical reaction but my suspicion is dLimonene a powerful cleaning agent found in orange oil. It’s quite probable as Chlorine is a very volatile substance.
      I’m taking my boy swimming Saturday week and I have some bought orange essential oil that I use for skin preparations that I’ll mix with oil and apply at about 7% orange oil to base oil.
      The homemade essential oil if used carefully has the advantage that any remaining alcohol will help the oil disperse in water for a spray and act as a bit of a preservative, so could be mixed with some water and some oil like sweet almond to counteract the drying quality of the alcohol. The issue of photo sensitivity remains so it’s important to stay out of the sun once the orange oil has been applied. I did an orange hand cream but that might be a bit heavy for using in the hair. I’m really excited about your discovery. I’ll go away and do some research into what’s behind this chemical reaction and get back to you about how I go with my son. Then we can look into recipes for the spray. I hope this helps.
      Bele x

    • Hi Vicky,
      I just wanted to let you know that I haven’t forgotten about you! It’s just that for various reasons (illness, triathlons, etc) we still haven’t made it to the swimming pool to test the theory, but I’ll let you know when I do.
      Bele x

    • Hi Vicky,
      I hope it’s not too late, but I’ve just tried doing an orange oil version of this recipe I did for another blog and it has worked well. Basically, replacing the lemon oil for orange. You don’t have to use the sandalwood or lavender either, just increase the orange accordingly.

  31. Could you use a dehydrator to dry out the orange peels?

  32. Hi, would the essential oils made from this work in perfume making?

    • Technically you could, you may need to adjust the alcohol used in the perfume recipe because there’s alcohol residue with this and the amount of orange oil used as this oil is not as potent smelling as professionally stilled essential oil. I hope this helps x

  33. Could you separate by freezing (the vodka stays liquid and at the top – pour off and reuse it)? I ask because you can do this when making peppermint oil.

  34. This is a great article. Is it a good idea to use a food dehydrator to dry the peels? Thanks for all the pointers. 🙂

  35. I’d love to try making essential oils for my oil burner and I’m interested in trying apples. Do you know if this method would work for them?

    • Unfortunately, this method is designed for citrus peel. The challenge for apples is that the oil content in the fruit is quite low, which is a shame because it would smell lovely! I’m sorry I can’t help with this one x

  36. You might also mention that organic citrus should be used. In California growers are allowed to use chemicals to alter the color of the skin on the bogus notion that nobody ises them anyway. (Not to mention fungicides, pesticides, and the gas they use to artificially ripen fruit picked green and warehoused for some time, then gassed to ripeness. Organic is important because all this stuff is present in the oils.

  37. I let my lemon peels sit in the vodka for 2 weeks then strained, covered the top of the bottle with cheese cloth. It has been sitting on my counter for another week. It still smells very strongly of vodka. Good lemony vodka. How long before the alcohol has evaporated? Thanks for the advice.

  38. Can you use denatured alcohol (95% ethanol) instead of vodka for this, if the oil is not used for human consumption. As far as I know the only difference is the bittering agent added to the denatured alcohol.

    • Hi, I haven’t tried it with the denatured alcohol, but it sounds like it could work. This extraction technique is not recommended for use on the skin anyway, because there is always some alcohol left at the end. I hope this helps. Good luck!

  39. Can this be used on the skin? If not is there another type of alcohol to use with the peels so that it could be used on the skin?
    i heard this oil causes photo sensitivity but what if you mix it with some other oils to form a body butter? (e.g shea, coconut, avocado)

    • Yes, you’re absolutely right all citrus oils cause photo sensitivity and are best used at the end of the day even when mixed with other oils and butters. I don’t really recommend using this on the skin, because it’s a bit unpredictable and probably best used for fragrance. I hope this helps!

  40. hi.. is there any substitute for Vodka?

  41. hi.. Is there any substitute for vodka?

    Looking forward to your reply before nov. 21, 2014

    • Hi Marianne, The lovely Calli mentioned that it might be possible to use “denatured alcohol (95% ethanol) instead of vodka for this, if the oil is not used for human consumption. As far as I know the only difference is the bittering agent added to the denatured alcohol.
      I’ve never used this, but have used pretty much any cheap vodka.”
      In terms of your project just be aware that this is a far from perfect oil, as you really need a still for that. Good luck with the project.

  42. hi.. again… what brand of vodka did you use in this experiment????

    pls. reply before nov.21, 2014..

    I’ m searching orange oil for my Investigatory Project…
    thank u !

  43. Hi Bele, you’ve totally inspired me to make a whole heap of Christmas beauty products as Christmas presents this year. Only problem is, I’m not sure where to start!! You have so many great ideas!!

  44. Great blog. If I only eat one or two oranges a day, is it ok to add the peels to the alcohol mixture as they dry or dry everything longer until I get a full batch? I’d like to make a big batch at one time.

  45. i suppose you can also drink The wodka afterwards?

  46. Hi, I like your post about the orange essential oil my question is can you make lemon essential oil in the same way as orange essential oil and also what about grapfruit essential oil.

  47. If you are looking for a high purity alcohol. I wouldn’t place Vodka anywhere on the list. Rubbing Alcohol is a big No way! solely due to the fact that it is laced with loads of additives per FDA requirements to make it horrible to ingest. Even my bottle of 190 proof rum barely makes the cut.

    I would personally suggest trying a $2.00 bottle of 91% Isopropyl Alcohol. Despite people confusing Isopropyl Alcohol with Rubbing Alcohol, the truth is that they are two completely different products, and the bottle may even say Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol due to the common misunderstanding. Given the average education level of the population being low, the usage of incorrect naming is found everywhere, For instance Scented “DEODORANT.” is in fact an odorant.

    Please try 91% or higher Isopropyl Alcohol and let me know if it works with your method. I don’t have everything on hand, nor your experience with this method, and therefore have to make a request.

    Thank you!

  48. Can this be used in cooking too? Everything in it — oranges, vodka and oil — I eat regularly anyhow. I have a recipe for orange cheesecake that calls for orange essential oil and I had to do some research to learn this is different from the McCormick’s orange extract I have in my cupboard.

    • Hi, good question. Unfortunately, this oil isn’t as pure as bought orange essential oil and I just can’t say how it would go. I’m sorry, I can’t be more useful. Sounds like a wonderful cheesecake!

  49. I love it! But can I use almond or olive oil instead vodka? And in this case should I dry the peel or no?

  50. Does this work for eating for example a salad?

  51. I can’t wait to try this! I’ve recently started looking things like this up! One question can this be used in cooking?

  52. Is it possible to use whisky or brandy as substitutes for vodka?

  53. I have a question about essential oils, or more to the point how essential (no pun intended) they are to all of my recipes. Every recipe I come across calls for it and herein lies the problem. I am disabled and live on less then $11,000.00 a year. As you can imagine, essential oils are just not in my budget. Have you got any suggestions that I could use instead? Would you be so kind as to answer this via email? Thank you.. ❤️😭

  54. Can I use this method with Sweet Olive Blossom?

  55. Hi Bele, This is the post that brought me here, as I’m looking for a way to make orange blossom essential oil from the orange trees in our backyard. This looks like a great, easy method, however, it uses orange peel, and I’d like to use orange blossoms.

    Therefore, my question is twofold. I’ve seen this touched upon, but not quite answered, in the comments above (apologies if I’ve missed any obvious answers): (1) Can you use the vodka/alcohol method to make an essential oil from orange blossoms, rather than orange peels? It certainly seems much easier than the water distilling method! And (2) Do you have a page or a write-up for how to do the distillation method for orange blossom essential oil? I have seen a couple of webpages that mention the essential ingredients and procedure, but I need some help in trying to figure out how to set up a homemade “still” to capture the essential oil – that is to say, I want to devise a homemade holding chamber rig, and a separator.

    I’d like to use this essential as a fragrance, and possibly mixed with a carrier oil for other beauty products, so I’m thinking the distilled essential oil is probably the way to go, based on some of the other comments above. Or, would it be better mixed with alcohol rather than oil to use as a fragrance? It seems the pure essential oil itself might be too strong on the skin. Any advice you can offer would be much appreciated. Thank you for your attention, and for your wonderful blog with all the gorgeous photos! 😊


    • P.S. I should add that these are sweet Florida eating oranges, NOT Seville or bitter oranges, if that makes a difference in the method I should use. Thanks! 😊

  56. Hello! So I did exactly as you said, but whatever is left post vodka evaporating is still pretty liquidy. Isn’t it supposed to be oil? Help! 🙂

  57. Hi, Please can I use this oil directly on my skin/face? Or do I have to mix with other essential oils before use ?

  58. I have a special citrus fruit (ethrog) that has a heavy peel under the skin. More then a lemon. which means the pulp part inside is very small.
    I would like to make a sample of oil from this fruit peel.
    so is it correct to just peel off a thin layer of the outside skin to dry out and use for making the oil.

  59. Hi ! Great post here.
    Just a question , have couple of rum bottles which I won’t use. Can I substitute vodka with rum in this process?

  60. Hello, how long does the oil last for without going off/stale? Thanks

  61. I enjoyed your comment regarding the ugly vodka bottle destroying the “tableau”, very bohemian. 🙂

  62. Anyone keen to avoid using alcohol, can make an orange EXTRACT (not oil) by the following method:

    Replace the alcohol with three parts liquid glycerin to one part water. Store in brown glass bottle when sufficiently strong.

  63. Hi!!
    This is nice method to extract the fragrance an also the benefits of the orange or lemon, but I need to say that this is not esential oil instead it is an infusion. Essential oils are made by a process of destination where the oil of the substance in this case the orange or lavender etc is extracted by a method that goes for hours and you may get a few drops out of a pretty big amount of material.
    I think this is great for several uses even to make your own perfume, but you shoud clarify that it is not essential oil in itself.
    Have a nice week ahead

  64. I meant to say distillation 🙂

  65. Can I use any dried plant materials such as herbs or even berries?

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