Cleaning Amber Glass Bottles

Since I’ve been absent for almost a week, I figured I better come up with something really good to post about! This will interest soapmakers and others who buy fragrance and essential oils in large quantities. All others can disregard!

Have you noticed that many of the fragrance suppliers are shipping fragrances in HDPE bottles these days? Essential oils usually come in amber glass or aluminum bottles which are recommended for long term storage. Most of you probably know that if you order fragrance oils that are shipped to you in HDPE plastic bottles, and you aren’t planning to use them within a couple of weeks, they need to be transferred to amber glass or aluminum or the fragrance oil will eat away the HDPE plastic. Many of the fragrance suppliers don’t tell you this! I’ve often wondered how a new soaper is supposed to figure this out. Anyway…

I’ve collected a whole lot of fragrances over the years, and fortunately most of the suppliers I buy from ship in amber glass – especially when I was first starting out seven years ago. I always felt bad throwing away the amber glass bottles once they were empty, but I didn’t know what else to do with them until about five years ago when fellow soapmaker Deb Hammett shared her secret for cleaning amber bottles. This was before it was trendy to recycle! Are you ready for this tip? Ok, here it is:

Amber Glass Bottles Soaking in Salt WaterDeb commented on a yahoo group that she soaks the bottles in hot salt water, then rinses and puts them in the dishwasher. The good news is that it works! I usually grab one of my stainless steel soap pots, add hot tap water and a good amount of salt (probably half a cup in one to two gallons), then stir until the salt is dissolved. I pre-rinse the bottles out with warm tap water and rub the labels off with my fingernails. The paper ones come off really easily once they are soaking wet! Then I dip the bottles in the pot, one by one, allowing the salt water to fill up the bottle as I tip it in. I let them soak overnight, then run them through the dishwasher the next day.

Now the cone-lined caps are a different story. The plastic absorbs the fragrance, and does NOT want to come out. I buy new caps from Essential Supplies. They also have a great selection of amber glass bottles if you need some. If you already have amber glass bottles and need new caps, you can figure out which size you’ll need with this chart.

Please let me know if you found this to be useful information!

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  1. Great to know. As you may know, this summer I broke down and bought “Suntan Lotion” fragrance oil for a personal batch of soap. I really didn’t stop to wonder why it didn’t come in glass like all of my EO’s. Yikes! I guess I had better transfer it -pronto! Thanks Amy. 🙂

  2. Yes ma’am! This info was very helpful. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve been trashing my amber bottles, but now I will use your fabulous tips and transfer fragrance from my clear-bottled FO’s to them. Thanks:)

  3. Wow, as a new soap maker I didn’t know that, that would have really sucked if I had to find out the hard way when my bottles start leaking! thanks for the tip 🙂

  4. @Shannon – Glad to spread the word! Fragrances aren’t cheap – I’d hate for you to have to replace them! Not to mention the mess…

  5. A great big thank you, I have always used EO’s, but thought I’d try some FO’s for a change, I did wonder when they came about them being in plastic, but silly me, I thought if they needed to be in glass they would have came that way. I’ll have to check them out, I hope they are still OK. thanks again for the great advice:)

  6. I good friend of mine uses fragrance and essential oils, she also mentioned alcohol helps with the cleaning process.

  7. Why would you not use something line Dawn dish soap for cleaning old oils out of the bottles? Since the soap binds to the oils abs makes it water soluble. Just curious.

  8. @Mobius – Because the scents of the essential oils and fragrance oils are so concentrated, it takes more than just soap to remove them. The salt neutralizes the scents that are left behind in the bottles.

  9. Amy, I am just curious. What is your procedure when you receive new bottles and the question is do you sterilize them yourself? Or, do you rely on the manufacturer to provide you with sterile bottles? Thank you.

  10. @Lisa – For the amber glass bottles, I don’t bother to sterilize new ones that I am storing essential oils or fragrance oils in.

  11. Thanks Amy. Most manufacturers of bottles used for essential oils on do say that their bottles are sterile. And I called a manufacturer in the US and they confirmed same.

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