Taking A Cue From Perfumers: Pre-Diluting Essential Oils For Blending Fragrances

One of the most difficult parts of blending essential oils for perfume is olfactory exhaustion.

A perfumer's organ with pre-diluted fragrance oils at-the-ready
A perfumer’s organ with pre-diluted fragrance oils at-the-ready

When you’re blending essential oils to try and find *just* the right proportions of each, it’s not uncommon to completely overwhelm your nasal passages.

On top of it being probably not too healthy for you to huff undiluted EOs for extended periods of time, it can be:

  1. Wasteful: when you’re experimenting with neat (i.e. undiluted) essential oils and you don’t like the result, your blend will probably end up gathering dust on the shelf
  2. Misleading: once you add a carrier, your blend might not even smell the same as it did undiluted

Enter the wisdom of perfumers-by-trade.

It’s common practice in the world of perfumery to pre-dilute your fragrance oils before you begin the blending process. Depending on the fragrance oil being used, perfumers might dilute their oils to 0.1%, 10%, 0r 20% in solution.

Why Dilute

The smell of essential oils often changes when you add a carrier — especially when the carrier is alcohol. When you add carrier to fragrance and let it age, the smell is going to change. Period. I’ve had several blends that have smelled amazing undiluted, but as soon as they have a chance to mature for a period of time in the carrier — eughhggh yuck!

Plus, it’s easier to smell the nuances of EOs when your nose isn’t immediately assaulted by their pure strength.

For example, I have a lime essential oil that I was refusing to use in anything because it was murder on my nostrils. But diluted to 10%, I felt confident enough to add it to a new blend with another oil I’d been neglecting — black pepper.

Supplies for Diluting Your Essential Oils

Bottles with glass droppers

I have amber bottles dropper bottles at the moment, but there’s a case to be made for using clear bottles because you’ll be able to see how well your oils dissolve in the carrier. While it might be counterintuitive to store your dilutions in clear bottles, just remember that these solutions are only going to be used for testing blends.

Your original essential oils (still safely tucked away in their euro bottles) are what’s going to be used for making the final fragrances and blends.

Essential Oils (of course)

Make sure you choose to dilute at least one base note, one middle note, and one top note. I dive into fragrance notes over on my other post How To Make Perfume Out of Essential Oils.

Everclear

I buy generic Everclear for all my perfumery purposes, and every time I get asked if I’m going to be doing shots. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Small vials for blending (2-3 mL)

You’ll want a collection of vials to use for blending your essential oil dilutions. Using these small vials is perfect for blending because:

  1. They don’t take up a lot of room
  2. Having a lot means that you can make up multiple solutions with different proportions of essential oils and see what you like best

Stainless Steel Funnels

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These small stainless steel funnels are perfect for pouring your carrier into the dropper bottles.

Precision Scale (Optional but Recommended)

Perfumers perform their 10% dilutions on the weight (i.e. grams of essential oil). At this point, I personally make my 10% dilution measurement by volume (i.e. number of drops of essential oil) but if you have an appropriate scale, more power to you!

Just make sure you’re using a scale with .001g precision since you’re going to be working with very small increments of weight. Jewelry scales are great for this!

How to Dilute Essential Oils for Blending

Perfumers commonly dilute their fragrance oils to 10% strength in alcohol before they begin the blending process. This can be higher or lower depending on the specific oil, but you can stick to 10% for now.

If you have an appropriate scale:

  1. Take the size of your bottle and calculate what 10% of it is. Example: If I’m using a 2 oz. bottle so 10% of that would be .2 oz. of essential oils.
  2. Place the bottle on the scale and tare it, which brings the weight to zero.
  3. Add the amount that you calculated of essential to the dropper bottle.
  4. Add Everclear to the bottle until you reach 100% weight. For example, with my 2 oz bottle I’d add 1.8 oz. of Everclear to the bottle until I reach the total 2 oz. weight.

If you don’t have a scale:

It’s best practice to dilute to 10% by weight, but you can do it by volume as long as you stay consistent. If you don’t have a scale and opt for diluting to 10% by volume.

  1. Based on your bottle size, figure out how much 10% is.
    For example, I used 2 oz. (or 60 mL) bottles, so…
    10% of 60 milliliters = 6 milliliters
    6 milliliters how much essential oil you will be using for your dilution
  2. There are approximately 20 drops in a mL of essential oil, so calculate how many drops you’ll need.
    For my example above: 20 drops x 6 milliliters = 120 drops needed of essential oils
  3. Add drops to the bottle, and fill to the top with Everclear.

Next Steps

Now, start blending your dilutions in small 2 or 3 mL vials!

You’ll be amazed by how much easier it is to create balanced fragrance blends from your pre-diluted essential oils — and you’ll be wasting a lot less if you don’t end up liking your blend.

Be sure to keep accurate notes on every drop you add to your vials and see my article on How To Make Perfume Out of Essential Oils if you’re not sure where to start.

My collection of dilutions
The dilutions are taking over!

Enjoy!

A friendly disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links to Amazon products. When you click through to Amazon, I may receive — at zero cost to you — a small commission from the purchases you make. These purchases help support this site and allow me to continue writing articles. (It also means more cardboard scratchers for my feline friend.) 🐈

Published by lupe

I'm a web developer at an awesome web design agency in PDX. I'm passionate about learning, playing, tinkering, and blogging about everything from coding to DIY experimentations.

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6 Comments

  1. Like your article. Could you tell me when using fragrance oil, would the dilutions be the same as essential oils?

    1. Indeed they would be! There are some that are so strong that they definitely require the a 1% or 0.1% dilution for blending but it’s mostly a subjective thing.
      You can start out with the 10%, but if it’s just not pleasant for you to work with that particular fragrance oil at that strength, just dilute further. 🙂

  2. Isn’t it irritating to the skin as the dilution rate is very high, for example if I want to make oil based perfume with 10% EO…?

    1. It definitely can be, especially depending on the specific EOs being used. 2% tends to be the blanket safe dilution rate you hear from some aromatherapists. The material I’ve read from professional perfumers says that number is unfounded and dilutions can be higher as long as you keep dilutions low for specific oils with phototoxic properties, skin-irritating effects, etc.

      One thing I’d like the experiment with is using tinctures as a base to add additional scent, so that higher dilutions aren’t necessary.

  3. Is the purpose of prediluting the oils to blend them to see how they would smell as a finished product and then go back and formulate the final product the traditional way? Or can you predilute enough to make a wearable, large bottle of perfume? Do you need to add anything to your prediluted perfume blend for it to be ready-to-wear?

    1. Usually it’s to smell as a finished, aged product and then reformulate.

      You can only pre-dilute enough to make a finished product if the concentration you’re diluting to is perfume-strength. For example, the 10% dilution I talk about in the article could be too weak of a dilution for a finished perfume — but that’s up to you! And you shouldn’t need to add anything else to it.

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