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Why Fragrance Test Strips Are a Must When Working With Essential Oils

A woman evaluating an essential oil by smelling a fragrance test strip

Introduction to Fragrance Test Strips

Fragrance Test Strips generate little attention or discussion, but they are a valuable (yet inexpensive!) tool for everyone who uses essential oils, CO2 Extracts, absolutes and other fluid aromatic raw materials.

I depend on Fragrance Test Strips every day. As an aromatherapist, essential oil evaluator and natural perfumer, I don't know what I would do without them!

They offer so many obvious and some not-so-obvious benefits and uses.

I depend on them to help me evaluate the aroma of essential oils and blends, but I've uncovered a lot of other helpful uses for them which I'm excited to tell you about in this guide.

Fragrance Test Strips Explained

Several paddle-style fragrance test strips

Fragrance Test Strips consist of thick, absorbent paper.

They are compact, affordable and available in different sizes and shapes. The most popular style is about 6" long and shaped like a paddle or boat oar.

Fragrance Test Strips are also known as Scent Strips, Fragrance Blotters, Aroma Test Strips, and they sometimes go by other similar names.

How to Best Use Fragrance Test Strips: Important Tips

Fragrance test strips being used to evaluate lavender, clary sage, ylang ylang and Siberian fir essential oils

Tip #1:

Use a pen or pencil to write down the name of the essential oil or blend onto the fragrance test strip.

Tip #2:

Write down the time that you applied the essential oil so that you can monitor how the oil changes in aroma after different time intervals.

Tip #3:

When dispensing an essential oil using a pipette, dropper or orifice reducer onto a paddle-style fragrance test strip, I tend to drip the essential oil onto the broad side of the test strip. The wider surface area helps prevent the oil from spilling or dripping if it has yet to fully absorb into the paper.

Tip #4:

Some aromatherapists and perfume formulators dip the thin end of a paddle-style test strip into the neck of an essential oil bottle. If you choose to do this, ensure your test strip is perfectly clean so you don't contaminate the bottle of essential oil.

Tip #5:

Consider cutting fragrance test strips in half to economize and double the number of strips you have available.

Tip #6:

You can cut a test strip in half length-wise to work more easily with essential oil samples provided in thin perfume vials. By making the test strip thinner, you can insert the test strip into a perfume vial. However, it can be harder to work with thinner test strips.

Tip #7:

Fragrance test strips aligned in small photo stands

Consider using small photo stands to hold one or more fragrance test strips so that the strips don't touch furniture and other surfaces.

Tip #8:

Fragrance test strips aligned in a test strip holder with the paddle side facing up Fragrance test strips aligned in a test strip holder with the paddle side facing down

Holders that hold multiple test strips are also available.

Tip #9:

It is possible to make your own fragrance test strips using eco-friendly absorbent paper.

This is a great solution if you want to have strips in unique shapes or sizes that work best for your personal needs.

Toxic chemicals could possibly be present in different types of paper. Research the paper you are considering using if you decide to make your own fragrance test strips.

Fragrance Test Strip Benefits and Uses

Benefit #1: Using Fragrance Test Strips is the Best Way to Evaluate the Aroma of Essential Oils

We all sniff essential oils directly out of the bottle. It's a quick way to get an idea about the aroma of an essential oil. However, it is not the best way to evaluate the aroma of an oil or blend.

The neck of the bottle can be extremely limiting because it doesn't allow an essential oil to fully reveal its complexity and its full palette of aromatic notes.

Additionally, if any other essential oil has come into contact with the label or bottle, the aromatic residue can potentially interfere with your ability to assess the aroma of the essential oil inside the bottle accurately.

I wrote an entire Guide to Evaluating the Aroma of an Essential Oil that is recommended reading. Don't miss out on reading that ultimate guide to learn how to use strips to evaluate essential oils properly.

Benefit #2: Using Fragrance Test Strips Can Help Reduce Oxidation of Essential Oils

When you repeatedly open an essential oil bottle to smell the oil, you don't actually use any essential oil. However, you do repeatedly expose the essential oil to oxygen. This process can accelerate the oxidation and deterioration of the essential oil, even if the bottle includes a dripper insert (aka orifice reducer).

By applying a drop of the essential oil to a Fragrance Test Strip and using the strip to repeatedly smell the essential oil, you can reduce the number of times you need to open the bottle.

Benefit #3: Fragrance Test Strips Help Save Money and Time When Formulating Blends

Several paddle-style fragrance test strips

When creating new essential oil blends, start the process by adding one drop of each of your chosen essential oils to individual fragrance test strips.

You can then hold all the test strips to your nose to evaluate the overall aroma.

This can save a great deal of time and reduce the amount of essential oil needed when creating new essential oil blends.

Remove individual test strips to evaluate how the blend would smell without that particular essential oil.

To get a better idea of how the blend will smell with less of one essential oil, you can hold that strip a bit further away from your nose. Adjusting the distance each strip is from your nose can mimic the ratio of the oil in a blend.

Benefit #4: Fragrance Test Strips Work as a Small Passive Diffuser

Woman smelling a fragrance test strip

Passive diffusion is a type of essential oil diffusion that does not require electricity or heat.

Passive diffusion works by allowing the natural flow of air to move the aromatic molecules so that we can smell them as they move and evaporate into the air.

Most passive diffusers are made out of a porous material like terracotta or unglazed ceramic and are breakable.

Fragrance Test Strips are an alternative when you don't have a true diffuser available. A test strip allows you to benefit from inhalation of a single drop of essential oil.

They work most effectively as passive diffusers when placed about 12" from you. I put one in a small photo holder and set it on my desk near where I am working.

At intervals, I will also raise the test strip to my nose to momentarily enjoy the aroma more strongly.

Because you work with just a single drop at a time, you are able to switch between essential oils or blends more frequently than you can with a traditional passive diffuser that requires more oil and more time for it to evaporate between re-application.

Benefit #5: Fragrance Test Strips are a Quick Substitute for a Personal Inhaler

Fragrance Test Strips are a quick alternative if you need a personal inhaler but don't have one available.

They're not a perfect substitute, but they work well in a pinch.

To transport and store a test strip that has already had a drop of essential oil applied, place it in a snack-size Ziploc style baggie and be sure it's properly closed. Do not saturate the test strip.

Benefit #6: Fragrance Test Strips are a Great Way to Test Your Olfactory Memory

Fragrance Test Strips on Wooden Stool

I love this exercise!

It can help you to get a deeper appreciation for the aroma of essential oils. It also is a fun game to play with other aromatherapists and essential oil enthusiasts.

Select several essential oils, jot the name of each oil on a separate test strip and then apply one drop of the corresponding oil to the test strips.

The idea is to pick a random test strip, smell the essential oil on it (without reading the name of the oil) and guess what essential oil you are smelling. If you have your eyes closed, be especially careful not to let your fingers or nose come into direct contact with the essential oil.

For this exercise, it's best to use a holder that can hold multiple test strips simultaneously. It's also best if you have a friend or loved one available who can hand you the individual test strips.

Benefit #7: Smelling an Essential Oil on a Fragrance Test Strip Can Help You Connect to an Essential Oil During Reflection, Meditation and Prayer

This benefit is an extension of Benefit #1, but it focuses less upon formally evaluating the aroma of an essential oil and more on personally connecting with the essential oil.

After selecting an essential oil to work with, I apply a drop of the essential oil to a fragrance test strip.

I then sit quietly with the fragrance test strip, smell it frequently and observe how it impacts my mood and emotions.

I sometimes also do this during periods of prayer and meditation instead of using a diffuser.

From my personal experience, using a fragrance test strip during prayer and meditation helps me to connect more deeply with an essential oil than when I use diffuser.

Fragrance Test Strip Precautions

Be mindful of essential oil safety precautions even when using fragrance test strips.

Avoid overly saturating fragrance test strips. It's best to use only about one drop of essential oil per strip.

After you've applied essential oil to a test strip, don't let the oil on the strip touch your skin, furniture, electronics, clothing or delicate surfaces, even after it appears the oil has dried.

Essential oils are highly concentrated and can dissolve furniture finishes, irritate your skin, discolor your clothing and can damage electronics.

Where to Buy Fragrance Test Strips

Several of AromaWeb's advertisers sell really nice Fragrance Test Strips. They are also available on Amazon, but I have not been as pleased with most of the ones I've purchased from Amazon.

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