Introduction: Be a Romantic Scientist: Distill Your Own Perfume Oil.

Picture of Be a Romantic Scientist: Distill Your Own Perfume Oil.

Perfume is often seen as a last-minute gift that requires little thought. But what if you made your own, unique scents?

Step 1: Materials Needed

Picture of Materials Needed

You will need a vessel to heat water in, a source of heat, gauze or muslin, thread, a delivery tube, a receiving vessel and ice.

You will also need a pretty bottle to store your scent.

For this example, we used a conical flask, a fabric bag of sprigs of lavender plus shredded, a plastic delivery tube and a test-tube in a beaker of cold water. The oil was stored in a film cannister. You may use whatever equipment you can find, at whatever scale you need to produce your scent.

If you are blending oils, you will need a dropper pipette for each raw oil you use.

Step 2: Distillation.

Picture of Distillation.

Gently heat the water so that it simmers, rather than boils violently. You need a steady supply of steam passing through the lavender.

Notice how the equipment is arranged so that the steam must pass through the lavender on its way out.

The steam passes along the plastic tube to the test tube, where it condenses on contact ith the ice-cooled glass.

Step 3: Making Your Scent.

The disillate needs to be kept in an air-tight container.

Try a variety of materials to extract the oils. They will not always smell the same after extraction as before, as some oils are easier to distil this way.

Scented leaves like lavender, mint or thyme.
Flowers - roses or violets are good.
Fruits like citrus or apple peels or pears
"Green" smells, like mosses, or leaves and twigs fresh from the tree, nuts and kernels like almond or a cracked-open peach-stone.
Spices, like cinnamon stick, liquorice root or vanilla pod.

When you have a "library" of scents, try blending them to achieve the affect you want. Make sure you add them to a clean container, and use a separate dropper pipette for each raw oil, otherwise you will mix them in unexpected ways.

We used lavender, orange peel, lemon peel and lime peel, both separately and together in the flask.

Step 4: Using the Scent Safely.

Some scented oils are not suitable for direct application to the skin, possibly causing irritation or allergic reactions.

Your oils should, therefore, be used indirectly. Use them in proprietary oil-warmers, or add a few drops to pieces of cloth and hang them in warm places, like over lamps (not too close to the bulb), on radiators or in front of your car air-vents.

It's tempting to make scented candles from the oil, but there is too much water in it - add water to melted wax and you risk rapid boiling spraying molten wax all over the place.


SHOE0007 (author)2017-07-26

Nightshade distillation smelly horrible smell repelant mainly.

SHOE0007 made it! (author)2017-07-26

In 24 hours I have collected 410 ml plus or minus 1% error of solanine extract. Keep in mind there could be toxic materials entering the distillate too. It not a perfume but it repels animals, etc. This is from nightshade berries.

SHOE0007 made it! (author)2017-07-23

I am attempting to distill Bittersweet nightshade berries approx 1% of the alkloid Solanine but it saids in articles that Solanine melts at 271-275 deg C so it must be other ketones, etc from the fruit.

SHOE0007 made it! (author)2017-04-19

Here I am fractional distilling dried organic ginger at 1-2% by mass. I use 20 grams ginger this time. 200 mg to 400 mg of ginger extract chemicals (Natural).

Alumium foil is used to keep the heat inside the distiller appartus and keep the effiency up.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-07-18

Here is an actual distiller if you can afford it that works a little better than this. This is a good distiller for normal use if you want to keep it simple.

Kiteman (author)SHOE00072016-07-19

Oh, that works well, but they usually run at a couple of hundred pounds/dollars (unless you make a lucky ebay find).

I was keeping it simple for pocket-money scale distilling.

Yajawstin (author)Kiteman2017-01-26

I got the condenser tube (10coil) off eBay China for £6 with free post to uk! :P

Kiteman (author)Yajawstin2017-01-26


SHOE0007 (author)2016-11-14

Estimate 0.5-1% of this ester. So you can get in 250 ml near 0.323 to 0.646 g of methyl butyrate.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-11-14

Here I am distilling a compound at an estimated 0.5% methyl butyrate which smells like pineapples from Great Value Pineapple Naturally Flavoured Drink Mix. Here I can get 0.323 g of methyl butyrate. This compound boils near 100 degrees C.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-11-11

However when boiling at 150 degrees C and the high volatility of Furan-2-ylmethanethiol which smells like roasted coffee. Its high volatility and vapor pressure makes it highly probable (odor) in distilling solution of concentrated coffee.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-11-11

Apparently there are 1000 of organic voilitle compounds including Pyrazine, and other chemicals. The odor is a mistry to me.

SHOE0007 made it! (author)2016-11-10

You know I have made natural and artifical orange solution from Orange Tang 69 g in 500 ml water and got a 1-2% solution of artificial orange odor liquid. It took 15 hours to get 200 ml but it smell refreshenely like oranges.

Kiteman (author)SHOE00072016-11-11


SHOE0007 made it! (author)2016-11-11

More pics on the energy drink (MOKA) and 13 g of Pineapple sage. Unfortunately the pineapple sage chemicals that give the odor are patented and I cannot get any info online about them. A nice pineapple sage coffee smell should occur.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-11-10

I have been doing more research and most likely sol at 95 degrees of Octyl acetate ( a natural chemical) that smells like orange is probably added to Orange Tang. However I am not sure. It boils at 200 and the glass is at 350 degrees C so half of that is 175 degrees C. Vapors of it are possible. Especially if the humidity is 80% compared to 20%.

0.06/100+ 0.06 *100 = 0.06% of this ester.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-11-10

Here again I am trying to extract a Java Energy drink MOKA COFFEE through distillation. It been outside for 6 months before distilling.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-11-10

The sugar in the solution is an issue.. but can be easily cleaned with water and solvents (acetone).

lexipainter (author)2016-03-09

This makes no sense and the pictures are not helpful :(

Kiteman (author)lexipainter2016-03-10

Which bit in particular is causing an issue?

Edbed (author)2015-06-01

This looks great. Do you think it would work on catnip?

Kiteman (author)Edbed2015-06-01

I think it would, yes.

Edbed (author)Kiteman2015-06-01


CanaDan (author)2007-02-02

does anyone know if the oil and water will separate after awhile allowing you to draw off just the pure oil? or could you simmer the extract to leave only the oil behind? (I would really like to try adding to candles, but I also heed the water content warning)

canuckpenter (author)CanaDan2013-06-02

I think the product of this particular method probably more accurately hydosols (like rose water) vice essential oil. The typical yield is less then 0.5% (some cases much less), so really get very little without larger batches.

Pretty good explanation here;

Kiteman (author)CanaDan2007-02-03

OUrs didn't separate into layers, despite standing for nearly 24 hours. Maybe a centrifuge? Or maybe the layer of oil was just too thin to spot in the curve of the meniscus? Maybe you get separable layers in larger volumes?

nonnoc (author)Kiteman2007-02-03

I think the oil layer was probably very thin. In the sites I have visited about making perfume, they often state that it takes several pounds of leaves or petals to produce even one mL of essential oil. Thankfully, it only takes a few drops to make more than 100mL of perfume. But good instructable!

Kiteman (author)nonnoc2007-02-04

It doesn't take much to scent the lab, either. I generally arrive to a lab smalling faitly of sulphur and snails. The morning after I took the photos for the Instructable, my lab still smelled like a fresh pillow.

pyro13 (author)Kiteman2007-09-25

could this work with coffee beans?

Kiteman (author)pyro132007-09-25

I don't know, but I'd try with grounds rather than whole beans if I were you.

Mirlo (author)2012-03-01

I love this tutorial! However, I have a question...
My parents have a garden full of flowers (jasmine, rose, gardenia, geranium...) and I was planning on making a perfume with some of them. Would the distilled oils go off soon (soon=a month or two), or if I mix them with alcohol to make the perfume, would that preserve them? Did the oils you got smell strong enough to be make a good perfume when mixed with alcohol? Thanks

Kiteman (author)Mirlo2012-03-02

I haven't tried alcohol, so I can't answer that part.

If you store the oils in the fridge, they should last a month or two - after that, I've never tried.


Vendigroth (author)2007-06-16

in chemistry yesterday, we extracted the limonene from orange peel and lemon peel. 'twas a shame to leave the fruit, tho, so i ended up eating 4 oranges. i don't know why we bothered extracting the oil, really, I myself smell of oranges enough now....

Kiteman (author)Vendigroth2007-06-16

Spray the limonene on your garden to keep the cats off?

Orange peel is supposed to keep cats off your garden - didn't work for me though, they just defacated on the peel. Cheeky little sods.

Vendigroth (author)Kiteman2007-06-16

cheeky bastards. we've tried everything, and i've now got carte blanche to shoot any can in the garden with my paintball-popgun ever since i shot at one on the shed roof once, i've not seen any more, but they just sneak in when i'm asleep.... i'll try the limonene idea, tho, it's obviously much more concentrated. looks like i won't be getting scurvy for a while.....

Mirlo (author)Vendigroth2012-03-01

You probably think you're funny. Shooting cats with a paintball popgun qualifies as animal abuse and is anything but amusing.

Lance Mt. (author)Vendigroth2009-11-27

Man those 'cans' must be so devius little things. I'd hate to litter in your garden. 
   Well, now i'm going to have to try this. Greaaaat. you had to get me interested.

  -Cheers, 5/5, Chris

dla888 (author)Kiteman2009-11-27

A squirt gun is my anti-cat weapon of choice or a rubber band gun.

stephenniall (author)dla8882009-12-25

up north where it is snowing right now my cats keep sitting on my frozen pond so i decided to wake up early pour warm water and defrost the ice .. the cat got a funny and cold surprise !

dutchypoodle (author)Kiteman2008-09-11

Citrus oil is an excellent fly, gnat and flea repellent-- and although it may not discourage CAT presence, it is toxic to them.

wocket (author)Kiteman2008-03-27

lol, it's ment to work on dogs, not cats. :)

pyro13 (author)Kiteman2007-06-30

also could u freeze distlill the oil to take down the water concentration and further concentrate the oil, making it appropriate for candle making?

Kiteman (author)pyro132007-07-01

Probably not, unless you use a huge mass of needles.

JohnJY (author)2012-02-11

Good job man.

Kiteman (author)JohnJY2012-02-11

Sweet, thanks for letting me know!

saintneko (author)2011-05-22

For the curious, those type of flasks are also known as 'erlenmeyer flasks' and they are awesome. Googling either term will get you the same type of flask but somewhat different result sets - erlenmeyer tends to return all-glass, more sciency types of shopping results.

Kiteman (author)saintneko2011-05-22

That must be a US thing - in the UK, laboratory glassware is usually described by shape, so, this is a flat-bottom conical flask.

dutado (author)Kiteman2011-08-03

Even in Czech Republic, we call it Erlenmayer's flask.

aristide202 (author)dutado2011-12-26

That kind of lab flask is called Erlenmeyer in italy too, he was a german 18th chemist . Anyway the flask must me fire resistant, pirex, duran or somekind of similar material. A low smooth flame and one ore two of those metal nets will help not to brake the flasks. A modified pirex coffee or teapot could be an alternative to a real erlenmeyer

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