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?
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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.
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CanaDan8 years ago
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)
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)  CanaDan8 years ago
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 Kiteman8 years ago
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)  nonnoc8 years ago
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 Kiteman7 years ago
could this work with coffee beans?
Kiteman (author)  pyro137 years ago
I don't know, but I'd try with grounds rather than whole beans if I were you.
pyro13 Kiteman7 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
Kiteman (author)  pyro137 years ago
Quite possibly, but I'd chop then fine to expose as much surface area as possible.
sunshiine2 years ago
Mirlo3 years ago
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)  Mirlo3 years ago
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.

Vendigroth7 years ago
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)  Vendigroth7 years ago
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.
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.....
You probably think you're funny. Shooting cats with a paintball popgun qualifies as animal abuse and is anything but amusing.
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 Kiteman5 years ago
A squirt gun is my anti-cat weapon of choice or a rubber band gun.
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 !
Citrus oil is an excellent fly, gnat and flea repellent-- and although it may not discourage CAT presence, it is toxic to them.
wocket Kiteman7 years ago
lol, it's ment to work on dogs, not cats. :)
pyro13 Kiteman7 years ago
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)  pyro137 years ago
Probably not, unless you use a huge mass of needles.
JohnJY3 years ago

Good job man.
Kiteman (author)  JohnJY3 years ago
Sweet, thanks for letting me know!
saintneko3 years ago
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)  saintneko3 years ago
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 Kiteman3 years ago
Even in Czech Republic, we call it Erlenmayer's flask.
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
Algag Kiteman3 years ago
From what i remember from science class (and just verified on Wikipedia) it was named for the guy who invented it
Eli_Z Algag3 years ago
In soviet Russia erlenmeyer call you flask!
Arendos Eli_Z3 years ago
I'm pretty sure that's not how the meme works.
Really? I'm English and we call it an erlenmeyer flask where I live. But then again most of my useful chemistry knowledge is self-taught so I do have quite a bit of american influence I suppose.
wackman Kiteman3 years ago
In Spain, we call it Erlenmeyer's flask .
Jodex3 years ago
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Kiteman (author)  Jodex3 years ago
Flasks like that are frequently available online (ebay, anybody?).

As for peat - I really don't know. It would be nice if you could try, then let us know!
Jodex Kiteman3 years ago
Oh sorry, I deleted my comment so I could make a new and upgraded one... Anyway my first comment was: Now I just need to find a shop that sells those flasks so I could try distilling my own scents. What do you think, would peat make anything at all?

Thanks for the quick answer! I know that I could find it easily online, but buying "live" would be maybe little easier. If I can't find any flasks here, then I'll order online.

For how long does these scents stay good? I mean that would there start to grow some mold or something like that after a few months or so?

I'll try peat - and many others - just as soon as I get all the needed equipment, by whitch I propably mean only the flask.
Kiteman (author)  Jodex3 years ago
I've never kept a scent more than a few days, and then in the fridge, but I strongly suspect they would eventually go "off" in some way - moldy, or fermenting.
Mauigerbil3 years ago
Just my luck! A rose fell off of my grandma's rosebush. This was the first thing that came to mind. Would one rose be enough?
Maui gerbil
Kiteman (author)  Mauigerbil3 years ago
Probably, but you wouldn't get much.
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