Questions regarding the storage of incense and preserving shelf-life come up frequently at ORS. Here is a compilation of the tips and observations that have been offered throughout the blog over the years. Thanks to the many folks who’ve given us the advice which has been distilled into the list which now follows…
♦ Incense with less oils (i.e. closer to true woods) are less volatile over time and may offer longer shelf life and less scent degradation.
♦ Temperature, humidity and light controlled environs are best for storage – a typical drawer in a home offers reasonable temperature, humidity and light control. Avoid direct sunlight and dampness. Refrigeration is probably overkill and may introduce moisture problems. Vacuum sealing may eventually pull oils and aroma out of incense, so avoid.
♦ Storing various oil-laden incenses together can lead to fragrance cross-contamination, so for instance, you won’t want to put numerous, fragrant Indian incenses in the same box – and you definitely don’t want to store your prized kyara in the same box with your nag-champa! Zip lock bags may be used to help isolate different incenses that are stored in the same location, but more potent aromas and oils may still permeate through. It’s best to leave incense in its original packaging – whether it be a stiff plastic bag, wax paper lined cardboard box, cellophane wrapper, etc..
♦ Don’t store incense near mothballs, cedar-blocks, sachet bags, or the like that are often found in drawers, closets and chests. If a chest or box is made from a particulary strong-smelling wood (ex. unfinished pine or cedar) it might also alter your incense over time and would not be an ideal storage container.
♦ Some incense, more commonly from Japanese manufacturers, comes packaged in a nice Paulownia wood box. In addition to being an attractive material, the Paulownia swells with humidity and heat, so the box essentially self-seals (the lid fits tighter) and helps insulate the incense. Take advantage of this clever design and keep your incense in this box if it came with one. Reuse your empty Paulownia boxes to store other box-less incense!
♦ Some incense, most notably Indian, may actually improve with some aging. Strong oils, plants and spices can mellow and the ingredients can more thoroughly combine or “gel” with time.
In short, by simply keeping incense in its original boxes and out of intense sunlight, it’s likely to be as comfortable in your home as you are! Given the anecdotes from ORS, scent degradation is rarely an issue following these basic guidelines and many of us here keep large quantities of incense on hand for years with little concern about erosion of our treasured stock