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It's kind of tempting to use vegetable oil for lubricating door hinges and other similar basic mechanisms around the house - vegetable oil is readily available in almost any household. However I always hear it's a bad idea, but could never find any details of why exactly it is a bad idea.

What exactly happens if I use vegetable oil for basic mechanisms lubrication?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted
  • Vegetable oil will gum up, attract dirt and dust, and eventually end up a huge mess. DO NOT use it.
  • Mineral oil is a food-safe oil not normally used as a cooking lubricant, but it is the go-to for replenishing woods and lubricating mechanical parts of cooking utensils. It won't gum up, and is OK to use in a pinch.
  • Most machine oils are a bit thin; they'll get into crevices like in door hinges, but they're lighter-weight and more volatile, and will eventually evaporate or work their way back out.
  • Silicone sprays are great for metal-on-metal, but they are incompatible with some plastics, so read the label carefully.
  • If you can take the mechanism apart without destroying it, I would recommend a silicone grease out of a tube, such as Dow-33 (available under many different brand names; you'll most likely find it as a pneumatic tool lube because it doesn't hurt o-rings). It is nonreactive with all plastics and metals, and is a thick-ish grease which stays where it's put. A little dab'll do ya. Only trouble is you have to be able to apply it directly to the surface to be lubricated; it doesn't wick into crevices like an oil or spray lube.
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Vegetable oil will gum up, attract dirt and dust, and eventually end up a huge mess. Describing the average glow fuel powered (Alcohol/Nitromethane/Castor Oil mix) RC model airplane after a day's flying. Seriously, get into the hobby and you'll be put off the idea of using vegetable oil for lubricating anything. – Fiasco Labs Sep 18 '14 at 2:06

Oil of any kind is the wrong lube to use on hinges. Oil, WD40, or any petro based product wets the hinge surfaces and will collect dust and dirt. I always recommend dry silicone spray. Silicone works great, won't harm surrounding finishes etc. Some folks like graphite, but I find it a bit messy to use.

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i also like teflon spray. it resists weather very nicely and doesn't discolor paint. – longneck Jun 21 '11 at 23:47

Vegetable oil should NEVER be used to lubricate mechanical parts. It always leaves a solid deposit which later will be stuck to the parts you wanted to lubricate.

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It should be noted, different oils have different rates they break down, viscosity, weight, etc... different kinds of oil's exist for different needs.

I've never heard of using silicone on a hinge; wd40 has always been my go to. will look into that.

Vegetable oil would probably decay over time and begin to smell; stain the trim surround.

In cooking, different oils have different flash points (the point where it catches on fire), smoke points. you wouldn't use cooking oil in a gasoline engine for this reason. Its flash point is to low.

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The smell would be the biggest annoyance. Cooking oil is designed for...cooking...not lubrication. It also goes rancid, which isn't something you'd want as an odor in your house. – DA01 Jun 20 '11 at 14:12
Food oil is lightweight, goes rancid, and breaks down quickly. The only food-safe oil I can think of that won't rot is mineral oil like what you should use in a cutting board. – Peter DeWeese Jun 23 '11 at 2:12

Jojoba oil is a waxy oil that can be used as a lubricant. It is the only vegetable oil that never gums up and never goes rancid.

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