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There are multiple things around the house that start squeaking over time: door hinges, locks, laptop hinges, car door hinges, furniture hinges, various appliance doors and covers, bike parts and so on. What they have in common is that they require lubrication.

Up until now I used WD-40, just because this is what I've found the easiest on shelves. A bit of research, and it seems like this is one of the worst options.

The problem is that I couldn't find some guidelines of picking the right lubricant for the job. What are the most common types of lubricants and are there any rules of thumb for using them?

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  • curious, why do you say wd40 is a poor option? It works quite well for the tasks you describe. – dandavis Jan 10 '20 at 18:35
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I keep two things on hand, which covers 99% of use cases:

  • Household (3-in-1) oil
  • Teflon spray (or silicone)

The former is good for quick squeak fixes where dust accumulation isn't much of a concern. I use it for window blind gears, motor bearings, etc.

The latter dries to a film and tends to stay cleaner. I use it for window hardware , shelf guides, and hinge pins, for example.

WD-40 is a lubricant1, despite red-faced protests2 referencing the initials in its name3, but it's petroleum-based (or otherwise similar to kerosene--I'm not a chemist), which makes it smelly, thin, and quite a solvent as well. It's great for cleaning (adhesive and grease removal) and large-scale lubrication (plates sliding together), but doesn't last well in heavier duty applications. Using it on a door hinge, for example, will result in dirty stains on the floor and renewed squeaks in a few months. There are better products for pure lubrication.

1. Even water is a lubricant. Neither are ideal as such for household maintenance.
2. See also the motorcycling community and vigorously-defended views on drive chain lubrication.
3. Water Displacement, 40th formula

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    those dirty stains on the floor are from hinge grime that 3-in-1 would just leave in-place, leaving friction sources that wd40 would strip and wash away. Best practice (imho) is to over wd40 the hinge the first time with a rag under the hinge, until the drips are clean, catching all the grey gunk that flows out, then later on, use 3-in-1 to add long-term lubrication once the wd40's light oil lets up, typically a few months to a year. – dandavis Jan 10 '20 at 18:40
  • Depending on the paint used for your door and trim, be careful with spray lubricants that could damage or stain the paint. – JPhi1618 Jan 10 '20 at 18:58
  • Good suggestion. I lubricate pins only to avoid such problem. Pull them one at a time and take them to a work area. Clean them, lube them, reinstall them. Done. – isherwood Jan 10 '20 at 19:05
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A light oil is good for many things, especially when used sparingly.

It comes in several grades, one light multi-use one is sewing machine oil, which is usually easy to find. A light grease is also handy when you don’t want it to drip or run.

WD40 is a water displacing spray which is what the WD means...

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  • wd40 is 25% light oil in an easy-to-apply base of fast-evaporating solvents. – dandavis Jan 10 '20 at 18:31
  • @dandavis and at 25% it never stays around long enough to be useful, I prefer oil or silicone or grease, of several varieties, all of which stay around longer. It does work when unseizing things as it penetrates quite well, but other products like Plusgas are much much better at penetrating when unseizing parts. – Solar Mike Jan 10 '20 at 21:08
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I was able to find this nice summary online. (BTW: Be careful googling for "best lubricant") I keep various formulations of these four types of lubricants on hand and use them, in some degree or another quite often. I find this covers all of my needs except for an occasional special use every few years.

For what it's worth, I also find WD-40 a very useful cleaner/lubricant and have a few cans hanging around the house/shop/garage/shed, etc.

There are four primary lubricants that you will use around your home:

Note: Almost all lubricants come in different grades. Make sure you are using the correct grade and lubrication product for any specific application. Using the wrong lubricant can be just as bad as not lubricating at all.

Grease: Grease is available in a paste or spray can. It is best applied where metal parts are in contact with other metal parts such as the rollers on your garage door track, and the chain and gears on an automatic garage door openers.

Machine Oil: Machine oil is an excellent lubricant for motor bearings. Most blower motors on older forced air furnaces require that the motor bearings be lubricated at regular intervals. The blower bearings may also need lubrication and machine oil is general the product specified for this type of lubrication. Stationary power tools and swimming pool pump motors generally require lubrication at regular intervals, again machine oil is usually the lubricant specified by the manufacturer.

Silicone: Silicone lubricants are an excellent choice for items that move in a track such as horizontal or vertical sliding windows and sliding closet doors. It is especially good for non-metallic surfaces.

Note: Always thoroughly clean any track, glides and wheels that may be incorporated into the slide system. The use of any lubricant in conjunction with dirt particles or dog hair can make the problem worse than before you applied the lubricant.

Graphite: Graphite has been used as a lubricant for many years. Graphite is called a dry lubricant. The most common application of graphite is in lock cylinders. Graphite usually comes in a small tube, which you place at the opening of the lock cylinder, squeeze the graphite tube and the graphite will enter the lock cylinder lubricating the pins. Graphite lubricant is also available in aerosol sprays, although I believe that the tube is the easier method of lubrication. Regular use of graphite in lock cylinders can prevent keys from jamming in lock cylinders and breaking.

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