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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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  • 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 virtually all construction plastics and with 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
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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.

  • i also like teflon spray. it resists weather very nicely and doesn't discolor paint. – longneck Jun 21 '11 at 23:47
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    Graphite! It's the best! I use it dry, right off my pencil. Shave it off like a flint and steel in to a powder – Joe Fala Mar 17 at 5:14
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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
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    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
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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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What about chapstick. I've recently used it on a lock and it seems to be working well.

  • Lip balm is usually mostly mineral oil and wax and it's a good makeshift lubricant. – batsplatsterson Mar 16 at 21:35
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There is nothing inherently wrong with food oils as lubricants or industrial oils, in fact there are some in common use and are very effective.

Canola oil is sold as a cooking oil today but in the days before petroleum it was considered an industrial oil rather than a food oil. It's a decent lubricant and has no major issues that would prevent it from being effective to lubricate hinges and other light duty lubrication.

Linseed oil was used to good effect as an industrial oil as well. In some applications it outperforms petroleum based lubricants. Linseed oil is the same thing as flax seed oil, which is now sold as a nutritional supplement.

Recently soy based lubricants have become available, I have used one that's non toxic and food safe. It works fine as a light duty / general purpose lubricant. I haven't tried it for anything really demanding.

Animal based oils have also been used as lubricants or industrial oils or. Animal fat (tallow) is generally saturated - it's a solid at room temperature. Tallow and lanolin (oil rendered from wool) was once used as a preservative the way cosmoline is today. Lanolin is still available and still a very effective, persistent lubricant / preservative. One commonly available product that is lanolin based is Fluid Film.

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Most of the lubricant they sell for paper shredders is vegetable oil. It does gum up, but if you are constantly adding it, that's not a deal breaker. I wouldn't use it on something that can actually be disabled by gummed up lubricant, like a beard trimmer, but I'd give it a try on hinges if I wanted them to operate quietly and smoothly, but not frictionlessly; the viscosity can be useful on doors that are just a little off or subject to wind currents so that they'll drift away from the position in which they were last placed. I use PAM on the driver's door of my car, since it had a tendency to fall closed when it was "perfectly" lubricated from the factory. I've also used cooking spray on brakes (pads and rotors) to keep them from grinding, shuffling or hissing; it doesn't seem to reduce their effectiveness, but I do only one wheel at a time just to be on the safe side.

  • 1
    Hello, and welcome to Stack Exchange. Oiling your brake rotors seems like a reeeeally bad idea; my guess is that any benefit coincides with reduced braking power, and both go away at the same time when the brakes heat up. – Daniel Griscom Dec 24 '16 at 13:34

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