Mineral Oil- 55 Gallon DrumHome > Supplies > Solvents, Cleaners & Chemicals
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Mineral oil or liquid petroleum is a liquid by-product of the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline and other petroleum based products from crude oil. A mineral oil in this sense is a transparent, colorless oil composed mainly of alkanes (typically 15 to 40 carbons) and cyclic paraffins, related to petroleum jelly (also known as "white petrolatum"). It has a density of around 0.8 g/cm3. Mineral oil is a substance of relatively low value, and it is produced in very large quantities. Mineral oil is available in light and heavy grades, and can often be found in drug stores.
There are three basic classes of refined mineral oils:
paraffinic oils, based on n-alkanes
naphthenic oils, based on cycloalkanes
aromatic oils, based on aromatic hydrocarbons (not to be confused with essential oils)
Due to its low price and ubiquitous supply, mineral oil has been pressed into service in a wide variety of capacities. Most of these exploit its properties as a low-toxicity, non-reactive general purpose lubricant and coolant, or for electrical properties.
The application of four popular moisturizers increased the incidence of skin cancer in mice who were irradiated twice a week for 20 weeks. A fifth moisturizer, specially prepared without mineral oil and sodium laurel sulphate, had no such effect. This study may not directly translate to humans as mice have a thin skin and live in the dark, unlike humans whose bodies had evolved for exposure to the sun.
Mineral oil with added fragrance is marketed as baby oil in the US, UK and Canada. While baby oil is primarily marketed as a generic skin ointment, other applications exist in common use. It is often used on infant diaper rash to ease the inflammation. Similarly, it may alleviate mild eczema, particularly when the use of corticosteroid creams is not desirable. Mineral or baby oil can also be employed in small quantities (2–3 drops daily) to clean inside ears. Over a period of a few weeks, the mineral oil softens dried or hardened earwax so that a gentle flush of water can remove the debris. In the case of a damaged or perforated eardrum, however, mineral oil should not be used, as oil in the middle ear can promote ear infections. Also, if used in hair it may cause dandruff production.
Mineral oil is used as a suspending and levigating agent in sulphur-based ointments. Mineral oil is also used in obstetrics to lubricate the birth canal and ease the baby's egress.
Mineral oil is taken orally as a lubricative laxative, and is often prescribed to ease the pain of bowel movements for those who suffer from hemorrhoids and constipation. In Europe the use of mineral oil as laxative is considered obsolete mainly due to its potentially harmful effects on the lungs if accidentally aspirated. Furthermore, a small percentage of the oil may be absorbed into internal tissues and cause adverse reactions of the body. In higher therapeutic dosages loss of bowel control and/or dripping from the rectum has been reported causing temporary stool incontinence. Mineral oil temporarily coats the intestines and prevents the uptake of certain essential vitamins and nutrients. Mineral oil is never to be used in conjunction with other stool softeners as it increases the likelihood of harmful absorption of mineral oil into the body.
Certain mineral oils are used in livestock vaccines, as an adjuvant to stimulate a cell-mediated immune response to the vaccinating agent. In the poultry industry, plain mineral oil can also be swabbed onto the feet of chickens infected with scaly mites on the shank, toes, and webs. Mineral oil suffocates these tiny parasites. In beekeeping, food grade mineral oil saturated paper napkins placed in hives are used as a treatment for tracheal and other mites. It is also used along with a cotton swab to remove un-shed skin on reptiles such as lizards and snakes.
Mineral oil is a common ingredient in baby lotions, cold creams, ointments and cosmetics. It is a lightweight inexpensive oil that is odorless and tasteless. It can be used on eyelashes to prevent brittleness and breaking and, in cold cream, is also used to remove creme make-up and temporary tattoos. One of the common concerns regarding the use of mineral oil is its presence on several lists of comedogenic substances. These lists of comedogenic substances were developed many years ago and are frequently quoted in the dermatological literature.
Mechanical, electrical and industrial
Mineral oil is used in a variety of industrial/mechanical capacities as a non-conductive coolant or thermal fluid in electric components as it does not conduct electricity, while simultaneously functioning to displace air and water. Some examples are in transformers where it is known as transformer oil, and in high voltage switchgear where mineral oil is used as an insulator and as a coolant to disperse switching arcs. The dielectric constant of mineral oil ranges from 2.3 at 50 °C to 2.3 at 200 °C.
Electric space heaters sometimes use mineral oil as a heat transfer oil. Because it is noncompressible, mineral oil is used as a hydraulic fluid in hydraulic machinery and vehicles. It is also used as a lubricant and a cutting fluid. Light mineral oil is also used in textile industries and used as a jute batching oil. An often cited limitation of mineral oil is that it is poorly biodegradable; in some applications, vegetable oils such as cottonseed oil or rapeseed oil may be used instead.
Since it does not absorb atmospheric moisture, mineral oil is useful as a protective coating or bath for water-sensitive materials. Alkali metals like lithium are often submerged in mineral oil for storage or transportation.
Mineral oil is also often used as a coating on metal tools and weapons, knives in particular, as a way to inhibit oxidation. The Japanese Nihonto swords, for example, are traditionally coated in Choji oil which consists of 99% mineral oil and 1% oil of cloves. The use of oil of cloves is sometimes explained as a means of differentiating sword oil from cooking oil to prevent accidental ingestion, but may also be purely aesthetic.
Mineral oil can be used as a leather conditioner as well, though most shoe polishes use naphtha, lanolin, turpentine and Carnauba wax instead.
It can also be used as a wood preservative. A light coating of mineral oil, rubbed into well-sanded wood, provides an easy-to-apply and relatively durable finish, without the odor or drying time (or toxicity) of varnish or urethane.
Because of its properties that prevent water absorption, combined with its lack of flavor and odor, food grade mineral oil, is a popular preservative for wooden cutting boards, salad bowls and utensils. Rubbing a small amount of mineral oil into a wooden kitchen item periodically will prevent absorption of food odors and ease cleaning, as well as maintain the integrity of the wood, which is otherwise subjected to repeated wetting and drying in the course of use. The oil fills small surface cracks that may otherwise harbor bacteria.
It is occasionally used in the food industry, particularly for candy. In this application, it is typically used for the glossy effect it produces, and to prevent the candy pieces from adhering to each other. It has been discouraged for use in children's foods, though it is still found in many candies, including Swedish Fish.
It may be added to food products as a substitute for fat or used as a lubricant in enema preparations, because most of the ingested material is excreted in the stool rather than being absorbed by the body.
It can also be used on cooking utensils, such as wooden cutting boards, or to grease cookware and bakeware to prevent food from sticking.
The use of food grade mineral oil is self-limiting because of its laxative effect. The maximum daily intake is calculated to be about 100 mg, of which some 80 mg are contributed from its use on machines in the baking industry.
Mineral oil can be used to clean heavier oil stains by diluting and liquefying the other oils, rendering the oils more accessible to detergents. Likewise, it can be employed to "de-gum," to remove adhesive residue left by price tags or adhesive tape. It can be used as a cleaner and solvent for inks in fine art printmaking as well as in oil painting, though turpentine is more often used.
Mineral oil is also used in some guitar string cleaners, since it can help mobilize dirt and oil without contributing to the oxidization of the metal strings.
Mineral oil can leave a residue, which is undesirable in some applications.
Mineral oil is a fuel used by professional firespinners and firebreathers. It is chosen for its high flashpoint and low burning temperature. As a firebreathing fuel it is ideal because it will not tend to burn as a liquid, due to the high flashpoint, thus preventing blowback. However, due to the risk of aspiration of mineral oil and resulting lung damage, this use is considered a health hazard and discouraged.
Mineral oil's ubiquity has led to its use in some niche applications as well.
Mineral oil (also known as baby oil) is frequently used to create a transparency for applications in screen printing. This is used with larger format prints. Disposable razors dipped in mineral oil prevent the accumulation of rust and minerals build-up from tap water.
It is used to make lava lamps. Mineral oil is used to darken soapstone countertops for aesthetic purposes. It is commonly used to create a "wear" effect on new clay poker chips, which can otherwise only be accomplished through prolonged use. The chips are either placed in mineral oil (and left there for a short period of time), or the oil is applied to each chip individually, then rubbed clean. This removes any chalky residue leftover from manufacture, and also improves the look and "feel" of the chips.
It has a high refractive index, so it is sometimes used in oil immersion microscopes. It is the principal fuel in some types of gel-type scented candles.
It is an effective pesticide, particularly for edible plants. It is effective against a wide range of insects and all stages of insect development. Mineral oil has been used to immerse computers in order to absorb heat and cool the system in some custom-built projects.
It is sometimes used as a personal lubricant (although it is not safe for use with latex condoms), and as an alternative to plant or herbal oils. Mineral oil should not be used for massage therapy.
It can be used in some model trains as a substitute for the "smoke fluid" or "smoke oil" that simulates steam coming from a steam engine.
It is used in some theatrical fog and haze machines to create a haze effect or thick, slow-dissipating fog on stage.
It can be used in basement floor drain traps to float on top of the water slowing its evaporation thereby keeping sewer gas from entering the house for a longer period of time.
Mineral oil can be used as a dust suppressant.
In microbiology, mineral oil may be added atop agar stab growth media to create an anaerobic environment.
It is the basis for most automotive engine oils.
Used on larger diamond blades of lapidary slab saws as a coolant. Trim saws of 10" diameter or less can utilize water, often with an additive, but larger saws use mineral oil as it dissipates the heat developed from cutting rock with diamond blades.
It is sometimes used to prevent the escape of insects in captivity as they tend to be repelled by the oil.
In commercial product photography, it is used to simulate water droplets and condensation because it does not evaporate under the heat of photographic lights.
Certain types of mineral oil are also used for piston engine aircraft (ex. Cessna 206 or Cessna 207). When the breaking-in new gaskets (rings), the aircraft will be flown for 25 flight hours with mineral oil. Afterwards aviation oil (or aircraft oil) is used.