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My experience with food grade mineral oil as chain lube.

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My experience with food grade mineral oil as chain lube.

Old 02-28-12, 01:27 PM
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My experience with pharmaceutical grade mineral oil as chain lube.

I have a bottle of mineral oil (not spirits!) lying around, I used to use it on the blades of my electric hair clippers (but now own one that does not require oil).

This stuff is sold as a form of (harsh) laxative at your local pharmacy.

I like to ride in all conditions and I try to keep the cost of bike maintenance to a minimum often utilizing the 2 years free service that came with my bike just to squeeze some lube out of my LBS.

Unfortunately I cannot go to the bike shop immediately after every wet ride, and found the chain rusting overnight.

After scouring Google results to see if plain mineral oil was a viable lube I only found 1 link to a post where someone said that mineral oil was in most common brands of bike lube and that it should be fine to use as chain lube.

I took a very wet ride.

Came home, dried my entire bike, and even scrubbed the chain with a small brush taken from a shaving kit.

I ran some oil directly over the chain changing gears etc, but immersing the chain wasn't an option, so I decided to soak some paper towel and squeeze/pump the oil into the chain a bit, all around.

After all of this I had restored the color of the chain fairly well (an indication to my laymen eye that some decent cleaning had taken place) and everything seemed remarkably well lubed.

The next day I road 16.5 miles in dry conditions and my drive train seemed as smooth as ever.

The following day another 40 miles, still smooth and buttery.

My main concern is that mineral oil may perform poorly when I try to ride in the rain/wet.

I'm guessing that a major difference with lubes made specifically for cycling would be water resistance/wet performance.

I posted this primarily due to the lack of information that I found on the subject, but also so I could hear some feedback from the community regarding whether this is a viable all around option for a lube.

Last edited by BridgeNotTunnel; 02-28-12 at 04:10 PM.
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Old 02-28-12, 02:00 PM
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I would think the main difference between oils is the viscosity, and a thin oil, like I assume the mineral oil from your shaver is, will not protect against surfaces rubbing together under high pressure like a thicker oil would. I believe what most people use as 'home brew' oil is motor oil, slightly thinned out (I think thinned with mineral spirits, but I may be wrong)

But any oil is better than no oil. And yes the thin oil may not resist washing off as well as some.

THin oil is useful for other things - like lubing spoke nipples when truing wheels.
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Old 02-28-12, 02:19 PM
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Originally Posted by DCB0
I would think the main difference between oils is the viscosity, and a thin oil, like I assume the mineral oil from your shaver is, will not protect against surfaces rubbing together under high pressure like a thicker oil would. I believe what most people use as 'home brew' oil is motor oil, slightly thinned out (I think thinned with mineral spirits, but I may be wrong)
The most common "home brew" formula is 4 parts mineral spirits with 1 part synthetic motor oil. That is 20% motor oil and 80% mineral spirits. Many years ago my mother would give me mineral oil for constipation, as I recall, it was thicker than "home brew" but only a mild laxative. One of the earliest uses for crude oil (rock oil) was medicinal "cleaning out the pipes". Of course crude oil or motor oil is not safe to take internally.
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Old 02-28-12, 03:34 PM
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I think that you will find a low viscosity oil won't stay in place and will get squeezed out of chain links faster.
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Old 02-28-12, 03:42 PM
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Mineral oil is a good metal lubricant. It is used in many cutting and cooling lubricants in the tooling industry and as a general lubricant in food processing equipment. Just like motor oil, it comes in different viscosities. I don't know just how well straight mineral oil would be as a chain lube, but as mentioned above, it would be better than nothing and probably better than some products commonly used.

Instead of mineral oil, I've started using Mobil 1 synthetic oil anywhere I'd normally use a light oil lubricant/rust inhibitor. It works quite well, wicks into chains and pivots quickly, and seems cleaner than petroleum based lubes.

Al1943's "home brew" sounds like more of a homemade penetrating oil than a chain lube. Kerosene and motor oil were commonly used to make a crude penetrating oil prior to commercial production of similar products. If anyone has used Marvel Mystery Oil, it is very similar to the old farmer's mix.
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Old 02-28-12, 03:59 PM
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Thanks for the feedback.

Regarding viscosity, the bottle is labelled as "Heavy" mineral oil.

i found some interesting facts and applications while searching for a viscosity rating here:

https://www.cqconcepts.com/chem_mineraloilheavy.php

same site featured this info

What is the viscosity of Mineral Oil Heavy?
Viscosity, 100 °F, ASTM D-445, SUS 370~410

And I compared that to this viscosity chart I found.

MATERIAL APPROXIMATE VISCOSITY (in centipoise)

Water @ 70 F 1 to 5
Blood or Kerosene 10
Anti-Freeze or Ethylene Glycol 15
Motor Oil SAE10 or Mazola Corn Oil 50 to 100
Motor Oil SAE30 or Maple Syrup 150 to 200
Motor Oil SAE40 or Castor Oil 250 to 500
Motor Oil SAE60 or Glycerin 1,000 to 2,000

If the 370~410 cited on the web is a measure of centipoise, then I can assume my oil falls somewhere in the range of "Motor Oil SAE40 or Castor Oil".

The most common "home brew" formula is 4 parts mineral spirits with 1 part synthetic motor oil. That is 20% motor oil and 80% mineral spirits.
Based on the above numbers, I imagine this homebrew mix to be far more thin than my plain mineral oil. Maybe it will be "ok" in the rain....
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Old 02-28-12, 04:02 PM
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wiping it off the outside is also real important , keeping grit from sticking,
and abrading the metal.

Food grade oil from rocks ? I'll stay away from that restaurant..
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Old 02-28-12, 04:08 PM
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lol, maybe i should change the title to read "pharmaceutical grade" for accuracy.

i guess a laxative shouldn't be considered "food".
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Old 02-28-12, 04:18 PM
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A laxative oil that forces the chain to excrete it's dirt and grit?
Sounds like solid science to me!
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Old 02-28-12, 04:22 PM
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Haha!

Totally.

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Old 02-28-12, 05:29 PM
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If you want to test this or any chain cleaning/lubing procedure just continue doing the same thing and see how many miles the chain lasts. That'll tell you whether it works or not. 2 rides is not enough to determine much. WD40 will make a chain run nice and smooth for ~50 miles.

Originally Posted by DCB0
But any oil is better than no oil. And yes the thin oil may not resist washing off as well as some.
+1
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Old 02-28-12, 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Myosmith
Al1943's "home brew" sounds like more of a homemade penetrating oil than a chain lube.
The way this home brew works is that it does penetrate into the tightest parts of the chain. It should be applied several hours before riding the bike. Most of the mineral spirits evaporate leaving the synthetic motor oil where it can do the most good as a lubricant. I've used it for several years and have never failed to get at least 5000 miles out of a chain before it has stretched 1/16th inches per foot. And I've never worn a cassette cog enough to cause chain skip.

Like any other good chain lube it can become black and dirty with time. Wiping down the chain and re-applying the lube will keep a chain working well and looking good. I apply 1 or 2 drops per link and wipe off the excess.

If you search the forums you'll find many recommendations for this particular home brew formula. That's why I started using it.

Last edited by Al1943; 02-28-12 at 05:42 PM.
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Old 02-28-12, 05:42 PM
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im guessing, this chain is 6 months 1,200+ miles old

for now i think this is only a supplemental lube for after wet rides; between trips to my LBS for "real" (and free) chain lube.

also, possibly as a way to do a superficial cleaning.
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Old 02-28-12, 06:09 PM
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Well, mineral oil may lube your chain, but I wouldn't expect it to do a particularly good job at it or last very long. It lacks additives like tackifiers, anti-wear and anti-rust agents, and I don't know what else. Formulation of oil for a specific purpose is part art, part science, and mostly secret except to those involved in the production of it.

I happened upon Chain-L a couple of years ago. Easy to apply, lasts a long time, and shrugs off rain. Cheap to use too; I've been feeding several bikes, and have half of a bottle left.

It seems to me that any oil formulated for bike chains, or for lubrication of machinery of some kind, would have to have some advantages over plain mineral oil.
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Old 02-28-12, 06:29 PM
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Food grade mineral oil, is the same stuff used as the base for most lubricating oils, except that it's refined purer. Other than purity, the main difference is the viscosity, which spans a large spectrum. Pure oil is a decent lubricant for many applications, but it's the additives that make modern oils what they are. Additives improve film strength, temperature stability, adhesion, corrosion prevention, and a large number of characteristics for specific applications.
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Old 02-28-12, 07:20 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
Food grade mineral oil, is the same stuff used as the base for most lubricating oils, except that it's refined purer. Other than purity, the main difference is the viscosity, which spans a large spectrum. Pure oil is a decent lubricant for many applications, but it's the additives that make modern oils what they are. Additives improve film strength, temperature stability, adhesion, corrosion prevention, and a large number of characteristics for specific applications.
This was basically what I had suspected.

So, I would say there is no harm in using this between trips to my LBS for a shot of the real thing.

Until my bike turns 2 in October, and my service plan is up. I'll be forced to "cut the cord", and do most of my maintenance myself.

Then I will stop being such a cheapskate and pony up for some of the truly purpose made lubes and cleaners.
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Old 02-28-12, 09:05 PM
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Originally Posted by BridgeNotTunnel
Then I will stop being such a cheapskate and pony up for some of the truly purpose made lubes and cleaners.
IIRC I bought a half-gallon of chain and bar oil and the local hardware store for $4. For lubing chains it will be enough to last me many lifetimes.
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Old 02-29-12, 12:17 PM
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Ah yes, chain and bar oil.

This option actually intrigued me the most when I first started researching bike chain lube.

I would imagine this would work as well as any bike lube on all fronts, considering it is designed for a tougher job (as chainsaw lube).
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Old 02-29-12, 12:37 PM
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Any good oil is a good lubricant, but the devil is in the details.

Chain saws have oilers, wherein you push a button and dispense oil, as needed. Bikes, especially road bikes have go go much longer between lubes. Also one of the jobs of chain saw oil is to act as a release agent for chips, especially sticky pine chips so the chain doesn't load up. This isn't an issue for bikes.

Not saying Chain saw oil isn't good, it just isn't optimized for bicycles. The same can be said of all good lubricants that aren't fine tuned for the needs of a chain running under high load out in the weather, and might need to run for many hours between relube cycles.

When I developed Chain-L (cheap plug) my goal wasn't to make the best possible, or cleanest, or most weather proof, or longest lasting, or easiest to apply. My goal was to find the best (in my opinion) balance between good and negative properties.

Whatever you choose for your chain will be a compromise, just find the best balance of properties that matches your priorities.
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Old 03-02-12, 03:28 AM
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I've used medical-grade mineral oil AKA paraffin AKA white oil as a chain lube earlier.
First I liked it b/c its user friendliness. It's a common ingredient in bath oils, so no concerns about allergies or skin reactions ASO.
But I have to say that it's one of the two products where even I would say that there's an easily detectable (negative) impact on chain life. With white oil, I'd absolutely thrash a chain in less than one winter season.
Whether it's b/c of poorer lubricating capacity, or if it's b/c it gets washed out easier(in which case more frequent application or better riding conditions would save the day, I don't know.
With the next product used, I get something like 2-3 times the mileage.

This might sound like I'm partnered with FB (but I'm not), but I'm quite pleased with Chain-L.
Can't really say if it's much better in terms of chain life than my old pal engine oil, but the small bottles has just the right dribble to them to make application real easy and with minimum mess.

I've kept the bottle of white oil around though, but nowadays I mainly use it as a cleaning agent.
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Old 03-02-12, 08:20 AM
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Pharmaceutical grade mineral oil is all I have used for cleaning and lubing chains for more than 40 years and I usually get 10k miles from a chain. Using chain cleaners and chain washers removes the lube from the pins and causes rapid chain wear.

1) Wet lint free rag with mineral oil and wipe chain removing sand, grit, crud, etc.

2) Wet another clean lint free rag with mineral oil and wipe chain.

3) With a third clean lint free rag, wipe off the excess oil.

4) Repeat as necessary
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Old 03-02-12, 05:22 PM
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I use it on cutting boards
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Old 03-02-12, 07:03 PM
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Originally Posted by dedhed
I use it on cutting boards
That too. It's good to apply it to wooden cutting boards a couple of times a year seal them.
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Old 03-02-12, 10:32 PM
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Some motor oil is mineral based and some is parafin based.
I use chainsaw bar oil thined with mineral spirits. My tourer's chain has 14,175 miles on it. I remove it and clean it in an ultrasonic cleaner.
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Old 03-03-12, 01:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Just Riding
I happened upon Chain-L a couple of years ago. Easy to apply, lasts a long time, and shrugs off rain. Cheap to use too; I've been feeding several bikes, and have half of a bottle left.
Yep, it's pure win.

Hit up FB for a bottle, and stop futzing around with sub-optimal goo.
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