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What Exactly Is Mineral Oil / White Oil and How Is It Used?

What Exactly Is Mineral Oil / White Oil and How Is It Used?

Mineral oil, often referred to as white oil, is a clear, odorless oil derived from refining crude oil. It is a byproduct of petroleum and is composed mainly of alkanes and cyclic paraffins. Unlike other petroleum derivatives, mineral oil undergoes a rigorous purification process to remove impurities, making it suitable for a wide range of applications.

Function and Uses

Mineral oil serves multiple functions across different applications. Its primary function is as a lubricant, where it reduces friction and wear between moving parts in machinery and engines. Additionally, it acts as a protective coating, preventing corrosion and rust formation on metal surfaces. In the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries, mineral oil is utilized as an emollient and moisturizer due to its ability to retain moisture and soften skin.

Types of Mineral Oil

Mineral oil can be broadly categorized into two types based on its purity and usage:

  1. Technical Grade Mineral Oil: Used in industrial applications where the presence of minor impurities does not affect performance.
  2. Food/Pharmaceutical Grade Mineral Oil: Highly refined and purified to meet stringent standards for use in food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics.

Physical and Chemical Properties

Understanding the physical and chemical properties of mineral oil is crucial for determining its suitability for various applications. Some key properties include:

  • Viscosity: Mineral oil is available in various viscosity grades, making it adaptable for different uses.
  • Stability: It is chemically stable and resistant to oxidation, which ensures a long shelf life.
  • Non-toxicity: Food and pharmaceutical grades are non-toxic and safe for use in products that come into contact with humans.

Applications in Different Industries

Mineral oil’s versatility make it widely used across various industries. Below are some of the primary uses:

  1. Cosmetics and Personal Care Products:
    • Moisturizers and Lotions: Mineral oil acts as an emollient, helping to retain moisture in the skin.
    • Baby Oil: Used for its gentle and non-irritating properties.
    • Hair Care Products: Serves as a conditioning agent.
  2. Pharmaceuticals:
    • Laxatives: Mineral oil is used as a lubricant laxative to ease bowel movements.
    • Ointments and Creams: Acts as a base for various medicinal ointments.
  3. Food Industry:
    • Food-grade Lubricants: Used in food processing equipment to prevent rust and contamination.
    • Food Packaging: Mineral oil is used in food-safe lubricants and release agents.
  4. Industrial Applications:
    • Machinery Lubricants: Used in various machinery to reduce friction and wear.
    • Hydraulic Fluids: Utilized in hydraulic systems for its stability and lubricating properties.
    • Textile Industry: Acts as a lubricant in textile manufacturing processes.

Product Examples

  • Automotive: Gear oils, engine lubricants.
  • Cosmetics: Moisturizing creams, baby oils.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Laxatives, baby oils.
  • Food Processing: Food-grade lubricants.
  • Textiles: Spinning oils, weaving lubricants.


Mineral oil is derived from crude oil through a process called fractional distillation. Crude oil undergoes heating and distillation to separate it into various fractions based on their boiling points. The fraction containing hydrocarbons with the desired properties for mineral oil is further refined to remove impurities and obtain the final product.

Advantages of Using Mineral Oil

The widespread use of mineral oil can be attributed to several key advantages:

  • Cost-Effective: Mineral oil is relatively inexpensive compared to synthetic oils.
  • Versatile: Suitable for a wide range of applications across different industries.
  • Stable: Its chemical stability ensures a long shelf life and consistent performance.
  • Non-toxic and Safe: Highly refined grades are safe for use in food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics.


Mineral oil, or white oil, is a versatile and widely used chemical with applications spanning from cosmetics and pharmaceuticals to industrial machinery. Its cost-effectiveness, stability, and safety make it an invaluable resource in various sectors. Understanding its properties, uses, and safety measures can help industries make informed decisions about its application.

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