How to Choose the Proper Spray Lubricant and Oil

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How to choose the right oil or lubricant for your next home improvement repair.

Most homeowners have a spray can of WD-40 or CRC somewhere in their home or apartment and even in their car, but did you know that not all lubricants are the same. Many lubricants are specially formulated for specific jobs and using one type in place of another may not only make a mess, but it may also cause the part to malfunction and fail.

The following will describe the most common types of lubricating sprays and oils and when and where they should be used to be effective.

Silicone Lubricant

Silicone spray lubricant is what we typically think of when we need to keep something from squeaking. It is perfect for applications like drawers and window runners, doors and locks. Some sports equipment and shop tools can also benefit from the silicone lubricant over other types of lubricants. For equipment that doesn't have fast moving parts, this is the ideal product. It shouldn't be used in any application where there's not enough airflow to allow for fast evaporation.

Spray silicone can also be used to remove marks from grease, paint, and even chewing gum as long as the surface is hard such as metal, glass, plastic and rubber. You should always test the spray on the surface first to see if it causes the color to run or stains the material.

Dry Lubricant

A dry lubricant is designed to lubricate without leaving any type of residue that will attract dust or dirt. Most dry lubricants can be used on most substances and fabrics that a liquid or grease lubricant would stain. Paper, leather, most plastics, most fabrics, glass, vinyl, wood, rubber, windows and painted surfaces won't be harmed by the use of a dry lubricant. This is ideal for things like hinges and swivels where a lubricant used could come into contact with any of those surfaces. Rollers, lock cylinders, glides and hinges are also other ideal uses for the product.

The solvents in the product that provide the lubrication evaporate fast and their lubricating properties remain in a dry film without residue that resists washing away and can also resist heat from rapidly moving parts in machinery.

Penetrating Oil

Penetrating oil is best for things like corroded pipes and other metal fittings, rusted bolts, and any type of metal machinery or mechanism that is squeaking or gummed up with dirt and old lubricants. It's also good for cleaning metal surfaces such as engines and machinery, even guns.

The lubricating oil and penetrating oil may seem similar to people who don't use them regularly but there are vast differences. The penetrating oil is formulated to allow it to get into tight spaces like pipe threads and small cracks in rust and other corrosion to loosen it.

Lubricating Oil

Lubricating oil lubricates parts to keep them from squeaking and reduce friction. It can also be used to loosen things like rusted bolts or other parts when there is only a small amount of rust or other corrosion. It can also be used as light-duty penetrating oil. Lubricating oil is particularly formulated to repel and absorb moisture and remain in place for a long time to provide optimum long-term lubrication.

Lubricating oil leaves a film behind that inhibits rust and moisture and can be used to help dry out certain things like wiring, spark plugs and engines. It's also safe to use around things like certain fabrics, rubber, paint or even leather.

White Lithium Grease

White lithium grease may be new to some do-it-yourselfers, but it has been around for years and is for heavy-duty applications where the grease needs to stay in place for an extended period of time and is exposed to outdoor conditions. This leaves a thick coat wherever you put it and it won't melt and run or freeze. It's ideal for anything that's exposed to the weather but that needs to maintain lubrication to stay in top working order. Boats and trailer hitches are two examples of places where white lithium grease is ideal. Lawn and garden tractors and any sort of outdoor hinges exposed to the elements are also good candidates for this lubricant. Garage door tracks and rollers and even the door hinges on your car are good places to apply some of this grease.

Chain Lube

Chain lube is specifically designed for lubricating chains on motorcycle, bicycle, garage door chains and cables, as vehicle cables and wire cables. Most chain lubes are formulated not to leave a residue behind and adhere to the chain. Chain lube does the job of preventing corrosion and reducing friction so that the chain or cable works better but it won't corrode old chains or damage things like rubber O-rings.

Other Sprays and Lubricants

While the items listed above are the most common lubricants you will use there is also a food-grade silicone spray lubricant that is designed for use in commercial kitchens for lubricating hinges on cooking kettles, dishwashers, and even meat slicing equipment.

Another spray that may be mistaken for a lubricant is electrical contact cleaner. Electrical contact cleaner is compressed air with a cleaning agent that evaporates, such as isopropyl alcohol. It is useful for cleaning electric components that have food, grease, or oils on them. It can dislodge foreign elements and clean components.

Wheel bearing grease is another type of lubricant you may use once in a while. It is usually used for bearing on lawn tractors and cars, but you may also use it to lubricate the bearings on your air handler fan motor or an older water pump for hot water heating systems. This grease comes in a tube and requires a grease gun to force the grease into a small metal grease fitting on the housing of the motor or bearing.

Grease fitting


There are a few things to keep in mind before using any type of spray lubricant or oil.

Keep away from heat or open flame and do not spray lubricants near water heaters, boilers, or energized electrical equipment.

Avoid contact with eyes. Some people may be allergic to silicone so you would have to wear rubber gloves and make sure you do not get any of the lubricant on your skin.

Most lubricants are harmful if inhaled and if swallowed.

Be careful where you are spraying the lubricant. Overspray can make surrounding areas slippery such as floors and steps, handles, or even pedals on a bicycle.


Roberta Baxter
Posted on May 15, 2011
Posted on Mar 24, 2011
Posted on Mar 23, 2011