White mineral oil is a common ingredient in a variety of products with a wide-range of uses. White Mineral Oil comes in various forms, but pure mineral oil is colorless and odorless. It is also referred to as paraffin oil, liquid paraffin, liquid petroleum, and saturated hydrocarbons. You may see it written both with and without the adjectives "light" and "white."
The term mineral oil most often refers to a byproduct of the distillation of petroleum as occurs during the production of gasoline and other petroleum-based substances. Mineral oil is not to be confused with 'mineral spirits', as they are very different types of products.
It is made up primarily of alkanes and cyclic paraffin, which is related to petroleum jelly. Mineral oil typically contains 15 to 40 carbons and has a density of approximately 0.8 grams per centimeter cubed (g/cm3).
WHAT APPLICATIONS IS WHITE MINERAL OIL USED IN?
White mineral oil can act as a non-conductive coolant, thermal fluid, lubricant, release agent, binder, defoamer, protective coating or float, sealing and polishing agent, dust control agent, and more. It has applications in three main areas:
- The industrial sector
- Food processing
While those three sectors use this element most widely, it has a variety of other applications. White mineral oil is a standard household item, but has also found uses in some niche markets. The substance is versatile and has many properties making it useful in a range of applications.
What Is a Food-Grade Mineral Oil, and Why Is It an Important Distinction?
To use mineral oil in food preparation, it must be classified as a food-grade mineral oil. This is vital for health and safety as well as legal compliance. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established standards any 'food-grade' substance must meet for both direct additions to foods and uses that may result in incidental contact with food. The requirements for purity, amount used, and processes vary based on how one uses mineral oil.
The United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) and the National Formulary (NF) first created guidelines for the use of mineral oil in manufacturing. The FDA requires that food-grade mineral oil meet USP XX test requirements for readily carbonizable substances, which USP released in 1980, and USP XVII test requirements for sulfur compounds. It also needs to meet the specifications in Volume 45 of the Journal of the Association of Official Analytical Chemists.
Mineral oil used as a lubricant for food-processing machinery must be registered with NSF International, an independent global food safety organization, as lubricants for incidental food contact to be used in food-processing plants under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). White mineral oil can also receive Kosher certification.
Other organizations oversee mineral oil use in other industries. For example, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) governs its use as a dust control agent for animal feeds. This classification is different, however, from food-grade mineral oil. Mineral oil used in the production of pharmaceuticals must be considered pharmaceutical-grade. The cosmetics and medical industry use highly refined mineral oil to avoid irritating the skin, eyes, and other body parts.
Mineral Oil Chemical Formula
Mineral oils coming from crude petroleum oils vary in their make-up and contain complex structures. They include mixtures of straight and branched-chain paraffinic, naphthenic, and aromatic hydrocarbons.
Alkanes, which are acyclic saturated hydrocarbons, are a significant component. They are made up of hydrogen and carbon atoms in a tree structure where all the carbon-to-carbon bonds are single. Mineral oil typically contains between 15 and 40 hydrocarbons.
Mineral oil is not regarded as an especially dangerous substance, but like all chemicals, users should handle it with appropriate care and precautions. A Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for mineral oil may include the following information:
- Eyes: Mineral oil may cause eye irritation if it comes into contact with them. Flush eyes for several minutes and seek medical attention.
- Skin: It may cause skin irritation if prolonged contact with skin occurs. Remove contaminated clothing and wash affected areas or shower. Get medical attention if irritation persists.
- Inhalation: Inhaling mineral oil mist may irritate the respiratory tract and lungs. If this occurs, move to fresh air. Get medical attention if irritation persists.
- Ingestion: Ingestion can cause gastrointestinal irritation and result in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If conscious, rinse mouth and drink water. Do not induce vomiting. If irritation persists, get medical attention.
Mineral oil is combustible but has a low flammability rating. Having a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) rating of one, means mineral oil must be preheated to ignite. Mineral oil has an instability rating of zero, which means it is stable even under fire conditions, and a health rating of zero, meaning it does not create any additional hazards beyond normal combustibility. You can extinguish a mineral oil fire using water fog, foam, dry chemical powder, or carbon dioxide (CO2) but should not use a water jet as this can spread the fire.
If you encounter a spill of mineral oil, keep unnecessary personnel away, wear protective equipment, and absorb the spill with an absorbent material before cleaning the affected surface to remove any residue.
Applications for Mineral Oil
Mineral oil is inert, which makes it easy to use. Both consumers and businesses in a range of industries use mineral oil for a variety of applications. The three sectors named above primarily use mineral oil, but it appears across a wide range of industries and applications. Here are some of the most common uses in the industrial, personal care, and food production sectors.
INDUSTRIAL, MECHANICAL, AND ELECTRICAL USES
Mineral oil serves to assist with various industrial, mechanical, and electrical purposes. It is an effective lubricant for industrial equipment and often functions as a processing aid. It is an element that helps make up various substances used in industrial processes, such as lubricants, greases, dyes, polymers, and surface treatment products.
Mineral oil also acts as a thermal fluid or non-conductive coolant in various electric components. In refrigerators and oil-based electric heaters, mineral oil is used as a cooling liquid. In switchgear, it serves as an insulator and a coolant to diffuse switching arcs. In the production of plastics, mineral oil is used to control the melt flow rate of finished polymer and act as a release agent.
Automotive equipment frequently uses mineral oil, primarily as a component in hydraulic liquids in automotive suspension, as well as in lubricants in brake fluids and motor oil.
USE IN COSMETICS
You can find mineral oil in many different cosmetics products including baby lotions, ointment, make-up remover, sunscreens, hair conditioner, and even tissues. Mineral oil is an ideal base material for many of these products because it is inert, colorless, and odorless. Mineral oils may appear in cosmetics as liquid oils or solid waxes.
Some kinds of mineral oils are comedogenic, meaning they clog pores. Because of this, the mineral oil used in skincare and cosmetic products is noncomedogenic and does not clog pores. In fact, cosmetics companies often describe mineral oil as having moisturizing, protective, and cleansing properties for the skin. Additionally, these oils are used to give cosmetic products film-forming and water-repellent features as well as increased firmness.
USE IN FOOD PROCESSING
The food processing and preparation industries frequently use mineral oil. Sometimes, manufacturers add mineral oil directly to food. At other times, mineral oil assists in the production process but is not added to food directly. As mentioned earlier, all mineral oil that may come into contact with food must achieve classification as food-grade, and it must be used in accordance with all relevant laws and regulations.
Food producers use mineral oil as a:
- Binder, release agent, or lubricant in bakery products, dehydrated foods, egg white solids, and in tablets or capsules for adding nutrients, flavoring, spices, or for use as a dietary supplement
- Release agent, sealing agent, and polishing agent in confectioners
- Protective coating on raw fruits and vegetables
- Defoamer in vinegar and beet sugar production
- Dough divider
- Dust control agent for grains.
- Binder, release agent, and lubricant in the manufacturing of yeast
Mineral oil plays a role in some of the non-food products used to prepare, serve, and eat food. In these situations, the oil should also be food-grade. When applied to cookware, bakeware, and cooking utensils, mineral oil prevents food from sticking to them. People rub it onto the surface of wooden cutting boards, bowls, and utensils to prevent them from absorbing water, which can damage them. Mineral oil also prevents wood-based cooking tools from absorbing food liquids and odors, which makes cleaning easier. It acts as a lubricant for food processing equipment as well.
Mineral oil can be found in a variety of other products, or in the actual production processes of other items. Mineral oil plays a role in the manufacture of leather, paper, pulp, textiles, fur, plastics, fabricated metal, lubricants, greases, and chemicals. Because mineral oil has applications for so many materials, it is essential for the production of items as varied as tires, shoes, mobile phones, packaging, clothing, cutlery, and jewelry. Mineral oil is an element in leather treatment products, textile treatment products and dyes, and paper chemicals and dyes.
In the medical field, mineral oil can be used to relieve constipation and as a lubricant in enema preparation. In veterinary medicine, it is also used as a mild laxative, an ingredient in vaccines, and to remove any unshed skin from reptiles.
In laboratories, researchers may use tiny amounts of the substance to cover culture medium in petri dishes to prevent evaporation and thermal shock. In biotechnology, it overlays polymerase chain reactions to prevent water loss during heating. In X-ray crystallography, the study of crystals using X-ray technology, it is used to suspend crystals.
Mineral Oil Attributes
Understanding the physical and chemical properties of mineral oil will help you to determine how best to use it in your industrial, food-processing, or other processes. These attributes may differ depending on the type of mineral used, how you use it, and whether any other substances get added to the oil.
Mineral oil is a clear, colorless, and odorless liquid. This lack of strong physical qualities helps make it valuable in a variety of applications. Manufacturers can add it to products without changing their color, scent, flavor, or other crucial aspects. Mineral oil is also generally regarded as safe for human consumption, but in limited amounts. These features enable its use in the food processing and pharmaceutical sectors. Refined mineral oil does not clog pores, which allows for its use in cosmetics.
Mineral oil has a density of 0.85 grams per milliliter (g/ml), and its specific gravity is 0.845 - 0.905. Its kinematic viscosity is greater than or equal to 38.1 millimeters squared per second (mm2/s). It is insoluble in water.
The substance has an initial boiling point of 424.4 degrees Fahrenheit (°F) and a boiling range that extends up to 1189.4 °F. Its flash point is 275.00 °F closed cup and 380.00 °F open cup. It has an auto-ignition temperature of 500 °F, and its heat of combustion is 31.5 kilojoules per gram (kJ/g). As mentioned above, mineral oil has an NFPA flammability rating of one, a health rating of zero, and a reactivity rating of zero, meaning it is not a high fire risk.
One of the most beneficial attributes of white mineral oil is its lubrication capabilities. This is the primary reason it has so many industrial, mechanical, food-processing, and medical applications. This property plays a crucial role in many manufacturing and food production processes.
Its ability to transfer heat and its non-conductivity enable mineral oil's use as a coolant in a various electronic and mechanical equipment, as well as in industrial processes. Its resistance to water and other liquids, as well as insolubility in water, allow mineral oil to function as a sealant and binder in a variety of products.
Brenntag is a leading distributor of chemicals with more than 180 distribution locations. We are committed to connecting our customers to top chemical manufacturers and building lasting partnerships with them.
We distribute raw materials to markets spanning many sectors, which we break down into three areas: life science, material science, and environmental. We serve industries from food processing to manufacturing to personal care to construction.
Our specialists are knowledgeable about white mineral oil and the many other chemicals we distribute as well as the various industries we serve. We stay on top of industry trends, regulatory requirements, and other aspects of the chemicals industry. We will work with you to find the perfect products and the right distribution solutions to get you what you need when you need it. We are committed to safety, traceability, and efficiency as well as minimizing complexity and risk in everything we do.
We distribute bulk mineral oil and other chemicals and can provide logistics help and customer blending, packaging, and labeling. If you are trying to decide where to buy white mineral oil, consider Brenntag. As leading mineral oil distributors and food industry experts, we can get you the results you need.