30 Unexpected Uses for Mineral Oil

Although it's often maligned, mineral oil is the key ingredient in many home, health, and garden products because it's super versatile. Consider these 30 unexpected uses.

1. Use as Fragrance-Free Baby Oil

Baby oil is actually mineral oil with an added fragrance. Save money on cradle cap treatment by using food-grade mineral oil instead. Note that while mineral oil can be substituted for baby oil, baby oil should not be substituted for mineral oil. The added fragrance is not edible and may cause allergic reactions in some people.

2. Reduce Rashes

Along with cradle cap, mineral oil can be used to prevent diaper rash and soothe other types of skin irritation such as skin burns from radiation therapy.

3. Remove Oil-Based Makeup

Use mineral oil to remove theatrical makeup (greasepaint) with ease. Mineral oil is also great for removing makeup without pulling at the delicate skin around the eyes. As an added bonus, it also works as a conditioner for brows and eyelashes, making them less prone to breakage.

4. Moisturizer

Although there is a huge amount of beauty propaganda devoted to describing mineral oil as pure evil in a bottle, contrary to popular belief, mineral oil does not cause acne or blackheads. Its molecular structure is too large to penetrate pores, so it moisturizes by creating a barrier on top of the skin that keeps moisture in and dry air out.

5. Protect Skin in Freezing Weather

Old-time arctic explorers went out of their way to avoid washing their faces to preserve the protective layer of natural skin oil to prevent chapping. Because it provides such a good barrier against the elements, mineral oil is a great product to protect exposed skin in cold climates.

6. Soften Cracked Feet

Are your heels super dry? Regularly slather your feet with mineral oil at bedtime to keep the skin supple and crack-free. (Cover your oily feet with socks to keep your sheets clean).

7. Remove Temporary Tattoos

What seemed funny at the club on Friday night looks terrible on Monday morning before work. Pour mineral oil on a rag and gently rub the ink off before stepping into the morning staff meeting.

8. Remove Oil and Latex Paint and Primer From Skin

Using a rag that has been dipped in mineral oil, gently rub the paint spots in a circular motion to remove them from skin. Also, if you apply mineral oil to your skin before painting, the little paint specks rub right off.

Important note: this is why mineral oil and latex condoms are a bad idea. Do not use mineral oil as a personal lubricant if you are using barrier-style birth control made of latex.

9. Dislodge Earwax

Place a few drops of body temperature mineral oil in the ears before bedtime for up to five days. Once the wax has softened, rinse ears with warm water (this can be as simple as tilting your head in the shower), then, tip your head so the wax can drain out. Dry your ears with a hair dryer set on low.

10. Treat Ear Mites in Dogs

Mineral oil is a non-toxic method of killing ear mites in dogs. Mineral oil works by smothering the mites, but as with humans, mineral oil is also good for loosening hard earwax and buildup in your dog's ears that can cause distress. Use an eyedropper to put several drops of oil in each ear. Instead of sticking the eyedropper into the ears, massage your dog's ears to move the oil down the entire ear canal. Fair warning: your dog will want to shake its head, so do this in the bathroom, where spattering oil and earwax can be wiped down.

11. Kill Aphids

I zap spider mites and aphids on my tomato plants using this homemade plant spray recipe of dishwashing liquid, water, and mineral oil.

12. Remove Gum and Wax From Hair

Peanut butter costs way too much to be wasted on hair-related gum accidents. Work mineral oil into the gum and affected hair until all the gum comes off easily, without pulling. Also, if you have the personal fortitude to wax your own bikini line, you can remove stubborn wax residue with mineral oil.

13. Remove Beach Tar

My husband grew up in Santa Barbara, where beach volleyball is synonymous with tar-covered feet. He swears by mineral oil as the cheap and easy tar removal solution. Pour mineral oil onto old rags or paper towels and place these homemade wipes into a Ziploc bag. Store this tar removal kit in your beach bag or car kit.

14. Ouch-Free Bandage Removal

Saturate the bandage with mineral oil. Working from the outside edge of the bandage, slowly peel the bandage away from the skin, applying more oil as needed.

15. Remove Stickers

Mineral oil is a good solvent for removing glues from non-porous surfaces. Use it to remove price tags from dishware and furniture, for example. Or, use it to remove a bumper sticker from a car without damaging the paint job.

16. Laxative

Mineral oil is possibly the least yummy laxative — but it beats not pooping. Mineral oil works as a stool softener and as a lubricant laxative by making it harder for your intestines to pull the water out of your stool. While cheap and effective, mineral oil should not be used to medicate constipation in children younger than six or people who are bedridden.

17. Wood Conditioner

Many commercial lemon oil furniture polishes are just mineral oil with lemon scent. Plain old mineral oil will give your wood the exact same look without the added smell and cost.

18. Season Wood Cutting Boards and Kitchen Tools

Oil-treated wood is more hygienic. Dried out wood develops tiny cracks which are a favorite hiding spot for bacteria. To extend the life of wood cutting boards, utensils, and salad bowls, wipe them down with a liberal application of mineral oil. Reapply oil until the wood cannot absorb any more. Wipe off excess oil with a rag. Mineral oil is a superior coating for wood cooking tools because, unlike olive or vegetable oils, it won't go rancid.

19. Silence a Floor Creak

Pour a small amount of oil into the squeaky joint and wipe up the excess.

20. Quiet a Squeaky Door

Apply to door hinges and hardware instead of WD-40.

21. Protect Garden Tools

Before putting gardening tools away for the winter, apply a layer of mineral oil. The oil will condition wood handles and keep rust from forming on the metal parts.

22. Clean and Maintain Knives

As with garden tools, mineral oil creates a barrier against atmospheric moisture, and will help keep knives rust-free. Mineral oil can also be used as a lubricant when honing edged tools with a sharpening stone.

23. Prolong the Life of Razors

After shaving, carefully dry the blade of the razor. Then apply a thin layer of mineral oil to the blade. (Take care not to cut yourself!) The oil will keep the blade from rusting and will act as extra lubricant for your next shave.

24. Polish Stainless Steel

My stainless steel refrigerator came with an excruciatingly overpriced, tiny bottle of stainless steel polish… which turned out to be mineral oil. For brushed steel surfaces, wipe oil with a soft cloth in the direction of the grain to remove fingerprints and water spots.

25. Brighten Linoleum Counters

A Wise Bread editor discovered this old-school tip by accident. While seasoning wood cutting boards, he dripped mineral oil onto his vintage linoleum kitchen counters and discovered that the oil refreshed the color of the faded linoleum! Be aware that the vibrant colors revealed by oil only last about three weeks before fading, and constant application of mineral oil to linoleum will make it break down. So, only use this tip on special occasions like photo shoots or holiday parties when you really need your kitchen to look extra-gorgeous.

26. Untangle a Necklace

Is your favorite gold or silver chain in a knot? Before paying a jeweler to fix your necklace, dip the knot into mineral oil. Then use a pin to work the oily knot open.

27. Un-Jam a Paper Shredder

I am a chronic over-stuffer when it comes to shredding documents. Un-jam a shredder or give it a tax time tune-up by dripping a little mineral oil onto the blades to keep everything cutting smoothly.

28. Bleed Hydraulic Disk Brakes on Mountain Bikes

This article provides a definitive comparison between DOT fluid and mineral oil. Please read your bike's warranty! While mineral oil that you buy at the drugstore can be used instead of the super expensive "propriety blends" mineral oil recommended by brake manufacturers, using third-party mineral oil could void your warranty.

29. Preserve Eggs

I love to hate-watch the show Doomsday Preppers. What an amazing time suck. However, one great tip I gleaned from all the crazy is how to preserve eggs without refrigeration for months using mineral oil.

30. Clean Guitar Fretboards

While Gibson recommends only cleaning the fretboards of regularly played guitars once or twice a year, if you notice that your fretboard is starting to feel dry and there's build-up around the frets, it's time for a cleaning. Mineral oil softens built up gunk and is an excellent treatment for dry fretboards.

One final but important note: mineral oil comes in a variety of grades, so make sure that you are using food-grade and/or cosmetic-grade mineral oil for homemade substitutes.

What's your favorite mineral oil hack?

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Guest's picture

One more. Use on a cotton swab or blending stump to blend areas of colored pencil drawings. The mineral oil allows the wax-based color to spread and brighten.

Guest's picture

Who knew there were so many uses for mineral oil. I'm going to find my bottle and clean my dining room set.
Wonder if it would also help a cat's ears?

Guest's picture

I would always use a little mineral oil on a white rag to clean my cats ears. Works like a charm and no mites.

Guest's picture
Lula Silva

Cleaning knives is the last thing I could imagine to use mineral oil for. It works, though. I was surprised. Thank you for sharing these tips. They were really useful. Best regards!

Guest's picture
Jessica Bodhaine

I just bought some today and went online to find a recipe I read a while back, (something 28th essential oils, which I use for EVERYTHING), and the first thing I saw was some doctor's article about the "dangers" of mineral oil. Crazy!
Thank You SO much for making this list!! I can't wait to try some of these.

Guest's picture
Dr W

Just FYI using clear pharmaceutical grade Mineral oil on Opal jewelry will help the gems last longer and maintain their brillance. Works and last s longer then other recommended use of keeping Opals in water

Guest's picture

You can also use it to bring back the shine to sea shells you've collected.

Guest's picture

Well, when you search online for Tool & fine instrument oil. Tool oil will have this after it (mineral oil) . And it is one of the four ingredients in WD40 .

Guest's picture

can it be used for making gel candles

Guest's picture

My bottle says heavy mineral oil I bought at the pharmacy. Is this type safe to use for all these recommemdations?

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Joe Middlebrooks

Would it work on hair clippers and trimmers. The high dollar product smells like mineral oil,did not desire a taste............JoeM

Guest's picture

Hey I used some mineral oil to bring out the brick color on my fireplace hearth. I mixed
a 50/50 ratio and it came out fabulous. I also put some mineral oil on my scalp for a breakout of psoriasis and it seemed to work ok.

Guest's picture

Can it be used on leather jackets & chaps?