They Took The WD40!
June 10, 2012 1:07 AM   Subscribe

This is quite possibly the weirdest question I'll ever ask here: what is the best food safe lubricant/cleaner to replace WD40 in an industrial environment.

Must be FDA Food Safe.
Must be able to be used as a steel/stainless steel cleaner.
Must be able to be used as a lubricant on chain belts, plastic, and other surfaces.

Links to manufacturers would be ideal, even better if you can link to an MSDS for the product.

Yes, I KNOW how weird this looks out of context.
posted by strixus to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My artillery section chief in the Army liked using olive oil for random tank-lubricating needs. Looking into it, there's some precedent for this.
posted by Evilspork at 1:51 AM on June 10, 2012

Also, as great as WD40 is, depending on the material you're using it on it can be corrosive, which may be why they took it away.
posted by Evilspork at 1:53 AM on June 10, 2012

posted by telstar at 3:37 AM on June 10, 2012

I never knew that there's a publication devoted to machinery lubrication, but it has a nice overview called "Understanding Food-Grade Lubricants." OP, maybe this will help?

"H1 lubricants are food-grade lubricants used in food-processing environments where there is the possibility of incidental food contact.

H2 lubricants are food-grade lubricants used on equipment and machine parts in locations where there is no possibility of contact.

H3 lubricants are food-grade lubricants, typically edible oils, used to prevent rust on hooks, trolleys and similar equipment. "

Which use is closest to your needs? Might help narrow the search.

Grainger (good folks, IMHO) offers this, which looks H2 compliant. MSDS is included.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:15 AM on June 10, 2012

Normally in an industrial food processing environment you don't use a "hack" like WD-40 — you clean surfaces using an appropriate solvent or cleanser, remove the solvent/cleanser, and then apply a lubricant. Thus, I don't think there is anything on the market that is roughly equivalent to WD-40, but food safe. However, if changing procedures is absolutely out of the question and therefore you must find a food safe replacement WD-40, I think it wouldn't be too hard to assemble your own food-safe replacement for a small number of cans of WD-40.

To a first approximation, WD-40 is basically a mixture of a solvent and mineral oil. My recommendation for a food-safe replacement for a small number of cans of WD-40 would be: acquire a bottle of 190-proof Everclear (i.e. 95% ethanol, lower proof would have too much water) to use a food-safe solvent and a bottle of USP-grade (i.e. pharmaceutical grade) mineral oil as a food-grade mineral oil. Mix the ethanol and mineral oil in approximately a 3:1 ratio. You may have to experiment a bit to get a mixture you like. You want enough ethanol to thin the oil and last long enough that it can be used as cleaner, but not so much that when the ethanol eventually evaporates the film of oil left behind is too thin. Place the ethanol/oil mixture in one of those compressed-air olive-oil sprayers that replace cans of PAM cooking spray (e.g. Trudeau Oil Spray Pump or Misto Olive Oil Sprayer, etc.). Ta-da! Instant food-safe WD-40 replacement.
posted by RichardP at 4:18 AM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

You should be able to contact your equipment/tools/supplies supplier (perhaps Grainger) and ask them for a food based lubricant that meets your specifications.
posted by catseatcheese at 7:22 AM on June 10, 2012

Hey! Thanks, keep them coming. I should specify, this isn't for use in food prep, but for some insane reason management has decided suddenly that food safe lubricants have to be used.
posted by strixus at 10:11 AM on June 10, 2012

Fish processing plants use peanut oil mostly. Or they used to 10 years ago. With all the food allergies these days they might have moved on.
posted by fshgrl at 11:35 AM on June 10, 2012

this isn't for use in food prep, but ... management has decided suddenly that food safe lubricants have to be used

If you just need a "spray can" style of lubricant, something sort-of-like WD-40, but food safe, you can use Ultra Lube's H1 Food Grade Chain & Cable Lube, Amazon has it for $11.77 a can. It's just a lubricant. Since it doesn't contain any solvents, if you need a cleaner you'll have to do that with a separate product (perhaps isopropyl alcohol).
posted by RichardP at 12:49 PM on June 10, 2012

Along those same lines, my first thought was to use PAM. Like everything else that is food grade, it will get waxy after a while and will require cleaning.
posted by snsranch at 3:55 PM on June 10, 2012

Strixus, did you ever settle on a solution to your food safe lubricant/cleaner problem?
posted by RichardP at 12:12 AM on June 25, 2012

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