Homemade Penetrating Oil

by Marisa Swanson

The general term "penetrating oil" describes a use rather than a specific substance. Although you can find commercial "penetrating oils," any liquid with a low viscosity can help to remove mechanical parts that are stuck in place by rust or other means. A couple of the options are less expensive (and possibly more effective) than the commercial version.


Penetrating oil can help remove fasteners (including washers and nuts) that get stuck due to rust or seizing. You can also use the oil as a cleaner or a corrosion stopper. Uses outside of the mechanic's shop include removing chewing gum and adhesive stickers. The oil also can stop friction on stringed instruments as well. Penetrating oil can also dissolve ice by creeping under it to displace moisture. The name refers to the fact that the oil can penetrate small cracks and crevices.


Sometimes you can use beeswax as a penetrating agent. It's important to obtain real beeswax and not any other kind of wax for this purpose. You can heat the fastener with a torch and then apply a chunk of dried wax. The wax works its way up into the area that needs to be lubricated to release the stuck fastener. One benefit of this method is that the wax is nontoxic and friendly to the environment.

Acetone and ATF

The most common way to make homemade penetrating oil is to combine two chemicals–acetone and Automatic Transition Fluid (ATF)–to form a substance that mimics commercial oil. For safety reasons, you should wear chemical splash goggles and nitrile gloves when you are mixing the flammable and toxic chemicals. You mix the two ingredients together in a 50/50 ratio. You can find acetone and ATF at any auto repair store. According to Machinist's Workshop magazine, this mixture works better than the best penetrating oil available commercially.

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