Five Keys to Lubricant Storage
February 20, 2023
Written By Adam Buckallew
How you store and handle your lubricants goes a long way in determining their productivity and sustainability. Proper lubricant storage is one of the most efficient ways to increase the performance and shelf life of your products. The following recommendations can help you maximize the condition of your oils and greases to ensure they reliably protect equipment while minimizing unscheduled downtime.
1. Keep it clean.
Dust, dirt, water and accidental mixing can compromise the effectiveness of any lubricant.
- Use clean, sealable containers to keep airborne particles and water out.
- Label and color code containers and funnels to prevent unintended mixing of incompatible products.
- Use separate pumps and hoses for each product type.
- Keep clean rags, sampling equipment and small containers in a storage cabinet to keep them free of dust and debris.
2. Keep it cool.
Lubricants should be kept cool but not too cold. Exposure to extreme temperatures can shorten the shelf-life of many products.
- When lubricants get too hot or cold, product separation and additive degradation can occur.
- Aim to keep the storage environment at temperatures between 32 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Prevent products containing water or fatty oils from freezing.
- Do not store lubricants near heat sources.
- Prevent light exposure, which can cause product degradation.
- Avoid temperature variation. Containers will “breathe” when exposed to changing temperatures–drawing in air, moisture and dirt. This is a common issue with drums of oil stored outdoors.
3. Keep it dry.
Water contamination reduces oil life and equipment life.
- When water gets into your lubricants or equipment, it can wreak havoc. The presence of water can cause excessive wear, corrosion, filter plugging, oxidation, increased viscosity and degradation/depletion of additives.
- Lubricants absorb moisture from humid air and condensation.
- Keep transfer containers, funnels, pumps and hoses dry.
4. Watch for contamination.
New oil should appear bright and clear. Changes in appearance can indicate a problem.
- A milky appearance is a tell-tale indicator of water contamination.
- Changes in color could be caused by oxidation or oil mixing.
- Haze or visible sediment may signal the presence of particulate contaminants.
- Gel-like or sticky liquids at the bottom of a container are a sign of additive separation.
- If the lubricant has an unusual smell, oxidation or microbial contamination may have occurred.
- Under normal circumstances, stored lubricants will have a gradual color change over time.
- Minor additive settling and oil separation may occur.
5. Practice FIFO control.
Every lubricant has a specified shelf life. If a lubricant is expired, its protection diminishes, and equipment performance can become hindered. Practicing the First-In, First-Out (FIFO) is a tried and true lubricant storage method that can help you work through your oldest inventory first and reduce waste.
- Use product with the earliest expiration date in the inventory first.
- Be aware of product shelf life. Most products have a five-year shelf life, but for greases, it’s three years.
- Mark containers with the date received.
More recommendations for packaged products:
- Whenever possible, store packaged products indoors.
- For in-use drums, install a spigot in the 2” opening and a desiccant breather in the ¾” opening.
- Store drums indoors on their sides with bungs at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions, where they are less likely to have “breathing” issues. Keep bungs sealed until you are ready to use the drum.
- Keep containers out of wash-down areas to prevent water exposure.
- Store drums and kegs on pallets or planks to keep them away from the ground or other damp surfaces.
- Place totes and other packaged products away from heat sources and direct sunlight.
- Greases should be kept upright to prevent oil separation and leakage.
Following proper lubricant storage procedures can deliver measurable results. You can reduce waste and increase the efficiency of your lubricants by storing lubricants in a suitable environment, preventing products from expiring, and developing effective labeling practices to reduce the risk of lubricant degradation. If you have questions about the storage and handling of MFA Oil lubricants, call (800) MFA-LUBE, email our laboratory or contact your local MFA Oil bulk plant.