Store Lubricant Oils and Greases Properly
to Avoid Contamination, Deterioration,
and Poor Lubricant Performance
The 9 common causes of lubricant contamination and deterioration are:
- Damaged lubricant containers
- Moisture condensation in lubricant containers
- Dirty lubricant dispensers
- Exposure of lubricant to dust or chemical fumes
- Poor outdoor lubricant storage
- Mixing different lubricant brands or types
- Exposing lubricant to excess heat or cold
- Keeping lubricant past recommended shelf life
- Lubricant Containers
Drums, pails and cases of lubricant are supplied in leak-proof, labeled containers. Careless handling, however,
can cause leaks, lubricant contamination and label damage.
The 55-gallon drum is the most common lubricant container. Full, it weighs about 450 lbs. If handled carelessly,
it can injure workers or damage property. Avoid unloading lubricant drums by dropping from the delivery vehicle:
lubricant drum seams can puncture or burst, producing a hazmat spill.
Correct unloading prevents damage to lubricant drums and personnel. Hydraulic gates on delivery vehicles, or
hand winch hoists, lower drums to the ground or unloading platform safely. Lubricant drums can also be unloaded
by sliding down skids. Before unloading with skids, set truck brakes or freight-car bed securely. Never allow a
lubricant drum to skid or roll under its own momentum.
Once unloaded, lubricant drums should go immediately to storage, preferably with a fork truck, with drums secured
on pallets or held by fork jaws. Jaws need adapters that take the shape or curvature of the lubricant drum; standard
straight jaws require too much squeeze pressure to keep lubricant drums elevated. If fork trucks are unavailable,
use barrel trucks or drum handlers.
If the floor between unloading and storage is flat and smooth, drums can be rolled into storage. The drums’ hoops
(“chimes”) protect it, but avoid rolling the lubricant drum over sharp objects. And don’t allow the lubricant drum to
slam on the ground when repositioning it from upright to its side. Two workers should handle re-positioning and
rolling, and maintain firm control of drum speed.
Pails and kegs of lubricants arrive on pallets; smaller containers of lubricant arrive in fiberboard cartons.
All lubricant containers should be handled with the care given drums. Cartons should remain sealed until
inside the storage area.
Indoor Lubricant Storage
Store lubricant in one designated area to simplify control and inventory management. Racks and shelving that
adequately protect containers should be provided, along with a device to hoist the lubricant drums. Avoid storing
lubricant near steam lines or heaters.
Outdoor Lubricant Storage
Storing lubricant outdoors is discouraged. If lubricant must be stored outside, take these precautions:
A temporary shelter or waterproof tarpaulin protects lubricant drums from weather. Place lubricant drums on
blocks or racks several inches above the ground to prevent moisture from contaminating the lubricant. Place
lubricant drums on their sides with bungs (port holes) horizontal to each other. For maximum protection, place
lubricant drums on end (bung end down) on a well-drained surface.
If the lubricant drums are stored on end with bungs on top, water may seep into drums through the bungs and
destroy contents, or form rust on the drum’s interior. Rain or condensation which collects inside the chime can
draw down through the bung as the drum breathes with the rise and fall of pressure and temperature.
(This occurs even if drums have never been opened!)
Drums stored outdoors with bung end up should be tilted on blocks, with bungs parallel to the block to keep
water from bung openings.
Bulk Lubricant Storage
Bulk quantities of lubricant are delivered in tank trucks or railroad cars and pumped into tanks or bins.
Unloading bulk lubricant requires caution, so only trained employees should be involved.
Bulk lubricant should not be stored outdoors because of the risk of water contamination as vents and filler
openings at the top of the storage tanks breathe. Temperature extremes and changes also have an adverse
effect on bulk lubricant, as in drums. If outdoor storage is necessary, all openings on the bulk tanks should
be checked for tightness and secured. A tarpaulin or roof over the tanks will help protect against weather.
Storage vessels in a warehouse or oil house should be away from steam lines, heaters and equipment that
generates heat. Tanks should not be stored in cold areas either, or where temperatures cycle from hot to
Avoid galvanized tanks or piping to store lubricant containing additives which react with zinc to form
soap-like sludge in the lubricant.
Even indoors, moisture can condense inside lubricant tanks. Minimize moisture intake with desiccant
breathers and remove condensate through the bottom drain, or pump out with bottom-fed pumps.
In grease bins, condensate can be siphoned off the top. Either way, it’s important to remove water
promptly to prevent rust formation inside the bin and lubricant contamination.
Acculube has extensive information on lubricant use, selection, safety, storage, dispensing and disposal,
and can recommend time and cost-saving lubricant strategies for your facility based on more than a quarter
century of experience with the region’s largest and most diverse users of industrial lubricant.
Story #1: Synthetic Lubricants or Conventional Oils: Making the Best Choice
Story #2: "Store Lubricant Oils and Greases Properly to Avoid Contamination, Deterioration,
Poor Lubricant Performance – and to Save Time and Money."
Story #3: "Castrol Recognizes Provider of Value-Added Products and Services" (Acrobat file)
Story #4: It's Only a Number – Strategies to Reduce Lubricant Costs
Story #5: There Are 4 Main Reasons That Lubes Fail
Story #6: Cheap Hydraulic Oil
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