What Is the Difference Between Oil and Grease?

Oil and grease are both compounds commonly used for lubrication. Many people are familiar with the terms “oil” and “grease,” but many do not actually understand the difference between the two. Here, we will explain the differences between oil and grease, as well as where each should be applied depending on the need for a lubricant.

Typically, greases are oil based compounds with a form of thickener added to the oil in order to turn it into grease. Essentially, all types of oil can be utilized for the formation of grease, but not all greases are necessarily made from oils. When sitting at room temperature, oils will usually sit in a liquid state while greases will usually be solid. Below, you will find a list of different grease thickeners.

  • Clay (Bentonite)
  • Calcium Sulfonate
  • Polyurea
  • Sodium
  • Calcium
  • Lithium 12 OH Stearate
  • Lithium Complex
  • Barium
  • Aluminum Complex
  • Calcium Complex

How Grease Is Made

When using oil as lubricant to form grease, a thickener will be made to act as a sponge-like structure with gaps in between, allowing oil particles to fit into those spaces. The lubricating properties of grease are generated by these oil particles. The other properties of the final product of grease will vary depending on what kind of thickener was used, and its quality. Below is a list of other qualities provided by the oil particles in the sponge-like thickening structure, along with brief descriptions of their significance.

  • Compatibility: when different greases are used in the same place, it is possible that they may cause each other to lose one or more of their properties. It is important that the outcome of this collaboration is determined before application. To avoid unprecedented, negative outcomes, you should consult a miscibility chart from the manufacturer.
  • Water resistance: it is important to utilize washout tests in order to determine how long the applied grease will stay on when under water or while being sprayed by a high-pressure hose.
  • Consistency: the thickness of the grease.
  • Load carrying ability: the maximum amount of pressure that will allow a grease to perform well.
  • Base oil viscosity: the stickiness of the oil before any thickener was applied.
  • Shear stability: the grease’s ability to maintain consistency when worked rapidly and repetitively.
  • Pumpability: the ease of transporting the grease using a pump.
  • Dropping point: the temperature required to separate the oil from the thickener.
  • Oil separation: in order for the grease to be effective, some oil must be separated.

When To Use Each

A basic property of oils is cooling. This occurs when oil transfers heat into a larger body of oil, allowing it to then be pumped through a heat exchanger. Based on the cooling properties of oil, when the application at hand generates a lot of heat, it is better to use oil as both a lubricant as well as a coolant. Generally, oils are a better option wherever it may be impractical or too complicated to apply grease. For example, if a gun owner is cleaning his gun regularly and wants to lubricate it afterwards, it is better to use oil as it is easy and grease would be too messy and thick to apply after cleaning everyday. However, if the gun owner decides to store the gun away for an elongated period of time after washing it, it would be better to apply grease in this case to help prevent rusting or wear.


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December 15, 2022

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