Water Contamination Of Lubricating Oil

There have been plenty of articles regarding the effects of contamination to lubricating oil. The presence of foreign particles in the lubricant can decrease the life of machine components like valves, pumps and bearings. That is why countless of dollars are spent for filtration systems that maintain the cleanliness of the oil. However, the harmful effects of contamination is not limited to solid contaminants. In certain operations, water contamination of lubricating oil and other lubricant products pose greater danger to machines.

Water on lubricant

The danger presented by water contamination of oil depends on its quantity. It gets dissolved and spread throughout the oil if the quantity of water is very little. The dissolved water has little to no impact on lubricant performance or life expectancy of machine components.

Water contamination starts becoming a serious issue once water level in the oil is beyond that of the ability of the oil to keep it in dissolved form. Water droplets start to develop or a layer of free water is created. At this point, the water can interfere with the ability of the oil to form a film over the surfaces of the mechanical components. This can greatly increase the wear on the components.

There are applications where water contamination of lubricating oil is impossible to avoid. In these situations, it is extremely essential to keep an eye on the water content to avoid the potential damages that can result from too much water content.

Biodegradable Lubrication

It has been quite awhile since biodegradable lubricants were introduced. This class of lubricants were meant to address the growing concern regarding environmental effects caused by the production and discharges of mineral-based lubricants. But even after being on the market for quite some time, the number of machine shops using these lubrication products are still relatively few. This can be attributed to old practices and mindsets.

green lubrication

If the current lubricant is performing well as needed, there is very little reason to change to a new product whose performance is yet to be determined. People tend fall into a routine, resulting to current practices staying the same.

Truth be told, many operators are not aware of the new products on the market. It is usually not until an occurrence like a discharge, government agency involvement or new personnel entering the facility that old practices are questioned and new ideas are considered.

The current economy also makes it hard to make operational changes. There are more crucial issues that companies have to address and details regarding lubrication often take a backseat unless there is a threat to the operation. However, there are companies that are actively searching for products and implementing techniques that maximize efficiency while also protecting the environment.

The higher cost of biodegradable lubricants compared to mineral-based oil is another issue to its limited use. This prevents smaller shops from changing to the eco-friendly lubricants. It is important to remember that the cost not only involves the lubricant but also the preparation process which involves cleaning out the machine completely. This can take a significant amount of time away from production.


Lubrication is a critical part of any industrial application. Equipment have to be properly lubricated to ensure optimum performance and prevent damage. Industrial grease is one of the most commonly used lubricant products. It is applied on bearings, bushings and other applications in which a lubricating oil is unable to remain in position.
overgreasedA problem that often comes up with grease application is overgreasing. Overgreasing is what happens when too much grease is applied on the lubrication point. This can cause serious and costly problems. Too much grease can result to increased operating temperatures, collapsed seals and higher energy consumption for electric-powered equipment.

The excessive volume of grease increases the pressure within the cavities of bearings and between gears. This leads to higher temperature and more energy required to power the mechanical components as the increased pressure hinders movement of components. If left unattended, this can lead to equipment failure.

Increased oil bleed is another effect of overgreasing. The heat and pressure squeezes out the base oil from the thickener. As the thickener becomes devoid of oil, it can harden and create a solid buildup that can prevent oil from reaching the components that require lubrication. This can lead to increased wear of the mechanical components.

A proper maintenance program is necessary to avoid the problems caused by overgreasing. Calculations must be performed to determine the right amount of grease to be applied and the ideal frequency for grease reapplication.