The Difference Between Air Tool Oil and Sewing Machine Oil

All lubricants are not created equally. The type of moving parts and the conditions inside a specific machine dictate the type of lubricant required for each device. A lightweight oil for lubricating a sewing machine is formulated much differently than the oil used to lubricate a contractor's air tool. Using the wrong lubricant can damage the device, or in a worse case scenario, cause a catastrophic failure.

Petroleum Based Oils

The original, and most well known all purpose household oil is the 3-in-One household lubricant. The oil in the small red white and black can was first designed in 1894 by George Cole. For more than a century the formula for this lightweight petroleum oil has not significantly changed. The company recommends its all purpose household oil for tools, hinges, nuts and bolts, firearms, bicycles bearings and chains, and virtually any device that has moving metal parts. 3-in-One oil is the perfect choice for lubricating the moving gears, levers and bearings inside a modern or antique sewing machine.

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is designed for use in pneumatic tools. A sewing machine's moving parts function much differently from the limited number of moving parts in pneumatic tools such as a contractor's framing gun. A sewing machine is a traditional machine, featuring moving gears, bearings, levers and shafts that must slide smoothly on one another. The moving parts in a pneumatic tool also slide across each other, but they do not touch. The parts form an airtight seal between carefully designed pistons, valves and cylinders. The air tight seal is created by rubber and nylon o-rings. Air tool lubricant works with the o-ring to create the seal, while keeping the air chambers free from dirt or sticky buildup that petroleum oils can leave behind. Mineral oil that contains anti-foaming and anti-gumming additives work best in air tools.

Synthetic Oils

A hybrid of mineral and petroleum based oils, synthetic oil is designed to incorporate the best features of both lubricants, and create a lubricative solution that includes high quality lubricant additives such as PTFE resin or Teflon. Super Lube is one brand of all purpose lubricant designed for both mechanical and pneumatic applications. The Super Lube products are formulated to meet the requirements of industrial, household and commercial tools. The products absorb water and therefore eliminate the conditions that create sludge buildup or corrosion on moving pieces that can lead to part or tool failure.

The Appropriate Usage

Lightweight petroleum oil is best suited for moving metal parts. The oil leaves a thin film on the metal surfaces so parts slide smoothly across one another. If petroleum lubricant is used for commercial air tools, the lightweight oil will cause the rubber O-rings to disintegrate and create a gummy residue inside the tool. For this reason, mineral oils and synthetic-based oils are recommended for air powered tools. Conversely, while mineral and synthetic lubricants can work for mechanical devices such as sewing machines, synthetic oils are lighterweight, and do not adhere as well to metal surfaces as does the lightweight petroleum oil.