Debra Lynn Dadd

Mineral Oil--Is It Safe and Natural?


I came across your Q&A about wood bowl oils and the use of mineral oils.

In the text I read the following about Bee's Oil from the Holland Bowl Mill: "So I was surprised to find out that it is actually made from beeswax and mineral oil! I had a long phone conversation with the owner and made sure he understood that you cannot label a product containing mineral oil as natural."

I am a bit confused, mineral oil is not natural because it is processed?? I was under the impression that all oils goes through processing to get to a final usable state.

In my search on this subject I also came across this site:

This site has the following statement, "Cosmetics-grade mineral oil and petrolatum are considered the safest, most nonirritating moisturizing ingredients ever found Sources: Cosmetics & Toiletries, January 2001, page 79; Cosmetic Dermatology, September 2000, pages 44–46."

This site also make a strong case for calling mineral oil "natural" and that the idea of mineral oil being bad for your skin is a myth perpetuated by cosmetic companies. The cosmetic companies claim that because mineral oil is derived from the same base product that produces gasoline, and industrial grade lubricants it can't be good for you. That is like saying we should not eat corn because it is used to make a type of gasoline ethanol gasoline.

I would like to hear your point of view on why mineral oil is not natural and why you would avoid or recommend against using it. Just because it is derived from oil from the ground does not seem a strong argument, oil makes many products and it does not necessarily mean it is bad or unnatural.

Besides the natural vs. not natural debate another thing that mineral oil seems to have going for it is no one seems to be allergic to mineral oil and as was pointed out on your site many people are allergic to nut oils etc.

Not looking for an argument, just trying to make an informed decision and would like to hear your point of view.


POSTED BY M. P. :: FLORIDA USA :: 12/13/2005


You bring up some good points. I'll give you my point of view.

First, what is natural? Certainly one could say that anything from nature is natural. With that definition, crude oil is natural because it occurs in nature. When I was in Los Angeles, I went to the La Brea Tar Pits, where you can just see the black oil oozing out of the ground. So in that regard, unrefined crude oil is natural.

However--and this is very important--there is a huge difference in the healthfulness of a material if it is in its natural state or if it is refined. Salt is used as an example in the link you mentioned. Salt as it occurs in the Earth sodium chloride plus 84 minerals is actually vital to our health--pure, refined sodium chloride without the minerals causes all kinds of health problems. Now I'm not saying we should all eat unrefined crude oil not everything in nature is safe for our bodies either. The fact is, our bodies are organisms that are part of the grand design of nature and it prefers to be around other organisms designed by nature. When you refine anything--crude oil, wheat, salt, sugar cane, or anything else--it becomes less healthful for our bodies, in general.

Mineral oil is a refined byproduct of the distillation of gasoline from crude oil. It is a leftover liquid, and because it is abundant, it is very inexpensive. It also will not spoil. So mineral oil is used the main ingredient in baby oil, petroleum jelly and many lotions and cosmetics, especially lipstick.

In a way, using this waste oil in consumer products is good environmental practice, because it is recycling a waste into another product rather than putting it into the environment.

The reason mineral oil is not "natural" is because in the world of product labeling ingredients fall into two categories. Those made from petrochemicals are "manmade" or "synthetic" and those made from plants, animals, and minerals are "natural". In this case, natural is the alternative to petrochemical. Yes, it all comes from nature originally, but this is the terminology that is used. So my comment was to say that a product cannot be labeled "natural" and contain an ingredient that is derived from a petrochemical.

You are right that many products are made from oil. They are not unnatural regarding their source, but by the time they are processed, they are in a form that does not occur in nature. Our bodies cannot assimilate them. The environment can't break them down. They are unrecognizable by the living processes of nature.

I and others choose to minimize our use of products made with ingredients derived from petrochemicals. Many--but not all--of these ingredients are toxic. Virtually all pollute the environment at some stage of their manufacture.

Now to the health effects of mineral oil.

The Material Safety Data Sheet MSDS for Mineral Oil gives the following data I've highlighted the points relevant to our discussion in red:


Potential Health Effects

Inhalation: Causes irritation to the respiratory tract. Symptoms may include coughing, shortness of breath. Inhalation of mist or vapor may produce aspiration pneumonia.

Material is a cathartic and can cause serious diarrhea. Nausea and vomiting may also occur and possibly abdominal cramping. Aspiration of mineral oil into the lungs can cause chemical pneumonia.

Skin Contact:
Prolonged contact may cause irritation
; occasionally dermatitis due to hypersensitivity occurs.

Eye Contact:
Mists or fumes can irritate the eyes. Can cause discomfort similar to motor oil.

Chronic Exposure:
Prolonged or repeated skin exposure may cause dermatitis. Highly refined mineral oils are not classified as human carcinogens. However, related forms untreated and mildly-treated oils are listed as human carcinogens by both NTP and IARC.

Aggravation of Pre-existing Conditions:
Persons with pre-existing skin disorders or impaired respiratory function may be more susceptible to the effects of the substance.

There are many more health effects associated with mineral oil, but my reason for not using it personally is that it is a refined petrochemical, it may have unknown toxic contaminants, it is incompatible with my body and the environment, and there are natural alternatives. A nut oil, for example, is simply pressed from the nut. Though separated from the nut meat, it is still in the form in which it exists in nature.

You've asked this question in the context of using mineral oil to season a salad bowl. Let's just consider that one of the uses of mineral oil is as a laxative. Substances have laxative effects because the body wants to expel it as a poison. So that right there is to me a reason not to put mineral oil in contact with my food. Though it is widely used in the food processing industry here in the USA, it is banned for that purpose in Germany.

Debra :-)


i am allergic to mineral oil. i get a really bad rash from it. i tried to isolate ingredients in certain hand lotions, and brought it down to baby oil, then pure mineral oil.


I just read an article, "Mineral Oil--Is It Safe and Natural?", written by you and given to me by my pharmacist. I have a question. Do you know if mineral oil can be used to treat/restore dry wood?

I have used it over the years to soak and restore the wooden handles of a set of steak knives when the wood dries and starts to part from the metal handle part of the knives. Works great and lasts for years.

I bought an old 1920s home several years ago. I replaced the front porch tongue and groove deck. The wood was treated and I thought it had been dried. It had not and has now begun to dry, part and crack. When the wood is dry there is 1/16 to 1/8 inch separation between the slats. When it is wet from weather/rain the wood expands and the slats join properly. I need something that will penetrate, expand and help preserve the wood. My thought was to use mineral oil or linseed oil but I don't know if that would be the best treatment. All of the products I find at Lowes or Home Depot are more of a preservative, products that dry fast and don't really penetrate.

Any Suggestions?

Hank Rice

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: My husband, who is a woodworker as well as many other things, doesn't think mineral oil is right for this application. Mineral oil is used to protect and preserve wood items like, as you said, the wood handles on steak knives, and could probably be used to restore wooden salad bowls and wooden cutting boards, but I don't think it will stand up to extremes of weather. See Q&A: Water-Based Deck Finish for some appropriate products.

POSTED BY HENRY RICE :: TEXAS USA :: 01/26/2007 11:38 AM

Mineral oil is toxic--period!

If you must use an oil for something, there are many to chose from. Think traditional--the oils that have been used for hundreds of years by different cultures. Olive, sesame, coconut (Yes, it is good for you--short and medium chain fatty acids--in spite of the propaganda). Sunflower oil is wonderful for the skin and the salad bowl. If you want to know about good and bad fats read Dr. Mary Enig's book--she spent her career at the USDA studying fats. We need good fats and need to avoid bad ones--like mineral oil. Katy



I searched the internet about Mineral Oil and found you. I read all the mail that was sent to you as well. The first person that wrote to you about Mineral Oil to use as a cleaner, I want to ask more about Mineral Oil as well:

I took a small amount (cap size) and put it on my wash cloth to soap and made a large lather and then cleaned my entire body with. I did not break out. I noticed my body does not sweat and smell any more. I live in Florida and I don't have to tell you about hot and sticky and sweat.

I again do no use a large amount just a small cap size and I want your opinion if I will be fine just to use as a bath wash? How often should I use it?

Another question: If Mineral Oil is for diarrhea, how come it is not good for the body in any means?

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: I'm a bit confused about what you put on your washcloth, because I can't imagine that mineral oil would lather. I don't have any around the house to try it myself, but I'm mystified by your statement.

There are basically two opinions about mineral one. One says that it's fine and is an excellent moisturizer, and the other says that it can clog your pores and it doesn't allow the skin to breathe--the molecules are much too large and your body's natural oils cannot break through that barrier, so it clogs up. The skin suffocates because it does not recieve enough oxygen. It also dries the skin, because moisture can't get through. This is good for more sales of lotion and lip balm because the mineral oil in the product continually sets up the condition of the skin to require a "moisturizer."

Mineral oil is used in a LOT of products, but I think it's because it's inexpensive, being a by-product of crude oil, from which gasoline and other petrol fuels are made, not because it is best for your skin. Mineral oil is like a leftover waste after the crude oil is refined for other things. So it's very cheap. And it's manufactured. It doesn't exist in this form in nature. In nature, crude oil is black and gooey, like at the La Brea Tar Pits (you can see it oozing out of the ground there).

Our bodies are living organisms. They respond best to other natural elements. Because skin is porous and absorbs anything you put on it right into the bloodstream, I wouldn't put anything on my skin that I wouldn't eat or drink.

Mineral oil has only been used in body products for 100 years or so. Natural body products have been around for millenia.

My point about mineral oil as a laxative was that it is effective for this use because the body wants to expel it as a poison. I suppose using it as a laxative could be "good for the body" if the body needed a laxative, but if a body needs a laxative, that's an indicator that something is wrong with the diet that needs to be remedied, not that it needs mineral oil.


Hi Gayle,

A Concern, You have been using Mineral Oil - as a body wash. Now you DON'T SWEAT? - and have no body odor.

Sweating is Healthy -not to be supressed. Many times body odor occurs from the food that we may eatthe odor comes out through our pores. Also when sweat comes in contact with bacteria on our bodies [we all have it]

If this is a mild problem. Perhaps just a quick wash underarm etc - with plain water, water with a little lemon juice [helps the ph of the skin] should control any odor.

Cheers, Stella


After reading the entries about Mineral Oil, I kept thinking "when are they going to mention that oils from the ground are from rotted...natural...things." I believe that and the 1000 year pressure may be important to think about. Carbon from wood can sooth our stomachs (or in my mother's case, it was to burn toast and then scrape off the carbon), but coal is carbon and usually considered toxic and diamonds are carbon but very hard....probably not something we would even try to eat.

I believe even natural materials can be toxic depending on the conditions. Our old dentist used to have a saying on the wall that said "eat things that will spoil and eat them before they do." Even the Bible has food laws in the Old Testament suggesting that one could eat what was prepared on the second day as well but not on the third day (I'm guessing way too much bacterial degeneration by then with out refrigeration.)

In the Chemical Sensitivity community, I think it is generally considered that petro chemical sources create a toxic hazzard....and even when you tell regular people "it is made of the same things as your car gas"....they go "UGH!!" and get the point.

POSTED BY JULIE LARSON :: IN USA :: 06/27/2007 5:37 AM

I just wanted to say that I just was speaking to someone about those little fruit jelly snacks that parents buy for their kids to eat. I had told someone that they are not healthy for children to eat because of the additives in them and that they are also not casein free, which is important I think to not eat consume casein. This person had told me that I had done right by not feeding my child these snacks because they actually contain mineral oil in them. They even went so far to tell me that this should not be digested to anyone because that it is not natural and could be potentially harmful to brain development etc etc. So I thought that I would start my own research into this mineral oil myself. Any comments on what I have said feel free to let me hear anything, as I am up for the knowledge etc.


I use mineral oil on my cutting board, and a few knife handles every few months. It doesn't seem to bother my chemical sensitivity. I'm curious what you would recommend to use in its place? Any kind of food oil will eventually go rancid, and rancid oils are definitely unhealthy, as well as unpleasant.

My husband used tung oil on 2 teak end tables. It looks gorgeous months later. But when first applied, we had to keep them outside for a week because the smell bothered me.

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: Your question has been extensively discussed at Q&A: Wood Conditioner for Cutting Boards and Bowls.

POSTED BY KIPPERCAT :: TEXAS USA :: 02/02/2008 3:58 AM

I am not an expert but I do not use mineral oil as I read in the 70's that it does deplete the body of minerals and or vitamins.It was so long ago and I should research it again,but all I can say is I would not use it on or in my body.I want to add a little tip someone gave me on the good vitamin E and the realy BAD vitamin E D alapha is good and D L Alpha is BAD, "L" is for losers is the key to remember not to buy this kind as it is man made.

POSTED BY EUPHEMIA :: HAWAII USA :: 02/25/2008 3:34 PM

Okay, I have been on thquest to get rid of toxic chemiclas in my and my families life..probably sice i had a family!!

We are doing great and I feel pretty educated or willing to educate myself when I need to. BUT my 2 year old daughter has had digestive problems for about a year... we have avoided bananas, rice, cheese and given her whole grain cereals w/ flax oil, seeds, hemp...psyllium husks etc. for a long time and without much success conculted our ped. SHe immediately gave my husband script for LANSOYL...MINERAL OIL..I have been trying to find head and heart knows what it is, but it seems to be kind of working..I have been against it and brought it up to her a few days ago..she wants to keep her on it for 6 mr onths...i FINALLY FOUND THIS WEBSITE!!! she is two!!! please confirm that I sould not be letting my glass bottle, no fleece wearing, parabaen free baby eat this [email protected]#$every day!!!!

thak you for any suggestions and info
pippa and adelaide

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: Mineral oil is purified crude oil. I would take your daughter to a holistic, natural practitioner, such as a naturpath.

POSTED BY PIPPA :: ONTARIO CANADA :: 03/17/2008 10:27 PM

I recently purchased a wooden spoon from Italy/France (One of those two places) which has been treated with Olive Oil and requires that periodically I treat it with Olive Oil. Considering its directions and my mom's old school advice that Olive Oil never spoils this option sounds better than mineral oil.


For the person who is looking for an alternative to giving her daughter mineral oil for constipation. Sesame oil works great for this! And it is good for you :)

POSTED BY DIANNA :: TEXAS USA :: 04/27/2009 2:04 PM

My veterinarian told me to give my cat mineral oil. She is 16 years old, is very happy but her stools are hard as marbles. I didn't want to give mineral oil to my "baby". I have tried squirting a large capsule of fish oil on her food. It doesn't seem to be helping. Any ideas? We don't have any natural vets. here that I know of...


So, I have a bottle of mineral oil sitting around. What's the best way to get rid of it? It doesn't sound like it would need to go to the hazardous waste division since it's not like motor oil. Or, what is a good use for it that doesn't include using it on your body so I can use it for something instead of just trashing it?

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: Mineral oil is reported to be good for cleaning stainless steel, hard plastic, and wood cabinets. It's also a good lubricant for oiling hinges and things like that. It lasts a long time and a little goes a long way.

POSTED BY LILJ :: NEVADA USA :: 04/29/2009 8:34 AM

I use medical grade mineral for my wooden items, only when needed, which is not often, and it works great. I do not leave a build-up, but a light coating wiped off.

I also have very frizzy curly hair. I have purchased hundreds of different and expensive hair care products through the years and almost every hair straightening, smoothing and curling machined every made. I wanted smooth hair, any curl or straight style would be fine if the hair was smooth.

Well, I found a hair straightener machine that worked, but the hair was still dry and brittle looking, though straight. I also started to have bad reactions to the hair care products, and found I was allergic to HYDROGENATED OIL in any form. That was in most of the hair products. My ears would get rashes behind them, where the product would land. It would get red and infected over time. Painful. Then I looked through all the bottles of products I had, and compared ingredients. The only ones that would work at all contained MINERAL OIL.

So, as a last resort, I started to look for MINERAL OIL. Not one hairdresser or salon or discount store said they had any. I was at the dollar store and noticed they had ABY OIL on sale for a buck. I checked the ingredients, and it contained 100 percent MINERAL OIL, and some fragrance. I tried it!

With my hair straighter, which was the rather pricey... MAXIGLIDE, but it actually works with a bit of MINERAL OIL (BABY OIL). NOW, my hair is SMOOTH and holds the "smooth" till I wash it... for days if necessary! I can also curl it with a curling iron, and it stays smoother. I do use Mineral OIL sparingly, and keep it off my scalp and face. If you use it while your hair is wet, you may overdo, so it is best to let your hair dry first, then apply to the ends and go up, a little at a time. I have THICK HAIR, so it takes some experimenting not to overdo.

I use the cheap shampoos now, and NO OTHER HAIR PRODUCTS! I don't even need hairspray. So, I will use MINERAL OIL. It saves me time on my hair styling, and HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS A YEAR, and after 55 years of suffering with fuzzy dry hair, I look darn good!!!

POSTED BY SUGARX2 :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 05/06/2009 10:53 AM

The stone fabricator who installed the soapstone sink and countertops in our new home recommended this product for the soapstone and also for wood such as cutting bowls and butcher block tops: We like it very much, and find no offensive odors or problems so far.

POSTED BY LJH :: NORTH CAROLINA USA :: 05/06/2009 11:49 AM

That is BABY OIL! Sorry for the typo! BABY OIL IS MINERAL OIL! Great for my HAIR STYLILNG and CHEAP!

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: Baby oil is mineral oil, but watch out, as some brands are scented with petroleum-based fragrances.

POSTED BY SUGARX2 :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 05/12/2009 10:25 AM

Another strike against mineral oil: once absorbed into the body, it binds with fat-soluble vitamins --- A,D,E and K --- and therefore deprives the user of valuable nutrition.

There are so many wonderful natural oils to use that do not do such harm. Extra virgin olive oil is one of the best, and organic sweet almond oil is the best all-around cosmetic oils I have ever used. Why would anyone knowingly use what is essentially a gasoline derivative?!


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