MRO Magazine

13 handling tips to avoid lubricant contaminants


September 13, 2011
By PEM Magazine

Question: “An analysis of bearing failures pinpointed contaminated lubricants as the primary cause. Could you provide tips for contamination avoidance?”

While not exhaustive, these tips will help keep your lubricants clean:

1) Always store lubricants in a dry warm place, protected from the elements.

2) If lubricants are stored outside, open to the elements, ensure they are protected from large temperature changes. (This can cause condensation in the container and create water contamination.)


3) If lubricant barrels are stored outside in the rain, store barrels horizontally in a rack system. If no rack is available, ensure the barrel is tilted slightly, with the “bung” positioned on the high side. This will ensure water does not pool on top, creating rust that can contaminate the lubricant once opened.

4) Never store opened containers without their correct lids installed tightly.

Oil Transfer
1) Always use dedicated transfer equipment. If you have five different oils in use, you will require five sets of transfer equipment identified for each lubricant (usually by colour).

2) If oil is to be transferred manually using a dedicated funnel and jug, only transfer the amount needed and use a simple coffee filter in the funnel to catch any contaminants.

3) Clean transfer equipment with a lint-free rag after every use and store it in plastic bags.

4) When using bulk containers, ensure lids are in place and that the container is kept clean (as oil is a magnet for dirt).

5) Ensure oil reservoirs are clearly marked or labelled to eliminate cross contamination.

6) Always reinstall reservoir fill caps and breathers.

Grease Transfer
1) When using manual grease guns, always clean the end of the gun and the receiving grease nipple with a clean lint-free rag before engaging the gun with the nipple.

2) Invest in a clear-reservoir-style gun to see what grease is inside and avoid cross contamination.

Other Tips
Be diligent in leak detection and arrest to ensure lubricants don’t attract dirt. Keeping equipment clean will spot leaks as soon as they start. Change filters every oil change to ensure no contaminants bypass a clogged filter into the lube system and into the bearings.

Contact Ken Bannister at (519) 469-9173 or by email at