Discussion » Questions » Environment » Irresopnsible Or What - How To Put Mineral Oil In Sewers?

Irresopnsible Or What - How To Put Mineral Oil In Sewers?

Generally I ignore the side-bar ads though I know they pay for the site. However I couldn't let this go without comment.

It was a list of assorted suggested uses for the well-known water-repellent, WD-40, shown by its Material Safety Data Sheet to be a mineral-oil based mixture.

As wells as the ingenious and the blindingly obvious ideas, the advertising feature suggested using it as an adjunct to toilet cleaners, and for cleaning shower-heads. 

In other words, squirt mineral-oils down the drain, despite consistent, highly publicised warnings not to do so at all from chemical manufacturers, regulatory bodies and water companies!

Come on AnswerMug, get that nonsense off the site and advise WD-40's manufacturers that some ignorant advertising company is promulgating a highly irresponsible (and in some countries possibly illegal) misuse of their chemicals.


Posted - June 17, 2018


  • 5391
    This was good looking out on your part, Durdle.

    The chemical manufacturers of the world are among it’s most rampant polluters. In fairness, not all, but enough. Protecting the earth for our descendents is bad for their bottom line, and I accuse they tend to dismiss even basic common decency in that regard until people die or costly  litigation occurs.
    I hope people understand when huge costs are incurred when upgrading our water treatment plants to meet the growing problem of water quality. 

    As an avid boater, I see the effluent of man’s activities every day in the once-pristine Gulf of Mexico. It galls me to think what new evils are poured into it every week. 

      June 17, 2018 10:00 AM MDT

  • 6477
    Hmm what does this say about me... all my side bars are offering me are funeral plans, a John Wayne quiz and dating sites.
      June 17, 2018 11:48 AM MDT

  • 5835
    WD-40 contains petroleum distillates, not mineral oils. The only advice offered for recycling is that in some areas it is required to punch a hole in the can before discarding it.

      June 17, 2018 3:12 PM MDT

  • 33165
    The link says WD40 does not have to be punctured...it can simply be recycled.  
    WD-40® Trigger Pro®does not need to be punctured. It can simply be recycled or thrown away.

      June 17, 2018 5:36 PM MDT

  • 3694
    Jewels Vern did say "in some areas" but the precaution there is probably applicable to any pressurised-aerosol.

    I have rendered such cans safe, not by puncturing them but by releasing the remaining propellant (outdoors) then standing the can upright on a hard floor and driving the valve down inside with a sharp hammer blow directly on the top of the valve stem. Remove the nozzle and any extra button first.
      June 18, 2018 3:31 PM MDT

  • 369
    I really like WD40 it cleans old tools and makes the nuts loosen it is also lubricates tight holes and lets the tool in.LOL
      June 17, 2018 3:15 PM MDT

  • 3694
    Please don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with the product - I use for its designed workshop purposes but am well aware a lot of people take its own label claims a bit far. It's not very good as lubricant or penetrating oil, and not very long-lived as a protective - it is a water-dispersant that will also help clean heavier oils and greases from surfaces. It's moderately good as a cutting fluid for working aluminium alloy, where paraffin is the usual one.

    The problem is not whether you call WD-40's active ingredients and the propellant "petroleum distillates" or "mineral oils" - they are essentially the same as they are distilled from the same raw mineral - but that it should not be put down the drains. The advertisement caught my attention because of all the suggested uses, the one featured to open it was the spraying into the toilet.

    Thank you Don - I take your point and of course local knowledge but I'm not sure it's entirely fair nowadays to put too much blame on the chemicals manufacturers. If it were not for them we would not be able to discuss it like this - in fact many things we now take for granted could not exist. Yes, they have caused major problems world-wide and there have been a few awful disasters or more subtle but large-scale troubles like disease and pollution, but I think nowadays better knowledge and more stringent regulations mean the greater environmental damage is coming from poor or improper use and disposal of the products, not their manufacture.

    The chemical companies - including WD-40's makers -  do go to great lengths to comply with a huge raft of safety and environmental laws, and part of my work involved sifting and collating important parts of the results of their efforts into my own employer's internal health & safety documents. Even products sold for home use carry a lot of environmental safety advice and warnings on the containers, and whether at work or at home, the onus for ensuring the substances do not damage anything they shouldn't is down to the user.

    Some of the materials we used at work are easily available to the public in the shops - but because we used them professionally we still had to write appropriate Risk Assessments for them, including covering proper disposal of residues!

    The people who made that advertisement clearly made no effort to ensure their suggested uses for the stuff fell within the environmental and health restrictions its own manufacturer publishes; but unfortunately a good many people were likely to have read it and genuinely not realised the wrong-doing.

    I do appreciate environmental laws may differ internationally and maybe in the USA, between States, and they are pretty stringent here in the UK; but it's still wrong to put petroleum-based substances down drains, whether it goes to outfalls or to sewage-treatment plants.

      June 17, 2018 4:45 PM MDT

  • 5835
    A lot of petroleum distillates are called "mineral oil". Wikipedia has a long piece on the many uses of the various varieties, and there is no concern at all about disposal. It is used for baby oil and laxative with not a thought to side effects. Nutritionists caution that mineral oil absorbs fat soluble nutrients and offers no biological effect in return.

    Bottom line: no threat.

      June 17, 2018 6:52 PM MDT

  • 5835
    I was quite surprised to learn a few things. I never looked up what mineral oil actually is. I just assumed it was some unique type of oil with no biological connection.
      June 18, 2018 12:09 AM MDT

  • 3694
    OK _ point taken. I also looked up WD-40's MSDS again - some 14 pages worth although it covers a huge list of standard questions. It is not threat-free but I agree its hazards are of low risk.

    It seems a mixture of white spirit and the rather nebulous "mineral oils" which are quoted only as a mixture of a few "...anes". These seem not especially toxic except to aquatic organisms but do break down biologically. The difficulty with chemicals in  sewage treatment is first, of possibly killing the bacteria the process use, and secondly of its escaping intact with the treated outfall water, into rivers or the sea.

    These solvents' main hazard to users is as you say, it effect on fats, so they can dry and irritate the skin. The risk is directly related to the amount of solvent on the skin, and for how long.  

    I tried to copy and paste the Disposal advice from the official pdf document, but "Copy & Paste" won't work despite offered in the Edit menu . However its salient point is:

      " Sewage disposal shall be discouraged. Pay attention to local and national official regulations, e.g. suitable incineration plant."

    Those are the words on WD-40s official data sheets, which are legal documents - required by law, and available should any legal proceeding require them.

    So whilst you may be right that squirting WD-40 down the loo may not be too serious, it should still not have been on that advertising feature. It's worth bearing in mind that even the materials sold for the purpose - strong bleach blended with a surfactant, and weak acids for descaling - are potentially inimical to sewage treatment, although by the time they reach the plant they are likely to have been broken down by their own, designed actions. 

    Basically, the ONLY chemicals that should be put into toilets and drains are those specifically designed for the purpose. WD-40 is a workshop material. I don't think I've seen any publicly-available chemical not designed as a toilet or drain cleaner or to be safe for sewerage disposal such as soap, labelled without a warning not to put it down the drains.

    I'm tempted to telephone my water company's advice people and ask their opinion on this, although the side-bar ads appear only once and cannot be recalled or forwarded. 

      June 18, 2018 3:23 PM MDT

  • 5835
    You can call the sewer people and they will tell you the only thing they still haven't figured out how to cope with are cigarette filter tips. And those are much fewer than they used to be.
      June 18, 2018 7:08 PM MDT