Ballistol - A steampunk multi-purpose oil(?)

      Ballistol (from the words 'ballistic' and 'oleum') is a multi-purpose oil, first compounded in 1904 by Dr. Helmut Klever as a response to the German Imperial Army's request for a substance that could be used to clean and lubricate a soldier's firearm, as well as protect the wooden parts, and also protect his leather gear.  It was adopted by the German army in 1905, and remained in use until 1945.  So it's not quite Victorian, but does predate World War I by ten years.  And yes, it's still being manufactured and sold today using the original proprietary formula, by both F. W. Klever in Germany, and by an affiliate in the United States.

      Lots of information about it can be found at: ; but basically, in addition to metal, wood, and leather, it's also safe for natural rubber, plastics and paints that are chemically resistant to oil, and more.  It works as a general penetrating oil, but it does not resinify, that is, it doesn't get sticky or harden over time.

      The main ingredient is pharmaceutical white mineral oil, however, the other ingredients give it unusual properties, such as emulsifying in water, and a slightly alkaline pH.  It also has an unusual odor, usually described as being like licorice.  Some people dislike the smell immensely.

      There are even stories of it being used to treat wounds, and being ingested as medicine, although the U.S. packaging says "Harmful Or Fatal If Swallowed", and lists all sorts of other hazards.  This has lead to speculation that U.S. Ballistol is different from the German version.  But, according to the material safety data sheet published by the U.S. manufacturer ( ) lab tests on animals caused no fatalities, or lasting ill effects.  This leads me to conclude that there is no difference based on country of origin, and the U.S. labeling is for liability reasons.

      I've been using it in place of WD-40 for a few months, and have no complaints.  It's fine for cleaning and lubricating of metal, and I don't have to worry about it getting on wood, leather, or even rubber.  (I still wouldn't trust it for seals and gaskets on things like airguns.  Silicone oil (or grease) is still probably safest.)  I just used it to successfully un-seize, and clean up the collet nut on my Dremel tool.

      Ballistol is available from many different online sources, and can probably be found at gun shops, and perhaps hardware stores.  An incredibly handy, and versatile product from the days of The Kaiser.

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Comment by P. Aloysius Regnad on November 8, 2021 at 8:36pm

      Although....     WD-40 does resinify.   I just examined another knife of mine, which actually has moving parts, which I'd last used WD-40 on, and it was practically seized up.  So what I did was apply ballistol to the moving parts only, and it worked well.  The rest of the knife was fine, so I just left it alone.  I suppose my point is, that there is no single solution for anything,  (Based on my previous comment, I guess I'll have to use ballistol on the moving parts, and WD-40 on the rest.  (Ehhhh, OK.  Not all that simple.  Based on these observations, the WD-40 should still be wiped off the rest of the knife, or else it may still resinify on the blade.   Ahhh....  In the end, I suppose it's a situation where one must use their own judgement.  That is, unless you feel the desire to inspect your -whatever-  fairly often.   I dunno.....))

Comment by P. Aloysius Regnad on October 2, 2021 at 7:12pm

      I think I should point out that when I used ballistol on a highly polished stainless steel knife, it left the surface cloudy, and smeary looking.  It took a bit of effort to return the original mirror finish.  So I'd recommend sticking to something like WD-40 (which I've used on the same knife in the past) for such items.

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