An essential raw material with varied applications: White Mineral Oil

May 28, 2020

It is always interesting to know who found White Mineral Oil for the first time which has become indispensable for many industries.
White oil is similar to petrolatum, which is better known by its brand name, Vaseline, a jellied mixture of solid and liquid hydrocarbons first manufactured out of Pennsylvania crude oil in 1872. Vaseline took the pharmaceutical world by storm after the 1876 Centennial Exposition, so much so that “Vaseline” is now virtually a generic name for petroleum jelly.
Attempting to make their own Vaseline, but with a chemically different kind of oil, White Mineral Oil was first developed by Russian chemist, J. Markownikoff and the first plant was set up in Riga, Latvia around 1885.

After knowing about who first developed white mineral oil, it becomes interesting to understand more about white mineral oil, its grades and applications.
Let’s dive into the ocean of White Mineral Oil…
White Mineral Oils are manufactured from highly refined Base Oils and consist of saturated paraffinic and cycloparaffinic hydrocarbons. The refinement process ensures complete removal of aromatics, sulphur and nitrogen compounds.
It is called ‘white mineral oil’ due to its colorless and transparent structure, but also it can be known as Light Liquid Paraffin or Light White Oil, Liquid Paraffin or Liquidum Paraffinum.

White mineral oil does not dissolve in water and alcohol, but easily dissolves in many organic solvents such as ether, chloroform and benzene.
It could be labeled as Technical, Pharma or Food grade on the basis of its chemical properties with the Food/Pharma Grade having tighter specifications and therefore requiring more stringent processing.
It is important to know how different grades of White Mineral oil are regulated. Technical Grade White Mineral Oils are employed as components of non-food articles intended for use in contact with food (indirect food contact) and is governed by United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (21 CFR 178.3620 (b))

Whereas, Food/Pharma Mineral Oils are frequently referred to meeting United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or National Formulary (NF) specifications, usually written as meets US FDA 21 CFR 172.878 & 21 CFR 178.3620(a)
Today, white oils are an important part of many cosmetic formulations and are commonly used in almost all types of cosmetic and personal care products, from emulsions to anhydrous cosmetics, such as lip balm, baby oil, skin care, hair care, creams, and lotions as emollients.
White Mineral Oil is used in cosmetic products at levels ranging from 1% to 99%, depending on the quality of the product needed. For example, pressed powders, mascara, eyeliner, and foundations have up to 60% white oil, and eye makeup remover contains 99% white mineral oil.
In the pharmaceutical industry, White Mineral Oil is used as a solvent in the production of laxatives, ointment, pomade formulations, and gelatin capsules. In the veterinary drug industry, it is used for producing animal vaccines.
In the Food industry, White Mineral Oil is used as a preservative in egg coatings, food packaging materials and meat packaging.
Plastics and Elastomers industry is another area where white mineral oil is frequently used as an additive/mould release agent. It is used for thermoplastic rubber production, PVC production, and polystyrene production
As we witnessed, the story of white mineral oil started with crude oil in 1872 and is ending as an essential raw material for technical/industrial applications, or indirectly on the skin of a person who uses creams and lotions having white mineral oil.
With increasing use of white mineral oil in varied industries, the applications in which it will be used will likely increase in the near future with ever-advancing technology and our growing needs.

Disclaimer: The information contained above is for general guidance or matters of interest only. The application and impact laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information shared is accurate and has been obtained from personal interactions with industry experts as well as other secondary reliable sources. Applications of white mineral oils are subject to the applicable laws and regulations in each country. User must check compliance with applicable regulations.


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