Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
The survival uses for cooking oil are both varied and numerous. Stockpiling preps that boast an extensive shelf life and are multi-purpose has always been a keen goal of self-reliant folk. Cooking oil of any type, even the cheapest form of generic vegetable oil, fits this bill perfectly.
Cooking oil can be utilized even if it has already been used in the kitchen or has already gone rancid. It makes a great and affordable substitute for common household, garage, and farm products. So not only will it be useful when the SHTF, it will save you money in the meantime.
Olive oil, coconut oil, arnica oil, and almond oil cost more than the typical vegetable cooking oil. These types of oils are also referred to as carrier oils by herbalists who use them as a base in salves, lip balms, lotions, ointments, hair products, and soaps. While these oils can be used in any of the recommended ways on this list, I would reserve them for more important matters unless absolutely necessary.
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Cooking oils are made using a host of different seeds such as sunflower, castor, and peanut. Other components in common vegetable cooking oils include palm oil and soya beans. Because cooking oil in general and vegetable oil in particular has such a high smoke point, it has become a staple in kitchens.
Here is a list of survival uses for cooking oil:
1. Home and Barn Lubricant
Cooking oil is just as good as WD-40 for taking the squeak out of a hinge. Rubbing just a small amount of cooking oil onto metal objects that are in need of lubrication will help get them back into prime working order. We have often used cooking oil to lubricate metal cranks, various parts on the hay baler, carabiners that have gotten rusty, and even the barn spigot which can rust over the course of the winter.
Fire and water are always a top priority in a survival situation. Using cooking oil to help get a flame going (and continue going) can easily allow you to build a fire to warm yourself, purify water, or cook a meal.
Rub some cooking oil onto a damp piece of tinder or firewood to get it to light and catch. You can also store homemade firestarters in a jar or bag with just enough cooking oil to dampen it. Some folks rub cooking oil onto rocks and build a fire around them to have a cook surface that can also be used to keep food or water warm as the fire dies out.
3. Exterior Furniture and Decor
Use cooking oil to place a protective covering to rattan, wicker, or grapevine exterior furniture or decor. Rubbing just a thin coat of cooking oil onto the items will help prevent them from cracking due to extended exposure to the elements.
This is one of the few items on this list where using rancid or used cooking oil is not ideal. Utilizing cooking oil that has been used to fry bacon or other kinds of meat will not only attract bugs, but will also invite your dog and carnivorous predators to come close to the family living area and do the same.
4. Measuring Cup Release
Lightly coat the inside of glass or metal measuring cup to make it easier to pour sticky, thick, or compacted food items such as molasses, honey, jelly, and brown sugar.
5. Paint Removal
Get rid of pain on your hands and elsewhere on your skin without scrubbing for hours or using turpentine. Simply pour a little bit of cooking oil onto your hands and rub them together to let friction do the work gently for you.
You can dab cooking oil onto other parts of your skin and rub it around with your hands to get rid of paint on other parts of your body. Wash the cooking oil away with warm soap and water and your hands or body should be all clean.
6. Splinter Removal
Cooking oil can help soften the skin around where a splinter entered and also help draw it to the surface. Soak a hand, fingers, foot, or toes in a bowl filled with cooking oil, or soak a clean rag in cooking oil and tie it around the inflicted area to allow the oil to soak into the skin. Wait about 15 minutes to remove the skin from the oil or to unwrap the rag before using tweezers to pull the splinter free.
Cooking oil is a wonderful active base ingredient in homemade soap of any variety. Old soap oil can be used in about any soap recipe along with lye to create a wonderful and natural bar of soap.
8. Plant Care
Cooking oil can be used to make a natural spray to help prevent and treat plant diseases and to kill garden pests that want to steal your food. Combine half a cup of warm water with 1 cup of cooking oil and spray it onto the plants from top to bottom.
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Don’t forget to coat the underside of leaves because bugs or their eggs can be hiding under there as well. The thickness of the oil will trap and smother the insects.
9. Leather Care
Gently rub a few dabs of cooking oil (not used, but rancid is alright) onto your leather goods to help prevent and treat cracking. The cooking oil will soften even thick leather goods like horse saddles and tacks, boots, and belts. It only takes two teaspoons of cooking oil to restore a pair of cowboy boots.
10. Cleaning Locks
Have a lock that is filled with gunk or rust? Just pour or squirt a small amount of cooking oil into the lock after placing it on a level surface. Allow the oil to pool inside the lock for about 10 minutes and then pour it out. The cooking oil will help draw away any rust particles or gunk that has gotten inside and made it difficult to open or turn.
11. Chafed Skin
Chafed, chapped, or cracked skin will readily soak up the oil as it infuses moisture back into the skin. The cooking oil may also help to foster better healing by pulling away any miniscule debris inside cracks or on the surface of the skin.
12. Rifle Stocks and Wooden Furniture
There is no need to waste money on expensive wood restoration and cleaning products that can be better spent on valuable preps if you upcycle your cooking oil for this off-label use. I personally have not used store-bought commercial wood cleaner for furniture, decor, or even wood floors in years.
Simply rub some cooking oil (I think coconut oil works best) into the wood to restore it to its vigor. You can also shine up and restore rifle stocks that have dulled or show signs of wear from exposure to the elements. The wood “massage” with cooking oil can help diminish the appearance of scratches, as well.
13. Toenail Fungus and Athlete’s Foot
Soak feet in cooking oil, or rub it onto the foot or toes and allow it to soak for a good 20 minutes before washing away with warm soapy water and patting dry. It may take up to five cooking oil treatments to get rid of the unwanted toenail fungus or athlete’s foot.
14. Plastic or Glassware Problems
No longer will you have to struggle with plastic cups or glass cups that get stuck together after washing them or during storage. Simply dab some cooking oil around the lip of the cups and allow it to flow down inside and pool for about five minutes. The oil coating will help you easily pull them apart without fear or breaking the glass in the process.
15. Herbal Home Remedies
Cooking oil can be an inexpensive base for herbal salves, lotions, hair products, ointments, and lip balms. I prefer to use the carrier oils noted above due to their other potential healing properties, but plain old vegetable oil will still get the job done. Don’t use rancid cooking oil for herbal home remedy projects.
My herbal bushcraft buddy and Old School Survival Boot Camp presenter, Jamie Schmotzer of JW Apothecary concocts a wonderful bacon “flavored” chapstick using bacon grease after frying up this hearty breakfast with cooking oil. Herbal items created with used cooking will have a decidedly shorter shelf life than the same items created with unused oil and will likely require refrigeration to prevent them from going rancid.
16. Removing Labels
You will no longer have to struggle removing labels from glass jars or metal cans so that you can reuse them to store food and other items you want to prevent bugs, mice, and moisture from garnering access to if you stockpile cooking oil among your preps.
Soak the jar or can in a bowl of cooking oil (save the oil to use once again) for roughly five minutes to soften the labels so it slides off easily, leaving no residue behind. Wash the jar or can with warm soapy water before storing or using.
The worms that live and work in our compost pile will thoroughly enjoy a nice dousing of cooking oil once a week. The oil will infuse more healthy nutrients for the worms to consume, making them more hardy as they go about their daily chores of turning food and natural matter refuse into viable soil. Pour approximately 1 cup of cooking oil into a compost tub or pile equal in space to a 50-gallon drum.
18. Stainless Steel Restoration
Remove debris, bacteria, and fingerprint smudges from stainless steel appliances, countertops, and tools with new or rancid (not used) cooking oil. Simply wipe on a light coating of the oil and allow it to settle for a couple of minutes before wiping off with a clean rag.
19. Small Ponds and Pools
Keep duck pools, bird baths, decorative plastic garden pools, and even kiddie pools free from mosquitoes by pouring a capful or two of cooking oil into them. The oil may also help to prevent water from freezing down to about 20 degrees.
20. Natural Hair Products
Keep your hair soft and healthy by using cooking oil (new or rancid) as a conditioner and moisturizer. Not only can this habit save you money, it can serve as a morale booster for the ladies during a long-term disaster.
Warm the cooking oil in a coffee cup or small saucepan and then massage it into the hair from scalp to tip. Wrapping a plastic sack around your head will further help infuse moisture from the oil into the hair and skin. Wash the oil away after it has been on the hair for roughly 20 minutes.
21. Garden Tools
Transferring bacteria from cleaning out a barnyard stall or chicken coop into the garden or another livestock enclosure can cause sickness and even deadly illness from the waste of one animal to another, even if the first animal is healthy. The same can be said when using garden tools on a plant that has a disease or when toxic plants come into contact with the tools accidentally.
Washing off the tools and soaking them in a light coating of cooking oil with further help to remove bacteria to prevent it from transferring from plant to plant or animal to animal. Storing gardening tools with a clean light coating of cooking oil can also help to prevent rust.
22. Seasoning Cast Iron
Cooking oil is perfect for keeping your cast iron cookware looking beautiful and rust-free. After scraping any food particles free with chain mail, coat it inside and out lightly with cooking oil and place it over a heat source to season.
The heat from an outdoor fire, fireplace, or a wood stove will be sufficient for seasoning cast iron with cooking oil. Wipe away any cooking oil remaining in the cast iron before storing it. If you don’t, it will leave a sticky residue once the cast iron cools.
23. Make Your Own Fuel
Cooking oil can be used to make biodiesel fuel even if it’s used or rancid. In fact, stockpiling enough cooking oil to create a large supply of biodiesel fuel ingredients can become quite inexpensive connecting with local restaurants.
Because the cooking oil can’t be poured down a sink drain due to clogging issues, restaurants have to dispose of it in their dumpster or by using special refuse removal services. Restaurants are often eager to connect commercial or residential biodiesel makers to avoid the hassle and extra expense associated with getting rid of copious amounts of cooking oil. It takes approximately 1 liter of cooking oil to make a small batch of biodiesel fuel.
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24. Jar Lids
To open a jar with a lid that simply will not budge, turn the jar upside down and allow about a quarter size amount of cooking oil to drip down into the rim of the glass and jar lid. Allow it to settle into the miniscule voids for a few minutes and then give the lid another turn – it should open easily and smoothly now. In my experience, using cooking oil on stuck jar lids works a lot more quickly than running water over the lid.
25. Mechanical Uses
If you need to loosen or remove rust or gunk from a metal part on a vehicle, try rubbing a little bit of multi-purpose cooking oil on it instead of investing in more expensive cans of WD-40. Both rancid and used cooking oil work well on mechanical issues.
26. Car Cleaning
Cooking oil really helps to loosen tar on the exterior of vehicles. Rub down the tar thoroughly with cooking oil and allow it to settle for about 15 minutes before wiping the tar particles away with a clean rag. You can also use cooking oil to keep leather, vinyl, and plastic surfaces on the interior of the car from deteriorating due to exposure to sunlight and other substances.
27. Lamp Oil
Prepping for either a temporary or long-term grid-down scenario always includes a way to have light when needed. Cooking oil is an excellent substitute for traditional commercially manufactured lamp oil. It takes just a couple of minutes to either insert a weighted wick or make a homemade one to create a simple DIY emergency lamp. Cooking oil lamp making is a fun and easy prepping project.
28. Nasal Issues
To prevent dry skin in and around the nose from bleeding, dab a tiny bit of cooking oil (not used) onto the sore skin and let it sink in and infuse the area with moisture. The thin oil coating will also help prevent debris from getting into the little cracks during the healing process.
29. Livestock and Pet Feed
To give your animals a nutrient and fat boost, ladle up to a half of a cup of cooking oil onto their feed once a week. This will also benefit from the added moisture being infused into their hide and fur. The thick cooking oil will smother any fleas, mites, or other parasites using them as a host.
30. Bird Feeder
To help birds prepare for winter, drizzle a small amount of cooking oil onto the seed you are giving them. This will increase their fat and calorie intake. Placing some enticing feed in wooded areas with cooking oil drizzled on it will help keep any grouse, quail, or pheasants alive during the winter for future hunting possibilities.
31. Firearms Protection and Cleaning
Use new or rancid cooking oil to help clean and protect handguns, rifles, shotguns, and firearm magazines. It takes only a dab or two of cooking oil to lubricate an AR-15 or other similar rifle. Cooking oil is far cheaper to have on hand than gun oil and will work just as well to help prevent rust from developing on stored firearms.
32. Killing Ants
If you have a problem with ants or other crawling insects, pour a little puddle of it in areas where you have spotted the pests. They will be attracted especially to used or rancid cooking oil. The ants and other crawling pests will die from swallowing the cooking oil or from getting trapped in the puddle and smothered to death.
To alleviate the soreness and heat associated with having a sunburn, rub some cooking oil (not used) onto the impacted area as gently as possible. The cooking oil also helps prevent the peeling and blistering of sunburned skin.
34. Tool, Machete, and Knife Uses
To protect the blades on knives and machetes from rust, lightly coat them with cooking oil after use and consider storing them with a thin coating of oil, as well. Once a month, rub oil onto tools with protruding metal parts like screwdrivers, drill bits, saw blades, etc. The thin coat of oil residue will protect them from the elements.
A light cooking oil coating can serve as a liquid bandage to protect scrapes, minor burns, and cuts from attracting debris or bacteria. The cooking oil may help in the healing process if it is olive or coconut variety.
Cooking oil is a valuable resource not only during a disaster, but also when times are good because it can save money you would have spent on commercial products used around the home, barn, garage, and garden.
Store cooking oil in its original container out of direct sunlight or in a similar plastic or glass container with a tight-sealing lid. Used cooking oil should be viable for approximately 12 months when stored properly.
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