Understanding Oil Cleanliness: Implementing a plan for maintaining oil cleanliness

As mentioned last week, cleaning oil isn’t as easy as you may think. It requires a series of steps throughout the lubricant lifecycle—including proper storage and handling, following lubricant dispensing and filtration best practices, and conducting routine used oil analysis.

Here are the things you must consider in maintaining oil cleanliness.

Storage and handling

Lubricants become vulnerable to contamination during storage, and especially when moved around. Even a sealed container is susceptible to the both particle and water contamination as air temperature around the container rises and drops.

In order to reduce contamination during storage, review the steps of the following:

  • Store lubricants in sealed containers to place in a sheltered room.
  • Equip containers with air and water filtration.
  • Store oil drums horizontally.
  • Keep large and small bungs (stoppers) in 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions, and close bungs promptly after use.

Lubricant dispensing

One important step in achieving and maintaining oil cleanliness is proper lubricant dispensing. Operators should exercise these dispensing and servicing practices:

  • Use dedicated pumps, carts and/or hoses to dispense the lubricant.
  • Clean the filling cap before removing it to fill the reservoir.
  • Ensure that the oil reservoir is closed, and the filler cap is in its place.
  • Control any oil leakage since the oil exposure has great risk of contamination.


Proper filtration is another important factor in maintaining oil cleanliness.

  • Filtration involves removing contaminants—water, particulate matter, wear metals, and sludge—from the system to prevent a negative effect on the equipment performance.
  • Operators should work with their OEM, lubricant supplier and other partners to ensure they have the right filters in place.

Implementing routine oil analysis

  • By implementing used oil analysis (UOA), you can effectively track cleanliness levels in lubricants and equipment.
  • UOA identifies trends of abnormal rates of particulate matter in the oil and other potential warning signs ahead of equipment failure.
  • It’s beneficial to should work with a lubricant supplier or third-party lab to conduct this routine testing, analyze results, and identify necessary actions to keep oil clean.

A productive operation starts with a clean system, and lubrication is at the forefront of helping keep systems clean. By incorporating the tips in this article into your maintenance program, you can enhance equipment life and reduce unscheduled downtime—ultimately improving productivity, safety and profitability for business.

I hope this Tip of the Week offered more insights into maintaining clean oil systems in operations. Until next time!