Can I use vegetable oil for lubricating my chainsaw?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019
vegetable oils for chainsaws

How do I use vegetable oil with a chainsaw?


In a world where manufacturer's make oil designed especially for use on a chainsaw's bar and chain, it could be a considered an odd question.

But, can you actually use vegetable oil as a substitute for chainsaw oil?

The short answer is you can but it's not without some pros and cons of which you should properly consider before adding some cooking oil into your chainsaw!

First up, let's consider why some woodmen and women may want to do this.

Is it a cost saver?

Is it better for the environment?

Does it make the chain cut better?

Regards the last question, we doubt this very much.

Let's discuss the environmental side of the equation. 


Standard chainsaw bar oils are derived from petroleum so each and every time you use your chainsaw, this product is being left in the environment. You know this because it comes off the chain attached to the sawdust. The continuous operation of the saw sees the bar being continuously oiled.

So the issue then is petroleum based oil products being deposited on to the land and cause an environmental risk.

The use of veggie oil, which is of course plant-based, poses no such risk to the environment and by using it you, your chainsaw saw is a lean mean, environmental friendly machine!

If you are storing your chainsaw for a time (say over winter when it's cold in the shed) then you should drain the vegetable oil from your unit's reservoir.

And what about cost savings?


Canola oil is, as a general rule of thumb, half the price of bar and chain oil so there are some real cost-saving incentives there.

Can vegetable oils work in cold conditions when using a chainsaw?


This is where petroleum-based oils win out over veggie oil every time. The cold-temperature properties and oxidation stability of vegetable oils mean that they will not perform as well as they do at warmer temperatures.

That said, there are now vegetable based chain oils that have additives to combat the cold.

I'm sold, BRB, just gonna grab some canola oil from the kitchen


Not so fast, you environmental hero.

Before you grab some oil from your kitchen or supermarket, you bear in mind that there are manufactured bar and chain oil products that are environmentally friendly and they will biodegrade when left on the earth.

These 'green oils' can be found at your local chainsaw store or on Amazon.

Brands like Stihl make their own such oils and state their products feature no loss of lubrication or adhesion when compared to traditional oils.

These green oils contain products which help the oil before like traditional oils.

The benefits of using vegetable oil on a chainsaw

  • Environmentally friendly as they are biodegradable
  • Cost effective and cheaper than standard oil
  • Can be quite 'sticky'
  • Easier to clean from clothes and equipment.
  • Users also experienced less skin irritation.
  • If using a saw to cut meat, then vegetable oil is the obvious choice so the meat tastes good (you can use sunflower, canola, palm oil etc). 
  • You won't breathe in carcinogens that you can get from petrol based oil

The disavantages of using vegetable oil on your cutter

  • Occasional chainsaw users may find the cooking oil will dry up and hold the chain like glue (if you use a specially formulated 'green oil' then you should not have this problem.
  • Kitchen oils are not necessarily designed for use on a chainsaw in the long term which could cause maintenance issues, so we'd recommend the use of a vege oil designed for your chain.

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