Cooking oil might not be an item most folks keep at the top of their “must have” preps list, but perhaps it should be. We preppers love (with good reason) dual and especially multi-purpose items – and cooking oil has a plethora of uses.
Any type of cooking oil can be used for survival and around the homestead or house use recommendations on this list. Vegetable oil is the cheapest and most frequently cooking oil commonly found in American homes.
It is made by extracting the oil of a variety of seeds, such as peanut and castor. This type of oil is also a blend of sunflower, soya bean, and palm oil, as well.
Cooking oil is flammable and has a fairly high smoke point, which is why it has been such a kitchen pantry staple for frying food for so many decades.
While you can use brand new cooking oil for all of these off label survival tips, out of date, previously used, and in some cases even rancid, cooking oil will work just fine, too.
Leather Cleaning and Preservation
Apply a small amount of cooking oil onto your leather belts, purses, boots, satchels, horse tack, outerwear and other goods to both help soften even extremely brittle leather and to restore its appearance.
Only about a half of a teaspoon of cooking oil is needed to soften and restore an adult size cowboy boot.
Create an all natural and nearly free plant spray by using 1 cup of vegetable oil and a half of a cup of warm water.
Spraying this cooking oil mixture onto the plants will both help deter and get rid of scale bugs and other plants pests. The heavy oil essentially smoothers the bugs after trapping them beneath the spray.
Don’t forget to spray the underbelly of the leaves to avoid stealthy escapes by the bugs as you squirt the cooking oil and water mixture onto the plant.
Squirt or slowly pour a tiny amount of cooking oil into a lock to draw out rust and debris that is preventing it from turning properly.
Home and Barn Lubricant
Cooking oil is an excellent lubricant for many needs around the house, ban, and homestead in general. You can rub a little cooking oil onto just about anything that would normally require a few squirts of WD40 to repair.
Some of the items I have used cooking oil the most to fix around our survival homestead include various squeaky hinges, hay baler chains, rusty carabiners, metal crank on seed spreader, and spigots that are difficult to turn.
Paint Removal – Clean your paint speckled skin with a little cooking oil and friction. Dab some cooking oil onto your paint covered hands and rub them together to loosen up the paint and then wash it all away with warm and soapy water.
Chapped or Cracked Skin
Gently rub cooking oil onto chapped or cracked skin to help add moisture back into it. Not only will the cooking oil help heal the cracked skin, the protective oily layer can help prevent further cracking.
Coconut oil is likely the best type of cooking oil to use on cracked skin, with almond a close second, but any variety of cooking oil can help repair cracked skin.
Apply cooking oil over a splinter to help soften the skin, and to pull the splinter particles to the surface.
If the splinter is inside of a finger, hand, toe, or foot, pouring the cooking oil into a bowl or bucket and soaking the body part for about 10 to 15 minutes works best.
You can also soak some clean cotton fabric scraps or cheesecloth in the oil and wrap it around an injured area that cannot be soaked.
To Protect Outdoor Furniture
Cooking oil can also be used to clean and add a protective coating to wicker, rattan, and grapevine outdoor furniture and decor.
Applying a thin coating of cooking oil will help protect the furniture or decor from the weather – especially from cracking in the heat. I usually mix equal parts of the cooking oil with white vinegar when coating outdoor furniture and decor.
I recommend not using cooking oil that has been used to fry meat for this type of project because even tiny debris in the oil can draw in critters and insects
Cooking oil is also an excellent natural way to restore and help repair your wood furniture, decor, or rifle stalks.
I pitched the Murphy’s Oil years ago, and now use cooking oil (I prefer coconut oil on wood but any type works just fine) exclusively on wood items.
The oil helps diminish the appearance of marks or scratches on the wood and makes it very shiny without leaving an oily cast to it.
Having plastic cups or glassware get stuck together after washing or storage is quite frustrating and can easily lead to breakage while trying to force them apart.
Just pour a teaspoon or less of cooking oil along the rim of the stuck plastic or glassware and allow it to drip down inside for approximately five minutes and they give a gentle pull and the items should slip right apart.
Keeping glass jars to reuse them for canning, storage of seeds, etc. is what a thrifty survival homesteader does. But, fighting the store labels on a glass jar is quite annoying and often leaves the container with a sticky patch where the label was placed.
Soak the jars that are going to have the labels removed in a bowl filled with cooking oil for around 10 minutes and then the label should slide right off, without leaving any sticky residue. Make sure to wash the jar with hot soapy water before using or storing.
Stainless Steel Polishing
Fingerprints and gunk left on stainless steel appliances, kitchen or butcher shop countertops, and cutting tools can easily be combated by pouring a few drops of oil onto a clean cloth and wiping them down.
New and out of date works great in this manner but I would avoid using rancid or used cooking oil or risk having any debris or potential bacteria from being smeared onto cooking appliances or surfaces.
Bird Bath or Duck Pool
Pour a capful of cooking oil into a bird bath, duck pool, or plastic garden pond to prevent mosquitoes from making it their home and also to help deter freezing.
Cooking oil, especially coconut, olive, armond, and arnica oils are excellent base ingredients for homemade herbal salves, lip balms, and similar salves, bars, ointments, and liniments.
My bushcraft pal and Old School Survival Boot Camp presenter, Jamie Schmotzer of JW Apothecary makes a superb bacon “flavored” lip balm using bacon grease created after frying the yummy breakfast meat in cooking oil.
Uses cooking oil applied sparingly to a cloth to clean all vinyl, leather, and plastic portions of your vehicle inside and even out. Rubbing cooking oil onto exterior areas to loosen and remove tar also works extremely well.
Cooking oil can also be a base ingredient in homemade soap, especially of the herbal variety. Using new or even out of date cooking oil in lye soap recipes.
The quality of the fat in the oil can help produce a better soap.
Cast Iron Seasoning
There’s just nothing better to keep your cast iron looking beautiful and to get rid of rust than cooking oil, in my personal experience. I prefer using coconut oil simply because there is no smell to fill the room when I put cast iron on the woodstove to season it after use.
Rubbing only a small amount of the cooking oil of your choice on cast iron cookware, cast iron blacksmith tools, old horseshoes you are going to put on your horse again, or anything else functional or decorative made out of cast iron can be seasoned and restored with nothing more than the oil and heat source.
Making your own biodiesel fuel to keep your truck, tractor, and UTV can be done both easily and cheaply using cooking oil.
While it will take a minimum of 1 liter of cooking oil to make just a small amount of biodiesel fuel, you can use really old, used, or rancid oil to make biodiesel.
Many restaurants happily give their used cooking oil away to folks who ask to avoid having to dispose of it – a great way to add to your DIY biodiesel fuel stockpile.
Cooking oil makes a great moisturizer and conditioner for your hair. I can recall my mother and grandmother using Alberto V05 hot oil treatment tubes on their hair when I was a little girl – cooking oil works in the same way.
Just use a double boiler method or a microwave to warm the oil (do not get it too hot) and then massage it into your hair.
Wrap plastic wrap or a plastic bag around your hair and allow the oil to work its way into it all the way to the tips and the roots for about 15-25 minutes before washing it off.
Clean Your Gardening Tools
Clean dirt, debris, and potentially harmful bacteria off of your gardening tools before storing them or moving from working with a diseased plant to healthy ones.
The rakes and shovels you may use to clean out livestock stalls and poultry bird coops can carry harmful bacteria that should be thoroughly removed before either being stored or used again.
Spray off any obvious dirt and allow the gardening tool to dry completely before rubbing on the cooking oil coating onto the gardening tool. The cooking oil can also help remove and prevent rust.
Pouring cooled cooking oil (rancid, out of date, or used work fine) will help feed the worms living in the pile, and help hasten the decomposition process of the matter being used to churn out quality soil.
Pouring up to 1 cup of oil onto a 50-gallon drum amount onto the pile once a week is the process I have used to help my compost process.
Measuring Cup Helper
Coat the inside of your measuring cups with a very light coat of oil before measuring heavy and thick food items that can stick to the inside like molasses, honey, brown sugar, and jelly.
Lids on Jars
Just rub a half of a teaspoon of cooking oil around the rim of a jar with a stuck lid to loosen it so it can be easily opened – works a lot better than running water on the lid in my personal experience.
Rub a thin coating of cooking oil onto the surface of new cookware to help preserve its protective coating and to protect rust in between use.
Lube up any part of a car, truck, tractor, or other equipment that you would use WD40 to loosen or protect. The cooking oil should also help protect fully functional vehicle parts from rusting.
Make your own emergency lamp by pouring cooking oil into a glass jar and making a wick and wick holder to use for lighting.
Cooking oil will burn slowly for a long amount of time. The cooking oil lamp making process is both quick and simple:
Cooking oil can also easily be used to clean firearms and firearms magazines in place of commercially manufactured gun oil products. Use the oil sparingly so it does not drip all over the weapon and make a big mess on your gun cleaning mat.
Drizzle a little bit of cooking oil onto bird seed to give the birds a nutrient burst and more fat in their diet to help them get through a long cold winter and the early spring when food is scarce.
Cooking oil is flammable and there are many ways it can be used to start a fire. To help damp wood catch when building a fire, pour some cooking oil onto it.
You can also dip or store your firestarters in a light amount of cooking to help them light more quickly.
Knife and Tool Protection
Lightly coat knives and metal tools with cooking oil before storing them in between use to help protect them from the elements that cause rust.
Use a thin coating of cooking oil (especially coconut and olive) to make a liquid protective bandage of sorts for minor cuts, scrapes, and burns. The oil will help keep debris out of the wound while still letting the skin breathe to heal.
Dabbing a tiny bit of oil just inside of the nostrils can help prevent dry skin from cracking and bleeding when sick and blowing your nose a lot during dry heat that can irritate the thin skin.
Gently massage cooking oil onto sunburnt skin to help foster healing, reduce the burning sensation, and to help prevent the skin from blistering or peeling.
Rubbing cooking oil onto the feet and/or around the toes may help alleviate and prevent athlete’s foot.
So Many Uses…
Mixing more than one type of cooking oil together either for storage or use in one of the 35 recommendations above is fine.
Cooking oil simply has far too many survival uses to toss it out with the trash. Saving the cooking in a sealed bottle, jug, or glass jars and keeping it in a cool and dry place out of direct sunlight should keep it viable for at least 12 months.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.