Saving and Recycling Oils Should Be A Top Priority

This is a guest post by Kim B

[This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win a number of prizes including an 84 serving storage bucket of Wise Food Storage, 500 rounds of 9mm ammo, a NukAlert  a copy of my book The Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat and a copy of my CD It’s The End Of The World As We Know It – And I Feel Fine . For complete rules and list of prizes see this post.]

pic of oil drumsIf you really want to survive when times get tough, then save all of the oil that you can.  I do not mean just car oil but used corn and bacon oils because they can be reused even if they go rancid.  Like my mother, which taught me to do this, I have regularly practiced saving oils because “you never know”.  Besides, why throw out something that you can use when the lights go out, the flame of a lamp is all the heat you are able to have and it is cost-effective for the budget. 

After food has been cooked in them they can be poured into a stainless steel bowl or container, cooled, filtered into a glass jar with a lid and stored in an area where the container will not break from freezing or overheating.  Bacon grease is the exception because it can be stored in a refrigerator or freezer for a very long time, without filtration only when it is to be used for cooking.  It should be thrown out when the smell is not right when it has been heated or it is suspected to be bad. 

Corn oil, no matter how old it gets, can be poured into an oil lamp’s tank in place of the traditional fuel and the wick wetted, the excess squeezed from it’s length, prior to lighting it.  I have a few lamps with cheap liquid oil in them and used them during a short power outage last year without a problem.  I added nothing to the oil and it burned just fine.  Many of us use liquid cooking oils so much so that there is always a little left over from fries, hash browns, eggs or other foods that it would not take us more than a year to have around a gallon collected. 

It is amazing just how much oil you will see fill up a container when you save every bit of it that you can.  Several years ago, when I began to change how I ate, that “change” led me to tilting every pan and pushing the food to the high end and pressing it out with a spatula to see if anything more would drain from it.  The first time I tried it I was amazed because I got between one-half and one teaspoon of oil.  No matter how little oil I used I always found some left over that I could pour into the salvaged oil container. 

In my stock piles of foods, I have several gallons of very old, extremely rancid, cooking oils and that is where they are going to stay.  I will never throw them out because one day, sooner than I would like it to come, I or someone else is going to be in need of them.  I know what it is like to be without a home and heat for longer than a year and it is miserable at best so experience tells me that I would rather save now and be warm later, than to suffer because I did not do anything when I had an opportunity.  Corn oil is good for other things such as oiling moving parts of tools, lubricating squeaking hinges, easing sticking locks and treating a pair of steel toed leather boots prior to and after breaking them in.  There is no limit to the uses of corn oil and you should never be afraid to try it on something at least once.

Car oil, the weight of it does not apply here, is one of my favorite non-edible oils.  Unlike corn oil, I never filter it because on a cooler day it would take a very long time because cold always thickens engine oil.  When I change my vehicle’s oil I use a large square pan, a six dollar cheapy, to catch and hold it in.  One that has a few screw-type plugs in it’s top to allow oil to enter inside after they are removed and to keep it contained after they are installed.  At one end it has a cap that can be unscrewed so the container can be tipped and the contents drained. 

It is the most ideal oil collection pan because it allows me to pour it’s contents right into a kitty litter jug or wide mouthed bottle of sorts.  I never skip salvaging the filter’s oil because if I throw it out then I am being wasteful, costing myself money and helping some company get richer.  Unless oil gets water in it which is where it will turn strange colors such as tan, brown, yellowish and/or white, or the elements do not destroy it, then I will keep it. 

I never understood why my father would douse some outdoor wood piles with engine oil before starting them alight until I was absolutely unable to start a fire because the wood was far too wet.  My first oil-assisted fire was amazing because of the oil’s ability to catch quickly, burn rapidly and I did not have to use much.  Years ago, I used to perform certain types of work during an agriculture/horticulture class where it was required to wear leather work boots and every student had to oil their boots to keep them in top condition. 

To this day it still amazes me just how water proof my boots were and I believe that I owe it, in part, to having oiled them regularly.  Although engine and other oils can become sticky and dry out when warm temperatures arrive and heat them up, from where I sit, all that I am collecting now may be all that I will have to use in the future.  I do not care because it is better to have something than nothing at all.

Times are becoming more difficult financially but they could get so tough that it would be painful.  Considering that a loaf of bread is going to cost a day’s wage, according to the reliable Holy Bible, on my side of the country that could be more than one hundred dollars, then oil and other essentials may be equally expensive.  When comparing what a gallon of gas costs to the price of a loaf of bread at this time, a gallon of gas costs about four dollars more than a loaf of bread. 

So, if a day’s wage for a loaf were to cost one hundred dollars then a gallon of gas will cost five hundred dollars or so.  If, because of inflation and the cost to manufacturers and others down the line, wages were not increasing as they should but prices continued to increase then there is no way in the world that I, for one, would be able to afford anything.  If you think it is not possible, then I would reconsider because not more than thirty years ago I learned that in a few places on the other side of the world, a person had to pay a day’s wage for a single apple. 

I was young with little economical education so I did not understand the world and how it worked.  I was always puzzled and wondered how that could be.  The answer did not come until I delved deeper into the inner workings of commerce, banking, finance and inflation, to name a few.  Today, knowing what the good book says about the cost of food one of these days , I am nervous and hopeful that what I have been preparing for will last but it will not go bad or be destroyed for some reason and I will make it through that time.

There is no better time than now to get a container and start filling it with used cooking oil.  Empty plastic coffee cans, kitty litter jugs, clean bleach jugs, lightweight bins with lids and other containers will suffice as long as they have lids, they are stored in an area where animals cannot have access to them and they will not break due to outdoor elements or stacking.  There is no requirement as to how much you have on hand but to make sure that enough to get you by in a pinch, when stores may be out of fuels or for a few weeks or more is the main idea.

Have you saved your oil today…


  1. Tomthetinker says:

    Kim B. : Thank You. You filled in a hole in my preps that I had simply not seen. As a fuel source, I have overlooked ‘used’ oils all togeather. I store 55 gals. of gas and rotate every 4 months. I will use the old fuel oil tank I have out by the fence to put your advise in to action. Again… thank you… good Idea… good post.

  2. Matt in Oklahoma says:

    Good article
    I reuse my vehicle oils as chain saw bar oil which is nothing more than a cheap grade of 30wt. It is used on gears such as on the bikes, fishing reels etc, just gotta make sure and wipe off the excess so as not to sling it. I also use it on the storm shelter hinges, trailor hitches and for brush/trash burnoff as you stated.
    I also use it for wood post preservation before I put them in the ground. Placed every so often around them it helps keep the bugs out too and the weeds down around the post which also helps with moisture control preventing rot.
    I recycle the remainder after I collect so much at my local wallieworld or auto parts store.

  3. STL Grandma says:

    Very nice post and you addressed something that I had in my “prep instruction manual” that I made for my kids, under the Fire/Heating/Cooking section, where I tell them, Rancid Cooking Oil will still burn. Every little bit will help.

  4. Just last weekend I bought an antique coffee pot looking contraption that said greese on the side and has a metal fitler on top instead of coffee maker guts. I save my used oil and my friends save oil for me too. I had not thought of saving the automobile oil though.
    I need to make an oil burning lamp just for practice. I think I have everything I would need to make it.

  5. Repair Mama says:

    Now there is one prep I did not think about either. I know some people here locally that collect oil from fast food joints and oil from the city recycling facility to heat their homes with a special furnace designed to burn used oils.
    Interesting thought for off the grid heating.
    Thanks for the reminder!
    Happy prepping!!
    P.S. Maybe you can make a deal to pick up used fryer oils from the resturaunts and deli’s to store for shtf heating?? lighting?? if you have the means to store it.

  6. Repair Mama says:

    Here is a link for a place that sells the equipment to heat with used oil. I hope this helps. I will continue looking into this for my place too. I hate being cold in the winter.
    good luck!

  7. axelsteve says:

    Thank You M.D. I never thought of storing used oil like that.I will not store used motor oil because I live in California and used motor oil is on the same list as plutioniam according to our friends at the epa.(sarcasm) And not worth a fine if I am c aught with it.I never thought of using corn oil on boots but it makes sens when you think of it. Have a good day M.D. and thank you . Steve

  8. ThatAway says:

    I had to give away about 200 gallons of used motor oil..
    Had to move my location 2 years ago, will have to do it 1 more time only I hope!
    It was great stuff to stock pile..
    Had an old used motor oil burning heater in one barn,,
    The heater were all over the place lot of folks used them for shops ect.
    A pain to work on if they broke.
    (I am sure that was my handicap on the evil beast burner!)
    We even used them all over at the lumber yard.. Had lots of big rigs.
    And a few hundred cars.and small mechanics shop!
    A none stop supply of used oil. Also many auto repair shop used them out in there shops nice heat free oil! I think the EPA or some one who wanted to make a buck, Put an end to them!!
    As you know most people now pay to get rid of there oil. Not me I have started a new stash 2 50 gallon barrels.. Do not have much yet But I am working on it, Old engine oil is fine to lubricate
    small joints on this and that I keep a old pump can of it handy in the shop!
    And is a great fire started except all the black at first.. If you live in a no burn area

    I saved bacon grease for frying make everything better. MMM. home fry onions & eggs YES!!
    Never knew about the other oils thanks will have to ponder that for a bit!!

    I will have to look around for the old Oil heaters they are monsters and you need lots of oil.. Boy they really throw out some heat.. But I know a lot of mechanics and other people that pay to have it hauled away now . Lots of farmers will give it to you around here, ( they used to heat equipment or service barns with the old used oil burners.
    Here in Ohio I think (commercial mechanics big companies) fast lubes have to keep a record of where it goes. And people pay for it to be hauled away. WHEW !!
    If you ask for your oil they are not legally aloud to give it to you..

    These are great listing learning every day a lot of tricks since M.D. started this!!

    WELL I am Heading:

    Things to do!

  9. mamabear says:

    What about used olive oil–we don’t use corn oil in our house, but we do use gallons of olive oil. Could that be used in a oil lamp too?

    • mamabear,

      Keep in mind that before the wide use of petroleum products in the early 1900’s all oils for the previous thousands of years were generally either animal or vegetable in origin. When John D. Rockefeller started standard oil in Cleveland, his main product was Kerosene, which was used primarily in lighting as a replacement for Whale Oil. Plants high in oil (like olive oil) have been exploited for a millennium for lighting and cooking.

  10. Excellent article. When you live “in the country” nothing gets thrown out!
    We use old OLIVE oil in our leather shop. Neatsfoot oil is good for harness but horrible for saddles or boots etc. When cleaning leather use something like a saddle soap or Lexol ph (diluted) to clean then, as your leather is still good and damp, and drying put your olive oil on, as your item drys it takes the oil deep into the leather. Don’t put motor oil on your saddles!
    Another use for old cooking oil if you have horses/dogs is put it on their feed. Cheap way to put weight on horses/dogs. In the Spring it helps horses shed their coats too.

    • ThatAway says:

      AS far as used motor we used to spray it with a pto take off attached to a 50 gal drum on a ford 8n in the arenas areas..
      But the fudging state or somebody said no again.
      We used to use masonry sand in our arenas and in dry weather watch out dusty!!.
      Wish had the horse place back!!( you can paint wood fence’s with-it
      and not to many horses will crib on em .) I love them Horses but lot of work..&$
      But good for the soul work.. I hear they taste good to. French love em!
      There 100 & 1 uses around a small horse place for used motor oil..
      I thought canoila oil was good for you now they are saying all sorts of bad stuff about,
      Not so good from grape seeds?? Love olive oil. She was cute to but a little to skinny from me!!

      Off subject: For any Leather if you really want to treat it right use Aussie Leather conditioner & Fiebing’s saddle soap
      Not in that order.
      I have had problems with Kiwi saddle soap an the cheeper brands,, CAn make the leather crack in time that is what I was told. Some stuff did crack might have been bad leather?? I do not know.

      • Leather, big subject. There are only 2 tannery’s left in the usa. Wickett & Craig is the best and then Hermann Oak. EVERYTHING else is offshore. There tanning process is sub standard and the leather is crap. There is a huge difference in good/bad leather. You want usa hides, tanned in the usa it is worth the extra money. China however is buying up ALL the rawstock hence the shortage in the usa.

      • Oh “I hear they taste good” in the West there will be plenty of “wild” horses to eat after meltdown. Your tax dollars paid to have this meat source that’s run amok.

        • ThatAway says:

          Off Subject: Right on the 2 tannery Olive oil in mix?? I am a novice if you work in a leather shop.
          Till 2 year or so did a lots of horse work in Ohio. Hurt my hand. Dun wore my wrist out!!!
          Horse & leather goes together!! Dam a poem..
          Naw I have a few people here in Ohio that are pretty good with leather building. But all we have is Tandy no real leather shops left.. (That Build saddles boots ect. Some repair shops left though! that is what I am learning for something else!) Tandy have tons of hides. never bought just make pre cut belts.ect.. Do a little silver work a little silver to.)

          Did you happen to see the tannery in new England On Dirty Jobs.
          It was one of the first in the U.S still the family MAn That is a funky job> Nastier but I bet i Pays is good bucks.
          The seemed to do a lot of deer mabey hunting season?
          Aussie leather conditioner has bees wax in it, it is made in Wis. and is sold buy the Fiebing,s Co.

          Whelp i still run up to the small farm when the x wife needs help! I see all my kid (horses).
          Yup know where I will get my horse meet form me if the shtf.. Visit my x we are still very friendly..
          Lions Eat there young??
          I know know just how to kick stuff to get it to work!! So she calls.
          I am sure you could talk circles around leather and me.. Good
          subject for someone to write about MR.R??????
          I am Going

  11. mamabear, yes used olive oil can be burned too.

  12. I’ve several hundred gallons of waste vegetable oil at any one time. I run my converted diesel truck on the stuff. I also burn my crankcase oil by mixing it in with the veggie fuel a bit at a time. Saves me thousands of dollars every year.

  13. I don’t think I hsve room to store veggie oil. I am still trying to find room for the stuff I have especially water.
    I swear if I end up on that hoarder show from someone coming here and not minding their own business, you all don’t have to act like you actually know of me, but would appreciate ya standing up for the piles of stuff I have.
    Okay will add that to my list in case of.
    Love getting useful info.

  14. Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

    Like axelsteve, I live in the Nanny State of California and cannot store old motor oil.

    There are a couple of bottles of cooking oil on the shelf, but I seldom fry foods. Mostly I use butter and it is almost all gone by the time the food is ready to eat.

    I’ve noticed that the salad dressing (Italian) tends to separate when let to stand for a couple days in the refrigerator, so I suppose a person could use the oil in their salad dressing if needed.

    Something to think about, thanks Kim B.

  15. blindshooter says:

    I have a friend that mixed his used motor oil with the heating oil for his shop. The heater he used was one of the old upright cylinder types that used a carburetor type control (no pressure and no nozzles or orifice) so I guess it won’t that picky about some particulates in the fuel. In the past we used it for weed control but the state put an end to that and I guess it was a good thing as some of the stuff was getting into wells.

    • blindshooter,
      When we first moved into our home (28 years ago) we heated with wood and a backup oil stove of the type you mentioned. It now sits out in one of the barns and is still used on occasion for a warm place to go while working in the winter. The main problem with particulates is when they are too large in size or too numerous. If you allow the used oil to settle, so that most of the sludge drops to the bottom, and carefully pour off the rather clear oil above it, things work reasonably well. In addition, a standard fuel oil filter between the tank and the stove keeps things running. The stove (a Sirgler) is pretty simple in operation. The oil comes into a small tank with a float valve to keep the level even, and the oil then runs into the bottom of a large cast iron pot. When you first start one of these you put in some crumpled newspaper to act as a wick, and the oil simply burns, but rather inefficiently as an oil soaked newspaper will do. After a while, the flame heats the cast iron pot to the point where the oil vaporizes on contact, and the flame shifts from an orange yellow flicker, to an almost unperceivable and a very hot and efficient blue. The Coleman gas (not propane) stove works in a similar way). These stoves are now considered antiques and are collectable, but ours still works when it is needed, gravity fed with no electricity required unless you want to use the built-in blower, which is not required.

  16. Florence Nightingale says:

    Kim B,this is a really good post as I had no knowledge of any of this.We used to save our cooking oil to make molasses cookies @ christmas and they were yum,however as one ages,we tend to get away from fried foods and we use very little cooking oil currently.I am going to print this out and save in a file folder as a resource as needed in the future.thanks again..

  17. Charlie says:

    When I was a kid and folks heated their homes, businesses and shops with wood they would often use used motor oil along with the wood.
    Here’s how they did it. Put the used motor oil in a can 0r some sort of container that is elevated on a shelf or hung by a chain or whatever above the stove but not directly over it. Run a copper tube from a fitting in the bottom of the container or a syphon line out of the container. It’s nice to have a shut off valve in the copper tubing but not entirely necessary. Drill a small hole the same size as the copper (or steel) line in the top of the heater. Take a pair of pliers, hammer or whatever and crimp the end of the copper tubing almost completely shut and insert it throufh the hole in the heater.

    Get the wood fire going and then open the valve or start a syphon on the oil line. The oil will drip very slowly into the wood fire but it will make a tremendoes difference in the heat output without any oil smell or smoke.

    I’m sure the EPA would frown on this so just keep it in mind for SHTF situations when the EPA doesn’t matter.

  18. Charlie says:

    I forgot to say, if you don’t have a valve in your line just lower the oil bucket down to floor level when you don’t want oil going in the heater or remove the syphon line from the container.

  19. Use a little caution here friends.
    Used Oil is classified as a “Special Waste” by the USEPA and as far as I know, every State version of the EPA. It is regulated and there are only so much you will be able to collect, transport, store, and use, before you come under somebodys regulations.
    For Example: If even the smallest amount of contamination by a “brake cleaner” (other substances can cause this too) is introduced, it changes classification and becomes a “Hazardous Waste”. Then it becomes HIGHLY Regulated and the penalties are severe.
    Until the Schummer Hits The Fan, I recommend that Unless you have the ability to read and understand your state rules and regulations you think twice about this.

    • I was primarily addressing “Used Motor Oil” but cooking oils are also regulated and there are specific rules on those as well.

  20. Good post ! before plastic , people used to waterproof things with oil . Kind of along the same lines and illegal now ………but as long as you know how …..a still would be a great way to create alcohol for fuel ….and other .
    good advise on saving used oil , my mom saved bacon grease and cooked with cast iron skillets .

  21. Andrew Copernicus says:

    We save all our lard and oils for soap making, in the fall. Wash it w/ water, one to one, add about a cup of vinegar. Sit it out to cool. The fats will float into a hard top layer. Use it for soap.

  22. Great guest post. I never actually considered saving oil as part of my prepping plans but this has certainly opened up new avenues for me to explore.

    Reading this post has made me realise that we need to do whatever we can to make our lives that little bit more comfortable should a SHTF situation occur.


  23. charlie says:

    This is still is the realm of frowned on by the EPA so just file it away for post shtf. I’ve been told this by several people but have not tried it myself yet.

    Used motor oil can be effectively cleaned by a simple syphon wick.
    What you do is put the dirty oil in a container that is elevated a bit then put an empty container beneath it. Cut a length of large diameter cotton rope. Place one end inside the dirty oil container all the way down close to the bottom. Put the other end of the rope in the empty container with the end just barely in the top of the container. Make sure that the rope drops straight down into the empty container without touching anything after it exits the dirty oil container. Supposedly it will syphon slowly over a period of time just like a lamp wick and transfer the oil to the empty container while leaving the dirt and contamination in the rope.

    • ThatAway says:

      Wow Great rope trick!
      That is a new one buy me. That is a keeper.
      Thanks Charlie.. EPA frowns on a bit to much stuff. Well mabey not,
      I think you understand the bad side of government if you are on this blog!
      Some one is benefiting besides us and the earth and is being made$$$
      I had a buddy that used to inspect for EPA here in Oh.
      And man he had some stories A lot worse that oil!
      But Old Oil in the ground ect is not cool. It I have seen guy just dump in the ditch in front of there houses! People do stupid stuff or just do not care..
      But as you know used motor oil is so useful. Going to try the rope trick on a 5 gallon container to see how it works.

    • I’ve used this method for some other things, but not motor oil. Great idea.

  24. charlie says:

    try it and let us know how it works. I’ve known of the concept for years but never have tried it. My guess is it would be better to put the rope wick inside something like a pvc pipe after it exits the dirty oil container. Just let it fall freely through the pipe and into the clean oil can. I suspect it’s slow process and it might take some experimentation to find the right kind of rope.

  25. charlie says:

    certainly there is cause for some environmental regulations but the EPA goes way to far t the extreme. As for waste oil, I don’t advocate dumping it on the ground but everything in the waste oil came out of the ground. Don’t you find it curious that if we dump oil on the ground and the EPA finds out they make us clean it up at great expense but if that same oil is naturally in the ground they won’t allow us to take it out because the act of doing so might cause environmental harm? The same applies to lead. It came out of the ground but try to put it back in and see what happens to you.

    • Charlie,
      Although it may seem like simple english to us there are legally significant differences between “Waste Oil” and “Used Oil” and the rules are different. To avoid legal problems it is important to use the right terms.
      Waste means there is no legal use for this material and it must be disposed of legally.
      Used means there are legitimate legal use and the material will be reused or recycled accordingly.
      I know it might seem silly but the finacial implications over the use of a word can be profound.

      • charlie says:

        Agreed. That is why I keep repeating that the EPA would frown on my ideas along with most of the others stated here. However, we are talking about uses in post shtf scenarios.

        • Well the EPA , OSHA and a few Labor Unions are why very few things are now made in the US anymore , they went to places where those entities dont exist . Keep on posting your ideas !

    • There are also chemical differences in the oil. When running through an engine at high temperatures some harmful probucts and be created or concentrated. There are also metal shavings and carbon) the black sludge) and nitrates in the oil that most likely were not there when it originally was removed from the ground. Keep in mind also, that in most cases the oil was stratified in layers of rock, deep in the ground where it did not contaminate the aquifers, and put potentially harmful chemicals into drinking water and surface water like lakes & streams.

      • charlie says:

        Ohio, I agree. I was basically joking but still there is nothing in that oil that didn’t come out of the ground to begin with. It might be in a different form now but it still came out of the ground. For the record I’m not advocating that anyone dump
        oil on the ground I am saying that the EPA over reacts to minor problems and none of it will matter post shtf.

        • Charlie,
          Understood. Actually the EPA reacts sometimes to non-problems, or fails to do the ROI on the issues. When Obama stated that “Electricity rates will necessarily skyrocket, during his campaign, he wasn’t kidding. American Electric Power is headquartered near here in Columbus and is shutting down 3 coal generating plants in the near future. The first IIRC is in WV and will immediately idle 60 relatively high paid workers. System wide they will be eliminating about 600 jobs with the ripple effect eventually affecting tens of thousands when coal mines and the entire trickle down from their closing comes into effect. We’re going to crash large chunks of the economy and agencies like the EPA are a large part of the reason. The administration says it’s concerned about jobs, but then allows or instructs its agencies to kill them by the thousands with little regard.

  26. Judy Williams says:

    Hey people,the word here is PRUDENT.We can bash rules and agencies but for your survival today and tomorrow Be Prudent.Also remeber the containers are key to all Preparedness.I live in an extremely hot climate and learned early some plastics crack etc.
    I like the idea of have a back up to your back up plan.

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