While these penetrating oils are often advertised as miracle workers for just about any problem, they do have their limitations. But before they reach their limits these products do a great job for what they are designed to do.
It seems that the two products, Ballistol and WD40 are basically the same but they have different ingredients. They both penetrate and lubricate at the same time. Which one is better, is always hard to say but Ballistol is 40 years older than WD40.
To learn more about these two penetrating products, just continue to read our article. It delves into the comparison to make sure you have the right information so you can make a proper purchase decision. Ballistol may be older but WD40 may be more well-known.
This product was invented or created in 1905 and it had a long service history with German government entities. It is made from mineral oil-based chemicals including food-grade mineral oil. The complete list of ingredients is:
pharmaceutical white oil: CAS RN 8042-47-5
Oleic acid: CAS RN 112-80-1
C-5 alcohols: CAS RN 78-83-1; CAS RN 137-32-6; CAS RN 100-51-6
different essential oils to perfume Ballistol
According to 2013 MSDS:
Mineral oil (liquid paraffin)
Potassium oleate (salt of oleic acid)
Isohexane (aerosol only) (source)
While some people do not like its odor, other people have described it as comparable to black licorice. There are supposed to be no carcinogens inside any can of this penetrating oil.
Its main purpose is to refurbish metals, wood, leather, and other applications. This product is made in Germany which may be why you have not heard of it till now.
Ingredient-wise, it will be hard to say. Since 2018 the formula that makes WD40 has been locked inside a secure bank vault in San Diego, CA. Its formula is a trade secret and it has not changed since it was first invented in 1953.
The formula was never patented because the company that invented this penetrating oil did not want to disclose the ingredients to the government or the public.
But, with that said, both Ballistol and WD40 do the same job. They help keep metal parts lubricated, refurbish other surfaces, and keep them clean and they do penetrate to loosen stuck bolts and screws.
In essence, they are the same thing but use different ingredients to achieve the same results. If you look at the Wikipedia pages for both products, you will see the ‘See Ballistol’ direction on the WD40 page and the ‘See WD40’ direction on the Ballistol page. Read our Superzilla vs WD40 and Superzilla vs PB Blaster guides.
1. Ballistol pros:
- multi-purpose oil
- Eco-friendly and skin-safe-
- Protects wood, metal, and leather
- Can be used on almost any material
2. Ballistol cons:
- the smell turns many people off even though it is supposed to go away quickly
- while food grade, it is supposed to be harmful if swallowed
3. WD40 pros:
- can be used for many applications and surfaces
- protects against rust and cleans it away along with dirt and grime
- safe to use
- does not have a bad odor
- cleans different surfaces
- is cheaper than Ballistol
- can find it almost anywhere
- may not work as fast as other penetrating oils
- not always as strong as other penetrating oils
We have reported the actual ingredients in an earlier section but we did not provide all the information. The one thing that confuses us is that most people say it is food grade and can be used on kitchen and dinner knives safely.
That does not seem to be the impression we get when we read the data sheet. If you swallow any, you should contact your doctor right away. This product is supposed to have a ph balance of 8 to 8.5 which is said to make it very good at eliminating acids from different products.
Also, the ingredients tend to be very flammable and you are not to spray it near open flames or directly into open flames. Then the ingredients make storage a little difficult as they cannot be stored in places whose temperatures get higher than 120 degrees F, nor can they be placed on hot surfaces, and so on.
We can sum up the answer in two words- ‘it works’. The formula for this product seems to be of such a high quality that government entities have used it for over 40 years without complaint.
According to the datasheet:
“Ballistol is fully compatible with all metals including aluminum. However, Ballistol dissolves traces of copper, zinc, lead, and tombac and can, therefore, be used to clean brass, bronze, and silver.
BallistoL is compatible with all types of unfinished wood. Ballistol is compatible with paints and varnishes which are chemically resistant to petroleum. Caution is recommended when using Ballistol on antique furniture or antique musical instruments. Paints and varnishes from past centuries may not be resistant to Ballistol.
Ballistol can be used on all smooth leathers. Its use on suede is not recommended, since it will spoil its looks. Ballistol can be emulsified with water and mixed with gasoline, diesel fuel, or antifreeze. Ballistol will chemically interact with and partially or fully neutralize substances of an acidic nature such as, but not limited to, human sweat, battery fluid, residues from tannic acid in leather.”
That is why it is so good.
According to one user, this product has anithole oil from the anise plant inside of it. That oil is what produces the odd odor that comes with this product. He also said:
“If you like the smell of liqueurs like Chartreuse, Jagermeister, and anisette, or black jelly beans or biscochito cookies... you'll like Ballistol.” (source) or if you like the smell of black licorice you should be okay with Ballistol.
It is not the greatest-smelling product but then you are not buying it for how it smells. It is not an air freshener, it is a penetrating oil, etc., and you are buying it because it works.
There are worse-smelling products on the market that you may use on a daily or weekly basis. The good thing about the odor of Ballistol is that it is supposed to disappear fairly rapidly.
The odor does not stick around and makes life miserable for you.
This will depend a lot on your sense of smell. Some people say it smells like specific liqueurs and if you are fond of those smells, you should not have a problem with this penetrating oil.
If you are fond of the smell of black licorice, then you should be able to handle the smell that comes from the Ballistol product. Your nose may tell you that it smells like something different. It is a subjective label and you may be correct as well.
One thing is for sure, many people shy away from buying this product because of its temporary odor. It is supposed to be harmless but while the smell lasts, some people just do not react that well to it.
It seems that the company has done long-term tests to see how long their product will last. They used it on some specific metal products and then locked those products away for 25 years.
When checked after 25 years, those products did not have any rust and they worked like they were new. In another case history, someone found a bottle of this product locked away in an attic for 60 years.
It too was tested and shown to be in the same state it was when it was first bottled. In other words, the company claims it is going to last a lifetime or two before it starts to wear down.
Other testimonials have stated that their metal products have shown no rust for over 10 years once they started using this oil to protect those metal items. You may have to do your own test to convince yourself that this oil will last a long time.
We have not read anywhere where it will freeze. This product is also supposed to hinder aging that other penetrating oils suffer from. We have checked the Ballistol website and there is no mention of it freezing.
On one discussion forum, it was mentioned that it could be used and useful down to either -40 or -30 degrees F but we have not been able to verify those two claims as of yet.
At -20 it may turn into a light grease but so far it has not frozen and some users have stated they have never had a problem using it in cold weather. This product looks to be an all-year product that will make sure your different items are well protected from the harsh winter moisture.
Keep in mind that the company only ships to the continental US so you may not find it in your area if you live in international areas or Alaska, etc.
Yes, it will evaporate but how long that process takes may differ in some applications. Mixing it with water may help it to evaporate faster.
But when this product does evaporate, it leaves behind an oily residue. You may or may not like that end result but it does not seem to bother most users.
Plus, it is not supposed to wash off in the rain as easily as other penetrating oils will do. This will be good news for those people who have to deal with different metal gates, etc., that will rust in the rain if left unprotected.
The oily residue that is left behind should protect the metal parts from rust even if it is raining out. When using Ballistol many users mix it with water and let that water evaporate. What is left behind is an even distribution of the oil covering all parts of the metal it is applied to.
This ingredient list says- Mineral Oil, Potassium Oleate, Ammonium Oleate, Oleic Acid, Benzyl Alcohol, Amyl Alcohol, Isobutyl Alcohol, Benzyl Acetate. Notice the word ammonium oleate.
This chemical may have trace elements of ammonia in it. There was no percentage given from the ammonia content for Ammonium Oleate but it is listed as a prime component compound.
According to the datasheet, there is no ammonia listed and the datasheet says this is a non-toxic product- “Ballistol does not contain ingredients considered hazardous by OSHA. It does not contain any ingredients, which normally may be considered harmful or fatal if swallowed”
However, later in the same paragraph, the datasheet states- “ does not contain any ingredients which may be toxic for warm-blooded organisms, reptiles or aquatic organisms, if used as directed.” Bold theirs.
So there may be a problem with this product if you go beyond the instructions for use. In the same section, the data sheet states that Ballistol does not contain chlorine or cancer-causing chemicals. But ammonia is left off of that list.
No, it does not. Some of its competing penetrating oils may transform into a sticky substance but Ballistol does not. It remains in the same condition no matter what.
There was some Ballistol found in an attic after being stored up there for 30 years (different story than the one related earlier). tests were done on it and it did not harden or get sticky over that time period.
Another user confirmed this with his own experience stating that his mechanisms worked like a charm and moved smoothly after applying this product to those mechanisms.
To use it and see the oil in action may be what it takes to convince you that it does not get sticky. Sometimes trying it is the only way to get people to see how this product really works.
Here is what the company has to say. You will find the information through a link on their FAQ page: “Eco Friendly Wood Sealer & Cleaner
Ballistol maintains, protects, preserves, and rejuvenates unpainted wooden surfaces. It regenerates natural wood and brings out the wood grain. It protects the wood against damage from humidity and insects. Especially antique furniture and old, dry, dull wood regain their natural silky glow when treated with Ballistol.”
This page left out one warning which we found elsewhere and the warning reads: “Caution: It is sometimes uncertain which type of paint, lacquer or varnish was used on antique wood or furniture. Test Ballistol on a small spot first!”
It may be a great product to refurbish wood items but be careful and check the type of finish that is on those wood items. The last thing you would want would be a chemical reaction that ruins your wood pieces.
The company has put out a detailed information web page on this topic and includes plastics and varnishes in that content. Generally, their product will not harm those plastics or paints that are engineered to be resistant to oils.
But be careful with direct contact with the following products- foamed polymers like polyester, foamed rubber, or caulking foam. The company goes on to say the following:
“all plastic materials, polymers, paints, lacquers, or varnishes that are chemically neutral toward technical oils will not be adversely affected by Ballistol either.” This information is found under their Uses website section at the top of their web pages.
This applies to those rubbers that are chemically treated to resist mineral oils. If they are not chemically protected, then Ballistol may help turn those rubber items brittle.
Not to mention all varnishes and paints that are chemically equal to oil-resistant polymers. If they are chemically resistant to oil then the varnishes and paints will resist Ballistol.
Yes, you can and if you read the above section, then you would know that those polymers have to be chemically resistant to oils to resist Ballistol. If the chemical make up of these polymers is missing that important compound or compounds, then Ballistol oil should not be used on them.
The type of damage you would see would depend on the type of polymer this product is used on. This product can restore some of the shine of the paint if used in moderation. Only a few drops are needed to help brighten up your car paint.
This product is also good for the ancient gramophone records but not so good with CDs.
We have not found anyone claiming it removes rust. We have found websites and the company itself that claim it protects against rust. Anything metal cleaned with this product should not see rust and if you do, the company and this product’s supporters say something went wrong with the cleaning process.
There are many claims that Ballistol will prevent rust from taking place but some people do disagree with those claims. They say it does not do a very good job at this task and there are better products that do.
These same people say that Ballistol Oil is a fine cleaner and lubricant but not so hot at rust removal. Any claims saying otherwise are labeled as misleading. If you want to start an argument, spread that viewpoint around a little bit and many people will attack you and say the opposite.
It is supposed to but then many claims like this may be done from allegiance than reality. There are many different penetrating oil brands that have very loyal customers who swear by their favored product.
Ballistol oil is no different and it is hard to separate fact from fiction. We will simply say that it may work for some people while others have not achieved the same sparkling results.
Myth: WD-40 Multi-Use Product is not really a lubricant.
While the “W-D” in WD-40 stands for Water Displacement, WD-40 Multi-Use Product is a unique, special blend of lubricants. The product’s formulation also contains anti-corrosion agents and ingredients for penetration, water displacement, and soil removal.
Myth: WD-40 contains Stoddard Solvent.
Over the past few decades, the name Stoddard Solvent was synonymous with all mineral spirits. Today, the mineral spirits found in products like ours are more refined and processed (see hydrogenation, hydrotreating, and distillation techniques) providing mixtures with varying boiling points, cleaning ability, and chemical composition.
The catchall phrase “Stoddard Solvent” is no longer adequate to tell the proper story. WD-40 does indeed have 50% mineral spirits, but they are refined and purified for specific characteristics needed to meet today’s performance, regulatory, and safety requirements.
Health and Safety
Information derived from our Material Safety Data Sheet and referred to for the general use of our product can be misleading. MSDS information is for the workplace and is not primarily intended for the general consumer. For the general consumer, the product label provides the key safety and usage information. (source)
You can use Ballistol oil like you use WD40. It does the same work and seems to last for a very long time. The key to its use is to follow all instructions and watch out when you go beyond metal surfaces. It does have its weak points.
When you check out the Ballistol website, make sure to click on the Uses option at the top of the website page. It will take you to a lot more detailed information which may help you make a solid purchase decision.