Household oil might not strike you as a key survival item, but it can play a wide variety of roles in emergencies. It’s usually most important as a calorie source, but even rancid or out-of-date oil can still serve useful roles. Here are ten good reasons to add oil to your survival stash.
1. Calories: Fats are the most dense source of calories, more so than carbs or protein, and in an emergency every calorie counts. Add a little oil to other foods to spike up the calorie content.
2. Fire Helper: Sometimes our fire-starting efforts are in need of a boost. For perpetually damp climates (or in other wet conditions), add a little oil (any kind) to damp wood, old charcoal, paper, cardboard, or any other flammables to help them burn better and longer.
3. Rust-proofing: Knives, tools, and other metal objects can be protected from rust and corrosion by a light coating of oil. Just make sure you’re using food-grade oil on things that will come into contact with food. Don’t put motor oil on your pocket knife and then cut up your steak.
4. Lighting: Add a plant fiber wick to a bowl of oil and the result is a primitive grease lamp for improvised lighting. You could also pour the oil in an old-fashioned lantern that burns paraffin.
5. Preservation: Vegetables and mushrooms can be briefly preserved in edible oil.
6. Soap: To make your own soap, blend solid or liquid oils with lye and water, then stir until slushy and set aside for aging. This is a great use for edible oil that has gone bad.
7. Lubricant: Cooking oil can pass for chainsaw bar oil, friction fire socket lube, and folding knife pin lubricant, among other uses. Mineral oil is an even better lubricant than cooking oil.
8. Medicinal oils: Soak dried healing plants in warm oil to create salves, balms, and other medicines. Try chickweed for itching, comfrey for wounds, and mullein for earaches.
9. Lotion: Dry cracked skin can get a healing boost from a light rub of oil, which helps to keep moisture in so that healing can begin. Liquid oil and vegetable shortening work equally well.
10. Emergency Fuel: Unused cooking oil can be readily turned into biodiesel with the right mixture of lye and methanol. Just use great caution when mixing and pouring these dangerous chemicals, and make your biodiesel in a very well-ventilated area (or outdoors).
Got a favorite non-traditional use for a household oil? Let’s hear it in the comments.