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5 Clock Oil Substitutes

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Whenever possible, you should use the prescribed oils for cleaning anything antique.

Whether you’re dealing with an old desk, car, or clock, the type of oil you use is important. It guarantees your clock will be best protected and ensures long-term performance.

Finding the perfect clock oil, though, may not be an option everyone has. It’s a niche product that isn’t available everywhere, so a lot of people wonder whether they can use other oils to service their clocks.

Finding it online might be an option, but again, knowing that there are some other options is valuable if you find yourself in a bind and looking for something you can use to oil your clock. High-performance clock oils can also be expensive.

One of the nice things about clock oil is that it lubricates well and prevents gumming up better than a lot of other oils.

That’s important when you’re dealing with something like a clock because it has sensitive time mechanisms and small components that need to move freely.

If you’re looking for a clock oil substitute, we’ve put together a list of five oils you can use to still get the job done well. Let’s explore what we can use and how they’ll affect your clock.

Things to Avoid

First, let’s cover some things you shouldn’t be using to oil your antique grandfather clock.

You will want to avoid things like any type of silicone lubricant, WD-40, graphite, or kerosene. These will likely damage the clock and impact its accuracy over time.

If you’re following recommendations and oiling your clock every two years or so, you should know that oils are important and will keep your clock working better for longer.

hands holding clocks

5 Clock Oil Substitutes That You Can Use

Thankfully, some oils will get the job done well without having to search online for a specialty clock oil. You can save some money, and keep your clock in great condition with these effective alternatives.

Synthetic Mobil-1

This is a good option that you can find in any big chain store or online. It’s affordable and has a good shelf-life—which means it will stay in good condition in your shed or garage until the next time you need to oil your clock.

It’s a thin oil, so it won’t clog up your clock either. You can count on smooth movements with this oil.

Three-In-One Oils

These oils range in thickness, so you’ll need to find one that’s thinner so it will go in your clock and not affect the movement.

Some people in online forums swear by these oils, saying they are more reliable than many specialist clock oils because of better quality control than some clock oils that are made in small batches.

Liberty Oil

You can find different types of Liberty Oil online at They have oils designed for clocks, sewing machines, mechanical devices, and guns, among others.

They come in small bottles, so you can buy different types and see what works best on your clock. They’re affordable and 100% synthetic.

Here  is a great example of a clock oil substitute from Liberty Oils. Read some of the reviews and you may even be able to find users with clocks similar to yours. You can see what type of results they got from using their oils and go from there.

White Mineral Oil

This is a light, thin, viscous oil that will work well on most clocks. It’s not white despite the name, so don’t expect to be pouring a strange white solution into your clock’s innards when you’re cleaning it.

It’s a transparent fluid, so you’ll need to pay close attention to where you are putting it when you’re oiling your clock. It’s a nice option because it’s cheap and easy to find.

Sewing Machine Oils

Sewing machines have small parts and need to be oiled often just like clocks. There are a ton of sewing machine oils online or in stores near you, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding something for a good price.

Sewing machine oils work well because they are thin and provide a coating over your clock’s components that will last a long time and give them the protection they need until the next cleaning. 

a clock maker working repairing the small parts of clock

How to Oil Your Clock

If you’re new to oiling a clock, it can feel a bit tricky. Mechanical clocks like a grandfather clock have a lot of springs, levers, and other components to keep things ticking. These clocks are built to last and can keep time for hundreds of years.

Regular oiling and cleaning are keys to keeping your clock alive so you can pass it on to the next generation. Here’s what you need to know to oil your clock correctly.

  • First, you’ll need to remove the clock’s hood by either sliding it off or lifting it off. This exposes the inside of the clock where all of the levers and cogs are.
  • Take the time weight out. It’s usually located on the right side of the clock. Take it off the chain and separate the pendulum from the crutch.
  • Once you’ve done all of that, you should be able to take the movement out of the case. Take the hands-off so you can lay it face-down on a clean surface.
  • When you are oiling your clock, it’s best to use oil in a syringe to help you place it accurately. In most grandfather clocks, there will be specific oil sinks inside the clock movement. Take a moment to find them and then put one drop of oil in each oil sink. Wait for it to seep into the sink properly.
  • Once you’re sure that the oil is where it needs to be, flip the movement over and put a drop of oil into the clock plate and weight pulleys.

Using the right oils and getting it in the right place will keep your clock working great. You’ll be able to appreciate it for longer, and it will actually work rather than just being a decoration in your living room or hallway.