All-Purpose vs Multi-Purpose #OilChat 83

ancient use of grease
ancient use of grease

Over the centuries all sorts of materials have been employed as grease. In the very early days of the wheel animal fats were used as grease. It is believed that compounded grease was first used by the Romans and Egyptians on their horse-drawn chariots more than 3000 years ago. Grease from that era is thought to have been prepared from olive oil or animal fat mixed with lime.

It was not until the middle of the 1800’s that real progress was made with grease technology. During the First Industrial Revolution (1760 to 1840) the development of larger machines with tighter specifications running at greater speeds for mass production, triggered the search for more sophisticated and specialised greases. In response sodium based grease was formally invented in 1845. Lithium grease, discovered in the first half of the 20th century, was an even more advanced development. It was patented in the United States in 1950 and rapidly came into wide use as a multi-purpose grease.

In terms of use, lithium based grease is by far still the most popular type of grease today. Although it is suitable for a wide variety of automotive, industrial and other applications, lithium based greases should, however, not be considered as an all-purpose grease because their:

  • Dropping point of less than 200°C is lower than various high-temperature applications
  • Water resistance is not as good as some other grease types
  • Adhesion properties are not all that suitable for sliding and reciprocating applications

In fact, there is not one grease type that is suitable as an all-purpose grease for every single grease application and hence the term all-purpose grease is misleading.

Moreover, the concept of “standardisation” is very attractive when it comes to reducing the number of lubricants in large operations. It is believed one can decrease the risk of accidentally using the wrong product by reducing the total number of lubricants in storage. Even more appealing is to reduce the inventory levels of lubricants that may only be used in a very specific application. While consolidation efforts are necessary to save money and reduce accidents, grease is often the focus of overenthusiastic consolidation.

While there are options available to reduce the number of greases in use, careful thought and consideration should be exercised to avoid over-consolidation and subsequent substandard lubrication for grease-lubricated components. After all, not all greases are the same, regardless of what the description may lead you to believe.

Q8Oils offers a comprehensive range of high-quality lubricants for a wide variety of automotive, construction, industrial, mining,  agricultural and other applications. For more information about the complete range of Q8 greases, phone 011 462 1829, email us at  or visit