A mineral oil is any of various colorless, odorless, light mixtures of higher alkanes from a non-vegetable (mineral) source, particularly a distillate of petroleum.
The name mineral oil by itself is imprecise, having been used to label many specific oils over the past few centuries. Other names, similarly imprecise, include white oil, liquid paraffin, pariffinum liquidum, and liquid petroleum. Baby oil is a perfumed mineral oil.
Most often, mineral oil is a liquid by-product of the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline and other petroleum-based products from crude oil. A mineral oil in this sense is a transparent, colorless oil composed mainly of alkanes and cyclic paraffins, related to petroleum jelly (also known as "white petrolatum"). It has a density of around 0.8 g/cm3. Mineral oil is a substance of relatively low value, and it is produced in very large quantities. Mineral oil is available in light and heavy grades, and can often be found in drug stores.
There are three basic classes of refined mineral oils:
- paraffinic oils, based on n-alkanes
- naphthenic oils, based on cycloalkanes
- aromatic oils, based on aromatic hydrocarbons (distinct from essential oils)