5 Vacuum Pump Oil Substitute

There isn’t a unique pump oil you can use in your vacuum and here I’ll provide you with a list of substitutes you can consider.

Let’s start by mentioning the importance of vacuum pump oil. This ingredient is what keeps the pump lubricated, which is the key to the functionality of the vacuum. Additionally, it collects moisture and contaminants that may accumulate in the system.

As vacuum pumps don’t have filters, the saturations of contaminants will reduce the efficiency of the equipment over time.

The Importance of the Right Decision

Depending on the environment, the engine will require different types of vacuum pump oil, and the decision is of the utmost importance. When choosing the right substitute, you need to keep in mind the viscosity, as too thin oil will not provide proper lubrication, while one too thick can damage the lubricative functions.

Here’s what I’ve found about the viscosity of vacuum pump oil:

  • ISO 22 or ISO 32 viscosity is necessary for liquid ring vacuum pumps.
  • Rotary vane vacuum pumps require ISO 68 or ISO 100.
  • For process pumps you need ISO 220 viscosity.

This information is provided in the description of the different kinds of pump oils, so you can check it and choose the correct one for the kind of pump you have.

Top Vacuum Pump Oil Substitute

After researching pump oils and the importance of choosing the correct one for my equipment, I’ve made a compilation with the best alternatives and their characteristics. Here’s what I’ve found:

Refrigeration Oil

Any refrigeration oil is a good substitute. They have a natural viscosity index, which as we said is important to achieve good lubrication. As for the price of these kinds of oils, you may find some inexpensive brands and others not so affordable. Another great characteristic of refrigeration oil is that they have thermal and chemical stability.

Hydro-treated/Hydrocracked oils

This is a biofuel made by the hydrogenation of vegetable oil (HVO). Among the best properties of this kind of oil, they have good low temperatures.

Like refrigeration oils, these are not the most affordable alternatives but have some of the best qualities. If you’re ready to invest a little more, this is a good option to consider.


These are forms of synthetic oils, both diesters, and POEs. These oils have several beneficial characteristics that make them one of the best alternatives available.

For once, they are thermally stable and tolerant to high temperatures. They also prevent varnishing or the built-up of sludge, which as we mentioned before reduces the pump’s efficiency.

Thanks to the high polarity, these oils prevent varnishing and the build-up of sludge. What’s more, they have a cleaning ability and act like a natural detergent.

This is the most expensive option of all the alternatives I’ve compiled for this article, but also the one with the best characteristics.

Polyalphaolefin (PAO)

These synthetic oils characterize by having remarkable performance either in hot or cold temperatures. They also have a high viscosity index, which will provide the right lubrication to the pump.

This kind is also recommended for its compatibility with mineral oils and maximum synthetics. If you’re looking for an affordable option with excellent general characteristics, this is the right way to go.

Motor Oil

Again, motor oils are an alternative with a high viscosity index, which will be useful to provide your vacuum pump with the right level of lubrication. It also has thermal and oxidation stability.

As for the cost of these types of oil, they are more affordable than others.

Choosing the Right Substitute

Proper vacuum pump maintenance will be reflected in the equipment’s efficiency levels, and the return on the investment you did in your pump.

After checking the characteristics of every alternative available in the market, I’ll go for the Ester oil. There are other good substitutes way more affordable. However, after checking the characteristics, I concluded these are superior to other synthetic oils.

Tips for your next pump oil change

Changing your vacuum pump oil is an easy process you can do yourself to ensure your pump will keep running smoothly. Here are some tips for when that time comes:

  • To drain the existing oil in the pump, do it while it’s hot. The reason for this is that when the oil is cold, the contaminants separate and cling to the walls and mix with the new oil.
  • Leave the machine sit for a few minutes, to make sure there isn’t any oil trapped inside.
  • Once all the oil is drained, open the intake to the atmosphere and run the pump for 5-10 seconds, and shut it off. Now the pump is ready to be filled with the new oil you’ve chosen.

Share with us in the comment section which kind of oil you’ve selected for your vacuum pump.

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