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White Vaseline (Vaselinum album)

Vaseline, petrolatum, pharmaceutical Vaseline ( Vaselinum album = 'white vaseline', Vaselinum flavum = 'yellow vaseline'), is an ointment-like mixture of solid and liquid hydrocarbons from petroleum with a melting range of 38 to 58 ° C.


The Chesebroughs headquarters in New York City at 24 State Street (circa 1890)

In 1859 the impoverished chemist Robert Chesebrough looked for a way to escape bankruptcy. Since he saw no future in his kerosene sales , he intended to enter the oil business. In Titusville , Pennsylvania , rich in oil deposits , he noticed strange paraffin- like residues on drill pipes . The oil workers weren't enthusiastic about the greasy mass that clogged the pumps, but had already discovered by chance that grazes and burns healed better if you smeared them with it. Pricked up by this fact, he took several glasses of the petroleum waste product home and tried to extract the basic component in experiments. In 1870 he finally succeeded in producing the first pure petroleum jelly, which he initially named "Petroleumgallert" (petroleum jelly).

In 1872 he patented the process for obtaining petroleum jelly and protected the brand name Vaseline . If the branded product is not meant, Vaseline is called Petroleum Jelly (petroleum jelly ) in English . In Germany the word mark 'CHESEBROUGH VASELINE' is registered on Unilever.

There are two different versions of the origin of the term “Vaseline”. Friends of Chesebroughs said the name came to mind because he had initially used his wife's flower vases instead of laboratory glassware. Employees in his factory, however, said that Chesebrough had put the name together from two parts, for the first he had chosen the adapted German word “water” and for the second the Greek word “elaion”, which means olive oil.


Vaseline is obtained from residues from petroleum distillation. The petrolatum is treated with sulfuric acid , fuller's earth and activated charcoal for cleaning and bleaching .

While white Vaseline is almost completely discolored by a special processing, this purification is not carried out with yellow Vaseline.

Composition and properties

70 to 90% of petroleum jelly consists of a liquid part of highly branched iso - paraffins and olefins . The solid (crystalline) portion (10–30%) consists of long-chain components ( n -paraffins and less branched iso -paraffins). The liquid components are incorporated into the network-like structure made of solid parts.

Vaseline is practically insoluble in water, ethanol and glycerine , but soluble in dichloromethane .

The CAS number for Vaseline is 8009-03-8.

Pharmaceutical qualities of white and yellow vaseline differ in addition to their appearance in that the limit for the presence of undesirable aromatic, polycyclic hydrocarbons (" MOAH ") is slightly lower for white vaseline than for yellow vaseline. The dropping point for white vaseline has a slightly wider range of 35–75 ° C than that for yellow vaseline, which is 40–60 ° C. Both pharmacopoeia qualities are equally suitable for the formulation. There is no justification for an allegedly increased risk of cancer with yellow vaseline.


The highly complex mixture of hydrocarbons is preferably separated by chromatographic methods. For use, the come HPLC and GC / MS coupling . These methods allow the highly specific qualitative and quantitative determination of individual components. They are also used when examining skin lipids after using products containing petroleum jelly.


Care, protection and treatment of the skin

Vaseline is used in humans on the skin by exploiting the occlusion effect as skin protection against chapped hands or chapped lips and on the face against cooling by reducing the evaporation of skin moisture. It is also used as face protection in inclement weather and cold, make-up remover and to remove tar stains from skin and leather.

The Stiftung Warentest complained that the use of lip care products based on mineral oil products such. B. Vaseline for the absorption of harmful amounts of the hydrocarbon compounds MOSH and MOAH could lead directly into the body via the mouth. In May 2015 , the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) judged in a preliminary assessment due to data gaps that health risks from these impurities are not to be expected if they are absorbed through the skin .

Further application examples:

  • Vaseline is used in cosmetics and pharmacy as a component for ointment and cream bases.
  • For paw care in dogs.
  • As skin protection on the buttocks when cycling.
  • For the treatment of tumbu fly infestations .

Vaseline is labeled with the INCI name "Petrolatum" on cosmetic products .

Technical use

  • In industry, Vaseline is used as an effective lubricant with good corrosion protection. It is chemically neutral to most materials.
  • Petroleum jelly is also used as a lubricant in various sexual practices, but is only suitable to a limited extent because it contains e.g. B. condoms from latex to be permeable.
  • As an impregnation ointment in leather processing. For the care and protection of objects made of smooth leather, e.g. B. bicycle saddles, boots or motorcycle clothing.
  • Vaseline serves as the basis for the production of milking fat .
  • As an environmentally friendly underwater fouling protection for motor boats and sailing yachts.
  • For greasing zippers.
  • Cotton soaked in Vaseline is used as tinder outdoors .
  • For lubricating elastic seals and O-rings , as well as frost protection for door rubbers on the car. As a mineral oil product, petroleum jelly is incompatible with EPDM O-rings .
  • As a stabilizing component of gunpowder, cordite .
  • For loosening adhesive and paper residues when removing stickers.
  • With fiber optic cables, the cavities in the cable core are filled with petrolatum.

Web links

Wiktionary: Vaseline  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Vaseline  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Charles Panati: Universalgeschichte der wholly ordinary things , Munich 1998, pp. 282 ff.
  2. ^ Arnold Willmes, Pocket Book Chemical Substances , Harri Deutsch, Frankfurt (M.), 2007.
  3. Bauer, Frömming, Führer: Pharmazeutische Technologie, 9th edition (2012), Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft mBH, p. 425.
  4. European Pharmacopoeia 6.0, Govi-Verlag, Eschborn.
  5. Yellow and white vaseline suitable for recipes , DAC / NRF newsletter calendar week 35/2010.
  6. de Koning S, Janssen HG, Brinkman UA: Group-type characterization of mineral oil samples by two-dimensional comprehensive normal-phase liquid chromatography-gas chromatography with time-of-flight mass spectrometric detection. In: J Chromatogr A . 2004, 26; 1058 (1-2): 217-221, PMID 15595671 .
  7. Bortz JT, Wertz PW, Downing DT: The origin of alkanes found in human skin surface lipids. In: Journal of Investigative Dermatology . 1989; 93 (6): 723-727, PMID 2584738 .
  8. ↑ Instructions for use on the label of the Abtei Vaseline jar.
  9. ^ Stiftung Warentest: Mineral oils in cosmetics: Critical substances in creams, lip care products and Vaseline from May 26, 2015.
  10. Statement by the BfR : Mineral oils in cosmetics: According to the current state of knowledge, no health risks are to be expected from absorption through the skin (pdf), May 2015. Archived from the original on February 3, 2016. Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Retrieved August 5, 2016. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  11. Petrolatum in the INCI database.
  12. Which grease should be used for O-rings? The right lubricant ( memento of the original from January 5, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , In: @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /