While grabbing an oil can with some household oil or WD-40 might be your first instinct when you need to unstick something, water-based lubricant works just as well for temporary use with a fraction of the cleanup.
The problem with using an oil-based lubricant to unstick something is once it’s unstuck you’re left with a bunch of oil everywhere. In some applications that’s not a huge problem but in others the cleanup can be a major hassle. Lifehacker reader JackTheTripper highlights how great a water-based lubricant is when you want to keep messes under control:
Over the weekend I was doing some work on my wife’s old mountain bike. I was trying to change out the handle bars but I wasn’t sure how to remove the rubber hand grips. I was able to peel back a few inches of one and thought maybe I could peel it off inside out like pulling a sock off from the top but it didn’t want to go.
I was planning to put some soapy water under it as I’ve done in the past, but then I had a crazy idea. I went upstairs, got some Astroglide and put a little dot right on the metal bar and spread it around. Then I flipped the hand grip back down into place. That portion moved freely with no problem.
After that it was just a matter of twisting and turning and working it through the rest of the grip. Since Astroglide is water based clean-up was easy as rinsing off the hand grips under warm water and letting them dry and wiping off the metal bar with a damp paper towel.
Thank you NASA and (what I thought was) useless knowledge.
In the case of the mountain bike handles not only was it more convenient to use the lubricant than to try and squirt soapy water inside but he was able to use less so no excess water got inside the bike frame and he didn’t have to use any sort of oil — which would have been a pain to cleanup and if not cleaned up properly would have likely broken down the rubber of the new handles and made it even harder to fix the next time. Obviously using a water-based lubricant only works in situations where you need temporary unsticking as the water in the lubricant will evaporate quickly making household oil still the best solution for squeaking hinges. Thanks Jack!