Liquid paraffin, also known as paraffinum liquidum is a highly refined mineral oil and used for medicinal purposes and in cosmetics.
The feedstock for paraffin is slack wax; a mixture of oil and wax and it is a byproduct from the refining of lubricating oil. Firstly, oil is removed from the slack wax by crystallization, where the slack wax is heated and mixed with ketone, then cooled. Upon cooling, wax crystallizes out, leaving the oil. The mixture is filtered into two streams of solid (wax and some solvent) and liquid (oil and solvent). The solvent is then recovered via distillation and the resulting product is referred to as “product wax”. The product wax can be further processed to remove colors and odors, and may be blended together to give specific desired properties. The resulting paraffin wax is sold in either liquid or solid form.
Liquid paraffin is widely used in cosmetics and personal skin-care products to lock moisture into the skin. It acts as a skin lubricant or emollient.
Liquid paraffin is mainly used as a lubricant in various industrial settings. It can be used to lubricate blades that cut paper and in mechanical mixing. It is also a component of many air filters, particularly air filters that function underwater. It can be used as a hydraulic fluid in machinery.
Liquid paraffin is used as a laxative to relief constipation. It is considered to have limited usefulness as an occasional medication as it can seep from the anus and cause irritation. This makes it potentially able to interfere with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, get absorbed into the intestinal wall and may cause foreign-body granulamatous reactions.
Liquid paraffin is widely used as a lubricant in the textile industry. It is an oil component used for spinning, weaving and meshing materials. Sewing machine lubrication typically contains liquid paraffin also.
Liquid paraffin is highly useful in many other fields. For example, it is an ingredient in many agricultural insecticides. Liquid paraffin is a component in the manufacture and containment of reactive gases like sulfur dioxide and chlorine. It is often used in infrared spectroscopy. It can be applied to baking tins to make removing cooked food easier. It is also used to make many food items like apples appear shiny for a centerpiece display.