Can you eat motor oil?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “Can you eat motor oil?”. We will also elaborate on the possible side effects of motor oil if it is swallowed accidentally, what we should do if a swig of motor oil is taken by mistake and the safety and toxicity of motor oil.

Can you eat motor oil?

No, you can not eat motor oil because it is very dangerous to health and it could result in serious consequences if it gets swallowed. Patients who get affected by the swallowing of motor oil should immediately contact the ER for help.

You must develop a habit of reading the precautionary measures or instructions of the product which are mentioned on the packaging before using a product. In the same way, there are stern warnings on the packaging of motor oil which present that ingestion of motor oil could be very dangerous or even fatal.

Motor oil is a component of the hydrocarbons family. Hydrocarbons are a mixture of both hydrogen and carbon elements. There are significant varieties of hydrocarbons but the quality of hydrocarbons is that they should be sticky when we touch them in their liquid form. Hydrocarbons comprise a heterogeneous collection of compounds, composed primarily of carbon and hydrogen molecules, with widespread uses in industry and household and include organic compounds derived from petroleum distillation, plant oils, animal fats, and coal. The principal commercial source of hydrocarbons involves distillation of crude oil (1).

Once these oily or sticky components get swallowed then the major point of concern is that they can slip down into the air passage canal from where they can lead to lungs by inhalation may be during vomiting. This specific mechanism of inhalation is known as Aspiration (1). 

Aspiration is a very fatal and harmful condition that can cause irritation and could also become a reason for infection. 

What will be the consequences if you ingest the motor oil?

The lung is the primary target organ affected by aspiration of the hydrocarbon, resulting in respiratory symptoms. Pulmonary damage is probably due to the chemical destruction of surfactant in the alveoli and distal airways. The hydrocarbon also increases permeability of the vascular endothelium with subsequent diffuse hemorrhagic alveolitis culminating in a chemical pneumonitis. Cardiotoxicity generally manifests as dysrhythmias, secondary to hydrocarbon sensitization of the myocardium to the circulating catecholamines. Systemic manifestations often include confusion, ataxia, lethargy and coma. Ingestion often causes abrupt nausea and vomiting (1).

Firstly, you should take proper care to prevent its ingestion, even accidentally because the consequences of motor oil consumption are very serious. All contaminated clothing must be removed and exposed skin needs scrubbing with soap and water (1).

If even the motor oil is ingested in a small amount, it will pass down into the stomach through the food pipe, the only symptom expected at that time is the laxative effect. The laxative effect can be defined as diarrhea or loose stools. 

The ingestion of motor oil in a small amount can be treated at home but if the motor oil gets aspirated or you are doubtful for its aspiration then without any wastage of time, immediately move towards the emergency room (ER) for analysis. 

Aspiration can also happen when the person coughs anything that has moved down the airway or vomits. In the emergency room, the suspected person will be examined typically by a chest x-ray to detect whether he is suffering from any inflammatory condition of the lungs. Severe lung injury may require intubation and mechanical ventilation (1).

Disposal of waste motor oil

The old or used motor oil consists of many contaminants or such chemicals which are not present in the newly synthesized motor oil. During the working of the car, this motor oil moves randomly in the channels of the car where it is transformed into a highly toxic form by exposing it to heat or another mechanism.

Motor oil also gets containments like aluminum or other metal contaminants. So, the disposing of used motor oil is a very significant step in reducing or adding to environmental pollution. You should recycle the motor oil or dispose of it properly because the used one has more chances of aspiration. 

The safety and toxicity of motor oil

Motor oil is very toxic and dangerous to health because of chemicals that are used in its formation. That’s why it is always mentioned on the oil bottles that you should keep it away from the reach of children. 

For the safety of humans, it is also recommended not to store the used motor oil in beverage bottles or in such containers which are being used for kitchen activities. As someone may drink from the beverage bottles in carelessness. 

Accidents are also common by siphonage of fuels from motor vehicles. Accidental aspiration of diesel/petrol during siphoning can result as a result of direct inhalation or may follow ingestion. Symptomatic involvement of the pulmonary system occurs in the form of pulmonary oedema, atelectasis and consolidation, and is often the most common presentation of hydrocarbon toxicity (2).

Some precautionary measures that should be followed to change motor oil

  • Firstly, it should be a mandatory step for all those workshops which perform the oil changing phenomenon, they all should be certified and properly trained from a service center.
  • While performing the procedure of oil changing, they should be properly covered i.e., they must wear eye protection.
  • Make sure the engine is cooled enough that will decrease the risk of burning by the hot engine oil.
  • Always prefer to use an approved oil for your vehicle.
  • Drain the oil in a container that is specifically designed for motor oil, not in any other beverage bottle.

Side effects of motor oil

The ingestion of motor oil can lead to severe issues of the respiratory tract, lungs such as respiratory pneumonia that could also lead to the death of a person. This pneumonia has been defined as the inflammatory, granulomatous and fibrotic reaction of the lung to the aspiration of oil. This is thought to be an indolent and benign process resembling low-grade bronchopulmonary infection with nonspecific clinical findings (2).


In this brief guide, we have answered the question, “Can you eat motor oil?”. We have also elaborated on the possible side effects of motor oil if it is swallowed accidentally, what we should do if a swig of motor oil is taken by mistake and the safety and toxicity of motor oil.


  1. Madboly, Abdelmonem, and Farouk Elgendy. Epidemiology, Clinical Characteristics, and Management of Acute Hydrocarbons Poisoning at Benha Poisoning Control Unit: A One-Year Prospective Clinical Study. Ain Shams J Foren Med Clin Toxicol, 2014, 23, 30-42.
  2. Khanna, Puneet, et al. Hydrocarbon pneumonitis following diesel siphonage. In J Chest Dis Allied Sci, 2004, 46, 129-132.