Can You Use Engine Oil On Fences?

Can You Use Engine Oil On Fences

While using engine oil on fences and barns in common practice for some, many say that this method is more harmful than helpful. 

With the risk of damaging the ground surrounding the fence, creating more flammable wood, as well as the color and odor, engine oil is not recommended on fences. 


Some will argue that engine oil is the cheap, easy, quick solution to your fence-care needs. In the short term, this may prove to be true. 

For certain people, engine oil is more affordable and more readily available than the other options. 

They have it on hand, and it’s sometimes less costly to purchase than products made solely for the purpose of taking care of fences. 

Rather than just throwing out used oil, some even reuse oil that has already been run through a vehicle on their fences or barns. The logic here is that if you can buy one product that has multiple uses for cheap, why buy a bunch of different products for a lot more money? 

Long term costs

Well, the long-term negative effects of engine oil often create many more problems than this method is worth it. It is unlikely that engine oil will last nearly as long as stains or sealing products. 

This means you’ll have to continually re-purchase engine oil specifically to re-coat your fences with it, thus wasting both money and time in the long run. 

Residential effect

Firstly, engine oil is often not recommended for any kind of residential use. With the dark, almost black color, it is unlikely that engine oil will improve the appearance of your fence.

 Even if you wish to have a darkly colored fence, engine oil still presents the issue of having a very strong odor.

 Engine oil can give off a very poor smelling odor that contains harmful lung pollutants, which in turn puts peoples’ health at risk.

 Therefore, in terms of residential, or more dense areas, engine oil has the potential to ruin not only the aesthetics of your fence but also the quality of life for those nearby it. 

Fire hazards

In addition to the outward appearances of the fence, areas with particularly dry climates will want to avoid using engine oil as it can become a serious fire hazard. 

With large amounts of dry wood coated in a highly flammable oil sitting out in the sun, the chance of starting or contributing to a fire will be much higher. 

This is especially true for farms or ranches that reside in more desert-like locations, which will already be at a much higher risk of fire damage from their environment alone. 

The added fire risk not only deters people from using oil on their fences but also the aftermath and resulting fire damage as well as all the costs that come with it. 

Environmental Risks

Contrastingly, in particularly rainy areas, the engine oil will be easily washed off the fence. This will lead to harmful pollutants seeping into the ground, causing any grass or plant life beneath it to die out. 

Often, those living in areas with more rainfall who use engine oil will have to frequently re-apply the oil in order to maintain their fences as it will constantly be eroded away by the rain.

 The combination of a rainy climate and engine oil-coated fences can prove to be both costly for the fence owner, and detrimental to the health of local natural environments. 

Personal risks

Not only is engine oil dangerous for its environmental risks, but it also can have negative effects on those who use it regularly.

 Like any other living thing, coming into direct contact with engine oil is ill-advised for humans. 

By coating fences in engine oil, people run the risk of touching the fence and absorbing toxic pollutants through their skin during both the application process, but also just in passing. 

Anytime you touch the fence, some of the engine oil will get on your hands or clothes. Side effects of exposure to engine oil, through inhalation or direct contact, include dizziness and nausea, and prolonged exposure can lead to serious, lasting health problems.

 Inhalation of fumes can be prevented by wearing a protective mask, however direct physical contact can result in damage through the skin, or stains on your clothes. 


Let’s say that someone has used engine oil on their fence before looking into all the negative side effects and that they now wish to no longer have a fence coated in engine oil. 

Unfortunately for them, there is no removal process. Any oil that has soaked into the fence is there permanently, and there is no way to get it out.

 Even if they were to re-coat their fence with another product, some of the risks such as fire hazards and environmental pollution would remain. This means that they will likely have to replace their fence entirely.

Having to do so will prove to be very expensive and will likely cancel out any of the cost-based benefits provided by using engine oil in the first place. 

Comparison to competing products

The main issue with using engine oil on fences is that it is still just oil. It will never be able to replace or outperform products made for a fence or barn care. 

While engine oil can sink into the wood and offer a temporary protective barrier, it will never dry out, and therefore will always run the risk of rubbing or washing off. In addition, the long-term costs of both re-application or fence replacement tend to outweigh any money saved earlier on. 


With the risk of polluting your environment or causing the spread of a fire, engine oil is not recommended for use in most climates, making it difficult to find a location where its application to your fence could be safe. 

On top of that, engine oil itself will not last nearly as long, nor will it have the same protective properties of other fence-care options. Instead of using engine oil, it is both safer and more effective to use products specifically designed for curing fences such a sealer or stain.