Wool grease: Composition and specification

Lanolin generally refers to the refined form of wool grease. Interestingly, wool grease, the term commonly used, is somewhat misleading. Chemically, the greasy raw material is a wax rather than a fat due to the absence of glycerol content found in body fat.

Wool grease is a complex mixture of esters, di-esters, and hydroxy esters resulting from the condensation of high molecular weight lanolin alcohols with lanolin fatty acids. Upon saponification of lanolin, the following components can be identified:

  • Aliphatic and branched alcohols (C12-36, approximately 7% di-hydroxy alcohols)
  • Alcohols with steroidal structure (such as cholesterol, lanosterol, agnosterol, and their hydrated derivatives)
  • Approximately 160 fatty acids (C7-41, around 32% bi-functional hydroxy acids)

Around 1% to 8% of the fatty acids and 6% to 12% of the alcohols exist in their free, unbound form. Additionally, up to 5% of the weight comprises emulsified water. It can also contain traces of the following:

  • Water and lipid-soluble salts
  • Residues of detergents and pesticides
  • Polyaromatic hydrocarbons
  • Particulate insoluble matters

Features and applications: From personal care to industrial use

Wool grease undergoes refinement to yield lanolin and various lanolin derivatives, including lanolin alcohol, lanolin oil, lanolin acid, and ethoxylated lanolin. These substances possess exceptional emulsifying and emollient properties, making them highly valued as moisturising ingredients in cosmetic and medical formulations, particularly for skin and hair care products. Moreover, wool grease finds diverse applications in different industries, encompassing:

  • Anti-corrosive coatings
  • Lubricant additives
  • Surgical and industrial adhesive tapes
  • Metal cutting oils
  • Leather treatment products

Furthermore, this environmentally friendly and fully biodegradable substance can serve as a substitute for mineral oil, extending its utility even further.

Wool Grease Neutral

The chemical composition of wool grease, along with the presence of residual impurities, can vary significantly based on the quality, origin, and isolation procedure of the sheep’s wool. At ImperialOel, we understand these variations and offer a diverse range of product qualities that can be customised for your specific requirements. This allows us to provide you with customised options, ensuring it meets your exact needs.

Chemical characteristics Wool Grease Neutral

Colour Brownish to brownish-greenish
Acid value (mg KOH/g) <= 8.0
Saponification value (mg KOH/g) 80 – 120
Drop point (°C) 35 – 45
Peroxide value (meq/kg)  
Water absorption (%)  
Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) (ppm)  
Individual organochlorine pesticides (ppm)  
Individual other pesticides (ppm)  
Total pesticides content (ppm)  
Marco Heins

Marco Heins
Product Manager 

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