Although I am considerably less than excited when the stuff comes into the house on hands, clothes and feet, I must say that lubricating substances are one of the most beneficial of life extenders for equipment and other tools. With the correct timing and the proper amount and kind of goo, a good mechanic can keep things going for years past the usual point of demise. Nor does this apply solely to things mechanical – in my experience, beef tallow is the best choice for both the initial seasoning and ongoing use of cast iron skillets. I even scrub mine with soap and water; a well-seasoned skillet remains pretty much non-stick if regularly slicked-up with a little beef tallow. It also makes a pretty good skin preservative (the tallow, not the skillet).
The key to grease and oil is the frequent application of both to any areas where friction occurs. This includes such items as shovel blades, door hinges and sewing machine joints. Lubricants prevent metal from rubbing on metal or other substances such as dirt and protect it from rust. If you’ve ever used a metal file on something like a shovel or hoe to sharpen the edge of the blade, you know that the process creates tiny shavings. Easily wiped off a newly sharpened shovel, these shavings can cause major havoc in a closed joint. An unprotected metal surface exposed to water will usually rust eventually — not only does the metal literally crumble away, the little flakes of rust create increased friction.
So… new equipment comes with an owner’s manual that tells you all about maintenance — how often, what to do, where to do it, etcetera. Wise words that should be followed by the owner who wants to save her hard-earned cash for important things other than replacing equipment that has worn out from lack of care. Used equipment may or may not come with an owner’s manual, however. If you’re lucky, the previous owner can give you chapter and verse or you may be able to contact the manufacturer or find one online. If not, you’ll have to figure it out for yourself. First rule of thumb: if it’s a moving piece, figure out how to lubricate it. Second rule of thumb: paint, treat or otherwise protect bare metal from the elements. Third rule of thumb: do it frequently. In some cases this means every time you use it, such as swather, baler or mowing machine. In others, it means setting up a routine schedule of maintenance, preferably with some sort of reminder system so you don’t get distracted and forget.
For the ranch wife, who is usually the person dealing with the results of all these greasy, oily applications… first, my sympathy. There is probably no greater frustration than to find a glob of lubricating grease tracked into the carpet because the mechanic was working in the path of children’s feet. Personally, I think the only way to deal with the situation is to eliminate carpets in the ranch house. If you have to have carpets, something dirt-colored and in tweed is the best choice, as the various globs of stuff will blend right in.
However, you can try a small amount of a citrus-based cleaner (the stuff mechanics use to clean their hands works well in many instances). Rub it in well, then put a wet, warm, clean cloth over the area and pound it with your fist. This will often lift the goop into the rag. Keep moving the cloth so you are pounding on a clean area every couple of strikes. Rinse with warm water and a little detergent, lift by pounding with a new cloth, then repeat with a plain warm water rinse. If that doesn’t work, either move a piece of furniture over it — difficult to do if it’s in the middle of the floor as so often occurs — or learn to live with it. I decided a long time ago that I could learn to live with stains or go crazy, and I preferred to hang on to the remnants of my sanity.