How clean should your oil be

How Clean Should Your Oil Be?

The following are general guidelines for cleanliness in hydraulic and circulating oil systems utilizing ISO cleanliness codes.  Your requirements and cleanliness needs may vary and you should consult the manufacturer if you have questions.

13/9-Super Critical

Servo control systems that are sensitive to silt, usually aerospace systems operating at 5,000+PSI.


High Pressure systems with low tolerance such as aviation systems, machine tools and hydrostatic-type systems with PSI of 4,500.

16/13-Very Clean

High Quality bearing and gear systems in general operation.


General machine and mobile equipment systems under medium pressure.


Low pressure, low temperature systems like heavy industrial applications with large tolerances and clearances.

More information on ISO cleanliness codes can be obtained by reading ISO-4406-2000 available from the International Standards Organization.  The codes have recently been revised to include a three-number particle size designation.  Our guide refers to the second and third numbers in that three-number designation.

These numbers reference a scale which indicates the amount of paritlces size range that can be counted in one milliliter of a fluid.  The higher the number, the more contaminant particles that are present.

For reference purposes, Amsoil hydraulic oils are generally packaged at a very clean 14/12 rating, which is far exceeds the packaged cleanliness of most lubricants on the market today.  Prefiltering hydraulic oils before introducing them into your system is always a sensible lubrication practice.

Think Clean For Longer Life

Just implementing small measures to improve oil cleanliness can have a dramatic impact on equipment life.  For example, according to the Society or Automotive Engineers (SAE), a 70 percent reduction in engine wear was obtained by filtering engine oil at 15 microns instead of 40 microns.  In an industrial application, reducing particles larger than 10 microns from 1,000 per liter to 100 per liter can effectively increase the operating life of a machine to over five times the normal operating life span.

Water is another critical contaminant.  It is a primary lubricant degrader.  Its destructive force is augmented when it is combined with iron or copper in systems.  Water causes breakdowns due to oxidation and precipitation of oil additives.  In addition, an oil’s viscosity can be changed which can cause increased wear and protective failure.  This can also lead to corrosion and fatigue.  Even very small amounts of water can have a serious impact on an operating system.

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