What is Lanolin?

Lanolin, also known as wool fat, wool grease or wool wax, is a yellowish semi-solid fat that is derived from the sebaceous glands of the sheep and deposited directly onto the wool fibers. It is practically insoluble in water, but is able to mix with about twice its weight of water, without separation. Lanolin is freely soluble in benzene, chloroform, ether, carbon disulphide, acetone and petroleum ether. Lanolin has a slight characteristic odour. 

What is Lanolin used for?

Lanolin is used in many topical personal care products and cosmetics such as, soaps, face creams and lip balms to name a few. Other products that use lanolin as an ingredient include; shoe polish, rustproof coatings, commercial lubricants and leather finishing products.

Lanolin can make up as much as 25% of the weight of wool. 
Sheep standing close by

Lanolin Hazards

The routes of exposure for lanolin include inhalation, ingestion and skin and eye contact. 

Inhalation of lanolin is not thought to produce adverse health effects, however good hygiene practices to keep exposure to a minimum are still recommended. 

Ingestion of lanolin is not classified as “harmful by ingestion”, however the material may still be damaging to the health following ingestion, particularly in cases where individuals suffer from pre-existing organ damage (e.g. liver, kidney). Symptoms that can appear following ingestion include; nausea and vomiting. Ingestion of insignificant quantities is not thought to be cause for concern. 

Skin contact with lanolin is not thought to produce adverse health effects or skin irritation, however good hygiene practices to keep exposure to a minimum are still recommended.

Direct eye exposure to the chemical may produce transient discomfort characterised by tearing or redness. 

Lanolin Safety

If inhaled, remove the patient from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source. Other measures are usually unnecessary.  

If swallowed, immediately give the patient a glass of water. First aid is generally not required, but if in doubt, seek medical attention.

If skin exposure occurs, immediately remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories and cleanse the affected area with plenty of soap and water. Seek medical attention if irritation persists. 

If lanolin comes into contact with the eyes, flush the eyes out immediately with water. Removal of contact lenses should only be done by a skilled individual. Seek medical attention if irritation persists.

Lanolin Safety Handling

Emergency eyewash fountains should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to the chemical. There must always be adequate ventilation to ensure the removal of any airborne particles (install local exhaust if necessary).

The PPE recommended when handling lanolin includes, safety glasses with side shields, chemical goggles, dust respirators, general protective gloves and lab coats. Barrier cream is also recommended in the event of skin exposure. 

Like most chemicals, lanolin does have potentially harmful effects when handled improperly and it is important you refer to the SDS prior to any handling of the chemical. Click here for a trial of our SDS Management Software or contact us at for more information about our chemicals management solutions.