7 Surprising Uses for Petroleum Products

7 Surprising Uses for Petroleum Products

About 50 percent of the oil we use goes into making gasoline; in fact, about 70 percent is used for transportation in general. Surprisingly, though, oil and its byproducts also go into making a whole host of other products that you likely use daily.

Chewing Gum

Ever wonder where that soft, chewy quality comes from? Partially from oil. Most gum wrappers just mention a “gum base” when listing ingredients. That base includes waxes, petroleum, stearic acid, glycerin, lanolin, and other components.


Paraffin wax is often used to give tube lipsticks their shape and provide smooth application. Paraffin wax is a white or colorless soft solid derived from petroleum, coal, or shale. Lipsticks are not alone in their use of petroleum-based paraffin wax—a long list of products, including candles, candy coatings, and paint, all use paraffin wax.


Modern dentures use carbon-based dyes for their pigmentation. The dyes are often manufactured using coal, petroleum, and vegetable resources. These dyes are FDA-approved and can be similar to food colorings found in your kitchen.

Guitar Strings

Most modern guitar strings are made of nylon, which is made from petroleum. Fun fact: nylon was first produced on February 28, 1935, by Wallace Carothers at DuPont’s research facility. Carothers was searching for a silk replacement, which had grown scarce during wartime.

Perfume and Cologne

The petroleum locks moisture and scent onto the skin. Perfumes aren’t alone in using petroleum-based propylene glycol; it can be found in many other products, including antifreeze, shampoo, and paint.

Contact Lenses

The synthetic polymers that make soft contacts malleable and comfortable to wear are made with petroleum. These polymers also allow oxygen to permeate the lens, a critical function for the wear-ability of contact lenses.

Fishing Lures

Petroleum plays a part in almost every aspect of fishing: the lures, the poles, life vests, fishing boats, and ice chests all include petroleum-based products. Even a nylon hat with the lures attached to it is made from petroleum.

For more information on how the oil and gas industry affects the world, check out our Submar blog.