Dear Home-Ec 101,
Why does Tim say “Do not attempt to lubricate either the socket or the bulb with any household products like WD-40, petroleum jelly, or mineral oil?” in the post How to Remove a Broken Light Bulb?
I have done that before with no problems.
I like my sockets slick
There are several reasons to not use most household products to lubricate the light bulb socket or the threads of a light bulb.
1. If the lubricant chosen is a conductor and gets on the contact you could cause a short.
2. Petroleum jelly is dielectric and acts as an insulator. If you get any of the petroleum jelly on the contact it can cause the bulb not to function.
3. Lubricants can trap dirt in the threads causing another stuck light bulb.
4. Some lubricants will dry over time and either corrode or create a “glue” making the bulb difficult to remove. The heat from the socket can also increase the viscosity of the lube to the point of tackiness and I’m not talking about mixing plaids and stripes.
There are specific lubricants available, but these are not run of the mill household products. The lubricants for electrical applications are generally for instances such as outdoor signage where light bulbs would be exposed to the elements and vibration, situations that make corrosion and sticking more likely.
Simply wiping the light bulb and socket before insertion, in general, is enough to prevent a light bulb from sticking in the socket.
Since most standard lightbulb bases are aluminum, and being such are covered in aluminum oxide which is stable and unlikely to corrode.* That being said, it’s still possible to have a bit of corrosion in present in a socket, usually in outdoor situations, leading to problems inserting or remov
Let me emphasize this point: Do NOT clean a light socket without first turning off the power.
*Now if you want to get picky and technical and I know some of you do. Yes, aluminum oxide IS corrosion, however it forms almost instantly and creates a non-reactive, protective barrier insulating the rest of the aluminum from further contact with oxygen which would cause more corrosion. Carry on.
For the TL/DR crowd: There are very few reasons to lubricate your light sockets and plenty of reasons not to.
Now all of you should be quite proud of me, I made it through four hundred words without any off-color jokes about sockets and lube.
Submit your questions to email@example.com.