Hydrogenated castor oil is a substance that is commonly found in many household items. Made by by exposing the oil from castor beans to hydrogen gas, hydrogenated castor oil is thick and wax-like.
Hydrogenated castor oil is made by pressing beans from the castor plant and retrieving the oils that are produced. Once the oil has been harvested, it is exposed to hydrogen gas, which makes the liquid oil turn into a thick, wax-like substance that is more stable at room temperature. Hydrogenated castor oil also is known as castor wax.
The hydrogenation of castor oil is done by bubbling hydrogen gas through the liquid oil. This is the same process that is used in many oils and fats used in cooking and processed food products. The most popular consumable hydrogenated oil is soybean. By bubbling hydrogen through an oil, it becomes thick and opaque. While many oils become rancid while sitting at room temperature for even short periods of time, the hydrogenation process makes these oils last longer.
Vegetable shortenings such as the Crisco brand are the result of the hydrogenation of edible oils. Castor wax, or hydrogenated castor oil, has a similar consistency but is considerably thicker than vegetable shortening.
Hydrogenated castor oil is used in a variety of industrial and home products. Cosmetics and polishes are the most common sources of hydrogenated castor oil in the home.
In an industrial setting, hydrogenated castor oil is used in electrical equipment, carbon paper, lubricants and greases for machinery.
Since hydrogenated castor oil is not water-soluble, it protects items against moisture.
Hydrogenated castor oil has a melting point of 61 to 69 degrees centigrade, or 148 to 156 degrees Fahrenheit. Heating hydrogenated castor oil beyond these temperatures will result in the loss of its wax-like properties and it will become liquid again.
As the temperature cools, it will re-harden.
When used in cosmetics, hydrogenated castor oil is considered to be organic. Since the hydrogenation process uses natural hydrogen gas that is mixed with natural castor bean oils, it is commonly found in both organic and non-organic cosmetics.
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