Should You Lubricate Drill Bits? (Tips for Drilling Metal)

Many assume it’s possible to grab a drill and some bits and get straight to work. However, the bits don’t last without the proper care and maintenance. So, what’s the best solution, and how do you make your drill bits last longer?

You should lubricate drill bits to get the most out of them. The drilling process creates friction between the drill bit and the material being drilled, which causes wear on the bit. With proper lubrication, you can extend the life of your drill bits and keep them sharp without risking breakage.

Should You Lubricate Drill Bits?

In the rest of this article, I will discuss how lubricating your drill bits will improve their performance, including how it will decrease heat production and improve drilling speed. I will also cover why choosing the correct lubricant for your drilling material is essential.

How Lubricating Your Drill Bits Affects Performance

When you think about a drill, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not the process of lubricating the drill bit.

However, if you stop and take a few minutes to lube it up, you could reap many benefits.

As I mentioned, drilling causes friction that can ultimately ruin your drill bit.

Friction occurs across every point of physical contact between two objects moving against each other, resulting in the erosion of one or both materials and heat production.

Let’s explore how lubricating your drill bits can combat the effects of friction and extend their lifespan.

Lubrication Decreases Friction Between Surfaces

There will almost always be some friction between your drill bit and the surface you are drilling.

Even with lubrication, the two materials will always generate heat and wear on each other.

However, the correct lubrication can significantly reduce the amount created.

According to Keng Woon, lubricants help release the heat from the friction at the drilling site.

Additionally, they reduce and sometimes remove the coefficient of friction, enabling the two objects to move more smoothly against each other.

According to a study by Srikant et al., self-lubricated drill bits showed an improvement over standard drill bits for having improved durability, and the lubricant’s slickness significantly improved the holes’ quality produced.

This study provides implications for drilling with continuous lubrication — adding some grease makes the process cleaner and more efficient, providing extended life to your drill bits.

Lubrication Makes Drilling Quick and Easy

Another effect of decreasing the friction is the boost in drilling speed.

When you do not use lubrication, you’ll observe that your drill bit does not progress quickly into the drilling material unless you press down on the drill.

By adding any lubrication, your drill bit will move more rapidly and possibly further through the drilling material because, according to this Project Farm video, any lubrication is better than none:

The Answer: Lubrication Is the Key To Drill Bit Preservation

Given that no lubrication will result in the fastest failure of the drill bit and the slowest movement through the drilling material, you can understand that lubricating your drill bits is key to their preservation.

The friction from drilling will dull your drill bits over time.

In addition, slow drilling with high friction often results in a broken drill bit.

So, by adding some lube, you can keep your bits sharper and prevent breakage.

Specific characteristics of your lubricant, such as viscosity, will determine how well it performs under pressure.

However, even the worst performing lubricant will make a positive difference, with bacon grease even shown to be an improvement over nothing.

How Choosing the Wrong Lubricant Can Affect Your Drilling

As I just covered, choosing a suitable lubricant will reduce friction, decrease its resulting heat production, and increase the drilling speed.

So, what happens when you select the wrong lubricant?

Inability To Remove Debris

During the drilling process, debris remains in the hole until you wash it out with the next round of drilling or sanding.

Some metals create an extra sticky residue that only certain liquids can remove.

If you use a lubricant with the wrong physical characteristics to remove this debris, your drill bit is at risk of damage or complete failure.

Almost Complete Inability To Drill at All

If you select a lubricant that decreases the coefficient of friction too much, the result could be almost no friction.

Under these conditions, the drill will not be able to grab into your material and, therefore, drill nearly nothing.

For the best results, match up the material with its indicated lubricant.

The Answer: Choose the Correct Lubricant for the Best Results

To ensure the best results when drilling any material, you must have the correct lubricant for your drill bits.

You’ll need to ensure a lubricant that can easily remove the debris from the hole and leave enough friction so that drilling is still possible.

Both of these factors must be satisfied for the lubricant to succeed.

In most cases, opting for a commercial-grade drilling lubricant will be your best bet.

Opt for a product for the specific material you are drilling into. For example, if you plan to drill into stainless steel, choose a drilling lubricant for metalworking and cutting.


When you lubricate your drill bits, choose a lubricant that will reduce the heat at the drilling site, flush out the debris from the drilling hole, and leave enough friction in effect to allow drilling to continue.

Using the correct lubricant will ensure the lifetime of your drill bits is extended as far as possible.

Cheers, tools owners!

Hi there! My name is Jack and I write for ToolsOwner. I have a passion for everything related to tools and DIY projects around the house. You often find me in my workshop working on new projects.