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Today most hydraulic fluids are based on mineral oil base stocks.

Natural oils such as rapeseed (also called canola oil) are used as base stocks for fluids where biodegradability and renewable sources are considered important.

Na K-77, an eutectic alloy of sodium-potassium, can be used as a hydraulic fluid in high-temperature and high-radiation environments, for temperature ranges of 10 to 1400 °F (-12 to 760 °C).

Water-gycol and polyol-ester are some of these specialized fluids that contain excellent thermal and hydrolitic properties, which aid in fire resistance.

As aircraft performance increased in mid-20th century, the amount of force required to operate mechanical flight controls became excessive, and hydraulic systems were introduced to reduce pilot effort.

The table below lists the major functions of a hydraulic fluid and the properties of a fluid that affect its ability to perform that function: The original hydraulics fluid, dating back to the time of ancient Egypt, was water.

Beginning in the 1920s, mineral oil began to be used more than water as a base stock due to its inherent lubrication properties and ability to be used at temperatures above the boiling point of water.

Glycol-ether based fluids are hygroscopic, and absorbed moisture will greatly reduce the boiling point over time.

Mineral oil and silicone based fluids are not hygroscopic.Brake fluid is a subtype of hydraulic fluid with high boiling point, both when new (specified by the equilibrium boiling point) and after absorption of water vapor (specified by wet boiling point).Under the heat of braking, both free water and water vapor in a braking system can boil into a compressible vapor, resulting in brake failure.Power steering fluid is a sub type of hydraulic fluid.Most are mineral oil or silicone based fluids, while some use automatic transmission fluid, made from synthetic base oil.Other base stocks are used for specialty applications, such as for fire resistance and extreme temperature applications.

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