Mysticete whales filter small prey from seawater using baleen, a unique keratinous oral tissue that grows from the palate, from which it hangs in hundreds of serial plates. Laboratory experiments testing effects of oils on material strength and flexibility, particle capture and tissue architecture of baleen from four mysticete species (bowhead, Balaena mysticetus; North Atlantic right, Eubalaena glacialis; fin, Balaenoptera physalus; humpback, Megaptera novaeangliae) indicate that baleen is hydrophilic and oleophobic, shedding rather than adsorbing oil. Oils of different weights and viscosities were tested, including six petroleum-based oils and two fish or plankton oils of common whale prey. No notable differences were found by oil type or whale species. Baleen did not adsorb oil; oil was readily rinsed from baleen by flowing water, especially from moving fringes. Microscopic examination shows minimal wrinkling or peeling of baleen's cortical keratin layers, probably due to oil repelling infiltrated water. Combined results cast doubt on fears of baleen fouling by oil; filter porosity is not appreciably affected, but oil ingestion risks remain. Particle capture studies suggest potentially greater danger to mysticetes from plastic pollution than oil.