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mineral spirits vs paint thinner

Difference Between Mineral Spirits, Paint Thinner and Lacquer Thinner

Mineral spirits, paint thinners, and lacquer thinners are all solvents used in finishing and refinishing furniture. They are designed to momentarily change paint’s chemical structures and then evaporate when the paint dries. They can also be used in dissolving resins, cleaning up, and making mediums. Although mineral spirits, paint thinners and lacquer thinners are all considered solvents, they each have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits, also known as Stoddard solvent, petroleum spirit, or white spirit, are a petroleum-based single solvent that are sometimes used as a substitute for turpentine in thinning paint and cleaning surfaces and paintbrushes. It is also used for thinning both interior and exterior oil-based varnishes, oil-based paint and can be used in wiping wood stains.



There are many different kinds of mineral spirits so they are divided into types and classes. One type, called Type II, is odorless and fairly common as paint thinner. Various chemicals are used in its production so it is not entirely safe. However, although it is still hazardous, mineral spirits are considered one of the safer solvents for finishing and refinishing furniture.

Its advantages include:

–          Safer than other solvents

–          Evaporation rate is moderate

–          More affordable than turpentine

–          More effective and economical than paint thinner

–          Odor is not so strong

–          Single solvent (characteristics are the same in every brand)

–          Purer than paint thinner

–          Does not dissolve coats

–          Good cleaning agent

–          Convenient

However, it also has the following disadvantages:

–          Flammable

–          Mild irritant

–          Prolonged exposure may cause brain ailments

–          Harmful vapors are released

Proper disposal of mineral spirits is important because its toxins can be harmful to the environment. The chemicals can also be highly flammable if left in the sun too long. When working with mineral spirits make sure to work in a well-ventilated area to avoid prolonged exposure. It is also best to work with gloves and a mask so no chemicals enter your skin or lungs.

paint thinner vs mineral spiritsPaint Thinner

Paint thinner is a very generic term. It can refer to anything used to thin paint. In fact, it is often confused to be the same as lacquer thinner or mineral spirits. As stated above, paint thinners are actually a form of Type II mineral spirits. They are both petroleum-based single solvents that have moderate evaporation rates. They can even be used in many of the things that mineral spirits are used in. Although this may be the case, they are still very much different from each other. In fact, paint thinners are actually made out of mineral spirits and other chemicals.

Paint thinners can be used to remove oil-based paints and clean various things but unlike mineral spirits, they can’t be mixed with painting mediums. It’s best to use them on paints and varnishes that dry quickly. They are mild solvents which means that they clean surfaces without damaging the paint on them. Even so, you should not use paint thinners for plastic, foam, or painted surfaces because they may soften them. The use of paint thinners is best on wood, metal, and concrete.

In short, here are the advantages of using paint thinners over mineral spirits and lacquer thinners:

–          Some harmful aromatic solvents have been removed

–          Moderate evaporation rate

–          Stronger than mineral spirits

–          Very mild

–          Safe to use for wood, metal, and concrete

–          Single solvent (characteristics are the same in every brand)

–          Good cleaning agent

–          Convenient

Of course, it also has its own disadvantages:

–          More costly than mineral spirits

–          Not for use on rubber and plastic

Paint thinners and mineral spirits can be used in practically the same things but paint thinners are a tad more specific on the things that they can be used on. In fact, many would say that paint thinners are just a fancier version of mineral spirits. Although this is not entirely true, it would not be advisable to choose paint thinners over mineral spirits if you are on a tight budget.

Lacquer Thinner vs mineral spirits vs paint thinnerLacquer Thinner

Like the other two mentioned above, lacquer thinners are petroleum-based solvents that are used to dissolve, dilute, and clean surfaces and paintbrushes. In fact, they are very similar to paint thinners in many ways. However, they only work for lacquer products. Lacquer thinner is a generic name made up of many different solvents. This means that the formula for one brand of lacquer thinner may not be the same as the other. Some lacquer thinners are sold specifically for clean up while others can be solely for thinning. Using one kind of thinner for a different purpose may cause the surface of your furniture to worsen. It is therefore important to check that the product you are buying is made specifically for the purpose that you are going to use it with.

Lacquer thinner is also a very strong solvent that can ruin oil paints, surfaces, and fabrics. It is therefore important to test in hidden areas before applying it to your whole project. The use of lacquer thinners also comes hand in hand with the use of turpentine, which is another solvent.

Its advantages include:

–          Stronger than any other solvent

–          Easily accessible

–          Most versatile thinner

–          Allows for lacquer finishes to resist sagging and running in vertical surfaces

Its disadvantages include:

–          More flammable than paint thinner

–          Too strong for most fabrics and surfaces

–          Most complex thinner

–          Characteristics vary from brand to brand

–          Evaporation rate depends on the weather and the formula of the thinner



Lacquer thinner is generic, which means that not all of them will give the same results. This means that you should choose the brand carefully before buying one. Asking for referrals from your friends and family or from employees at the store can help you arrive at a safe and effective brand. Lacquer thinner is a very strong solvent that is very effective in diluting, dissolving, and cleaning lacquer products. However, it does only that. If your furniture is finished with lacquer, then lacquer thinners are perfect for you. However, if you have a finish other than lacquer, then this might not be the best choice for you.

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