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Paint Thinner vs Mineral Spirits: A Complete Comparison Guide

If you’ve ever wondered if there’s a difference between paint thinner and mineral spirits, you know more than you think.

Most people use these products interchangeably because they serve similar purposes. However, these solvents have unique properties that set them apart.

This article will compare paint thinner vs mineral spirits and establish their differences. We’ll also help you choose paint thinner or mineral spirits depending on your project’s needs.

Let’s get started.

What is the Difference Between Mineral Spirits and Paint Thinner

The primary difference between mineral spirits paint thinner and other paint thinners are their chemical composition. Mineral spirits are heavily refined petroleum distillate. Paint thinner, on the other hand, is an umbrella term for all the less refined, highly toxic solvents also used for thinning and cleaning oil-based paints and stains.

What is Mineral Spirits?

Mineral spirits are colorless, organic solvents obtained through a petroleum distillation process. This clear liquid is a highly refined and potent product containing 100% mineral spirits.

This solvent may also be referred to as white spirits, mineral turpentine, or Stoddard solvent.

What is mineral spirits used for?

Mineral spirits are primarily used to thin overly viscous paint, stains, and other oil-based varnishes. This solvent dissolves paint from paint sprayers, clean brushes, and rollers after use.

Mineral spirits also come in handy when removing natural or synthetic adhesive residue from garden tools, wood, or other surfaces.

This potent product is also great for degreasing auto parts and removing stubborn dirt and grime from surfaces.

You can also use white spirits to clean and revitalize the look of your varnished furniture because it doesn’t damage cured finishes.

Mineral spirits Pros 

  • It has fewer odors.
  • You can opt for odor-free mineral spirits if you please.
  • It is highly effective at thinning paint and cleaning up paint splatters.
  • Paint thinned with mineral spirits dries to a smooth finish.
  • It’s a high-quality solvent.

Cons

  • It’s flammable.
  • It’s slightly more costly.
  • It can cause adverse health complications from prolonged exposure or ingestion.

Best mineral spirits recommendation

Try this Sunnyside Low Odor mineral spirit. This product is 100% pure mineral spirits, has less annoying fumes and is safer indoors.

Most users on amazon agree that it’s a great value for money, a potent thinning agent for oil-based paints. It’s also an effective degreaser.

This product’s high solvency will dissolve paint from your paint application equipment, leaving them clean for future paint projects.

What is Paint Thinner?

Paint thinner is an unrefined solvent obtained through the distillation process of petroleum products. This product can also be a mixture of less refined mineral spirits and other additives.

Uses at a glance

As the name suggests, paint thinners are used to thin oil-based paints, stains, varnishes, and other oil-based finishes. You can also use these solvents for cleaning oil-based paint drips or splatters.

Use the appropriate solvent to remove paint from your painting equipment. You can also use a paint thinner as a degreaser.

Paint thinner Pros

  • They are cheaper than mineral spirits.
  • They evaporate fast.
  • Some paint thinners work on water-based and latex paints.
  • Thinners like Turpentine will dissolve and remove dried paint.

Cons

  • They emit toxic fumes.
  • Highly flammable.
  • They pose serious health risks.

Best paint thinner recommendation

We recommend you try Sunnyside Paint Thinner if you’re shopping for the best paint thinner for your project. This solvent is a great thinner for oil-based varnishes, stains, and paints.

This product is also an effective cleaner for paint brushes, rollers, and sprayers after use. It’s also great for oily degreasing machinery, removing tar, and even spot-cleaning oil-stained fabric.

Paint Thinner vs Mineral Spirits Head-to-Head Comparison

Keep reading.

Composition

Mineral spirits are purely made of petroleum distillates. This is a heavily refined, transparent liquid that doesn’t contain any additives or VOCs. This distilled product has a mild odor and high solvency properties.

Paint thinners refer to less refined petroleum distillates. Paint thinners contain other volatile organic compounds like sulfur, xylene, and toxic aromas. Paint thinners can refer to products like less refined mineral spirits, turpentine, acetone, and toluene.

Odor

Mineral spirits with low VOCs emit an unpleasant kerosene-like odor, which dissipates fast. Some mineral spirits are odor free and are the best option for people with high sensitivity to strong fumes.

On the other hand, paint thinners contain a high amount of volatile organic compounds and are therefore characterized by a toxic, pungent odor.

Mineral spirits are the better product in this category.

Toxicity/VOCs

Paint thinners, as a product of petroleum distillates, contain high VOCs and tend to retain most of their compounds, like toluene and benzene, making them highly toxic.

On the other hand, mineral spirits undergo a heavily refined distillation process that eliminates VOCs and other toxic compounds. The resulting product is 100% pure and safer for use around kids and pets.

Verdict: Mineral spirits are less toxic than most paint thinners.

Effectiveness

Since mineral spirits are a pure and concentrated solvent, a little goes a long way when thinning oil-based paint or stains. Cleaning oily equipment and surfaces is also easier and faster with mineral spirits.

Paint thinners can also do the job alright, only that you’ll need to use slightly more product to thin paint. In addition, cleaning up with paint thinner is a slow process and requires more solvent to achieve the desired results.

Verdict, mineral spirit is more effective.

Evaporation Rate

Paint thinners have a high evaporation rate occasioned by their low boiling point of 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, paints thinned with this product will dry faster because of the faster evaporating paint thinner.

However, mineral spirits have a high boiling point of 401 degrees Fahrenheit and a slower evaporation rate. As a result, paints thinned with mineral spirits dries slower but will result in a silky-smooth finish.

Paint thinner wins the round for having a faster evaporation rate.

Safety

The safety of a product doesn’t only refer to how it affects people and pets but also the environment and the ecosystem.

Even though we’ve spoken about using odorless mineral spirits, it’s still a chemical product that requires extra care during usage, storage, and disposal.

Paint thinners are toxic to human beings, animals, and the environment. Therefore, avoid pouring it into the soil or dumping leftovers into water bodies to prevent contamination.

Both solvents are harmful pollutants to the environment and can result in life-threatening effects.

Verdict: it’s a tie.

Flammability

White spirits evaporate slowly and pose a low fire hazard. On the other hand, paint thinners evaporate fast and are highly combustible. In any case, both products shouldn’t be used next to open fires to prevent fire accidents.

Cotton rags used with either solvent should be aired dry before disposal or soaked in water inside a metal container with a lid.

Otherwise, if left to pile up while damp with the solvent, they may spontaneously combust and lead to unnecessary fire emergencies.

Verdict, it’s a close tie.

Price/Cost

Expect mineral spirits to cost you slightly more than pant paint thinners. This is because of the expenses involved in the detailed distillation process to obtain pure mineral spirits. A gallon of mineral spirits can cost anywhere between $10 and $15.

Paint thinners are cheaper because their production process involves using cheaper ingredients. A gallon goes for about $8.

If you’re looking for a cheaper product, paint thinner is the obvious choice.

Similarities Between Mineral Spirits and Paint Thinner

Take a look at the shared properties between these solvents.

  • Both mineral spirits and paint thinners are used for thinning oil-based paints.
  • They are excellent for cleaning paint brushes, rollers, paint sprayers, and other oily equipment.
  • Both solvents are great for degreasing surfaces, removing adhesive residue and waxy films.
  • Both solvents are flammable.
  • Both products can cause adverse health complications if mishandled.

Substitute for mineral spirits

Reach for a relevant product among these to get the job done in the absence of mineral spirits.

  • Turpentine
  • Acetone
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Charcoal lighter fluid
  • Water and soap

Substitutes for paint thinner

These are the alternative paint thinners.

  • Mineral spirits
  • Acetone

Side Effects of Using Mineral Spirit and Paint Thinners

Mineral spirits and paint thinners are great at serving their purpose. However, a slight user error with these solvents can result in life-threatening side effects. Therefore, use them with caution.

  • Inhaling either solvent for prolonged amounts of time can trigger headaches, difficulty breathing, and even nausea.
  • If you use paint thinner in a poorly ventilated room, the fumes will negatively affect respiratory health and cause dizziness or even fainting.
  • Both solvents are harsh chemicals, and if they settle on your skin, they can cause skin irritation and result in itchiness, rashes, or even burns.
  • In an unlikely chance that you ingest either of the solvents, you’ll experience severe throat pains and extensive damage to your digestive tract.
  • Should the solvents land on your eyes, they may lead to blindness.

Safety Tips when using Paint Thinner or Mineral Spirits

Adhere to these safety practices to ensure you don’t experience chemical poisoning while using mineral spirits or paint thinner.

  • Always open windows and run fans to promote air circulation if you work in a confined space. Otherwise, it’s always best to use them in a well-ventilated area.
  •  Avoid using or storing these solvents close to any open flame or heat source. It also helps to have a fire extinguisher close by, just in case.
  • Always wear protective gear (gloves, respirator, and goggles) before handling such potent solvents. This will help you avoid inhaling the toxic fumes and prevent the product splashes from landing on your eyes or skin.
  • Store mineral spirits and paint thinners in airtight containers away from a child’s reach.
  • If these products land on your skin or eyes, wash them off immediately with plenty of water and seek medical attention ASAP! The same goes for the case of ingestion.
  • Always use a little product at a time and gradually add more instead of free-pouring the thinner at once.

FAQs

Can I use paint thinner instead of mineral spirits?

Yes, you can use paint thinner instead of mineral spirits. They’re both solvents that help dissolve paint and other finishes. However, paint thinner is a bit more volatile than mineral spirits, so it can give off more fumes. If you’re working in a confined space, mineral spirits might be a better choice for you.

Is paint thinner the same as mineral spirits

No, paint thinner is not the same as mineral spirits. Instead, mineral spirits are a particular type of paint thinner made of petroleum. In fact, there are other types of paint thinner, like denatured alcohol, acetone, and turpentine, used to dilute paints and coatings so that they can be applied more easily.

What does mineral spirits do?

Mineral spirits dilute oil based paints and varnish for easy application. It makes the paint thinner and, therefore, easier to apply. It’s also a good general-purpose cleaner; it’ll take care of most paint spills, as well as greasy fingerprints and dirt.

Does mineral spirits remove paint?

Yes, mineral spirits remove paint. While it is a good paint thinner and solvent, it is also an all-round versatile cleaner. Therefore, it can be used to clean up both oil and water based paints. Of course, there are other effective paint removers in the market.

What is the same as mineral spirits?

Mineral turpentine is the same as mineral spirits, both obtained from the distillation of crude oil. They are both used as paint thinners and as solvents for cleaning paint brushes, among other things. They have similar properties, but mineral spirits are a bit more refined than mineral turpentine.

Can you use mineral spirits to thin paint?

Yes, you can use mineral spirits to thin paint. However, do so only if the paint is oil-based. If the paint is water-based, using mineral spirits will ruin it.  It is also important to use mineral spirits sparingly. Otherwise, overusing mineral spirits will result in a weakened final product.

Lacquer thinner vs mineral spirits

The difference between lacquer and mineral spirits is the aggression level. Mineral spirits are less aggressive, while lacquer thinner is more aggressive. Lacquer thinner will work faster and remove more paint, and may even damage the surface if used wrongly.  Mineral spirits take longer to remove the paint and may not be as effective.

What color is mineral spirits?

The color of mineral spirits is clear. They are made of fully distilled petroleum and, as such, do not contain any pigments or dyes. This makes them an ideal solvent for a wide variety of tasks where you need something that will not discolor or stain the surface you’re working on.

Is mineral spirits a solvent?

Yes, mineral spirit is a solvent. This property lets it dissolve paint, and it also means it can be used to clean, oil spills, brushes, and other tools after painting. This is why mineral spirits are used as a paint thinner for easy application and as a cleaning agent.

Will mineral spirits remove latex paint

No, mineral spirits cannot be used to remove latex paints.  Latex paint is a water-based paint and, as such, will not dissolve in mineral spirits. It will separate the pigment from the solvents if you thin the application and damage your paint or fail to dissolve during a cleaning application.

Paint Thinner vs Mineral Spirits Verdict

What are the key points from this mineral spirits vs. paint thinner discussion?That both solvents are great for thinning overly viscous paint and cleaning up painting tools and greasy surfaces.

However, paint thinners tend to have more VOCs, pungent odors, and other harmful pollutants, which demand caution while using them. While mineral spirits have less to no VOCs, are safer to use and highly effective; a little goes a long way.

Use mineral spirits when:

  • You want an odorless and less toxic solvent.
  • You want to thin oil-based paint, stain, or varnish.
  • Cleaning up wet paint spills.
  • Degreasing oily surfaces and auto parts.
  • Removing sticky sap and sticker residue from surfaces.
  • Refreshing the look of clear-finished wooden surfaces.
  • When you want a premium-quality solvent.

Use paint thinner when:

  • You want a fast-drying solvent.
  • Want a more affordable solvent.
  • Thinning oil paint, stain, or varnish.
  • Cleaning brushes and other painting tools.
  • Degreasing an oily surface.
  • Dissolving a dried paint or finish from a surface.