Mineral spirits are petroleum-based solvents specifically manufactured as a substitute for turpentine that is used as stripping tools for various applications, including its most commonly known use: paint thinning and removing.

Mineral spirits are a highly refined solvent that is a preferred method to use over its counterpart: paint thinners, because it is a purer solvent that makes it less odorous and inadvertently volatile. Another reason that mineral spirits are preferred is that the solvent has actually been proven to function equally as well to its counterpart, but with a smaller application volume helping it to increase the volume of applications it can be used on.

An important application of mineral spirits to note is that these solvents are heavily used in the maintenance of tooling and machinery in industrial complexes and shops in all levels of the market. This solvent is excellent at thinning oil-based substances including grime from grease and lubricants, aside from just their standard viewed paint thinning uses.

What Exactly Are Mineral Spirits

Other than a liquid chemical, mineral spirits are highly refined iron paint thinners. Sometimes also referred to as a white spirit or Stoddard solvent, this petroleum distillate cleaning solvent is used to thin oil-based paints, varnishes and clean other instruments such as paint brushes and tool machinery.

Paint thinner is a mineral spirit; however, it is just in a less refined form as it’s mixed with other solvents making it grosser smelling by producing a very distinct and strong odor. Mineral spirits are more effective and needed in much smaller quantities than paint lacquer.

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A key advantage that paint thinner has over mineral spirits, however, is that paint thinner is cheaper to purchase in quantity. Even though mineral spirits can function equally as well as paint thinners with less application volumes, with the vast gap in the price difference between the two, paint thinners more often than not come out on top as the most economically efficient option. Although, I’ve still seen many artists choose mineral spirits over the first because of the substance’s purified form and capabilities to act effectively and efficiently as both a cleaning and thinning solvent.

As mentioned above, mineral spirits do compare to standard, lower quality paint thinner that is the cheaper option in price. However, this does not mean that one is necessarily better than the other as they both have different properties, making them each handy in a myriad of situations. Ultimately, the choice comes down to preference, because they both do virtually the same thing.

The best solution towards determining just which one is right for your next project is dependent on the project itself, just keep in mind that mineral spirits is the higher quality product between the two. You need less of it because of how strong and refined the product is, thus a bottle of this beauty will last you for a lifetime (or something like that).

Most mineral spirits can be easily found and accessed at most grocery stores, art supply stores and Home Depots.

What We Use Mineral Spirits For

Mineral spirits are used in a variety of tasks as they have a multitude of handy purposes.

  • Cleansing and Polishing Agent: This is a very powerful degreasing agent used heavily in automobile and machinery part cleaning. The spirit helps to eat away oil and chemical grease and also helps to wash away grime and dirt on metallic objects. This solvent can help to erase paint mistakes, clean paintbrushes and leave furniture looking polished and new.
  • Substitute for Turpentine: Mineral spirits help to add more medium to your paints, as small quantities help you to reach the perfect paint consistency for painting. This is used in helping out to thin out or create more thickness to the paints texture, however, because turpentine has such a noxious smell many artists prefer to work with mineral spirits instead. This substance is less toxic and flammable, and individuals will be less bothered with a chemical smell.

However, no matter which of their purposes the use of mineral spirits must be performed in a highly ventilated area. Even though they are less potent smelling than paint thinning lacquer, they still can cause serious and harmful side effects. In order to ensure proper air circulation, all windows and doors should be opened in the room, with fans on full blast.

If at any point while working with this stuff you start to feel a headache coming on or feel light-headed, immediately leave the area you are in. Seek fresh air and take a break, the room you were in wasn’t ventilated enough. Remember to never smoke around this flammable stuff and handle it with care, making sure to store it away from children and in a high up area.

How To Properly Use A Mineral Spirit

The first step is to make sure that the surface of whatever item you are using it on is wiped down and cleaned with all of the dirt removed. After the space has been wiped down, one must ensure that they are wearing the proper safety equipment such as gloves, protective glasses and a respirator (face mask) for fume protection.

applying mineral spirit

Next, it is time to pour a little bit of the mineral spirit out onto the rag, remembering that a little of this stuff will go a long way. Now rub the cloth gently across the items surface, making smooth strokes to ensure that the item is swiped over and covered completely from one side to the other.

But whatever you do, do not scrub.

The cloth should pick up dirt as you’re moving it along, continuously turn its dirty side onto the side because sometimes solvents are known to cause additional varnish and peeling, so this is a good way to help prevent that from happening.

When all is said and done and you have finished cleaning your items, remember to take a dry clean cloth over the item one last time. This is so that all leftover paint thinning solvent can be removed because if left, it could cause harm.

Mineral Spirit Precautions

Other than being dangerous to breathe, there are also many environmental dangers associated with the disposal of mineral spirits. Anything that has mineral spirits on it instantly becomes highly likely to set fire, therefore, the rag you might have used to polish and clean with will be no longer usable and needs to be thrown away.

But simply throwing that rag in the trash can will absolutely not do, as mineral spirits are extremely flammable. So, it is recommended to completely soak whatever article contains the mineral spirits in water. Many people online have suggested filling a can up with water and locking the mineral spirit soaked rag inside before feeling it safe enough to dispose of. A hazardous waste facility is your best bet, so you can responsibly dispose of your mineral spirits without contaminating the groundwater.

mineral spirit

Leftover solvent must always be stored in a tightly closed container (I recommend the container it came in) and remember to never dump this down any drain. It is important that mineral spirit waste is properly disposed of as it is a hazardous waste that has proper disposal rules and regulations.

By calling your local city commissioners or council office, you can figure out when your local area will be hosting a waste disposal event. As these are usually free of charge, sponsored by local businesses and a great way to get rid of your toxic material in an environmentally friendly manner.

The Run Down On Mineral Spirits

I hope this guide has helped you to gain a better holistic understanding of just exactly what a mineral spirit is and how it can be used towards helping you with all of your crafting project needs. Mineral spirits used sparingly and safely are truly helpful and wonderful and are able to clean and enhance a multitude of items.

However, before starting a new project with which you will have to use mineral spirits, be sure to properly research just what it is you are needing to do. Safety is always the first priority, so with that in mind, also remember the proper way with which to dispose of mineral spirits. We definitely don’t want an accident with that flammable material happening.

So have fun with your projects and be safe!

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