Mineral Spirits Vs Acetone

When tackling a DIY project and you need a solvent or paint thinner, you might wonder what does it matter if you use mineral spirits vs acetone? 

Each product has it’s strong points, but why choose one over the other?  Is acetone and mineral spirits the same thing?

We explore the difference between mineral spirits vs acetone and which one would be best for your next project.

Mineral Spirits vs acetone
I get a commission for links in this post.

What Is Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits are made from petroleum.   They are great solvents, cleaners and degreasers because they are not water based. Mineral spirits are used in the painting industry as a thinner and mild solvent.  

It’s perfect to use to remove stuck on glue from price tags or weird stick on tags.  Mineral spirits are super cheap and 1 can will last you a long time. 

Some folks don’t like to use mineral spirits because, since they are oil based, they will leave behind a residue that could mess up your paint job. 

How can I Use Mineral Spirits? 

Mineral spirits can be used for many things to make your life easier. 

  • Mineral spirits for paint prep
  • Thinning paint
  • Cleaning paint tools
  • Degreasing
  • Removing paint spills
mineral spirits vs acetone

Mineral Spirits Vs Acetone Comparison Chart

Mineral SpiritsAcetone
Thins paintAggressive paint stripper and cleaner
Cleaner and degreaserEasily disposed of
Comes in odorless varietyAvailable everywhere
Can cause skin burnStrong odor
Must be disposed of at environmental facilityNot a paint thinner

Mineral Spirits for Paint Prep 

Mineral spirits are perfect to clean and prep even the toughest surfaces for painting.   

Should you be using acetone or mineral spirits for paint prep? If you need to remove paint from an old piece of wood furniture, mineral spirits will get the job done while preserving the wood better than acetone or other stripping methods. 

Thinning Paint 

Best use for mineral spirits is thinning paint for your paint sprayer.  This is the most common use for white spirits. 

Cleaning Paint Tools 

Mineral spirits can also be used, along with water, to clean up your paint tools. 

If you are cleaning a paint sprayer, we recommend using an automotive lacquer thinner.  It is specially made for cleaning spray guns. 

Always run water through afterwards, to remove any film the thinner *might* leave behind. 

Just make sure to rinse with water and then air dry your parts once you’re done to avoid any type of rust or residue being left in your sprayer parts.   

Be careful if you have rubber parts in your sprayer, mineral spirits dissolve some plastic.  Check with your paint sprayers manufacturer about the best way to clean your specific sprayer. 

If that is the case, check out these alternative to mineral spirits solutions for something to use to clean your sprayer.


Soaking your stubborn car parts and tools in mineral spirits will degrease them with no effort.  

If you want immediate results, soak a rag with mineral spirits and wipe the area or tool you need to clean and watch the grease come right off.   

Pro Tip: Remember to use a clean rag to wipe down your tools and parts after using mineral spirits.

Removing Paint Spills 

Even if you have a dried on paint spill, you can use white spirits to get it off!  Just soak the area for a bit and then wipe off.   

You might need to do this a few times, depending on the size or the spill and what you spilled in on. 

Compare mineral spirits and acetone

Is it bad for my Health to Use Mineral Spirits? 

According to Wikipedia, odorless mineral spirits have been created by refining it a bit further to remove the VOC’s.   

You should always use chemicals in a well ventilated area, wear gloves and use a paint respirator mask when handling. 

If you get some mineral spirits on you skin, wash it off with soap and water right away.  It can cause irritation, skin burn and rashes!

Join our Email List for more Tips and Info!

What is Acetone? 

Most people know about acetone because it is also called nail polish remover.  It’s colorless and evaporates quickly.   

Acetone is also used as a cleaner and solvent to dissolve paint and varnish. 

So, what is acetone made of?  Oddly enough, it is a natural compound that is even found in small amounts in our bodies. 

mineral spirits vs acetone comparison

What has Acetone in it? 

Many every day items have acetone in them.  Most cleaning products, shoes, paints, adhesives and of course nail polish remover. 

You can also find it as an ingredient in polishes, some fabrics, and some paint thinners.

What is Acetone Used for? 

Acetone is used for a ton of stuff.  I use it for a bunch of things including:

  • Nail polish remover
  • Dissolve ink stains
  • Remove scuff marks from floors
  • Remove permanent marker
  • Cleaning tools
  • Dissolves glues

Mineral Spirits Vs Acetone Uses

Can mineral spirits be used in place of acetone?  Acetone and mineral spirits can both be used for cleaning tools, removing scuff marks from floors and dissolving glues.  But, there are some things that acetone can do much better.

Nail polish remover 

Pretty self explanatory.  You’d definitely NOT be using mineral spirits to take of nail polish!

Dissolve Ink Stains 

Soaking ink stains in acetone will remove them from even the lightest colored clothing. 

Remove Scuff Marks from Floors 

Pour acetone on a rag and rub it onto the scuff for fast and easy removal.  Wipe the area with a clean water soaked cloth afterwards to remove the acetone residue. 

Remove Permanent Marker 

If you rub the mark with a rag or cotton ball soaked in acetone, it should come right off. 

Cleaning Tools 

Soak a rag with acetone and then wipe down your dirty tools.  Acetone evaporates quickly so you’ll have to be fairly fast.   

If you have a lot of area to clean and don’t want it to evaporate so quickly, you may want to use mineral spirits instead. 

Dissolves Glues 

Famous for being able to dissolve even superglue!  Soak a rag or cotton ball with acetone and then rub on the stuck on glue.    

Will Acetone Remove Paint? 

So, does acetone remove paint?  Yes!  It is an aggressive stripper so it’s wise to test it on a small area before using it on the main surface.  Each type of wood will react differently to acetone.  

Looking for a non-hazardous way to remove paint?  Check out our post on how to remove paint from wood without chemicals and get started.

Will Acetone Remove Oil Based Paint?

No.  Acetone won’t do anything to oil based paint.  This is why it’s perfect to use acetone to test if your based coat is oil or latex. 

Latex paint will come off onto the rag when using acetone.  Test it in a small area that won’t be seen. Remember: don’t paint latex over oil.  You’ll end up with paint cracking everywhere and have to redo your paint job.

Will Acetone Remove Spray Paint?

 Yes, but because of its harsh nature, you have to be careful to test out a small area before going gung ho on the whole surface.  

Acetone Cleaning 

Acetone is an aggressive cleaner and doesn’t leave an oil film behind like mineral spirits.  Because of its aggressive cleaning properties, you should test it on a small area to see how the surface reacts. 

You won’t need much and never use it on plastics.  It will dissolve them, leaving you with a disaster. 

Acetone Paint Thinner 

While acetone might be great at removing the odd paint stains from tools or stripping paint from old wood or metal furniture, don’t use it as a paint thinner. It’s best to buy mineral spirits or a dedicated paint thinner to ensure your get the pro results you’re after.

Acetone to Remove Paint from Wood 

Acetone will remove latex paint from wood, but it oil based paints won’t budge.  According to ehow.com, removing is as easy as:

  • soaking a rag in acetone
  • rubbing it on the paint that you want to remove (you might even need to leave the rag on the painted surface for a few minutes)
  • wiping the stripped surface down with a clean water soaked rag

Acetone Cleaning Metal 

You should always clean any surface that you plan to paint, including metal.  It may look and feel clean, but any oil or dust left on there will prevent your paint from sticking.  Use a rag soaked in acetone to wipe down the surface before you paint it.

Stripping Furniture with Acetone 

Because acetone is non-oily, it’s great to use on oily hardwoods to remove some of the natural oils which can stop the paint from bonding to the surface.

You can use straight acetone or a mix of 1/2 acetone and 1/2 paint thinner on your wood furniture.  Then scrub it with steel wool. 

Don’t skimp on the amount of mixture that you use and work your way from top to bottom.  This should remove all the old finish. 

We recommend taking a look at this awesome step by step at remodelaholic.com

Acetone Substitute 

According to hunker.com, there are many acetone substitutes that do the job.  They are:

  • Surfasolve
    • removes glues and degreases tools, biodegradable
  • Bio-Solv
    • biodegradable, not petroleum based, strong odor use in well ventilated area
  • Replacetone
    • biodegradable, nonflammable, nonvolatile
  • Methyl Acetate
    • non hazardous, biodegradable

Health Risks of Using Acetone

Always make sure you use acetone in a well ventilated area to prevent lung irritation.  If you’re handling large amounts wear gloves and a respirator mask 

Using acetone can lead to skin, eye and lung irritation.  Long term exposure will lead to dry, cracked skin and possible damage to your nervous system. 

How to Dispose of Mineral Spirits Vs Acetone 

Small amounts of acetone can be put in a tightly sealed container in a regular garbage bag.  

 If you have a large amount of liquid acetone, www.MSDSonline.com advises to take the acetone to a hazardous waste treatment disposal facility in your area.   

Visit www.epa.gov to find a regional facility in your area. 

Disposing of mineral spirits properly is harder than acetone.     

If you have left over mineral spirits or just the empty container it came in, you will want to dispose of it in the right way.  Where you live most likely has a disposal site specially for getting rid of chemicals so they don’t damage the environment.   

Most people find they don’t really have any leftover mineral spirits as they evaporate over time.  Reuse leftover mineral spirits for “dirty jobs” like degreasing car parts or cleaning your tools.   

Just strain any solids out of your mineral spirits and reuse until gone! 

Similarities between Mineral Spirits VS Acetone

  • Do not use on plastics
  • Degreasers
  • Will remove paint
  • Flammable
  • Use in well ventilated areas

Main Differences between Mineral Spirits VS Acetone

  • Mineral spirits are great to use when thinning paint for a sprayer. 
  • Acetone is NOT recommended for thinning paint, but for paint clean up.
  • Mineral spirits or acetone are great for cleaning and degreasing
  • Mineral spirits don’t evaporate as quickly as acetone
  • Mineral spirits are less flammable than acetone
  • Acetone has a bad odor, but you can get mineral spirits in an odorless formula
  • Easy to dispose of Acetone, mineral spirits must be disposed of in a dedicated facility


While Acetone and mineral spirits are both great at stripping paint, each has it’s own uses from thinning paint to safely removing nail polish to cleaning paint tools. 

Choose wisely to get your job done fast and easy with less mess. 


Can you mix acetone and mineral spirits?

Yes, it’s an effective way of stripping furniture.

2 thoughts on “Mineral Spirits Vs Acetone”

  1. You state that acetone will not remove oil-based paint. However, you also state numerous times that acetone is great for stripping paint – in a very general context with no specification to latex paint ONLY. This can be very confusing.

    • Thanks for your input George, I will add that to the post so that it’s more clear for my readers that acetone works on latex paint, but not oil based paints. Take care and thanks for reading ~John

Comments are closed.