Mineral Spirits Vs Paint Thinner

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 paint thinner? Are they the same thing?

Let’s review the most important features and explore the difference between mineral spirits vs paint thinner and which one would be best for your next project.

mineral spirits vs paint thinner

Mineral Spirits Vs Paint Thinner

Technically, mineral spirits and paint thinner are almost the same. Mineral spirits can be used as a paint thinner, and many people use the terms mineral spirits and paint thinner interchangeably.

Each type of mineral spirits and/or paint thinner have different combinations of chemicals that achieve the same goal: thinning and/or removing paint.

Both mineral spirits and paint thinner can be used to thin oil-based paints, clean up brushes and other tools, and remove wax or grease from surfaces before painting. However, mineral spirits are also commonly used as a solvent for shellac and varnish, while paint thinner is often used to clean spray guns and equipment

Both mineral spirits and paint thinner are derived from minerals, but the term “mineral spirits” specifically refers to a petroleum-based solvent. In contrast, “paint thinner” is a more general term that can refer to any solvent used to thin paint, including those that are not petroleum-based. For instance, turpentine is another paint thinner that is derived from living pine trees or citrus rinds.

One of the key differences between mineral spirits and paint thinner is their toxicity. Mineral spirits are generally considered to be less toxic than paint thinner. While both products can emit fumes, paint thinner is more likely to contain noxious compounds like benzene that can be harmful to inhale. Mineral spirits, on the other hand, are less smelly and contain fewer harmful chemicals, making them safer and more environmentally friendly.

Mineral Spirits Vs Paint Thinner: What can You Use them For?

Both mineral spirits and paint thinner can be used for the same tasks including:

  • Clean and prep paint surfaces
  • Thinning Oil Based Paints and Primers
  • Cleaning Paint Tools
  • Degreasing
  • Removing Paint Spills

Clean and Paint Prep Surfaces

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

Mineral spirits and paint thinners preserve your wood surfaces better than other types of paint removers such as acetone. We recommend using them to prep your surfaces instead.

Thinning Oil Based Paint and Primers

Best use for paint thinners and mineral spirits is thinning oil based paint and primers for your paint sprayer.  This is the most common use.

Mineral spirits may be hard to come by in your area or even banned. Check out our post on alternatives to mineral spirits and see if you can find something suited for your project.

Cleaning Paint Tools 

Mineral spirits and paint thinners can both be used 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 over your paint tools or through your sprayer afterwards, to remove any film the thinner *might* leave behind. 

Then air dry your stuff once you’re done to avoid rust or residue being left in your sprayer parts.   

Be careful if you have rubber parts in your sprayer, mineral spirits and paint thinner may 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 parts and tools in paint thinner and/or mineral spirits will degrease them with minimal effort.

For quick results, soak a rag with paint thinner or mineral spirits and wipe the area or tool you need to clean and watch the grease come right off.   

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 paint thinner or mineral 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. Be careful of the type of surface you are using thinners or spirits on, you don’t want to ruin or stain your surface.

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Mineral Spirits Vs Paint Thinner: Health Issues

According to Wikipedia, odorless mineral spirits and paint thinners have been refined to remove the VOC’s.   

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!

Conclusion Mineral Spirits Vs Paint Thinner

Now that you know that mineral spirits vs paint thinner are basically the same thing, you can use either one to thin or remove your paint during your next project. Mineral spirits are a type of paint thinner that is derived from petroleum and is generally considered safer, less smelly, and more environmentally friendly than other types of paint thinner.

Ultimately, whether you choose to use mineral spirits or paint thinner will depend on your specific needs and preferences. If you’re looking for a less toxic option, mineral spirits may be a better choice.

However, if you’re working with a specific type of paint that requires a particular type of thinner, you may need to use a paint thinner instead. It’s always a good idea to read the label on your paint and consult with a professional if you’re unsure which type of solvent to use

FAQs Mineral Spirits Vs Paint Thinner

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