Mineral Spirits Vs Turpentine

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When you have a project underway, or a paint mess to clean up, what is the benefit of using mineral spirits vs turpentine?

Let’s explore the differences and similarities between the two, so you can make the best choice for your DIY.

mineral spirits vs turpentine

What are Mineral Spirits?

Mineral spirits (or white spirits) are made from petroleum rather than water.   They are used as solvents, degreasers and cleaners.  Painters use white spirits as a mild solvent and thinner. 

I use them to remove tags that are glued on like price tags.   

Mineral spirits are cheap and 1 can will last you forever. 

Because they are petroleum or oil based, mineral spirits will leave behind an oily residue that could mess up your paint job.   This is especially true if you’ve used them to flush and clean out your paint sprayer.  

What is Turpentine?

According to Wikipedia.org, turpentine is distilled from pine trees.  Much like mineral spirits, it's used as a solvent for everything from cleaning to thinning oil based paints to degreasing.

Turpentine was even used as a topical and sometimes internal home remedy.  We don't recommend this because turpentine is toxic.  

Since turpentine is not oil based like mineral spirits, it won't leave such an oily residue behind.

mineral spirits vs turpentine

How do you Use Mineral Spirits Vs Turpentine?

White spirits are used for a ton of jobs around the house including

Mineral Spirits

Turpentine

Thins paint Thins paint
Cleaner and degreaser Cleaner and degreaser
Cleaning Paint Tools Cleaning Paint Tools
Removes fresh paint spills Removes slightly dried paint spills

 

Thinning Paint 

This is the most common use for mineral spirits and turpentine. Best use for these solvents is thinning oil based paint for your paint sprayer.

If you’re thinning latex (water based paint) for your sprayer, you would use water to thin it instead.

Cleaning Paint Tools 

Both solvents can also be used, along with water, to clean up your paint tools such as brushes, trays and rollers. 

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 or blow dry your parts once you’re done to avoid any type of rust or residue being left in your sprayer parts.  Never use a cloth, it will leave bits behind that can ruin your sprayer.

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

Degreasing 

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

If you want immediate results, soak a rag with either solvent 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 solvents.  They might leave a residue behind that will affect your paint or paint sprayer.

Removing Paint Spills 

If you spill your paint, you can use white spirits or turpentine to get it off!  Just soak the area for a bit and then wipe off.   

If the spill is dry or too big, or on something like carpet, you will have to let the area soak for awhile and repeat the process until it is removed.

Similarities between Mineral Spirits Vs Turpentine  

Mineral Spirits vs Turpentine Similarities

Thins paint
Cleaner and degreasers
Cleaning Paint Tools
Removes Paint
Don't Use on Rubber/Plastics
Flammable
Wear Mask and Gloves

Prep for Painting with Mineral Spirits vs Turpentine 

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

If you need to remove paint from an old piece of wood furniture before painting it, mineral spirits will get the job done while preserving the wood better than other stripping methods.

This is because they are oil based, so they condition the surface while your stripping.

If you don’t have either available, check out our post on  how to remove paint from wood without chemicals.

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Main Differences between Mineral Spirits VS Turpentine 

Mineral Spirits

Turpentine

Comes in Low Odor No residue: Better for cleaning Sprayer
Cleaner and degreaser Evaporates Faster, Paint dries faster
Leaves behind oily residue Strong Odor
Not as Environmentally Friendly Not as Toxic

Mineral Spirits Vs Turpentine to Remove Paint from Wood

Choosing between these two solvents is a matter of personal choice.  While turpentine is known for being able to soften hard paint, lacquers and varnishes, it also has a very strong odor which turns off some folks.  It has little impact on the wood underneath.

Mineral spirits is the choice of some DIYer’s because you can purchase it in a low odor/low VOC formula.

They are basically interchangeable and it all comes down to your personal preference.

Are Turpentine and Mineral Spirits Bad for My Health? 

According to Wikipedia, odorless white spirits have been created by refining it to remove the VOC’s.   Apparently, you can also purchase a turpentine which is odorless. 

They achieve this by mixing the turpentine with chemicals to remove the odor.  Unfortunately, this makes turpentine not as effective.

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

Always wear gloves and a paint respirator mask rated for chemical vapors.  Make sure that you are using the white spirits or turpentine in a well ventilated area. 

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

Turpentine has a very strong pungent odor compared to mineral spirits; it’s unmistakable because it stinks!

Both are flammable and pose a fire hazard, labelled as “immediately dangerous to life and health”. Take the proper precautions to make sure that you are not injured.

Cleaning with Turpentine

Turpentine is great from cleaning off slightly hardened paint off your brushes, degreasing car or bike parts and removing stuck on glues. 

Always wipe down your surface with a clean rag soaked in soap and water after you’ve used turpentine to remove any left over residue.

Turpentine is known for being able to remove hard stains from ceramic, like your bathtub, sink or toilet.  Apply the turpentine and scrub with a brush.

Is Turpentine Toxic?

Yes!  Some folks think the turpentine is some sort of safe home remedy that can be ingested to solve problems like the common cold or sore throats. 

They will also apply it to their skin for a range of ailments.  Turpentine toxicity is a KNOWN fact.

Let’s be clear, turpentine ingestion is toxic to the human body and is not recommended.

If you eat turpentine, that’s Darwin at work.

How to Dispose of Mineral Spirits Vs Turpentine

Disposing of Mineral Spirits

Disposing of white spirits properly is as easy as googling a local disposal site.   

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 probably has a disposal site specially for getting rid of chemicals so they don’t damage the environment.   

Mineral spirits do evaporate over time.  Reuse leftovers for “dirty jobs” like degreasing car parts or cleaning your tools.   

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

How to Dispose of Turpentine

Dispose of turpentine in the same way that you dispose of mineral spirits.  Improperly stored rags that have been used for solvents can cause spontaneous combustion.

How to Dispose of Turpentine Rags (and any solvent rags)

To prevent combustion, put your used rags in a metal container with a tight fighting metal lid and fill the container with water so the rags are totally covered. 

You could also dry the rags outdoors on a non combustible surface. 

You would then take that container, or the dried rags, to a disposal site listed on the website below.

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

Conclusion 

Mineral spirits and turpentine are both great at thinning and removing paint. Choose wisely to get your job done fast and easier with less mess. 

Quick FAQs

Is turpentine and mineral spirits the same thing?

No. Turpentine is distilled from pine trees while mineral spirits (or white spirits) are made from petroleum.

Can you use turpentine instead of mineral spirits?

Yes! The only difference is that turpentine removes slightly dried paint spills, whereas mineral spirits will remove fresh paint spills only.

What is the difference between paint thinner and mineral spirits?

Mineral spirits are considered a paint thinner, so the name “paint thinner” is interchangeable with mineral spirits.


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