Paint Thinner vs Mineral Spirits – Is There a Difference?

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If you will be using oil-based paint for your project, you will need to consider the right substance for thinning and cleaning it up. Other than just color, an important factor when it comes to finding the right paint for your application is consistency. You might need to thin paint down to use it in a sprayer, or you might want to paint a very thin coat of paint for a special effect. Whatever the case may be, you will need the right product to achieve this consistency. Comparing paint thinner vs mineral spirits is important here, as these are two very similar, yet very different, products. Follow our guide below to find out which one is best for your application.



What Is Paint Thinner?

When comparing paint thinner vs mineral spirits, you will first need to understand the basic properties of each substance. Paint thinner is often used to describe a wide range of products used for painting, but true paint thinner is different from mineral spirits.

Paint thinner is a type of solvent that is used to clean up or thin out oil-based paints. Paint thinner is made from distilling petroleum, and is less refined than mineral spirits. This means it contains a higher number of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Paint thinner also has strong odors and requires you to wear a respirator mask when working with it.

Paint thinner is a cheap substance that goes a long way. When comparing paint thinner vs mineral spirits, the main differences to understand are that thinner is a less refined product that is more toxic, but cheaper. Working with paint thinner requires special care.


The Different Uses of Paint Thinner

As the name suggests, paint thinners are used to alter the thickness of paint. Oil-based paint needs a special solvent to thin it, which is why you use paint thinner. If you are using a paint sprayer that needs a thinner paint viscosity, or if you want to add thin layers of paint to certain surfaces, then you will need to use paint thinner.

Paint thinner is also used for cleaning up oil-based paints. Unlike water-based paints, these paints will need a solvent to effectively clean up any spills or drips. After using oil-based paints, this product can also be used to make sure that your brushes are properly cleaned. So, if you are painting with any type of oil paint, then paint thinner is a necessary product to have around.

A paint thinner is suitable for more jobs than just painting, though. This substance is a very effective cleaner for various surfaces and materials. It can be used to clean up difficult grease, grime, and marks. Paint thinner is particularly useful on wood that requires an effective clean after sanding. Just be careful, as paint thinner is a very harsh solvent and it could leave damage on certain surfaces if applied too heavily.

Paint Thinner or Mineral Spirits



What Is Mineral Spirit?

Is mineral spirits the same as paint thinner? The short answer is no! These two substances do contain many of the same elements, and they do work in a similar way, but they are two different products. So, when comparing paint thinner vs mineral spirits, it is important to understand the differences between the two, and when to choose which product.

Mineral spirits is also made from a petroleum distillation process. The main difference between mineral spirits vs paint thinner is that mineral spirits is more heavily refined in order to remove a greater amount of VOCs and sulfur. You even get odor-free mineral spirits that have all of their toxic compounds taken out completely.

This solvent is much safer to use around the home, and it is a better choice for situations with pets and children. Due to the less pollutive nature of mineral spirits, it is also a better choice for use indoors and in confined spaces.

How to Make Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits have a much weaker odor, if any odor at all, which makes them easier to work with. And because mineral spirits is a more refined product, it is also more effective to work with. Mineral spirits have a slower evaporation rate, which means that any paint thinned out with this product will achieve a smoother and more level coat once it has dried onto the surface.

When mineral spirits are used for cleaning, it is also a much more versatile product. Mineral spirits can be used to clean up oil-based paint, but it is also effective at removing tar, oils, and general dirt from a wide range of objects and surfaces. If you are cleaning up a wooden floor or a metal saw, then mineral spirits will do an excellent job. Yes, paint thinner can be used as an effective cleaning agent too, but its harsh nature makes it less suitable for certain applications.

With all of these advantages comes a higher price, though. Mineral spirits is a more expensive product in comparison to paint thinner. You will pay more for a bottle of mineral spirits, but just remember that you only require a very small amount for it to go a long way. Often, mineral spirits is worth the extra cost.


Different Uses of Mineral Spirits

As mentioned earlier, mineral spirits and paint thinner are often used for many of the exact same applications. Mineral spirits are used to thin the consistency of paint for it to be suitable for certain applications. It can also be used to clean up oil-based paint spills. Mineral spirits is effective for cleaning up paintbrushes used for oil-based painting.

Beyond just thinning paint, mineral spirits is a versatile and powerful cleaning agent. You can use it over a wide range of surfaces and materials to remove difficult dirt and grime. It can clean up particularly greasy and oily messes, and acts very fast and efficiently. This product is often chosen for use indoors due to its lack of odor compared to thinner.


Mineral Spirits vs Lacquer Thinner

Comparing mineral spirits vs lacquer thinner is often done as these products are both petroleum-based and very similar. Mineral spirits keep a greater amount of the oiliness of petroleum, which gives this substance a certain lubricating quality that is not found in lacquer thinner. Lacquer thinner is more effective at cleaning and cutting through grease. Simply put, lacquer thinner is used for cleaning up lacquer, while mineral spirits are more suitable for paint.

Mineral Spirits vs Lacquer Thinner



Paint Thinner vs Mineral Spirits Comparison Table

Comparing mineral spirits vs paint thinner can confuse many people because these products are so similar at face value. However, there are various important differences between the two substances that need to be considered. We have put together a simple table below to help you better understand whether you should use paint thinner or mineral spirits.


 Paint Thinner
Mineral Spirits
VOCs Paint thinner is a less-refined product that contains a high level of VOCs Mineral spirits is more refined and contains fewer VOCs
Odor Produces strong odors Produces fewer odors, if any at all
Strength Effective, but not as efficient as mineral spirits More efficient in strength than paint thinner
Price More affordable More expensive
Uses Can be used for thinning paint, cleaning paint, cleaning various surfaces Can be used for more versatile paint thinning, cleaning, and surface cleaning uses
Safety A very harsh chemical solvent that requires strict safety precautions A less toxic product that still requires safety precautions


Are These Substances Toxic?

In short, yes – both of these products are solvents that contain harsh chemicals. We already mentioned that mineral spirits are more refined, and contain fewer VOCs and harmful odors. However, both products are still chemical-based and offer a fairly harsh level of toxicity.

Because the products are used for cleaning up paint and harsh grime, they have some serious strength behind them. It is important that you pay close attention to safety procedures when working with these products and storing them.



Considerations for Paint Thinner vs Mineral Spirits

Whether you choose paint thinner or mineral spirits, there are a few important considerations to remember for both products. First of all, both substances are solvents and contain certain levels of toxicity. Sure, mineral spirits may come in odorless versions with a very low VOC count, but this does not make them completely harmless.

Therefore, you should always take certain safety precautions when working with these products. It is recommended that you wear a respirator mask when working with paint thinners or mineral spirits – particularly for indoor applications. To be safe, we also recommend wearing protective gloves.

Mineral Spirits vs Paint Thinner

Paint thinner and mineral spirits work effectively in cleaning up oil-based paints. Just remember that both will need to be used on wet paint. When applied to wet paint, the substances will easily wipe the paint away cleanly. Neither paint thinner nor mineral spirits can be used with water-based or latex paints. For this, you will need a latex paint thinner that is specially formulated for the job, or just water for water-based paints.

Paint thinner and mineral spirits are very powerful products, and they should be used sparingly. When using them for cleaning, you will only need to apply very thin coats each time. If you only need the solvent for a small job or general DIY applications around the house, then it might be best to buy a smaller bottle, because a little can go a very long way.


Safety Tips for Using These Products

Whether you are working with paint thinner or mineral spirits, it is important to follow the correct safety procedures to avoid harm. We have outlined some of the most important safety tips to follow below for using paint thinners or mineral spirits.

  • Both paint thinner and mineral spirits are irritants if they come into contact with your skin. We recommend wearing protective gloves to protect your hands while applying them, as well as protective goggles to avoid splashes in your eyes.
  • If you get these substances on your hands, the skin can start to burn after prolonged contact. Make sure that you wash your hands with soapy water straight after using these products. This will help to remove the oily residue that is left behind.
  • Regardless of whether you are using an odorless product or not, it is always best to try to work in a well-ventilated area with good airflow. If you are using the product indoors, try to open any windows to avoid fumes and toxic chemicals from being inhaled.
  • These products are highly flammable, so pay extra caution when using them. Do not smoke around these substances or work near an exposed flame.
  • When storing mineral spirits or paint thinner, make sure that they are in a completely airtight container, positioned away from any flames or heat sources. There are certain regulations around storing large volumes of flammable products, so be sure to consider this for your workspace.
  • As mentioned earlier, a little goes a long way. Never pour too much thinner or mineral spirits out at once. This can ruin your project and expose you to an unnecessary amount of chemicals. Always start out with very small amounts of the solvent, and apply more as needed.

Is Mineral Spirits the Same as Paint Thinner



Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Difference Between Paint Thinner and Mineral Spirits?

Both substances are made from a petroleum distillation process, and both are used for many of the same purposes. Mineral spirits is more heavily refined and contains fewer VOCs and harsh odors.


How to Make Mineral Spirits?

Wondering how to make mineral spirits? This substance is created from nothing more than petroleum distillate, and it should be bought as-is. However, you can also find alternatives to mineral spirits, such as acetone or lighter fluid. Just remember that these substances will not have the exact same properties as pure mineral spirits.


Is Mineral Spirits the Same as Paint Thinner?

One of the most popular questions that people ask is, “is mineral spirits the same as paint thinner?” While both substances are very similar, they are also different in their make-up. Mineral spirits is a less volatile and more versatile version of paint thinner.


When to Choose Paint Thinner vs Mineral Spirits?

Both substances are very similar and can be used for many of the same tasks. If you just want to thin the consistency of paint, then we recommend using paint thinner. If you are looking for a more versatile product, then mineral spirits is recommended.


Understanding the differences between mineral spirits vs paint thinner is important because many people do not realize that these are two very different products. Both are essential for many painting and DIY jobs, so make sure that you choose the right one for your application.