Mineral Spirits vs. Paint Thinner: 6 Surprising Differences


Paint Thinners and Solvents

Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits and paint thinner are essential solvents for diluting oil-based paint, stains, and varnishes and sanitizing paint tools and oily materials.

The use of oil-based paints that require mineral spirits or paint thinner has decreased due to the development and increased use of water-based latex paints in the home.

However, some professional painters and do-it-yourselfers still favor oil-based paint due to its self-leveling and streak-free properties.

Additionally, a lot of stains and varnishes continue to be oil-based. Each of these products prohibits the use of water as a solvent.

Do mineral spirits and paint thinner vary in any way? Which of the two should you buy if you want to paint, stain, or clean something?

Description of Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits have no additives and are created entirely from petroleum distillates. Oil-based paint is thinned with mineral spirits, a clear, spotless substance.

Additionally, it can remove oil stains and spills and thin out or clear varnishes and stains.

Start with 4 ounces of pure mineral spirits per gallon of paint when diluting the paint with them.

Never add to water-based paint; only oil-based paint. Water is used to thin and clean water-based paint, which makes up the bulk of acrylic-latex paint on the market.

Paint Thinner: What It Is

Paint thinner made of mineral spirits is frequently combined with chemicals like trimethyl benzene (benzene).

Sometimes mineral spirits without any additions are used as paint thinner. On the can of some paint thinners, it even says, “produced with mineral spirits.”

It’s crucial to remember that the term “paint thinner” reflects the product’s function rather than necessarily its composition.

Therefore, anything that thins paint can be considered a paint thinner. Paint thinners could even include citrus-based compounds or turpentine, which comes from pine trees.

Water can also be called paint thinner because it thins out water-based latex paints.

The standard starting point is four ounces of paint thinner per gallon of oil-based paint. You can add more.

Mineral Spirits Vs. Paint Thinner

  • Paint thinner is a broad phrase that defines the function of the product rather than its composition, whereas mineral spirits is a term that describes the product’s makeup.
  • Both goods come from mineral sources. This sets them apart from goods like turpentine, made from living pine trees or citrus rinds.
  • Mineral spirits and paint thinner are typically interchangeable goods.
  • Sometimes, mineral spirits have a less offensive smell than paint thinners.
  • Depending on the retailer, mineral spirits may cost about 50% more per gallon than paint thinner.
  • Paint thinner, as a broad word, can refer to anything that thins or cuts paint, including goods marketed as secure, eco-friendly, or green that contain just 15 to 40% petroleum distillates. Even non-petroleum products, like turpentine, can fall under this category.


Minerals, in this case, petroleum, are the source of mineral spirits. Mineral spirits must always be present in their entirety, undiluted and without any other ingredients, in products having that designation. One kind of paint thinner is pure mineral spirits.

Paint thinner is a term used to describe a variety of compounds that can thin oil-based paint, including turpentine, acetone, naphtha, blended mineral spirits, and pure mineral spirits.

The term “paint thinner” most frequently refers to mineral spirits that have been less refined and have had benzene added in amounts of up to 5% for improved solvency and fragrance.

It’s critical to distinguish between the class of blended and unblended mineral spirits and other product classes that can thin paint. The first category, made of petroleum, is transparent, non-sticky, and essentially odorless.

The latter category can include items like turpentine, made solely from pine tree oleoresins and contains no petroleum.

In truth, mineral spirits were created as a safer, gentler solvent due to turpentine’s unpleasant smell and corrosive characteristics.

Additionally, those mineral spirits—both blended and unblended—are very different from solvents that are frequently marketed as “paint strippers” or “paint removers.”

These solvents, designed to dissolve dried paint, include a variety of substances like alcohol, methanol, and xylene, to mention a few.


Pure mineral spirits and related paint thinner are identical in terms of safety. Both goods are equally dangerous.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States classifies both items as hazardous waste. Benzene can make a person drowsy or possibly put them unconsciously when ingested. 1

High levels of exposure over a long period could harm your health. For this reason, when using mineral spirits with added benzene, ensure you are operating in a properly ventilated space.

Cost Variation

Typically, mineral spirits are more expensive than paint thinner blends. Typically, the price of pure mineral spirits is 40–50% higher than that of mineral spirits-based paint thinners with additives.

Mineral Spirits and Paint Thinner: Typical Applications

  • Oil- or alkyd-based paints should not be thinned while still in soluble form.
  • Brushes with wet paint should be cleaned (not dried or hardened paint)
  • Taking out waxy stains from wood surfaces
  • washing and soaking greasy auto parts
  • cleaning or degreasing greasy instruments or equipment
  • equipment for spray cleaning
  • removing the glue that sticks
  • removing scuff and heel marks from flooring

Uses to Prevent

  • For paint that has already dried, neither mineral spirits nor paint thinner will work as a paint remover (dry paint must be mechanically removed or stripped away with chemical paint strippers).
  • An asphalt driveway or walkway should not be attempted to be cleaned of paint or any other substance. Asphalt will become softer with either product.
  • Never clean latex paint from brushes, surfaces with mineral spirits, or paint thinner.
  • When used for cleaning or thinning, it could fail to dissolve or separate the pigment from the solvents.
  • Never start a fire with mineral spirits or paint thinner for wood, charcoal, or any other type of flame since the toxic fumes could harm your health.

Should You Purchase Paint Thinner or Mineral Spirits?

Mineral spirits and paint thinner can be used interchangeably for most household consumers.

Mineral spirits and mineral spirits-based paint thinners serve much the same purposes. Both are non-sticky, transparent solvents used to clean thin oil-based paints, stains, and varnishes.

Paint thinner is far less expensive than pure mineral spirits. The 40 to 50 percent price differential for significant commercial projects can be noticeable.

However, since these solvents are rarely used, the $4–$5 price difference shouldn’t be significant for most DIYers and homeowners.

Pure mineral spirits are best used inside because they have a milder smell.


Several noteworthy distinctions between mineral spirits and paint thinner should be mentioned.

They both use the same petroleum distillates to start. Paint thinners, however, also contain other chemical additions.

As a result, they are less expensive than mineral spirits. They also have a powerful smell, which is undesirable when working inside.

There are mineral spirits, which you may frequently get in home improvement stores.

Both types of solvents have benefits and drawbacks.

Choose the option that best suits your project. Although pricey, refined mineral spirits are excellent for indoor use.

Paint thinners are advised by specialists for any other applications where the smell is not a concern.