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Mineral Spirits vs Paint Thinner

Updated: Nov. 14, 2019

Mineral spirits and paint thinner both work well, but thinner is cheaper

lacquer thinnerFamily Handyman
Paint thinner and mineral spirits both work well for cleaning oil-based paint, but there are subtle differences, including odor and cost. This brief run-down will help you decide what's best for you.

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The best paint solvent for cleaning oil-based paint

Mineral spirits

Mineral spirits is more highly refined and has fewer odors than paint lacquer thinner.

Paint thinner

Paint thinner is mineral spirits in a less refined form.

Mineral spirits or paint lacquer thinner … which is better?

For cleaning brushes, paint thinner is best since it’s half the cost of mineral spirits and basically works the same. Other than the price, the differences between the two solvents are subtle:

  • Both are petroleum products.
  • Both can be used to thin oil-based paints and varnishes and to clean paintbrushes.
  • Paint thinner is mineral spirits, but in a less refined form. It contains other types of solvents, which makes it a lot smellier and more volatile.
  • Mineral spirits is not as stinky. Because it’s more refined, it’s slightly more effective in smaller quantities than paint lacquer thinner.

No matter which solvent you choose, use it in a well-ventilated space and observe proper safety precautions.