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Mineral Spirits vs Turpentine vs Paint Thinner


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#1 rgdaniel

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 06:06 AM

Hi folks...

Been trying to get some clarity around names of things... here in my part of Canada, I've never actually seen a container of anything just labelled "Mineral Spirits". We have "Paint Thinner" ("contains mineral spirits"), we have "Turpentine" and we have "Varsol". Guy at the specialty paint store says "you should use Mineral Spirits" to dilute varnish, paint thinner is "dirty" ... but no, they didn't carry "mineral spirits"... I've used "paint thinner" to dilute wipe-on poly, but only on walnut so far, so I didn't notice it going on cloudy... guy at Home Depot assures me "Turpentine" can be used interchangeably with "Mineral Spirits" which they stopped carrying because it was essentially the same thing.... he couldn't elaborate on whether it was EXACTLY the same thing, or how it differed from Paint Thinner or Varsol though.... or Laquer Thinner for that matter... or Methyl Hydrate... anyway, I'm going with Turpentine + Varnish, see what happens...

#2 thewoodwhisperer

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 06:37 AM

Hey rgdaniel. You might find mineral spirits labeled as "white spirits" in the Great White North. Either way, you can use turpentine, paint thinner, mineral spirits or naptha to dilute your oil-based finishes. Mineral spirits and naptha are both petroleum distillates. They are just fractions taken from different parts of the distillation process. The naptha is a little more "processed" so it flashes off faster than mineral spirits. Now both of these are paint thinners. So when you buy something labeled "paint thinner", its hard to know exactly what you are getting. Kind of depends on the distiller. But essentially its going to be a mixture of things like naptha and mineral spirits. So in that sense, it might be considered "dirty". It also stinks to high heaven. But I have never experienced sediment or anything that would cloud a finish. Generally speaking, you'll find naptha and mineral spirits to be less offensive to the senses and even less flammable than some of the other options. Naptha is more expensive than mineral spirits, so that's why most of us here in the US are using mineral spirits. Best balance of cost and smell and it gives you a good amount of working time with your finishes.

Now turpentine is made from the distillation of tree resin, so its similar but different. :) Frankly, I have never purchased a can of the stuff. I just find it to be redundant for what I already have in the cabinet.

#3 rgdaniel

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 07:30 AM

Thanks Marc! So does that make turpentine a "greener" choice?... One thing "the guy" did say was that turpentine didn't evaporate as quickly as "paint thinner" which made it a better choice for diluting varnish... longer working time, as you said... so that tracks... I'm not too bothered by the smell of either of them, for some reason... not that I'm huffing them in a big way... any more than I have too when my face is up close to the workpiece :)

#4 thewoodwhisperer

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 08:20 AM

Thanks Marc! So does that make turpentine a "greener" choice?... One thing "the guy" did say was that turpentine didn't evaporate as quickly as "paint thinner" which made it a better choice for diluting varnish... longer working time, as you said... so that tracks... I'm not too bothered by the smell of either of them, for some reason... not that I'm huffing them in a big way... any more than I have too when my face is up close to the workpiece :)


I won't even pretend to know if its "greener" or not. Sometimes, even if the source material could be considered "greener", perhaps the process of distillation of that material is more wasteful and resource-consuming.... So again, no idea.

The smell is actually a big deal to me. If do anything with paint thinner, the smell seems to linger for days. Mineral spirits however, seems to only linger for hours. So its just a personal preference thing at that point. The good news is you have some options either way.

#5 adamking

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 09:13 AM

I typically use pure gum spirits of turpentine. It doesn't smell offensive like the alternative called "turpentaine." It's made simply from the gum tree. Is it truly green? I doubt it. I'm pretty sure it has dryers mixed in with it. It flashes pretty fast, not as fast as mineral spirits. I find it a little better than mineral spirits when mixing with my varnishes only because of the final viscosity or consistency of the end result. Strange, but for some reason I notice a difference.

#6 Vic

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 08:43 PM

I won't even pretend to know if its "greener" or not. Sometimes, even if the source material could be considered "greener", perhaps the process of distillation of that material is more wasteful and resource

Now wait just a minute here, bucko!! Don't start talking sense! :o)

#7 IanWoodcanuck

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Posted 15 August 2010 - 11:40 AM

Hi folks...

Been trying to get some clarity around names of things... here in my part of Canada, I've never actually seen a container of anything just labelled "Mineral Spirits". We have "Paint Thinner" ("contains mineral spirits"), we have "Turpentine" and we have "Varsol". Guy at the specialty paint store says "you should use Mineral Spirits" to dilute varnish, paint thinner is "dirty" ... but no, they didn't carry "mineral spirits"... I've used "paint thinner" to dilute wipe-on poly, but only on walnut so far, so I didn't notice it going on cloudy... guy at Home Depot assures me "Turpentine" can be used interchangeably with "Mineral Spirits" which they stopped carrying because it was essentially the same thing.... he couldn't elaborate on whether it was EXACTLY the same thing, or how it differed from Paint Thinner or Varsol though.... or Laquer Thinner for that matter... or Methyl Hydrate... anyway, I'm going with Turpentine + Varnish, see what happens...


I've been stymied as well looking for Mineral Spirits (we used to have it before Varsol took its place many years ago). I even asked the paint gal at Home Despot...she's a wealth of info on paints (seriously)...she basically said the same thing...HD doesn't carry it, try varsol...but it stinks.

Today, however, I was victorious!!! I found jugs of Mineral Spirits at Lowes in Toronto....I'm not suggesting you drive from Owen Sound to Toronto...but if you've got a Lowes somewhere in between, you might find it there. It was basically the same price as Varsol, Paint Thinner, Methyl Hydrate, Lacquer Thinner...under $10 for a jug.

#8 rgdaniel

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Posted 15 August 2010 - 12:27 PM

I found jugs of Mineral Spirits at Lowes in Toronto....


Interesting... good to know... we may be getting a Lowes here in town in the next year or two, rumour has it.... thanks!

#9 Bill Akins

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Posted 17 August 2010 - 04:39 AM

I won't even pretend to know if its "greener" or not. Sometimes, even if the source material could be considered "greener", perhaps the process of distillation of that material is more wasteful and resource-consuming.... So again, no idea.

The smell is actually a big deal to me. If do anything with paint thinner, the smell seems to linger for days. Mineral spirits however, seems to only linger for hours. So its just a personal preference thing at that point. The good news is you have some options either way.


I have to agree on the smell. I am very senitive to certain things. Paint thinner bothers me while mineral spirits does not.

#10 Renzo

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Posted 17 August 2010 - 06:34 AM

rgdaniel,

I had the same problem BUT Canadian Tire has mineral spirits. Both in the smaller bottle and larger jug.

Think is was about $4 for the smaller size.

I had checked Home Depot and a few paint stores and no one seemed to carry it.

fyi

#11 rgdaniel

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Posted 17 August 2010 - 06:50 AM

I had the same problem BUT Canadian Tire has mineral spirits. Both in the smaller bottle and larger jug.


Interesting... that must vary from store to store, or else ours was just out of it...

#12 tomsworkbench

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 02:42 AM

Funny - I lean toward turpentine... I guess maybe because it's collected here in the south.

The smell drives my wife crazy, but I like it better than the more chemical scent of paint thinner and mineral spirits...

#13 Rapid Roger

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 10:59 AM

Now, this is timming!
I just went to Lowes yesterday to buy some mineral spirits and right next to the spirits was 'paint thinner'. I looked at the cans and could not find anything differnt between the discriptions or uses. Then I looked at the shelf sticker and there was the difference!! Paint thinner is $2.00 a quart cheaper than mineral spirits!!! ($7.54 vrs $5.54)
Yea, I went cheap and will find out if it really makes any difference.
I wish I had thought to look for turpentine now!

Rog

#14 Ace

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Posted 20 August 2010 - 10:53 AM

Now, this is timming!
I just went to Lowes yesterday to buy some mineral spirits and right next to the spirits was 'paint thinner'. I looked at the cans and could not find anything differnt between the discriptions or uses. Then I looked at the shelf sticker and there was the difference!! Paint thinner is $2.00 a quart cheaper than mineral spirits!!! ($7.54 vrs $5.54)
Yea, I went cheap and will find out if it really makes any difference.
I wish I had thought to look for turpentine now!

Rog


I have read that paint thinners usually contains a certain amount of re-claimed mineral spirits. Mineral spirits is typically a "more" refined product and has less odor. So I guess that could explain the price variance.

-Ace-