What Are The Differences Between Mineral Spirits vs Paint Thinner?


First of all, we shall explore what mineral spirit and paint thinner are. Mineral spirit is a chemical liquid composed of petroleum to be used as a very popular organic solution in painting. Paint thinner is a kind of solution used to dilute the oil-based layer of paints and then removing tracks of paints after use.

In the market, some solvents are labeled “Paint Thinner”. However, in term of the essence, they are one kind of mineral spirit whose flash point at about 40°C. Thus, what is the difference between mineral spirits vs paint thinner? The following items shall give you the specific answer.


The difference between mineral spirits vs paint thinner: More than One?


Mineral spirit is composed of alicyclic C7 to C12, aliphatic hydrocarbons and fewer hydrocarbons than that of paint thinner. Therefore, it is insoluble in water and used as a solution to remove adhesive residue in lacquers, asphalt products, varnishes, preservatives of wood.

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There are three different types and grades of white spirit. They refer to the level of hydrogen content: hydrodesulfurization (sulfur removal) (type 1), solvent extraction (type 2) and hydrogenation (type 3). There are 3 grades in each type: low flash point, normal flash point and a high flash point.

White spirit

White spirit. Source: Wikimedia.org

Paint thinner is one kind of mineral spirit whose flash point at about 40°C. Its chemical compound includes Acetone, Turpentine, Naphtha, Toluene, Methyl Ethyl Ketone, Dimethylformamide, 2-Butoxyethanol, Ethylbenzene, Xylene, N-Butyl Acetate, Butanol. Actually, however, “paint thinner” is a widely used term which refers to a large number of organic solutions.

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Because paint thinner is composed of more hydrocarbons than that of mineral spirit, it has a stronger smell than that of mineral spirit. Besides, this chemical contains various solutions and compounds, and its vapor is noxious.

When you inhale a large amount of this chemical, it may lead to some harmful side effect, even death. Thus, you should use this chemical in a well-ventilated atmosphere and when you start to feel a little bit headache, get out of such an environment and inhale as much fresh air as you can.


One more difference between mineral spirit and paint thinner is the cost. Because mineral spirit is less noxious and has more refinement than paint thinner, many people choose to use it. This might lead to the fact that the cost of mineral spirit is two times higher than that of paint thinner. In 2005, the total volume of these solvents traded on the world market was 17.9 million tonnes, bringing in a profit of around 8 billion Euros.

Paint thinner

Paint thinner


Both mineral spirits vs paint thinners are used for removing oil-based paint or varnish surfaces and many types of pigment. However, the mineral spirit is more widely used to clear up painting tools quickly. It tends to be safer in term of solution properties and abilities to clean with more preferable compounds.

Paint thinner is more caustic than mineral spirit. It can be used to clean dry up paint and even adhesive residues from different surfaces. Paint thinner can deteriorate painting surface while mineral spirit creates no changes.


We all know about that mineral spirit has higher purity and lower toxicity so it can be used flexibly in small paint works and large surface areas. Mineral spirit can be used widely by paint artists, nail makers, wood workshops and construction workers with less toxicity and noxious emission.  In contrast, paint thinner is suitable for the use of spot treatment due to disadvantages as above.

You should keep in mind that only paint thinner can be used for diluting and removing spray paints. Besides, the mineral spirit is stickier than paint thinner.  The reason is that they contain much more of petroleum property than that of paint thinner. Therefore, they are also used for lubricating some several things.

Although these two types of chemicals have the similar function, there are some differences between mineral spirits vs paint thinner you should consider when deciding what to use. Obviously, when you understand differences between them, you shall make the proper choice in any situation for every purpose you use. Many of us can get accidents when using mineral spirits and paint thinner. Read more at the next part about this!

What can accidents occur when we use mineral spirit and paint thinner?

Skin irritation

As you know, these two types of chemicals are composed of hydrocarbons. Unfortunately, when you get exposed to this paint-cleaning chemical, your skin might have some redness reactions.

Breathing difficulty

Due to a strong and poisonous composition of hydrocarbon, when you inhale a large number of vapors of these chemicals, you can get difficulty in breathing and pain in throat and stomach.

Ingestion exposure effect

In case you can swallow these chemicals, you may get nausea, weakness, muscle twitches, diarrhea, and unconsciousness or even death.

Therefore, you should strictly notice about safety precautions and use protection methods when using mineral spirits and paint thinner. Especially for children and pregnant women, the maximum duration of work in the environment with the existence of these chemicals is 40 hours. There are various protective tools like gloves, shoes, masks, and glasses can be used. There are some pieces of evidence in damages to worker’s health in many underdeveloped countries.

It’s very crucial for you to keep in your mind above warnings. In case there are some accidents of exposure as mentioned above, you can refer and apply emergency or first aid measures and go to the hospital if necessary.  Before discharging boxes of mineral spirits and paint thinner which are used up, consult with the environment specialist and local authority.

So where to buy mineral spirits and paint thinner?

You should also carefully consider where to distribute and supply mineral spirits and paint thinner in your vicinity. It’s the best for you to choose companies or chemical center. In those places, they have technically skilled technicians who will advise you on the exact chemical, the purpose you need to buy, and you will buy a moderate amount of mineral spirits and paint thinner which are suitable for use.

It’s not hard to find places selling high-quality mineral spirits and paint thinner, but buying safe chemicals is still a very common problem. Therefore, you need to come to safe chemical supply facilities to get high-quality products.


Hope that the information in the article can help you to understand the difference between mineral spirits vs paint thinner. By gathering the right information and combining with your demand, you can make an independent decision on proper materials for use.

Mineral spirits and paint thinner are also widely used chemicals in industry and life. Some solvents including chloroform and benzene (a constituent of gasoline) are carcinogens. Others can damage the internal organs such as the liver, kidneys or brain. Users and manufacturers should clearly understand their own benefits and take care of their safety and health conditions by local laws and regulations before use.

Finally, thanks so much for taking your precious time to reading this article. In my next article, I will share with you about the woodworking tools for beginners. Please reading it as soon as possible and see you!