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Breaking down the difference between Mineral Spirits and Paint Thinners – Including reviews and a recommendation

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Knowing you have a paint project coming up, perhaps you go into your garage to look at the status of your paint brushes to see what kind of shape they are in. When you open the drawer you have them stashed within, you notice that they still have some leftover paint on them, which is now very hard and crusted. Although you sprayed them off with a water hose when you were done the last time, clearly that was not enough.

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After conducting some research, you see there are two better solutions concerning how to clean paint brushes properly so they will be ready for you the next time you are ready to paint. These options include soaking the paint brushes within Mineral Spirits or a Paint Thinner. However, you notice these products are very similar to each other; what truly makes them different, and which one is better for your needs?

Within this buying guide, we’ll give you the information you desire concerning these products, along with giving you four product reviews of some of the highest rated products available online. After this, we’ll offer you our suggestion concerning which product is the best for cleaning paint brushes.

Paint Brush

Mineral Spirits

Other Names it is known as

Over the years, mineral spirits has been known by a few different names, including White Spirit, Mineral Turpentine, Petroleum Spirts or Varsol, just to name a few. However, from a large commercial standpoint the name of Mineral Spirts is the one which has taken hold, and is most commonly found within any hardware store.

Is there only one grade of Mineral Spirit?

There are three different grades of Mineral Spirits found within the marketplace, depending upon the needs you have. These grades are knowns as high flash grade, regular grade and low flash grade. There is also a fourth, but is very uncommon, called a Type 0. The grades of the Mineral Spirits are based upon the amount of Crude Oil which used within the mixture, as well as the distillation condition of the Mineral Spirit. When comparing the different grades, the Higher Grade will have a higher Initial boiling point along with a higher temperature concerning a Flashpoint. In addition to this, the higher grade Mineral Spirt is denser in liquid form, but is the same density in a vapor form when compared to the other grades. The amount of odor is also higher among the Mineral Spirits which are graded higher. For your normal application, you will only need a lower grade version of the Mineral Spirits.

What are the Uses for Mineral Spirits?

  • Besides the option of cleaning a paint brush which we have already discussed, Mineral Spirts can also be used to degrease and clean a machine part or tools, as well as help cut thru some threads which have rusted over time.
  • There are some painters which even use Mineral Spirits within the oil paintings.
  • Golfers have been known to help remove some old adhesive off of a material, like a golf club grip or an old sticker off of a wall, before a new adhesive is applied to that same material.
  • When using Mineral Spirits, you do need to be careful of the noxious fumes which are present with this material. Although most grades are still a low concentration of toxic fumes, if you are within an enclosed area for a longer period of time, you will need to be aware of the aspiration hazard, and take the appropriate steps to increase the air flow within the area you are working.

Paint Thinner

Other Names it is known as

Paint Thinner is the most common name you will find along the shelves of any hardware store, but there have been many other names over the course of time. These names include Acetone, Turpentine, Toluene and ethylbenzene. There are people who do get Mineral Spirits and Paint Thinner mixed up, even calling them the same name, but there are some subtle differences between the two items.

What are some of the Specifications with a Paint Thinner?

paint roller

In comparison to other materials, the Paint Thinner does have a higher vapor toxicity, as it is made out of an oil and petroleum based product. The Flashpoint for Paint Thinner is just over 100 degrees, which is very similar to the flash point of a starter you would use for charcoal. Not only this, but there are also thresholds concerning the maximum amount of concentration which can be used within this item, as the vapor levels can be very damaging when exposed over a long period of time. This is why it is very important that when you use Paint Thinners, you do it in an area which has a high amount of circulation, and when the item is stored, it needs to be fully closed so no vapors leak into the air.

What are the uses for Paint Thinners?

  • As you can surmise from the name, Paint Thinner is used to take paint off of items; most commonly paint brushes and rollers. It can also be used to actually thin paint before it is applied to any wall, especially oil based paint.
  • The same can be said for oil based stains, as this product will help thin it and stretch the amount of stain you have and allow the stain to apply easier to wood products.

Mineral Spirits vs Paint Thinners

Within this section, we’ll offer reviews of four highly rated Mineral Spirits and Paint Thinners to help narrow down your decision of which product is best.

This Paint Remover provides a smooth and stylish finish along any surface in which you need to remove paint or any adhesion stain. It will penetrate thru even the toughest stains while not damaging the wood or metal material. This item is available in both a 12 and a 16 ounce can size.


  • Clean a large variety of materials, including Oil, Glue, Paint and Stains
  • Can be used on a large assortment of materials without damaging the material in the process
  • Available in two different sizes for convenience
  • Provides a smooth and stylish finish without leaving any residue once it is wiped off
  • Comes with a cap which is easy to screw on and off


  • Cannot use gloves while using this product, as the solvent will melt thru the gloves
  • Will not clean ink off any surface, and will just make it messier

This All-Purpose remover will help remove a large variety of items, including pet stains, permanent marker, sticker residue and gum to name a few. This solvent will also not damage the colors within your fabric is some of it accidently gets on your clothing.


  • A fully biodegradable product
  • Can remove an enormous assortment of residue items, including marker, crayons, stains and scum within a bathtub, to name a few
  • Will easily remove latex paint, including and spills or drips
  • Will not damage your clothing if accidently exposed to the product
  • Has a easy to remove screw on cap
  • Comes in six different sizes of containers, so you can find the right amount for your needs


  • Will not remove calcium deposits or rust
  • The scent is very noxious

Made from a fully biodegradable material, which is made up of 95% renewable resources, this denatured alcohol is a Mineral Spirit. This particular product will help you clean paint brushes, along with various amounts of product which were used during the paint project. This item is available in a 1-Quart size.


  • Made from Renewable resources which are fully biodegradable
  • Will thin paint and stains
  • Will clean Metal and Glass, as well as remove any type of stain or paint
  • Comprised mostly of Ethanol, rather than Methanol, which means the toxicity is greatly reduced
  • Can be used with a alcohol stove


  • Will cause some corrosion if left on a material for any length of time
  • Only available in one size

This stripping gel is very powerful, and can be used as an industrial-strength remover. It is very safe for indoor use, as it does not contain any chloride and is non-caustic. Can remove oil based and latex paints, as well as lacquers and varnishes, just to name a few of the applications this gel is useful for. This stripping gel comes in a One-Quart size.


  • Can be used for residential and commercial applications
  • Stays active for up to 24 hours without causing any damage to the material you are attempting to restore
  • Will remove multiple layers of paint, stains or varnishes at once
  • Is fully biodegradable, and has a citrus scent which is not as toxic as to smell compared to normal solvents
  • Thick enough product to where it can be used on a vertical surface and not run down the surface


  • Only comes in the One-Quart size
  • Might leave a small amount of residue or streak behind, even after it is wiped off

Conclusion And Recommendation

There are a variety of projects in which a Mineral Spirt or a Paint Thinner can be a very useful item in order to clean off various pieces of items and equipment. No matter how long the varnish or paint has been on an item, you can use one of these solvents to help clean it up. However, which one is best when it comes to removing residue without damaging the surface or potentially hurting your own body?

Our recommendation is the Citristrip QCSG801 Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel (2 Pack) Even though it only comes in one size, the combination of being able to work on projects both inside and outside your house, along with the versatility of what it can clean off, makes this item the clear winner.