Mineral Spirits Vs Turpentine: Key Differences Between Them

Updated: July 28, 2020

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We all have some kind of creativity residing in our minds. Some of us succeed in letting the bird of imagination fly high across the sky, while others stay encaged within the daily routine of mundane responsibilities.

Painting is one such form of creativity which allows the freedom of mind, imagination and more through a thoughtful assembly of colors.

However, this joyous ride of rediscovering yourself and your dormant visualizations can come to a standstill with just one wrong stroke of the brush.

Thankfully, there is an easy way out of this! Solvents like mineral spirits and turpentine help painters to get rid of these unwanted marks. They also help with many other tasks like degreasing, erosion prevention and more.

But which one is for you? Let’s find out through some in-depth discussions and comparisons on Mineral Spirits Vs Turpentine.

What is Mineral Spirit?

Mineral spirits are the nearly transparent solutions used to clean up paintbrushes. They help to get rid of heavy coats of paints or oils from the brushes.

These organic liquids are obtained from petroleum. Experts carefully make mineral spirits by combining hydrocarbons with alicyclic and aliphatic oils in accurate portions.

These solvents can be classified into three broad categories. The first class of mineral spirits is quite predictable and has a high flashpoint. On the other extreme end, the third class of mineral spirits has the least flashpoint and thus exhibits maximum instability.

Note: Mineral spirit also called as White spirit.

Advantages of Mineral Spirits

Paint Thinner

If a coating of the paint turns out to be too thick for the surface, you can use mineral spirits to thin it down. You need to mix it into the thick paint in the right proportions and stir thoroughly until the goal consistency is achieved. This is the most common use of mineral spirits nowadays.

Excellent Cleaning Component

Mineral spirits have proven to be quite an expert component for some particular cleaning activities. Their unadulterated version effectively removes paint, oil and similar substances from surfaces. You can easily use them to get the brushes rid of such substances.

They can even wash away thick layers of dried paint, dirt, grime, rust and similarly stubborn buildups from metallic objects. These unpleasant developments get dissolved under the influence of metallic spirits.

Along with eliminating the unnecessary amount of useful material, mineral spirits can also dissolve sludge buildups and varnishes. So if they have been bothering you lately, you can start applying appropriate mineral spirits to those spots.

Prevents Erosion

As we know, there are three types of mineral spirits. Among them, there is a category whose flashpoint temperature is not too low neither too high. This is the Class 2 or second grade of mineral spirits which is used to prevent erosion on metal surfaces.

If such a surface is coated with varnish or paint, this mineral spirit keeps it safe from losing its charm over time.

All-rounder Degreaser

You can remove greasy accumulations from parts of machinery and other such components with mineral spirits.

For example, they are often used to keep the machine clean and functional in screen printing.

Once the printing is done, they can unclog the screens to prepare for the next task.

It is also quite effective in getting rid of the glue on price tags of newly purchased items. So to get rid of any sticky stubborn material, mineral spirits work like magic.


Mineral spirits are available at much lower prices than other paint thinners. Besides, they tend to last longer as well. Because of these reasons, mineral spirits have proven to be the more cost-effective solution for individuals who run on tight budgets.

Better for artists

A true artist can never be okay with having the wrong viscosity of materials hanging on their canvas. But some paint thinners tend to react with oil paints and ruin the overall appearance of their painting.

That is why artists prefer to use mineral spirits to thin down their paint’s consistency while creating masterpieces. Since these solvents don’t react to the pigments of oil paints, artists can use them to clear up blotches.

Also Read: We select some eco friendly face paints.

Disadvantages of Mineral Spirits

Unpleasant Odor

Unfortunately, most mineral spirits do come with a little unpleasant odor. This happens since they are made from petroleum which has a very strong smell.

However, there are some odorless alternatives. These are the mineral spirits that have been cleared of their sulfur and other toxic volatile chemicals. So if the odor is bothering you, switch to these odorless options for using at home or office.

Nervous Issues

The most dangerous aspect of mineral spirits is that they can cause health hazards on acute exposure. Because of its toxicity, these spirits are considered to be irritants. Inhaling, touching or ingesting them can cause a little bit of irritation.

However, doing so on a regular basis can cause depression in the central nervous system. As a result, the patient can find it difficult to co-ordinate movements and can react slower than usual. Having too much of these spirits in a narrow or closed space can make you dizzy.

What is Turpentine?

Turpentine is another fluid that helps in degreasing and paint thinning. However, unlike mineral spirits, this fluid does not come from petroleum. Instead, it is obtained by distilling resins of live pine trees. Scientists use it extensively in the process of organic synthesis.

Advantages of Turpentine

Oil Paint Compatibility

Compared to other paint thinners, turpentine is far more compatible with oil paints. Since it is derived from natural sources like trees, turpentine does not react harshly like other chemical agents. As a result, the painters can be relieved of any possible reaction ruining their creative piece.

Fast Drying Time

For the busy artists and painters, turpentine proves to be one of the best solvents to work with. That is because this liquid dries up much faster than almost any of its competitors.

Once you apply it on a surface, the solvent will dry up within as short as 15 minutes! However, you should wait for about 2 hours before applying the next brush stroke. Here we discussed about acrylic brushes that you should use.

Not So Toxic

This is where the natural sources of turpentine come in handy again! While most other solvents come from crude chemical components, this one is originated from pine trees. As a result, it is not that toxic.

In fact, turpentine was used as a medicinal elixir in ancient days. However, we don’t recommend it as a substitute of modern medicines.

No Residue

Since there is not much chemical used to produce turpentine, it does not leave too much residue behind. As a result, you can marvel at the clean painting peacefully. Remember to not go for the mineral turpentines or turps since they do leave oily residue behind, especially on oil paints.

Disadvantages of Turpentine

Strong Odor

You would not expect a strong odor from a naturally derived component like turpentine, but it does, in fact, have a very strong odor. This is one of the primary reasons people choose some other cleaning solution or solvent. Instead of indoor activities like painting, it is used more commonly for outdoor lighting.


Unfortunately, turpentine seems to be quite an expensive solvent. Especially, if you look for it in a local art supply store, any small bottle of turpentine will come at a high price point.

This is because such shops usually sell very high-quality distilled turpentine. Besides, it is harder to manufacture than other solvents.

Comparing Turpentine VS. Mineral Spirits

Now that you know much about both mineral spirits and turpentine individually, let’s see how they fare against each other! Let the battle of two popular solvents begin!


The array of differences between these two solvents begins at their origin. In fact, many of their dissimilarities are the consequences of this stark contrast.

Mineral spirits are derived from crude sources like petroleum. On the other hand, turpentine comes from trees. Resins are collected from live pine trees that go through the process of steam distillation. Because of this, turpentine is friendlier for the environment than mineral spirits.


Both turpentine and mineral spirits are used as paint thinners, cleaners and degreasers. They help to reduce the thickness of applied or non-applied paint and reach the desired consistency. You can also use them to clean up a mistaken blotch on a completed piece.

Mineral spirits help in unclogging screen print and re-gripping golf balls. In contrast, turpentine helps to produce furniture wax and synthesize organic compounds.

Know More: Here we select right Gouache Paints


Although both mineral spirit and turpentine are flammable, they differ in degrees of flammability. Turpentine is highly combustible and therefore poses a high risk of fire hazard.

Accidentally ingesting it can lead to burning sensations inside. Mineral spirits, on the other hand, are a lot less flammable.

However, since both of them do pose such risks to some extent, we highly recommend using rubber gloves, safety glasses and similar equipment for self-protection.


It is obvious to expect the plant-derived alternative to be less toxic. But surprisingly, mineral spirits can actually be the less toxic option of these two solvents!

This happens since certain species of pine trees have harmful elements. Distilling those produces gum turpentine which can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation. You can also suffer from headaches being in the concentrated vapor of this solvent.

However, except gum turpentine, the other variations of this solvent are usually less toxic than mineral spirits. Inhaling, ingesting or touching the spirits will cause slightly toxic responses. But its acute exposure can lead to nervous depression.


Although both of them have odor, turpentine has a stronger smell than mineral spirits. This is one of the most prominent reasons behind so many people choosing mineral spirits over turpentine.

It is hard to ignore the strong pungent smell of turpentine. In contrast, the odor of mineral spirits is quite shallow and hard to get a whiff of. There are also odorless version of mineral spirit available in markets.


Even visually, the two solvents are very different from each other. Mineral spirits are also called white spirits because of their milky white color. Putting them in thin coating on paintings or surfaces makes the spirit almost transparent.

On the other hand, the sticky liquid of turpentine is yellow in color. However, the oil derived from turpentine is transparent.

>> Know water color use in wood.

Drying Time

The total time taken by a paint to dry up depends on many factors including the coating thickness and the surface material. But in general, turpentine dries up at a much faster rate than mineral spirits. Its drying time is only about 15 minutes which can be extended to a couple of hours for the maximum effect.

Oil Paint

Both mineral spirits and turpentine are highly in demand for using with oil paints. However, if we do a close comparison, turpentine is more compatible with these paints than mineral spirits. Its resin-derived texture allows the solvent to mix more easily with the oily finish.

>> Gouache VS. Watercolor – Which One you should Select?


For artists, turpentine provides a better solution in case of getting a smooth finishing. Since mineral spirits are derived from petroleum, it tends to leave oily residue behind which can hamper the painting. Turpentine does not leave any such remnants and thus is safer to use on a clean painting.


Turpentine is usually a lot more expensive than mineral spirits. This mostly happens since the majority of local stores bring in the highly refined versions of turpentine. These require a lot more care and delicate processing which results in higher price tags.


It is easier to find mineral spirits in local stores than turpentine. Besides, commercial factories don’t tend to use turpentine in their manufacturing process.

This could be due to the low supply of turpentine or its higher cost. Such unavailability is also one of the reasons behind people choosing mineral spirits.

How to Dispose of Mineral Spirits and Turpentine

You cannot simply put any of the solvents down the ground or in the drain. Even though they are not as harmful to paint, they are not friendly for the environment and your local water facility. Therefore, you need to be cautious enough to dispose of these solvents.

  • Dispose of any empty container or leftover of these solvents in a local disposal site. If you do so, it will not affect the environment.
  • As mineral spirits evaporate over time, it’s safe to reuse the leftovers for degreasing your car parts and cleaning tools.
  • You can also reuse the mineral spirits by straining the solids out of it.
  • Both the solvents can be disposed of in the same way.
  • A used rag can cause spontaneous combustion. To prevent that, take a metal container with metal lid, fill it with water, and then put the used cloth. The tight fighting metal lid will ensure that it's completely covered.
  • Drying the used rags on a non-combustible surface outside will also do the trick.

Bottom Line - Which One is For You?

Reading the Turpentine VS Mineral Spirit guide, you already know that these two solvents came pretty close to defeating each other.

However, keeping everything in perspective, mineral spirits seem to be the winner for painters on a budget, while turpentine is the better solution for individuals running short on time.

Mineral spirit is the more practical choice since it will be easily available, won’t cost much, has a negligible odor and is less likely to catch fire. So you can keep using it for a longer period.

Turpentine is for those of you who need to get things done as fast as possible since it dries up faster. It also boasts better quality as there will be no oily residue left on the painting.

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