Will Mineral Spirits Remove Paint? (It Depends)

You know about mineral spirits but might realize you are a bit hazy on the details.

So, will mineral spirits remove paint? It depends on what is meant by paint and remove. Mineral spirits are one of the best paint thinners–and arguably the best solvent for oily stains and oil-based paints.

Removing paint usually means stripping dried paint. You can use mineral spirits to aid this process, but it usually is not sufficient.

This article will clear up what mineral spirits can and cannot do–and list best practices when using mineral spirits.

Acrylic Paint:

This is water based, so spirits are not ideal. Try soap and hot water instead.

Latex Paint:

Latex paint is also water based, so mineral spirits are not ideal. Again, try soap and water.

Latex Paint

Chalk Paint:

Like latex paint, this is another water-based paint, so the same as above applies.

Oil-Based Paints:

This is where mineral spirits shine. Mineral spirits are safe for most surfaces and work as a pre-paint cleaner for sticky residue.

Do mineral spirits take off paint? Sometimes. To take off dry paint, use it along with heat, sanding, and scraping.

  • Polyurethanes:
    With oil-based polyurethane, you can use it as paint thinner, cleaner for painting tools, and to clean up wet paint.
  • Epoxy:
    It works similarly for these coatings. On the flip side, be careful not to damage epoxy surfaces.
  • Enamel:
    You can use it on oil-based enamels, but some are water-based–so check which kind you are using before selecting a paint thinner.

From Wooden Surfaces:

  • Accidental Spills On Wood Floors:
    It will reliably get oil paint thinned so you can clean it up safely, no matter the wood type–hardwood or softwood.
  • Spills On Worktops:
    It is the perfect way to get oil-based coatings and sticky residues off metal and wood worktops.
  • Cleaning Finished Wood:
    Many wood varnishes (as on wood trim) are oil-based, so be cautious if you use mineral spirits.

Paint On Concrete:

You can use mineral spirits on concrete floors, as well as grout, mortar, and marble. However, it might be wise to test a small area before going at whole surfaces. Do not use mineral spirits on asphalt or other petroleum-based products.

Paint on Concrete

Remove Car Paint:

  • Cleaning Metal:
    Use mineral spirits to wipe down metal surfaces after paint removal.
  • Cleaning Plastic:
    Repeatedly using mineral spirits can break down some synthetic materials, but typically, there is no problem with an occasional cleaning.
  • Cleaning Glass:
    It is an okay spot treatment to thin oil-based paints on glass for easier cleaning.

Can You Clean Paintbrushes With Mineral Spirits?

Many people online describe cleaning brushes using mineral spirits.

There could be subtle differences with different projects, but here are the basics:

  • 1
    Pour spirits into a cup of sufficient size and level to accommodate the painting tool.
  • 2
    Soak briefly before swishing and lightly pressing against the side of the container to squeeze off excess. Repeat as you see fit.
  • 3
    For tough jobs, pour a fresh cup of spirits and repeat the above steps. If this does not work or you are dealing with dry paint, a paintbrush comb might help.
  • 4
    Use soap and water to finish the wash.
  • 5
    Apply absorbent cloth to the brush and allow it to dry.

How To Clean Paint Rollers:

Use a similar procedure with paint rollers, trays, or any other painting tools. Wear gloves and massage the tool to dislodge paint.

How To Clean Spray Paint Guns:

It is worth noting that you can thin paint off of paint sprayers, but be sure to finish the process with a soap-and-water cleanse.


What Are Mineral Spirits & How Do They Work?

Specifically, it is a petroleum-derived product. More generally, it is an organic compound–one of many used to thin paint. It is the prime ingredient in paint thinner, as it is an ideal solvent for oily materials as opposed to water-based (as latex paint).

Therefore, mineral spirits remove almost any waxy, greasy stain on practically any surface. However, by itself, it is not highly effective to take off dried and cured paint.

Despite its strength, it is safe for do-it-yourselfers. Just use common sense and handle it properly.


What Should I Know About Working With Mineral Spirits?

Spirits are somewhat volatile (easily inhaled), flammable (promote fires), and toxic to skin and mucous membranes.

Proper safety precautions:

  • 1
    Work in a well-ventilated area. (Note: Benzene, a frequent additive to mineral spirit paint thinners, is similarly volatile and toxic.)
  • 2
    Wear gloves and eye protection.
  • 3
    Do not store near flames or electric charge.
  • 4
    Make sure to dispose of mineral spirits properly. Do not pour mineral spirits (or spirits with dissolved paint) down the drain.
  • 5
    Avoid mixing: Using two solvents at once could create an unintended chemical reaction.

Alternatives to Mineral Spirits

Paint Thinner - Minireal Spirit
  • Turpentine 
    It is an organic compound distilled from living pine tree resin that is great for thin oil-based paints. A subtle difference between mineral spirits and turpentine is that turpentine produces more odor.
  • Linseed Oil
    The same oils that dissolve paint are great for cleaning it, too. When oil-based paint is wet, you could even use a multi-purpose cleaner containing natural oils.
  • Paint Thinner
    In theory, paint thinner could refer to anything that is thinning paint. In practice, mineral spirits and paint thinner often refer to the same product. There are eco-friendly paint thinners (not petroleum products), but they usually cost more and lack strength.
  • Odor-Free Mineral Spirits 
    Mineral spirits paint thinner is not so odoriferous. However, for slightly higher price tags, you can get similar odor-free paint thinners, but they probably will lack strength.
  • Acetone
    Acetone and mineral spirits are similar, as both will clean a variety of coatings without leaving residue or odor, but acetone is a faster evaporating paint thinner.
  • Alcohol
    Many lacquers have denatured alcohol as a solvent, and so it is a great cleaner for similar coatings. If you have it on hand, rubbing alcohol could work on many paint spills. However, rubbing alcohol, much like nail polish remover, can contain additives.
  • Lacquer Thinner 
    This is generally stronger than mineral spirits and should be used more cautiously, as it can dissolve various coatings/surfaces. Both will work with oil-based coatings, but lacquer thinners normally come at higher price tags.

Subtle differences aside, all the above are highly effective paint removers.


Mineral Spirits FAQs

Which is stronger: paint thinner or mineral spirits?

Often, “paint thinner” is mineral spirit paint thinner. The most common difference between mineral spirits and paint thinners is purity: Most paint thinner contains spirits along with additives such as benzene.


Can mineral spirits remove acrylic nails?

Maybe, but nail polish remover is usually composed of acetone, denatured alcohol, and other solvents. We don't recommend using mineral spirits on your skin.


Are mineral spirits the same as white spirits?

Yes. This is the UK/Ireland equivalent. Less often, it is called mineral turpentine or petroleum spirits.


Can mineral spirits remove stains from clothes?

Yes, but use sparingly, as it could damage fabric or dyes. Scrape/wipe off as much as possible before treating fabric, and try soaking in soapy water for a few hours first.


Can mineral spirits get dried paint out of the carpet?

Try scraping off as much as you can before treatment. Otherwise, It would depend on the paint type and how dry it is. Since mineral spirits can affect fabric dyes, try to stay right on the stained area.


Can you paint over mineral spirits?

Of course, but not immediately. Mineral spirits dry entirely in about a half-hour. However, most people do a soap-and-water wash before proceeding, anyway.


Will mineral spirits ruin the laminate floor?

It depends. If you are concerned, try testing on a discrete area first, and/or be sure to keep the treatment on the stain itself. Info about your laminate surface could inform your decision. General rule: For the best outcome, always start cleaning paint spills as soon as possible.


Conclusion

For some projects, to remove paint or successfully clean up, mineral spirits are the best. For others, it is useless–even harmful.

Similarly, it is totally safe when used as directed, but with negligent use, you could cause harm to people, property, and the environment around you.

Mineral spirits paint thinner is a do-it-yourselfer must-have, but knowing when and how to use this chemical is valuable for almost anyone.