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Mineral Spirits vs. Turpentine: What’s the Difference?

Mineral Spirits vs. Turpentine

Mineral Spirits vs. Turpentine

You have options when it comes to paint removal and other trickier cleanup jobs. Mineral spirits and turpentine are both popular options noted for their effectiveness but how much do you know about either one of them?

Choosing the right cleaning agent for the job is mission-critical to success. In this article, we explain the differences between the two options, highlighting what each does best and why you might want to use one over the other.

The ultimate goal is not necessarily to declare one better than the other but rather to help you conclude for yourself which will be better for your needs.

These things in mind, read on for a guide to mineral spirits vs. turpentines.Divider 2

What are Mineral Spirits?

Klean Strip Odorless Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits are a chemical solvent derived from petroleum. It is a clear, organic material that looks like water. There are several benefits to mineral spirits that make them a popular choice both as a paint thinner and solvent.

Perhaps first and foremost, they are very affordable. Mineral spirits can be bought in large quantities for relatively little money. What’s more, since it is very potent, a little goes a long way. One container should last a long time.

Mineral spirits are also extremely potent. Unlike most solvents, mineral spirits are oil-based rather than water-based. As a consequence, it is well suited for seamlessly stripping thick and thin paints. People also have good luck using spirits to dilute glue and other adhesives

The oil element does, however, have its drawbacks. Oil tends to leave a streaky residue on your work surface. If you are planning on painting over the surface you just treated this might not be such a big deal. However, some users may find it problematic.

As a consequence, many use mineral spirits only sparingly, in situations where streakiness won’t be a big problem.

  • Affordable
  • Potent
  • Organic
  • Can be used sparingly
  • May leave an oily residue

What is Turpentine?Winsor & Newton Distilled Turpentine

Turpentine is a solvent that is derived from pine trees. Though not quite as potent, turpentine is favored by some for the fact that it is water-based. As a result, it doesn’t leave behind much of a residue behind. As a result, it is well suited for cleaning/degreasing work as well as lighter paint removal.

Turpentine is toxic but like any other cleaner, it is safe to use when proper precautions are taken.

You might keep turpentine in your home for general cleaning or to thin/remove paint. Because it leaves behind no residue it is a great low-profile way to clean.

  • Effective
  • No residue
  • Good for general cleaning
  • Toxic
  • Not as effective as spirits

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Which is best?

Chances are pretty good that if you need one of these products it wouldn’t hurt to have both of them on hand. While it is true that they perform similar tasks their small differences make it worthwhile to have one of each.

To review, spirits are better for bigger jobs. If you have a tough material to work with it is going to be the solvent you reach for.

However, because minerals can create their own mess you might also like to keep something gentler on hand. That is where turpentine comes into play.

Ultimately both materials are pretty affordable and they last pretty much indefinitely. There is no reason not to have one of each and it certainly never hurts to have a well-stocked cleaning supplies cabinet right?

Featured Image Credit:, Shutterstock


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