How to Use Mineral Spirits to Remove Paint

As an oil-based solvent, mineral spirits are commonly used as a paint thinner for oil-based paints, as well as a cleaning tool to get rid of paint stains from a variety of items. This includes clothes, paintbrushes, and even wooden surfaces. However, if you’ve never worked with mineral spirits before, you may wonder how you can use them to remove paint from wood and other surfaces.

Using mineral spirits to remove paint from surfaces like wood is relatively easy. All you need to do is dampen a rag with the mineral spirits of your choice and then use the rag to rub the paint stain you want to get rid of. Keep in mind that mineral spirits should usually only be used for stains that are still wet (aside from a few exceptions).

If you’re wondering how mineral spirits work to get rid of paint and are hoping for a more detailed guide on how to use them on paint stains, read on for more information!

How Mineral Spirits Work

As discussed, mineral spirits are a type of oil-based paint thinner. When mixed with an oil-based paint or varnish, it thins them, making them easier to work with.

In terms of getting rid of paint stains, mineral spirits work in a similar way – they thin the paint on the surface you’re cleaning, making it easier to get rid of the paint.

They are most effective on wet paint stains because dried paint has had time to cure and bond with the surface. While you can use mineral spirits on dried paint, it should only be used after a surface has been stripped of the paint, as a way to get rid of the remaining flakes. In this role, they essentially work as a type of wood cleaner

When using mineral spirits on paints, it’s essential to remember that they are not effective when used on latex paints. Latex paints are water-based, and mineral spirits are oil-basedoil and water do not mix, which means that mineral spirits will be ineffective when used on latex paint spills. 

How to Use Mineral Spirits to Remove Paint

Let’s look at how you can use mineral spirits to remove paint from two surfaces: paintbrushes and wooden surfaces. 

How to Use Mineral Spirits to Remove Paint From Paintbrushes

Here are steps that you’ll need to follow when removing paint from paintbrushes. Mineral spirits will come in very handy while you’re painting your woodworking pieces, as they reduce the need for you to spend money on more painting supplies

To use mineral spirits on your paintbrushes, you will need to:

Step 1: Pour Mineral Spirits into a Container

Find a container that can fit your tallest paintbrush all the way up to the bristles. Old plastic takeaway containers or Tupperware should do the trick.

Fill the container with mineral spirits, ensuring there is enough of the mineral spirits that your paintbrush bristles can be submerged completely.

Step 2: Dip Your Paintbrush

Dip your paintbrush into the container, and swirl it around in the mineral spirits, ensuring the liquid reaches into all the crevices of the bristles. Pushing the brush against the sides of the container will also help get the spirits into and in-between the bristles

Keep doing this for about a minute or so.

Step 3: Comb the Bristles

Remove the paintbrush from the spirits and put it on a dry rag. 

Next, use a paintbrush comb or – if all else fails – a fork to comb through the bristles of your paintbrush, getting rid of as many paint flakes as possible. The comb will also help loosen old, dried-up bits of paint, making the next steps much easier. 

Step 4: Repeat Steps 3 and 4

Continue repeating until you’re satisfied with how clean your paintbrush is.

Step 5: Wash with Soap and Water

Use dish soap to rinse out the mineral spirits from your paintbrush. If you don’t get rid of the spirits, you risk inadvertently diluting your oil-based paints and ruining your water-based ones the next time you use the brush without thinking. 

How to Use Mineral Spirits to Remove Paint From Wooden Surfaces

As mentioned, you can also use mineral spirits to get rid of paint from wooden surfaces. Ideally, this paint should be fresh (that is, still wet). However, if you scrape the area of the majority of the paint first, mineral spirits can also be used to remove the last remaining paint flakes on the wood pieces.  

If you’re wondering how to use mineral spirits to get rid of paint from wooden surfaces, read on. Here are the steps you will need to follow:

Step 1: Dampen a Portion of a Rag with the Mineral Spirits

Don’t drown the rag in liquid. Instead, use just as much as you need, and no more. Remember, mineral spirits can be toxic, and using too much increases your exposure to the fumes.

Step 2: Wipe With the Dampened Rag

Use the rag to wipe away the paint that has spilled on your wooden surfaces.

Step 3: If It’s Already Dry, Try Again

Depending on how long it has been since the paint dried and how thick the layer of paint is, it may be possible to use mineral spirits to get rid of old paint spills as well as new ones. 

If the layer of paint is very thick, you’ll first need to strip the paint away using a paint scraper. After, use the rag with mineral spirits to get rid of the last remaining flakes of paint

If the layer is thin, or there is just a small patch of dried paint you’re trying to remove, you can directly use the rag with mineral spirits. However, you will have to put in more effort at scrubbing away the dried paint than you would if the paint was fresh. Additionally, there is a chance that the paint won’t come away at all. If this happens, you’ll need to opt for a stronger solvent, like turpentine.

Alternatives to Mineral Spirits

Unless you need a stronger option, you should ideally use mineral spirits where necessary. If you’re wondering why we recommend mineral spirits over other alternatives, check out this article on what mineral spirits do to wood.

However, there are situations in which you may not have access to mineral spirits or may need something stronger. If that’s the case, here are some alternatives you can use:

  • Turpentine: This is a stronger solvent than mineral spirits and is more toxic as well. While you’ll need to be careful when working with it, it’s great for stripping away dried and cured paint that mineral spirits cannot affect.
  • Acetone: Conversely, this is a gentler option than mineral spirits. It’s relatively similar in the way that it acts on surfaces and can get rid of paint, dirt, and grease. However, more stubborn stains may not come out easily with acetone as they need something stronger.
  • Denatured Alcohol: Again, the effects of denatured alcohol on paint are relatively similar to mineral spirits. However, it shouldn’t be used on finished wood, as it can strip the wood of the finish.

Bonus Tips!

Here are some tips that can make it easier for you to use mineral spirits:

  • Unless you’re using mineal spirits to clean a wood surface of something like sawdust, you shouldn’t wet the entire surface with mineral spirits. Only use the products on the stained area that you need to treat.
  • Mineral spirits can be used to wipe away the sticky residue from price tags. If you’ve just bought a new batch of wood blankets that you want to work with, given the section where the price tag was a once over with mineral spirits. Then, wash with gentle soap and water so that there are no remnants of the spirits on the surface of the wood, and then you can start carving.
  • Wood and paintbrushes aren’t the only surfaces you can use mineral spirits on. If you’ve dropped paint over your favorite piece of clothing, give it a once-over with mineral spirits before the paint dries. You’ll still have to wash the cloth to get rid of the mineral spirits, but you no longer have to worry about permanent paint damage. 

Final Thoughts

When working with oil-based paints, mineral spirits are a must-have. Not only do they ensure your paintbrushes stay clean once you’re don’t painting, they’re also a great way to reduce the risk of paint damage to wood and glass surfaces around you – as well as your clothes!

That said, it’s essential to remember that mineral spirits are toxic and flammable and to take the proper safety precautions when working with them.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

Recent Posts