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Paint Solvents

Paint solvents are used as cleaners, strippers, and thinners for oil. Fumes from paint solvents are both toxic and flammable, so use them with the appropriate caution, especially if working indoors.

The three most common solvents for use with paints and stains are:

  • turpentine - made from living pine trees, turpentine is good for thinning most oil based paints, varnishes, stains, and polyurethanes; because it leaves a slight gum residue, turpentine is also good for cleaning brushes and rollers.
  • mineral spirits - a low odor solvent that is good for thinning most oil based paints, varnishes, stains, and polyurethanes; a mild solvent that can be used to clean painting tools while coating is still wet
  • paint thinner - a general purpose solvent that can be used for thinning or cleaning; not recommended for softening dried paint.

To reduce the amount of solvent you use, try these suggestions:


  • always keep solvents tightly capped to prevent evaporation
  • use teflon coated metal paint cups to make clean-up easier
  • reuse solvent for general cleaning of painting tools; if purity is required (such as with nozzles) do a final rinse with fresh solvent

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