Guide to Mineral Spirits vs. Acetone

Mineral Spirits vs. Acetone

Whether you are stocking up your workshop, painting company, or garage, mineral spirits and acetone are both very handy to have around. These common solvents are ideal for a large variety of uses. From surface preparation to thinning to cleanup, they play important roles in the process of painting. Both mineral spirits and acetone can also help clean up a variety of messes that water and soap cannot handle.

There are important differences between the two solvents, though. Acetone and mineral spirits should not be used interchangeably. Depending on the job, one might be preferable to the other — and in some contexts, one might cause some serious problems.

In this article you will learn:

Brushes and oil paint, messy spectrum of colours
cans with purple, pink, white and lavender paint

Are acetone and mineral spirits the same?

Briefly, no. Acetone and mineral spirits are not the same, and should not be treated as if they are.

Part of the confusion comes from the fact that both are used as thinners. Painters commonly use mineral spirits, for example, to thin the paint that they put into paint sprayers. Acetone, on the other hand, is used to thin lacquer. When people get used to using one as a thinner, they sometimes start using the other for the same application and are disappointed when they do not get the same results.

Similarly, both acetone and mineral spirits are useful for cleaning a variety of messes on tools, in the shop, and around your house. Even here, they are not identical, though. Both are excellent for cleaning up paint spills, for example. While acetone will aggressively strip paint from a wide variety of surfaces, though, mineral spirits is really only effective at cleaning up fresh paint. It can clean brushes and other tools after you finish a project, but once the paint dries, mineral spirits is mostly ineffective.

While the two solvents do have a similarity as thinners and cleaners, ultimately they are different solvents and need to be treated as different solutions to different problems. To get the most out of each solvent, and to make sure that you do not damage important surfaces, tools, or household items, you should learn the differences between mineral spirits and acetone so you use both properly.

The differences between the two

As noted above, mineral spirits and acetone are used to thin different products. Mineral spirits thins oil-based paints while acetone thins lacquers such as nail polish.

Additionally, mineral spirits is not water-soluble and presents less of a fire hazard than acetone. Many people also find the smell of mineral spirits, especially odorless varieties, less offensive than the pungent smell of acetone. Acetone is water-soluble but both its liquid and vapors are highly flammable.

Mineral spirits

Sometimes called white spirit, mineral turpentine, or Stoddard solvent, mineral spirits is a purified petroleum distillate made as a substitute for turpentine. Distilled from pine tree resins, turpentine was used for paint thinning and cleanup but has an unusually foul odor. Mineral spirits, on the other hand, has a relatively inoffensive scent reminiscent of kerosene and quickly became more popular than turpentine after its introduction.

Mineral spirits is an organic solvent used in a wide variety of applications. It is used as a paint thinner so often that it is sometimes sold under the generic name "paint thinner." As the go-to solvent for cleaning paint brushes and other painting equipment, mineral spirits is a painter's friend. It is also effective at removing greasy and sticky messes in a variety of contexts.

There are two types of readily-available mineral spirits. In addition to the basic and very affordable mineral spirits, there is a variety commonly known as odorless mineral spirits. This is a more purified version of mineral spirits that has had most of the aromatic hydrocarbons removed. Odorless mineral spirits and mineral spirits generally have the same properties and uses, but odorless mineral spirits is popular among artists who use oil paints as they tend to work in close proximity to the solvent. Functionally, though, mineral spirits and odorless mineral spirits perform similarly.

The primary characteristics of mineral spirits:

Staining Wood with Paintbrush

Uses, benefits, and proper disposal of mineral spirits

Yellow paint can with brush


Acetone is a solvent commonly used in the beauty industry and in plastics manufacturing. Also called propanone, acetone is a colorless liquid with a powerful odor. If you have spent time in a household with people who paint their nails, then you can probably recognize the smell of acetone almost immediately, as acetone is the primary ingredient in most nail polish removers.

Acetone is an organic solvent that was historically produced by fermentation until cheap chemical synthesis methods were introduced in the 1960s.

Acetone has a variety of uses in industry and in the home because it is a highly effective paint stripper and an excellent solvent of plastics. It is used as a lacquer thinner, a component in some food additives, and as a degreaser.

Homeowners will find that it can effectively clean a variety of products, provided that they are careful about what they use it for — acetone will degrade, damage, or destroy plastic products like synthetic fibers.

Some characteristics about acetone:

Uses, benefits, and proper disposal of acetone

Contact us for your mineral spirits and acetone needs

We are a leading provider of chemicals and ingredient solutions with a broad product portfolio and warehouses throughout the United States and Canada.

We have extensive experience with the production and use of mineral spirits and would be happy to assist you further. If you have questions about how our mineral spirits and acetone can assist with your business context, please reach out to our team.

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