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

Last Updated: October 2, 2020

Paint brush

Mineral spirits and acetone perform similar functions. Whether you’re doing a deep clean or a paint project, chances are pretty decent that you will reach for one or both of these handy resources at some point.

However, just because they are similar does not mean they are interchangeable. Which option you choose can have a real impact on the outcome of your project.

It helps to go into the selection process with as much information as possible. In this guide, we aim to highlight the difference between acetone and mineral spirits. The goal is to help you pick the right option for your project.


What are Mineral Spirits?

Turpentine mineral spirits substitutes

Image: Ellywa, Wikimedia, CC 4.0

Mineral spirits are distilled from petroleum. It is a very potent mixture that’s great for performing a wide range of tasks. People use mineral spirits to soften adhesives, strip paint, thin paint and even perform cleaning tasks. It is especially useful in cases where you are trying to extract a material that is really caked on.

For example, if you are trying to remove many layers of thick, hard paint, mineral spirits may be a good choice for you. This is because it is a very strong oil-based solution. Some water-based solvents don’t have the same muscle power as mineral spirits.

However, the oil component does have its drawbacks. Spirit minerals tend to leave behind a slimy residue that can be a chore to remove. Because of this, people usually save it for bigger jobs.

You may also want to note that this is a very economical solvent. Containers are affordable and a little goes a long way. Just be careful when you use it! Even though mineral spirits are organic cleaners, they can also be very harsh on your skin.

SEE ALSO: 4 Mineral Spirit Substitutes You Can Make at Home

Pros
  • Great for a wide variety of tasks
  • Can tackle tough jobs
  • Cheap and plentiful
  • A little goes a long way
Cons
  • Leaves a greasy residue
  • Can be harmful to skin if not used properly

What is Acetone?

acetone nail polish remover

Image: Kaushik Narasimhan, Wikimedia CC 2.0

Acetone is a popular cleaner and solvent that is used in the home, as well as in industrial labs all over the world. It’s a clear, liquid solution that can be used for anything from stripping paint to removing nail polish.

As evidenced above, there are lots of ways you can use acetone. And, because it is a very affordable product, it is something that many homeowners may find prudent to keep on hand.

These things said, there are some cons associated with acetone that are very serious. For one thing, prolonged acetone exposure to the skin can be harmful. The material can also be flammable which means you will want to be mindful of how you store it.

These factors are not a huge deal—pretty much every cleaning product/solvent comes with similar risks. However, if you have a house with pets or children, you will need to be mindful of where you store your acetone.

Ultimately, this will be a good product for anyone that needs to keep a powerful solvent on hand.

Pros
  • Versatile
  • Affordable
  • Powerful solvent
Cons
  • Flammable
  • Toxic

Mineral Spirits vs Acetone: Which one is right for you?

Both of these solvents are effective at what they do. So, what exactly is the difference, and which is best suited for you? Ultimately, mineral spirits will probably be better suited for do-it-yourself paint jobs.

Mineral spirits mix well with water-based paints, and they can strip a surface very thoroughly if you need to clean up an old paint job. On the other hand, mineral spirits are not so good for general cleaning because they do leave behind a residue.

Acetone is better for general cleaning or degreasing because of its power as a solvent. Users will want to be mindful of the safety hazards associated with acetone, but assuming they can navigate that consideration they will be in good shape.

In reality, a well-stocked cleaning supplies cabinet might feature both products. And why not? They are effective at what they do, and very affordable to boot!

SEE ALSO: 9 DIY Paint Thinner Substitutes


Featured image credit: Paint brush by sweetlouise, Pixabay