Mineral spirits also referred to as mineral turpentine is a derivative of petroleum. Even though mineral spirits are very effective paint thinners for varnish and oil-based paints, not all paint thinners are mineral spirits.
They are used to clean oily engine parts and other items which are encrusted in oil and grime. Mineral spirits are one of the important items in a woodworker’s tool kit.
They help to clean wood pieces of dirt and debris. Wondering how to use mineral spirits on wood? This article is your perfect guide.
All at a Glance
What are Mineral Spirits Used for?
Mineral spirits are a useful product that can be used for different purposes. It functions as a degreaser that can be used to clean tools, auto parts, and paintbrushes.
It also functions as a cleaning agent to get rid of sticky price tag residue, scuff marks off hardwood floors, and sap off garden items. People also use mineral spirits to light up the charcoal grill when they go camping.
It is widely referred to us as paint thinner due to its use in cleaning paint brushes that have been soaked in oil-based paint.
Mineral spirits as a paint thinner function effectively in working with oil-based paints ad polyurethane varnish, however, it doesn’t work quite well with shellac or lacquer. This is due to the fact that shellac is alcohol-based and lacquer requires its solvent.
Ensure to always inspect the paint’s label so you can be sure mineral spirits are the go-to product before proceeding with it. Also, observe specific thinning ratios before proceeding with it to change the viscosity of the paint to ensure that your paint ends up in the appropriate consistency.
Mineral spirits are also used in cleaning wood surfaces including floors and cabinets. It is imperative to first test mineral spirits on hidden areas before applying them to the actual surface due to their ability to soften some finishes.
Avoid using mineral spirits on floors without wax, since it will negatively affect the glossy top finish layer and lead to a dull unattractive look. However, be aware that mineral spirits won’t cause damage to any wood finish. Finally, some woodworkers now make mineral spirits as part of their tool kit using it to prepare new wood for a beautiful finish.
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Effects of Mineral Spirits on wood
- It restores the glassy look to the wood
Mineral spirits are a great agent to restore the glassy look of hardwood. If you have hardwood with finishes that have dulled over time. Mineral spirits are made of solvent which makes it easier to dislodge the buildup of dirt, wax, oil remnants, and polish.
Even though you can use other commercial cleaners to get rid of them, mineral spirits do not require much effort to achieve the desired outcome. Also, be aware that minerals spirits are not toxic enough to strip off your wood off finish so your wood is safe.
- It helps to remove stains from wood
Removing dust from wood floors is easy to achieve but what about in case of stubborn stains? You’ve probably been in a case where your wood is exposed to the elements and the tree sap is found sticky to the wood thereby, ruining the wood’s appearance.
Mineral spirits are the right choice here. They help to soften the stubborn stains, making it a lot easier to clean the spot and regain the wood’s attractive look. To do this, you only need to soak a clean cloth inside mineral spirits, place it on the spot and allow it to remain there for a few minutes before wiping it away.
Mineral spirits also help to get rid of oil-based stains including adhesive stains, oil-based lotion stains, and food oil stains.
- It prepares wood for staining
Mineral spirits are used to clean wood projects before applying any finish. This is the best approach to cleaning wood surfaces. It also aids the absorption of stain into the wood, generating a richer finish.
Just like woodworkers are used to sanding all their projects, you probably do the same. However, sanding is just the first step in getting a fine finish. After achieving a smooth, even wood surface, it is essential to get rid of all dust and sanding particles before applying any finish, so that your finish can look exactly how you want it.
If you did not clean, dust ends up in your finish and alters the shiny smooth appearance. The best means to achieve a clean surface that is ready for varnishing or staining is to use mineral spirits after sanding is done.
You need to start by pouring a generous amount of mineral spirits onto a clean towel. Carefully wipe all surfaces of the wood with the soaked towel, gently moving and using even strokes, staying with the grain of the wood.
Avoid using scrubbing or circular motions. When using mineral spirits on wood before staining, always change the sides of the soaked towel as you pick up dirt. If the surface of the wood you are working with is large, you may need to use more than one towel.
How to use mineral spirit on wood?
If you are a beginner at using mineral spirits, don’t get worked as we would look into that now. Below are the basic procedures for using mineral spirits on wood:
- Dip a neat cloth inside mineral spirits of your choice. You may decide to mix the mineral spirits with a little amount of mild soap.
- If you want you are dealing with is a dried stain from tree sap, wring excess liquid from the cloth. Allow the soaked cloth to remain on the spot for a few minutes so that the stain can soften.
- Wipe the surface with the soaked cloth and get rid of dust, grime, polish, and wax buildup.
- To reach nook and corners, use an old toothbrush or steel wool after being dipped inside mineral spirits.
How to identify and purchase the right mineral spirits product?
There are many varieties of mineral spirits at the market that you can select from. While this makes you have various options, you need to consider the one that works best for you. There are some properties to look out for when purchasing mineral spirit;
- Inspect the grade: Mineral spirits typically have three grades ranging from low flash, and regular to high flash. Regular grade mineral spirits are okay for domestic use, you can also work well with a low flash grade option.
2. Ensure to purchase mineral spirits rather than mineral oil: Though mineral oils and mineral spirits have relatively similar sources, mineral oil is body-safe and food-safe. It is generally used to treat callouses and dry skin, clean dishes, and other kitchen items. While mineral oils can be used on wood, it is nowhere near as effective as mineral spirits.
3. Ensure what you are purchasing is not paint thinner: Most times, mineral spirits are used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Paint thinners include a wider range of solvents like acetone, naptha, and turpentine which are used for thin-oil-based paints. All those solvents are more toxic than mineral spirits and have different effects on wood.
4. Confirm if the mineral spirits are odorless and flameless: Non-flammable mineral spirits are considered safer to work with compared to flammable ones. Also, odorless spirits are more comfortable to work with.
Some mineral spirits have an unpleasant smell like a kerosene smell. Apart from the fact that odorless spirits are more comfortable to work with, they are also safe as they have been refined to eliminate several toxic compounds that give mineral spirits a smell.
5. Purchase high-quality products: Yes, mineral spirits are safe butting it is advisable to give in to some basic precautions. They are inherently toxic so you may be putting your life at risk if you purchase a low dubious quality mineral spirit.
Precautions while using Mineral spirits
Due to mineral spirits’ ability to irritate the skin, it is imperative to put on gloves when applying them to the wood surface. In case of splashes, put on safety goggles to protect your eyes. After using mineral spirits, always make sure to wash your hands.
Due to the oily nature of mineral spirits, your hand feels oily after use. It is wise to wash your hands with soap and water so the residue can be gotten rid of. Mineral spirits can cause your skin to dry and crack, so it is wise to use hand lotion to moisturize your hand, especially if you frequently use mineral spirits.
Open windows when using mineral spirits in a room to allow fresh air to come in. You can wear a respirator if the room isn’t well ventilated. You may experience dizziness and nausea when in close contact with the vapors. Continuous exposure may lead you to be unconscious. Avoid smoking during use due to its flammability feature.
After use, dispose of the solvent properly. Avoid pouring down the drain or pouring on the ground. Place it in a sealed container and get rid of it at a waste collection point in your community.
Conclusion: How To Use Mineral Spirits On Wood
Mineral spirits are a good choice if you want to get rid of stubborn stains on wooden surfaces. They are also good for renewing old finishes, removing excess oil from oily woods, and highlighting wood grain to make woodworking easier.
While making the decision to use mineral spirits on your wood, make sure to get the right product. This article also covers the necessary tips to decide on the right product.