Is Mineral Spirits Good for Paint Prep?

Prepping your walls before you paint them is essential to provide a clean, smooth surface to work upon.

This is necessary to remove any contaminants on the wall, including dirt, grease, nicotine, mildew, wax, and old wallpaper paste.

Mineral spirits is commonly used in the paint industry.

Is mineral spirits good for paint prep?

Also known as white spirit, mineral turpentine, or Stoddard solvent, mineral spirits is a purified petroleum distillate used mainly as a substitute for turpentine.

While turpentine has an unusually foul odor, mineral spirits has a relatively inoffensive scent that is similar to kerosene.

This organic solvent can be used for a myriad of applications, including as a paint thinner, cleaning solution, and degreaser.

Mineral spirits is ideal for paint prep, as it can clean the toughest surfaces. It can also be used to remove paint from an old piece of wood furniture, without damaging or stripping the wood as acetone will.

As well as using mineral spirits in your paint prep routine, you can also use it for the following:

Thinning Paint

Mineral spirits is ideal for thinning paint, especially in paint sprayers that require thinner paint. Mineral spirits is sometimes even sold under the generic term of ‘paint thinner’, as this is its most popular use.

Cleaning Paint Tools

Use mineral spirits and water to clean up your paint tools such as paintbrushes. If you need to clean your paint sprayer, an automotive lacquer thinner is better suited, as this is specially designed for cleaning spray guns.

Just be sure to rinse the thinner with water afterward to remove any residue, and always air dry the parts to prevent rust from developing.

If your sprayer has any rubber parts, be cautious of the mineral spirits dissolving plastic. Consult manufacturer guidelines to find out the best way to clean your paint sprayer.


Mineral spirits is a powerful degreaser.

It’s great for soaking greasy car parts and tools, or you can dip a rag in mineral spirits and target a specific grease stain. Just be sure to clean the rag afterwards.

Removing Paint Spills

As well as paint prep, mineral spirits can also be used to remove dried-on paint spills.
Use a rag soaked in mineral spirits to dab the area, repeating as necessary.

Large stains may need a little more effort, but mineral spirits should be effective at removing the paint.

Can I use acetone instead of mineral spirits?

Acetone is best known in the form of nail polish remover. It’s a colorless liquid that evaporates quickly and effectively dissolves paint and varnish.

As well as being used as a nail polish remover, acetone is also commonly used to dissolve ink stains, remove scuff marks from floors, remove permanent marker stains, clean tools, and dissolve glue.

It’s a good alternative to mineral spirits, as it’s an aggressive cleaner and won’t leave behind any oil residue as mineral spirits do.

However, because of its strength, always test it on a small area before using it to clean stains or spills, and never use it on plastics – it’ll dissolve them!

You should also avoid using it as a paint thinner, as mineral spirits is better suited to this.

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Acetone is great for the following:

Nail polish remover

You definitely don’t want to use mineral spirits for this!

Dissolving Ink Stains

Acetone can remove tough ink stains from even the lightest colored clothing, and remove permanent marker stains.

Removing Scuff Marks from Floors

It’s also effective for removing scuff marks from the floor. Simply use an acetone-soaked rag to rub the mark for fast and easy removal. Remove any acetone residue with water afterward.

Cleaning Tools

Acetone can be used to clean your dirty tools, but because it evaporates fast, mineral spirits may be a better option.

Dissolving Glues

Acetone is very effective at cleaning glue, and will even dissolve super glue.

Paint stripper/cleaner

Acetone is an aggressive stripper, so be sure to test a small area to see how the surface reacts first.

Acetone is non-oily, so it’s perfect for using on oily hardwoods to remove some of the natural oils which prevent the paint from adhering.

Acetone is also great for cleaning metal surfaces.

Do mineral spirits leave a residue?

Yes. Mineral spirits leave a residue behind. To remove the residue, wipe down the area with a cloth that has been lightly soaked in alcohol, or paint thinner. The alternative to this is to substitute the use of mineral spirits with acetone, water, thinner or other suitable solvents.

Final Say

While mineral spirits is less aggressive than acetone, it also leaves an oily residue behind, whereas acetone does not.

For certain tasks such as paint thinning and general paint prep, mineral spirits is ideal, whereas when you need a tougher solvent to tackle specific stains and scuffs, try acetone.

Just remember to only use a small amount, and test it on the surface before fully applying.

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