Cleaning Rags With Mineral Spirits – Ultimate Guide

When DIY’ers need to clean surfaces, degrease parts, or thin oil-based paint, mineral spirits are often the best paint thinner and solvent. Depending on the project you are working on, using rags is the ideal solution to apply this effective solvent. How do you clean rags with mineral spirits on them?

You can wash solvent-soaked rags in your washing machine or by hand. Both methods require detergent and water, but washing by hand is preferable to avoid damaging your washing machine.

This article will tell you how to clean rags with mineral spirits on them—and whether it’s even necessary to do so.

What to Do with Mineral Spirits Rags

Mineral spirits are cheap and extremely useful, making them a must-have item at most DIY workshops.

The simplest way to clean small metal parts and tools with mineral spirits is to soak them in this solvent. Grease, grime, and other contaminants will come loose so that you can then wipe them off easily with a rag. 

Bigger items that cannot be soaked in this liquid can be scrubbed with rags soaked in mineral spirits.

Either way, you will be dealing with rags that now have spirits on them. So how do you get those rags clean? People often turn to two methods: using a washing machine or washing by hand.

Washing Rags with a Washer

If you want to use a washing machine to clean rags soaked with mineral spirits, you just have to put the rags in the machine with detergent as you would with other fabric. However, you might damage small components, leave a lingering smell, or void the warranty.

A lot of people who are new to working with spirits will eventually put rags used with this solvent in a washer. This is a mistake because mineral spirits can damage small rubber and plastic parts such as gaskets.

Because of concerns about damage, we do not recommend using a washer to clean rags with mineral spirits on them.

Rags with mineral spirits

Washing Rags by Hand

The most popular way to wash rags soaked in mineral spirits is by hand. It would be great if you could just rinse away the solvent under your sink, but you are going to need to put in a bit more effort than that.

This is what you need to do:

  1. Before washing, put the rags out to dry to let the excess mineral spirits evaporate. This should not take longer than half an hour, depending on the weather and how soaked the rags are.
  2. Pour hot water into a bucket big enough to hold all your rags. Only use as much water as necessary to cut down on detergent costs.
  3. Add 1–1.5 tablespoons of liquid detergent or 2–3 tablespoons of powdered detergent to the hot water.
  4. Put your rags in and mix everything thoroughly. Use a wooden stirrer or another tool to do this to keep your hands safe from the hot water and solvent. The hot water could burn you, and mineral spirits can irritate your skin.
  5. Let the rags sit in soapy water until it is no longer hot.
  6. Rinse the rags in another bucket with clean water. Do not do this in the drain, as you should never pour leftover mineral spirits down the drain.
  7. Hang your rags out to dry on a clothesline.
  8. Repeat this process if you don’t have dry cloth yet.

How to Get Mineral Spirits Out of Washing Machine

As you read above, washing rags soaked in spirits in a washer is not such a great idea. You can end up ruining your machine, and that can cost you dearly. You can also void any existing warranty.

If you accidentally put rags with this solvent in your washing machine, you might want to use white vinegar and baking soda to get rid of residue and the bad smell.

  1. Wet a clean rag with white vinegar and a bit of baking soda.
  2. Use the rag to scrub inside the washing machine. You can skip this step, but it does add to the probability of getting mineral spirits out of a washing machine.
  3. Pour a cup of white vinegar or baking soda into your detergent and run a normal wash cycle.

If you still notice a bad smell from spirits, you can try using bleach. Use ½ cup of bleach with a hot water cycle.

After trying these methods, you can wash non-essential clothes in the washing machine to keep getting them as clean as possible. If all else fails, it might be time for a new washer.

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Should You Wash Rags or Throw Them Away?

As we have seen so far, rags used to apply mineral spirits should not go in a washing machine. Instead, they should be washed by hand. But should you even wash them at all or just throw them away?

Rags are inexpensive, so it might be best to just get rid of them instead of spending time and money to wash them. Just keep in mind that you should never put rags used with flammable solvents in your regular trash as it could cause a fire or environmental damage.

Let rags dry before putting them into a tightly sealed metal container. Dispose of these rags at an authorized waste disposal facility with any mineral spirits you will no longer use.

Conclusion – How to Wash Rags Soaked with Mineral Spirits

You should clean rags with mineral spirits on them by hand to use them again. However, considering the time and effort that goes into this, it might be best to dispose of these rags. Just make sure to do so according to local laws and regulations.