While working with mineral spirits, you might accidentally spill some on your skin. This is cause for concern but not as bad as one might assume. Still, how do you get mineral spirit off your skin?
Getting mineral spirits off your skin is as simple as cleaning the skin with soap and water. Minor skin contact with this solvent should not worry you too much. However, prolonged physical contact with mineral spirit can irritate or burn the skin.
This article will look at how safe mineral spirits are, the safety measures you should take when using this solvent, and how to get it off your skin.
Are Mineral Spirits Safe?
Mineral spirits are a great help in many types of DIY projects. This solvent is perfectly legal and readily available in most states, but does that make it safe?
Mineral spirits are a safe solvent for everyday DIY projects. However, there are safety concerns with this oil-based liquid. Possible hazards include irritation to the skin, poisoning from fumes, and high flammability.
Mineral Spirits Skin Irritation
Accidents can happen while using mineral spirit. For example, you might suddenly spill a can of white spirits and get it all over the place, including your skin.
OSHA describes mineral spirits as an irritant, warning that repeated exposure can cause irritant dermatitis. This condition causes skin inflammation that can induce a painful and itchy rash. Creams and ointments can treat irritant dermatitis effectively, but the condition may persist for several weeks.
Mineral Spirits Poisoning
Accidentally swallowing mineral spirits will lead to throat swelling and pain. The breathing of vapors from mineral spirits often causes breathing difficulty.
Things can worsen considering that mineral spirits can contain benzene, a highly toxic hydrocarbon. Benzene is known to cause acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with prolonged exposure.
Mineral Spirits Flammability
Mineral spirits are highly flammable, so special considerations must be considered when using and storing them.
You should never smoke near this solvent or use it near sparks as it can ignite. Store mineral spirits in a place with plenty of ventilation and away from heat sources such as a water heater.
You might also want to have a fire extinguisher handy when using any flammable solvents, just in case.
All of these safety concerns with mineral spirits on the skin and otherwise can be alarming. However, using this solvent while employing adequate safety measures makes it safer than other alternatives such as acetone.
How to Keep Mineral Spirits off your Skin
Keeping harsh chemicals off your skin is essential, but how do you do that while working with mineral spirits?
The answer is protective gear. Investing a little in protective equipment will go a long way. Put on rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and overalls before opening a can of mineral spirits. That way, when a spill happens, the solvent won’t touch your skin directly.
It is not a guarantee that you will not get any solvent on your skin at all since it could spill and still seep through clothing. But it will suffice in most situations.
It would also be good for you to wear a face mask to protect yourself from toxic fumes, especially if there is not enough ventilation where you are working.
What to Do if You Get Mineral Spirits on Your Skin
With or without protective gear, you might still get some mineral spirits on your skin while using it to thin paint or clean metal parts.
Promptly wash your hands with soap—such as liquid dish soap—and warm water. You will also want to remove any clothing that accidentally gets wet with mineral spirits so that it doesn’t cling to your skin and cause skin burns.
To wash clothes that get spilled on, let the solvent evaporate, then treat the affected area with stain remover and wash it by hand. Do not throw the clothing in a washing machine as mineral spirits can cause damage to it.
Wash Hands with Mineral Spirits?
Since mineral spirits are excellent at getting rid of dirt and grime, it is understandable to assume that you can use it to wash your hands.
However, you should never wash your hands with mineral spirits. The fact that mineral spirits are an irritant that can damage skin tissue cannot be overstated. You will irritate or cause chemical burns to the skin of your hands.
Washing your hands with mineral spirits will effectively get oily substances and other contaminants off your hands, but it will irritate them in the process. You might have to use over-the-counter ointments or even go to the doctor as a result.
The label on mineral spirits should say “Avoid contact with skin” or something to that effect. This should be taken as a warning not to wash your hands with mineral spirits. Use warm, soapy water instead to wash your hands.
Are Odorless Mineral Spirits Safer for Skin?
Mineral spirits emit a less unpleasant odor than paint thinner or other paint solvents, but there is still a noticeable kerosene-like odor. Thankfully, odorless mineral spirits are an alternative for those who want to avoid this odor altogether. Does that mean that odorless mineral spirits are safer for the skin?
Odorless mineral spirits are the same product as the original, just without the smell and sometimes with less solvent strength.
However, odorless mineral spirits are not safer on the skin. This oil-based solvent is still toxic, flammable, and can irritate the skin. You have to take the same precautions when using odorless mineral spirits as you do when using the regular kind.
Namely, use protective gear and wash them off immediately if your skin comes into contact with any amount of solvent.
Conclusion – Mineral Spirits on Skin
Mineral spirits can irritate your skin. Direct contact must be avoided while using this solvent to thin oil-based paint, degrease metal parts, or clean surfaces.
We highly recommend protecting yourself from the possible adverse effects of mineral spirits on skin with rubber chemical-resistant gloves, clothing, goggles, and even a face mask.