Are Mineral Spirits Banned in California?

Mineral spirits are among the most popular of all the solvents available to DIY’ers. If you live in California, you will probably want to know whether you can still get spirits legally or not.

You can no longer get raw mineral spirits in California. However, spirits in different forms such as lighter fluid and camp stove fuel are still available to residents in California. Plus, you can still get the results you are looking for with substitute solvents.

Here, you will learn all you need to know about banned solvents in California and available substitutes from hardware or other stores that you can use for DIY projects.

Why Are Mineral Spirits Banned in California?

Over the past few years, the State of California has intensified its ban on various chemicals popular among DIY’ers. How come?

California banned mineral spirits because of VOC legislation concerning volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which aims at keeping the air healthy for all residents.

The ban on solvents, paint thinners, and other products that produce volatile organic compounds went into effect on Dec. 31, 2013.

These laws address some volatile organic compounds (VOCs) used in certain products, such as mineral spirits. VOCs interact with nitrogen oxides in the air and can result in respiratory complications.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) includes Orange County and parts of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties. You cannot legally purchase mineral spirits if you live in this area.

SCAQMD restrictions do not bind places like San Diego and Ventura Counties, but they still have to follow California rules. To make things even harder, most locations in California outside of the SCAQMD area will still only sell solvents and thinners that meet those standards.

Thankfully, alternatives to the mineral spirits you might have used on DIY jobs in the past are out there.

Replacement for Mineral Spirits in California

Mineral spirits are a combination of hydrocarbon compounds, not a chemical. Despite this, this solvent is banned in parts of California. DIY’ers can no longer take advantage of the usefulness of spirits with woodworking, degreasing, cleaning, and more.

Even though a lot of DIY’ers prefer to work with mineral spirits, suitable substitutes you might want to consider include:

  • Kingsford Charcoal Lighter Fluid
  • Camp Stove Fuel
  • Acetone
  • Natural solutions

California hardware stores and other retailers may offer alternatives specifically meant for thinning paint and other purposes that mineral spirits once filled. However, these products have not been well-received by DIY’ers and others because of their low-quality mixtures.

Kingsford Charcoal Lighter Fluid

Kingsford Charcoal Lighter Fluid is meant for barbecues and is one of the best substitutes for white spirit solvents. The reason for this is that this product is actually mineral spirits in disguise! It is described as petroleum distillates, hydrotreated light, another way to say mineral spirits.

Somehow, being labeled as “lighter fluid” makes that OK in California, and you can get it legally in the Golden State as LPA-170 Solvent.

Camp Stove Fuel

Denatured alcohol is one of the best substitutes for spirits. This liquid is suitable for cleaning, woodworking, removing oil, and other DIY jobs.

Unfortunately, California has also banned denatured alcohol as of 2019 due to concerns about possible effects on air quality. Camp stove fuel can come to the rescue since denatured alcohol is no longer an option for Californians.

Camp stove fuel is available in two options: ethanol and methanol. You will want to get camp stove fuel with methanol since this is basically denatured alcohol. 

Plus, you’ll be all set for your next camping trip!


Acetone is another alternative to mineral spirits worth taking into consideration.

You can use acetone on various surfaces such as metal and glass. This solvent can help you clean painting tools, degrease auto parts, clean stubborn stains, and more. Nail polish is acetone, but buying it in such small portions might not be ideal.

Perhaps what stands out the most about acetone as a satisfactory substitute for spirits in California is that it contains no volatile organic compound (VOC). Despite this, you must employ safety measures such as proper ventilation when using this solvent.

Natural Solutions

Even if you find it challenging to get mineral spirits substitutes in California, you can always turn to natural solutions such as soap, water, and oil.

Using water, soap, and oil to remove paint on brushes, grease on metal parts, and general cleaning will take more time, but it is doable. Plus, you will not have to worry about infringing local laws or regulations.  

Just do this step by step:

  1. Get rid of as much paint as possible from your paintbrush, automotive metal parts, or other surfaces by wiping it off with a rag.
  2. Fill a container with safflower or linseed oil.
  3. Dip your brush in the oil or wipe the area in question.
  4. Let the oil work its magic for a few minutes.
  5. Next, wash the brush or surface with soap and water.
  6. Repeat these steps if any paint or dirt residue remains.

Getting Mineral Spirits outside of the SCAQMD

DIY’ers who live in the South Coast Air Quality Management District can no longer get their hands on mineral spirits locally. This situation leads some people to wonder whether they can travel to other parts of the state or beyond to get this solvent.

The fact is that buying mineral spirits in other states is perfectly legal. However, taking them back to California might land you in trouble. This is not advisable. Your best option is to use one of the substitutes mentioned above. 

When in doubt, always consult local laws and regulations to avoid infringing upon them.

Conclusion – Mineral Spirits in California

Air quality concerns have contributed to many California-banned solvents, thinners, and chemicals. Fortunately for DIY’ers who miss the results offered by mineral spirits, there are legal substitutes of excellent quality.