Will Mineral Spirits Melt Plastic? Storage Options!

DIY’ers most commonly use mineral spirits as paint thinners for oil-based paints, to clean painting tools, and for doing away with painting mistakes. This common solvent is also great at getting metal tools and parts looking like new, but will white spirits melt a plastic surface?

Yes, mineral spirits are strong enough to melt some plastics. As time goes by, the solvent slowly breaks down specific plastic containers. Rule of thumb: Keep mineral spirits in their original container, solvent-resistant plastic, glass, or metal.

If you are searching for information about the effects of spirits on plastic, this is the right article for you.

Can Mineral Spirits Be Stored in Plastic?

It is much better to keep spirits in their original metal container. This ensures that the solvent is stored safely, that it will not evaporate too quickly, and that you always know what is inside.

A standard type of plastic containers are not strong enough to contain mineral spirits without sustaining damage to one degree or another. You can store this oil-based liquid in a solvent-resistant plastic container. Just double-check that your container fits the bill.

Sometimes, it’s tough to figure out whether a plastic container is solvent-resistant or not. If this is the case, it is best not to use the container to avoid disaster.

If the original container is damaged or you have to use another container for other reasons, you can use a glass container. This will help you avoid the dilemma of figuring out if a particular plastic container is solvent-resistant or not. 

Label the glass container so it is clear that it contains spirits.

Will Mineral Spirits Eat through Plastic?

Mineral spirits can eat through soft plastic that is not manufactured to be solvent-resistant. But this will not happen instantly as you apply or pour in the solvent. Instead, this happens as time goes by.

The slow process here might sound safer than if it happened immediately, but it isn’t. Because spirits are slowly eating away at a plastic container, you will not notice right away when they finally eat through. 

The escaped mineral spirits could then cause more trouble, especially if it is close to a heating source since spirits are highly flammable.

Applying  spirits to plastic to clean it will not cause immediate damage either, but there are better ways to clean this material. If you want to soak plastic in white spirits to loosen grime or other contaminants, do not leave the plastic in this type of solvent for more than 20 seconds.

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Can I Put Mineral Spirits in a Plastic Container?

Mineral spirits are a petroleum-based flammable solvent with a flashpoint of 105 to 145 °F (41 to 63 °C). A plastic container with spirits slowly melting or liquid seeping out of it can lead to a fire if placed near sparks or another heating source.

Storing mineral spirits in everyday plastic containers is a bad idea. If keeping this solvent in its original container is not an option, you must do so in an adequate can, glass jar, or solvent-resistant plastic container.

Aside from carefully choosing what container to use when you store spirits, you also have to consider where you place it.

All hazardous solvents should be kept in a cool and dry place such as a shed or garage with no heating sources nearby.

Can I Reuse Mineral Spirits by Storing Them in Plastic?

Using mineral spirits once does not necessarily render them done for good. For example, you might soak some metal parts in white spirits to get grime off. Once you take the pieces out of the solvent, you can use it again.

You can reuse mineral spirits that are slightly contaminated and store them in plastic so long as it is specifically solvent-resistant.

plastic container

In this situation, you would do the following:

1. Leave the spirits in the container you used to soak your metal parts.

2. Let the solvent sit long enough for the contaminants to sink to the bottom.

3. Pour the top liquid into a solvent-resistant plastic container so that it does not melt.

Even if mineral spirits do not entirely melt a plastic container they are placed in, they may break it down enough to be exposed to air. The air will cause spirits to evaporate.

Once you need to use your solvent for another DIY project, you might find that it is completely gone. This evaporation issue is yet another reason to avoid storing spirits in an unsuitable plastic container.

It is worth noting that odorless spirits are not as strong as the regular kind and evaporate at a lower rate. Despite this, odorless mineral spirits will still eventually dissipate and melt certain types of plastic as well.

Can I Dispose of Mineral Spirits in Plastic?

Mineral spirits are toxic and flammable, so you have to be cautious about how you dispose of them. Not only is this powerful solvent a fire hazard, but it can contaminate land, water, and wildlife.

You should not dispose of spirits in regular plastic. Dispose of this toxic solvent in its original container, glass jar, metal, or solvent-resistant plastic. Standard plastic will eventually melt and lead to contamination.

Local laws and regulations will guide you to dispose of spirits at an authorized hazardous waste facility. Pour the white spirits into an appropriate container and seal it tightly with a metal lid.

Next, contact the facility to find out if they can pick up the unwanted solvent or when you can take it in.

Conclusion: Is Mineral Spirits Safe on Plastic?

You can use mineral spirits to clean plastics, though there are better ways to clean them. You can also use solvent-resistant plastic with spirits without worrying about plastic melting. 

However, it is always best to use the original container or a glass jar, especially if you are unsure whether the plastic container in question is solvent-resistant or not.