What Does Mineral Spirits Do To Rubber

Mineral spirits are probably used on more DIY projects than any other solvent on the market. You can use this petroleum distillate on many different types of material, including wood and metal. But what does spirits do to rubber?

When mineral spirits are applied to rubber, the rubber can swell, deteriorate, and become discolored. This does not mean that you cannot use mineral spirits to clean rubber. You just have to do so correctly.

In this article, we will talk about using spirits on rubber items and surfaces as well as outline a guide on how to do so.

Using Mineral Spirits On Rubber

Mineral spirits can be used safely on rubber, but there are unique factors that you should consider. Namely, how rigid the rubber is and how long it will be cleaned with the solvent.

If you are cleaning a big rubber part that happens to be brand new, wiping it down with a rag soaked in mineral spirits will not harm it. The solvent left on the surface will evaporate before it can do any damage.

rubber gloves

On the other hand, more fragile and smaller items can swell if left in spirits. For example, if you leave rubber seals soaking in spirits for a long time, you can expect them to be considerably more sizable when you take them out of the solvent. 

This is especially true if the rubber seals are vintage.

A big sign that you can use spirits on rubber is the fact that rubber gloves are often recommended as a safety measure when handling spirits.

One essential thing to remember is that, just as you should not soak small rubber seals in spirits, you should not apply them directly to big rubber parts either.

Do not pour spirits directly onto a rubber surface, as this is similar to soaking the item in a pool of solvent. Instead, soak a rag in spirits and gently rub the rubber surface with it. This will get you the best possible cleaning results while avoiding damage.

Some manufacturers recommend against using mineral spirits on rubber tiles.

How to Clean Rubber Items with Mineral Spirits

You can use spirits to clean rubber with no adverse effects. You can turn to this solvent when rubber items have stains or grease too stubborn to come off with just soap and water. However, subjecting small rubber parts to this solvent for prolonged periods of time can result in damage.

Here are a few key steps to follow in cleaning rubber with spirits:

1.     Get all your materials ready. This includes the rubber tools, parts, or other items you want to clean. Wear protective gloves to keep yourself safe from irritation caused by skin contact with mineral spirits. If you get any solvent on your skin, wash it off immediately.

2.     Dampen a rag lightly with mineral spirits and wipe the rubber with it. Since there are concerns about using spirits on rubber, try to use as little solvent as necessary.

3.     Use a brush to scrape away excess dirt and grime. If the rubber part in question is very small, you might want to use a toothbrush.

4.     Wipe away any excess solvent and let the rubber sit. The spirits will evaporate in 15 to 20 minutes.

5.     Repeat this process if the rubber still shows signs of dirt or grime.

Cleaning rubber with spirits is just as easy as using soap and water but with more cleaning power. Follow these steps and your rubber parts will be safe and clean.

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Can You Wash Car Tires With Mineral Spirits?

You can wash your car as often as you like, but it won’t look as good if the tires are dirty. Sometimes soapy water isn’t good enough to get dirt, mud, and grime off tires, and that is where spirits can help. This solvent will clean tires and make them shine like new.

Mineral spirits are not intended to be used on car tires. However, using mineral spirits on car tires can save you a lot of money. Just make sure not to subject your tires to an excessive amount of solvent in order to avoid damage.

Using Odorless Mineral Spirits On Rubber

Odorless mineral spirits are not as harsh as regular spirits. This is a result of the chemicals that are taken out to make it “odorless.” Does this make odor-free mineral spirits safer on rubber?

Odorless mineral spirits can also cause rubber to swell, deteriorate, and become discolored. This means that you should not wholly soak rubber in odorless spirits. Instead, apply a small amount of solvent with a rag.

Many DIY’ers will agree that using odorless spirits on rubber is preferable because it is gentler. This helps to keep the rubber from swelling or sustaining other damage.

Whether you use regular spirits or the odorless kind, follow the steps outlined above and you should be fine.

Mineral Spirits and Rubber: When In Doubt, Do a Test Run

If you are worried about damaging a rubber part or surface with mineral spirits, you can test a small and inconspicuous area before going any further. Simply clean the area with mineral spirits to see whether there are adverse effects. 

This will give you the confidence that you need to use spirits on any type of rubber.

If you plan on cleaning your car tires with spirits, you could test the side of a tire that cannot be seen. You can also use this solvent on old tires to see the results firsthand before applying it to your car tires.


Mineral spirits can make rubber swell, deteriorate, and become discolored, so you have to be careful when using it with this material.

Stick to the steps we presented above, and you will not run into any trouble when using spirits on rubber parts or surfaces.