Mineral Spirits Vs Denatured Alcohol – Ultimate Guide

Mineral spirits and denatured alcohol come in handy in plenty of home DIY situations. Considering which to use might make you wonder what the differences are between the two.

Mineral spirits and denatured Alcohol can substitute one another for various tasks, but they are not the same. The main differences between denatured alcohol vs. mineral spirits are their composition, appearance, evaporation, and toxicity.

In this article, we will go over key factors that make these two solvents distinct and how best to use them.

Are Mineral Spirits and Denatured Alcohol the Same?

Experienced DIY’ers know that mineral spirits and denatured alcohol are far from the same thing.

Sure, you can clean your paintbrushes with either of the two and get equally excellent results. However, that does not mean that you can always use them interchangeably.

Uses for Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits are petroleum-based, making them a great organic solution for woodworking and other DIY wood projects. Mineral spirits are often called white spirits. No matter which of the two terms are on the label, you can use this solvent for various things that include:

· Cleaning

No matter what kind of mess you have made while working on a DIY project, mineral spirits are a highly effective cleaning solution. You will especially want to use mineral spirits to clean your painting tools.

Mineral Spirits for cleaning
Mineral Spirits for Cleaning

· Degreasing

Painting is not the only chore made easier with mineral spirits. When working with automotive parts, grease gets all over the place. Just soak a rag in mineral spirits and you can degrease any car parts easily.

· Thinning Paint

Paint thinner tends to be less expensive than Mineral Spirits since the latter is more refined. Despite this, a lot of people use mineral spirits to thin oil-based paint because there is a less strong odor involved. Just avoid using this solvent with latex paint.

· Reviving old furniture

Mineral spirits are ideal for DIY jobs around the house that involve wood. Old furniture can be revived and left looking better than ever with his solvent. Just put some on a clean rag and apply generously.

Once all the dirt and grime are gone, use another clean rag to shine the wood. Make sure to test an out-of-sight spot of wood first to avoid unwanted results.

Uses for Denatured Alcohol

Denatured alcohol or “alcohol denat” is produced from ethanol. Manufacturers add other ingredients to discourage people from drinking it. These added agents also help manufacturers avoid certain taxes.

Aside from DIY projects, this solvent is also utilized in fuels, hand sanitizer, and many a finished product. Some of the most common domestic uses include:

Use mineral spirits with wood

· All-around cleaner

Denatured alcohol is also an all-around fantastic cleaning aid. Hard-to-clean surfaces in your kitchen and bathroom will benefit immensely when using this powerful solvent. Its quick evaporation timeframe makes it the go-to glass and window cleaner.

Plus, alcohol kills germs more effectively than more commonly-used household cleaners found at the supermarket. Using this alcohol for cleaning purposes is often a great idea.

· Metal cleaner

Getting oil and grease off metal parts can be a pain. Fortunately, denatured alcohol is perfect for this as it dissolves grimy stains easily.

· Shellac Varnish

You can use denatured alcohol with shellac varnish to give wood a finish that truly stands out. Your furniture and other wood projects will look shiny and be more resistant to scratches and UV rays.

· Sanding aid

Once you get done with sanding, you can wipe the wood with denatured alcohol to get rid of excess sawdust.

Differences Between Denatured Alcohol vs. Mineral Spirits

The uses for mineral spirits and denatured alcohol seem to differ only slightly. So, what are the differences between the two?

Mineral spirits is a hydrocarbon that’s clear in color, evaporates in 15 to 20 minutes, and is a skin irritant that can be toxic to humans. Denatured alcohol, on the other hand, is a type of alcohol that looks violet in color. This alcohol dissolves about twice as quickly as mineral spirits, and is toxic to insects.


The composition of both materials differs considerably. Mineral spirits are produced by mixing aliphatic and C7 to C12 alicyclic hydrocarbon compounds. Denatured alcohol is simply ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, with added chemicals such as methanol (methyl alcohol) and benzene.


One of the most significant differences between mineral spirits and denatured alcohol is that the former appears as a clear liquid while the latter has a violet color. This helps identify what solvent you are handling and avoid possible accidents around the house.


Mineral spirits take much longer to evaporate than denatured alcohol. This is an important consideration depending on what DIY project you are taking on. While mineral spirits evaporate in about 15 to 20 minutes, it takes denatured alcohol a mere 5 to 10 minutes.


You can use both safely as long you follow proper precautions. Always ensure that your workspace has plenty of ventilation and protective gear such as gloves when handling a toxic substance. It is important to note that denatured alcohol is more toxic than mineral spirits.

Denatured alcohol’s toxicity makes it an ideal insecticide that can effectively deal with mealy-bugs and bed bugs. With this in mind, it is imperative to handle this solvent properly and avoid ingesting it in any amount.

Mineral spirits are an irritant, which can be an issue when safety measures are not implemented. They are refined to a far greater extent than other solvents, reducing the amount of toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in them.

However, spilling mineral spirits on your skin and failing to wash it off immediately can result in burns and scars.

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Can I Use Mineral Spirits Instead of Denatured Alcohol?

What if you already have mineral spirits, but a project calls for the other? Is it possible to use one in place of the other?

Yes! You can use mineral spirits or denatured alcohol interchangeably for various DIY projects. Consider price, toxicity, odor, and availability when choosing between these two popular solvents.

If you want to degrease car parts and already have mineral spirits in your garage, why buy denatured alcohol? The same goes the other way around.


Both mineral spirits and denatured alcohol are useful to DIY’ers. Knowing the differences between them can help you make the wisest choice to tackle your projects more efficiently.

You might also want to try both of these solvents in different situations to see which you prefer in practice.