SOLVENTS: choosing and using


All solvents have hazards associated with them. The common ones below are the least hazardous (note exceptions) but even then all require care in use.. You need to consider toxicity and length of exposure in determining the precautions to take and personal protective equipment to wear. For instance very short exposure (cleaning up a paint spill, or using to remove tape residue) shouldn't require special precautions other than safety glasses. In quantity all require special hazardous waste disposal... i.e. Cannot be poured down drains. Be good and don't schmuck up our water supply or ground by casually getting tossing out.


DENATURED ALCOHOL. Used to thin shellacs. Used as small lamp fuel.

ACETONE. A ketone. Plastic solvent and also used to thin super glue. Will remove lacquer finishes. Also will work as acrylic adhesive.

MINERAL SPIRITS/PAINT THINNER. No real difference. Used to thin oil based paints (and alkyd paints). Will remove tape adhesive residue. Does come in odorless formulations.

TURPENOID. A synthetic version of turpentine for mixing painters medium.

TURPENTINE. Used to be used as a thinner for oil based paints. Smell and contact are more irritating than paint thinners. Use not recommended.

LACQUER THINNER. Used to thin lacquer finishes, Will remove oil based paints, shellacs, varnishes. Stronger than denatured alcohol and paint thinner.

MEK (methyl ethyl ketone). Another ketone. Epoxy and fiberglass resin thinner. More volatile than acetone. Use not recommended.

XYLENE. Lacquer, plastic, epoxy and ink solvent. Strong odor, more irritating to skin. Use not recommended

LIGHTER FLUID. Highly flammable naphtha (white gas) mixture. Does have useful container for dispensing. Used to smooth waxes, and clean some residues. 

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Page last modified March 11, 2016