SOLVED: Denatured Alcohol Vs. Mineral Spirits: Which Solvent Is Best For You?

In woodworking, cleaning the surface of the wood requires special attention as it affects the final appearance of the projects.  Nowadays, woodworkers have access to a lot of solvents but few could match the performance of denatured alcohol and mineral spirits. Effective and efficient, these solvents would bring out the beauty of the wood which optimizes the aesthetics of the projects. However, while people may use denatured alcohol and mineral spirits interchangeably in plenty of cases, denatured alcohol vs. mineral spirits remain a hotly debated topic

Rundowns Of The Solvents

Unable to decide between denatured alcohol and mineral spirits as you choose the solvent for your woodworking projects? If that is the case then you should spare a bit of your time to give this article a look. By checking out the following information, you can grasp the characteristics of the solvents and make a wise decision.

Denatured Alcohol And Mineral Spirits: A Summary 

  • Denatured alcohol: In layman’s terms, denatured alcohol is ethanol that includes a couple of additives to discourage recreational consumption. While it’s unfit for drinking, denatured alcohol features a wide range of applications, domestic as well as industrial. Owing to the properties of denatured alcohol, one of its most popular applications is solvent for wood. To facilitate identification, the color of denatured alcohol differs from that of pure alcohol.
  • Mineral spirits: Being a by-product of petroleum, mineral spirits possess powerful cleansing effects which is why they are great solvent by all accounts. Depending on the situation, people could use mineral spirits to clean wood, tiles, auto components, paint brushes and so on. Though experts often classify them as irritants, mineral spirits pose less of a threat to the health of people than similar types of solvents. In addition to that, mineral spirits are not as flammable as other petroleum-derived products.

Guidances On The Usage Of Solvents 

  • Denatured alcohol: Put on a pair of rubber gloves and determine whether the ventilation of your workspace is adequate. When everything is up to your liking, apply denatured alcohol to a paint brush and start brushing the surface of your project. Within moments, the shine should dissolve but if it gets cloudy, mix your denatured alcohol with lacquer thinner. To remove things like paints, fingernail polish, …, you just have to give the surface of the wood a gentle rub.
  • Mineral spirits: Take the same precaution as with denatured alcohol. You could use a paint brush to apply mineral spirits but it’s best to use a piece of lint-free rag. Clean the surface of your project and change to a new rag from time to time. It’s worth pointing out that you should avoid scrubbing with mineral spirits. On average, mineral spirits would dry after fifteen minutes.

Comparisons Of Denatured Alcohol And Mineral Spirits

  • Smell: Due to the incorporation of additives in its formula, denatured alcohol usually lets out a foul scent in use. On the other hand, while the smell of mineral spirits is not exactly good by any means, they are bearable.
  • Ease of use: Mineral spirits are kind of oily so they need some work during application. Hence, in terms of ease of use, denatured alcohol is the winner in denatured alcohol vs. mineral spirits.
  • Evaporation: Denatured alcohol dries fast following application which may leave residue on the surface of the wood. In the case of mineral spirits, they take a bit of time to dry so people could remove the excess and keep residue to the minimum.
  • Storage: Denatured alcohol and mineral spirits have a couple of requirements once it comes to storage. However, mineral spirits are less flammable than denatured alcohol so it’s simpler to store them.

Selecting The Solvent To Use: Recommendations 

Mineral Spirits vs. Paint Thinner Difference

With different people having differences, woodworking enthusiasts tend to be at odds about the one that comes out on top in denatured alcohol vs. mineral spirits. Nonetheless, by reading the below hints, you can deduce the solvent that suit you most

  • Take your skills into account: Experienced woodworkers could use denatured alcohol and mineral spirits to good effects with relative ease. Still, if you happen to be new to woodworking, it’s suggested that you stick to mineral spirits.
  • Consider the presence of varnish: Mineral spirits are able to dissolve thin varnish in times of need but that is it. As a result, if you have to thin thick varnish on the surface of wood, you should use denatured alcohol.
  • Think about safety: If carelessly handled, both denatured alcohol and mineral spirits would create serious health troubles. That being said, if you like to stay on the safe side, go for mineral spirits. Assuming that you maintain your focus as you work with mineral spirits, you could casually clean your woodworking project without putting your well-being at risk.


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Can I mix denatured alcohol and mineral spirits?

Denatured alcohol is water-based while mineral spirits are oil-based so they won’t mix well together. To avoid headaches, it’s strongly recommended that you clean your project with either denatured alcohol or mineral spirits instead of a mixture of solvents.

How long would the solvents last in storage?

Quite a few factors affect the lifespan of denatured alcohol and mineral spirits but in ideal conditions, they would remain usable for years to come. Remember that these solvents evaporate when exposed to air so keep the cap of their containers sealed outside of use.

What may happen if I get denatured alcohol/mineral spirits on my hands?

Once these solvents touch your skin, there is a chance that you would experience irritation. You should be able to alleviate that by rinsing the affected area a few times. However, if the skin irritation persists for an extended period of time, it’s widely advised that you seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Where could I pick up the solvents? 

Most hardware stores carry denatured alcohol and mineral spirits nowadays so pay them a visit if you ever need solvents. Unable to head over the local stores for some reason? In that case, feel free to place an order for solvents on online retailers like Amazon, eBay and so on.

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