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How to Use Paint Thinner Properly

Paint thinner is a substance used to make paint thinner. Paint thinner is a term that can be used to describe many different substances. Turpentine, Acetone, Naptha, Xylene, and many more substances can be used to reduce the thickness of paint.

A paint thinner can be harmful to use. Substances that fall under this category of products are often flammable. These substances are also often poisonous. They can be harsh to your skin, they can damage your eyes, and they can cause a multitude of damages to surface areas.

It is imperative that you understand the benefits and the dangers of these substances so you can use them safely.

What is Paint Thinner?

Paint thinner is a substance that is designed to reduce paint “viscosity”. Viscosity is the thickness, stickiness, and tackiness of paint.

paint thinner

When you first open a can of paint it is the proper thickness for applications with a paintbrush or a roller. If you leave that paint container open for any length of time the contents inside the can will become thicker, or begin to harden. Paint thinner can be used to counteract this transition so you can continue to use the paint.

If you paint with a spray applicator or paint gun then you will likely need to educethe viscosity of the paint so that the device can atomize the paint. Thick paint will not process through the majority of spray paint guns. Thick paint clogs the inner-components, and spray tips of the gun. The thickness of the paint must be decreased so the gun can apply it.

The main advantages of using paint thinner are:

  • Paint thinners are stronger than mineral spirits
  • Paint thinners have a moderate evaporation rate
  • Paint thinners are milder than lacquer thinners
  • Paint thinners can be used safely on wood, metal and concrete surfaces
  • Paint thinners can be used as cleaning agents
  • Paint thinners usually have only one solvent in them and some of the harsh solvents that
  • They are readily available at almost every store that sells paint substances

The disadvantages of paint thinners are

  • They cost more than mineral spirits do
  • They cannot be used on rubber or plastic materials

How To Use Paint Thinner to Remove Paint

How To Use Paint Thinner to Remove Paint

When you use paint thinner to remove paint from something you should remove the paint while it is still wet. When you are cleaning brushes, or when you are cleaning up a paint spill, paint thinner can help you to clean away the paint.

You only need to use paint thinner with oil-based paints. The oil-based paints have a higher amount of volatile organic compounds so they dry at a slower pace than water-based paint does.

If you see paint that you want removing then you need a dry cloth, protective gloves, and your paint thinner. Put the paint thinner onto the dry cloth and use the cloth to gently wipe away the paint. You may have to repeat this process several times. Each time you repeat the process using a clean section of the cloth so you do not smear the paint.

How to Use Paint Thinner on Wood

How to Use Paint Thinner on Wood

Wood is an excellent material to use paint thinner on. The solvents in the paint thinner will not damage the wood. A paint thinner can even be used to clean wood when you are refurbishing an item.

How To Use Paint Thinner on Wood – Follow These Pro Steps

1. READ the manufacturer’s instructions on the product container. Paint thinner is a term that covers many chemical agents and you should always read the instructions for use before you begin to use the product.

2. Prior to opening the container. Shake the container that the paint thinner is in to thoroughly mix the contents.

3. Apply the paint thinner to a small area of the wood. Do not try to cover the entire surface. The application can be done using an inexpensive paintbrush. This will allow you to distribute the thinner evenly onto the surface.

4. Allow the thinner to sit on the wood, undisturbed, for about 20 minutes. (Read the manufacturer’s instructions because some thinners are designed to work more quickly.)

5. The paint on the wood will be softened and you can now use a plastic scraper to scrape away the paint. If all of the paint does not come off you may need to repeat steps 3 and 4 until all of the paint has become soft enough to scrape away.

6. Rinse the paint thinner off of the surface using clean water.

7. Properly dispose of the cleaning rags and paint brush that you use during the process. Store the paint thinner where it cannot be reached by children or pets. It should also be stored in a cool dry place that is not close to any source of flame.

How to Use Paint Thinner to Clean Brushes

How to Use Paint Thinner to Clean Brushes

Cleaning your paint brushes properly will extend the life of your brush. You want to make sure that you are using quality brushes. The cheap paint brushes with the synthetic bristles are meant to be used once and then thrown away.

Properly cleaning paint brushes in just 8 steps:

1. The first thing you need to do is get as much of the excess paint in the brush out of the bristles. You can do this by pressing the bristles firmly against the inside of the paint can. Then you should take old pieces of newspaper and paint the newspaper with a brush to remove even more paint. Press the bristles against the newspaper so you can remove the majority of the paint.

2. Pour some of the paint thinners into a small bucket or cup. DO NOT pour this substance into a plastic cup!

3. Place the paint brush into the thinner and make sure that the bristles are properly immersed in the fluid.

4. Stir the brush around in the liquid. Mash the bristles against the side of the cup so you can make sure that solvent coats all of the bristles. (If the paint has begun to dry or harden on the brush you may have to soak the brush in the solvent for as long as 24 hours) If the paint was still moist you should only have to swish it in the solvent liquid for about 15 to 20 seconds.

5. Clean the brush with warm soapy water to remove the paint thinner residue.

6. Rinse the brush with clean water to remove the soapy water.

7. Dry the brush by shaking the excess water out of the bristles. You can blot the brush on newspaper to help remove excess water.

8. Hang the brush up or lie the brush flat. DO NOT stand the brush up on its bristles!!

If you want to clean your paint brushes without paint thinner then this article helps you a lot.

Paint Thinner for Oil Paint and Primer


Paint thinners for oil based primers and paints can be made with different ingredients. Paint thinners can contain:

  • Methyl Ethyl Ketone or MEK
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Acetone
  • Turpentine
  • Naptha
  • Xylene

Paint thinner is used in oil paints and primers because these substances have more volatile organic compounds and they have a higher viscosity than water based paints.

Paint thinner should not be used on lacquer or on water based paints. When using water based paints clean everything up with water based cleansers. When you use lacquer you need a special solvent to clean the lacquer from brushes or remove the lacquer from surfaces.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does paint thinner take to work?

After you apply a thick coating of paint thinner to a painted surface you should see results in as few as twenty minutes. The problem with this is that you will need to apply the paint thinner several times before all of the old paint is removed totally. After each application you will wait about twenty minutes then wipe away the paint that has been dissolved by the product and apply the product again to remove existing paint.

Do we need to mix paint with thinner?

If the paint you are using is extremely thick then you probably need to thin it with a paint thinner. You should use a stir stick and stir the paint. Lift the stick out of the paint can and observe how much paint is coating the stick. The paint should be running off of the stick in a thin layer. If it is not coming off of the stick or if it is coming off in globs and clumps then you need to thin the paint.

Can I pour paint thinner down the drain?

NEVER pour paint thinner or any solvent down your drain. It can damage your pipes and worse yet it can be absorbed through the ground and leach into your drinking water. It can cause problems at the sewage treatment plants in your town. It can kill fish, worms, and other living organisms that it comes into contact with. It is a dangerous solution that should be handled properly and disposed of properly.

Can paint thinner fumes kill you?

In the worst case scenario paint thinner fumes could cause respiratory distress that is so severe that it could kill a person. This is especially true of someone who has a breathing condition like asthma, or other health conditions. You should always use paint thinners and painting products in areas that are well ventilated so you can breathe easily and the fumes do not build up.

Can you put paint thinner in plastic?

There is a good chance that if you put paint thinner in a plastic container the thinner will eat through the plastic. It is best to put paint thinner in a metal or glass container instead of a plastic one. If you feel that you must use plastic then be sure it is thick plastic and not thin like the plastic a Solo cup is made from.

Final Notes

Paint thinners make it possible to remove painting mistakes, clean painting tools like brushes, rollers, paint sprayers, and pans. Paint thinners do not all contain the same active ingredients so paint thinners should only be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

These solvents are helpful, but, they can also be dangerous. Wear protective eyewear and gloves when handling them. Never store paint thinner near an open flame. Always keep these, and all chemicals, out of reach of children and pets.

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4 thoughts on “How to Use Paint Thinner Properly”

    • You can try, but you may have better luck with acetone or nail polish remover. Apply the paint thinner with a rag, using a clean part for each wipe.

  1. Can you use paint thinner to clean up residual from wood that has been stripped of paint?
    Also can it be used to remove stains or old varnish from stripped woodwork?


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