How to Use Mineral Spirit On Wood- 5 Ways to Safely Use Mineral Spirit

Unknown to many, mineral spirit is among the most essential solvents in woodworking. It comes in handy during painting and staining, especially during wood cleaning.

In addition, you can use the formula to thin oil-based stains and paint or to alter the lumber’s color.

However, mineral spirit is incompatible with some Stains and paint, making woodworking beginners question its efficacy and effect on wood surfaces.

Therefore, engaging in how to use mineral spirit on wood is prudent to minimize guesswork.

Use mineral spirit when cleaning lumber surfaces. Pour the formula onto a soft clean rag and then wipe the surface for a revitalized look.

Moreover, add more mineral spirit to the applicant and scrub until you remove all residue.

You can also utilize a small brush to cover hard-to-reach surface areas.

Avoiding mineral spirit is almost impossible for woodworking projects. Further, there’s a lot to discover about handling the formula.

So, read through this write-up for step-by-step guidelines on using mineral spirit. In addition, you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions for related concerns.

What Is Mineral Spirit?

Image of a mineral spirit
Mineral Spirit

Mineral spirit is generally an organic, petroleum-based formula used across multiple residential and industrial settings.

It is colorless and results from petroleum products’ distillation.

Some countries refer to the product as a white spirit. Besides, it comprises light hydrocarbons, making it pretty volatile.

Also, the product has various names such as mineral turpentine, solvent naphtha, Stoddard solvent, petroleum spirits, and paint thinner.

We attribute the discovery of mineral spirit to Lloyd Jackson and W. J. Stoddard in 1928. 

It mainly helped in the dry cleaning industry but later became helpful in other industries, like woodworking.

For instance, the mineral spirit is a famous alternative to turpentine, thanks to being a low-volatility and mild petroleum distillate.

We have three primary types of mineral spirit: Type I, Type II, and Type III.

Type I has no surfer, whereas Type II has no aromatic hydrocarbons. Then, Type III features more hydrogen.

Further, each product Type has specific uses. For example, Type II mineral spirit is a perfect paint thinner and the primary ingredient in asphalt.

You can also classify mineral spirit into three classes based on volatility and flashpoint.

For instance, Class I features low volatility and a high flashpoint, while Class II has moderate volatility and flashpoint.

Finally, Class III mineral spirit has high volatility and a low flashlight.

Although mineral spirit is a relatively safe solvent for cleaning projects, it irritates the eyes and skin.

In addition, the formula can harm a person’s respiratory system and cause impaired brain function.

Therefore, OSHA advises users to have protective clothing during handling. Get gloves, a respirator, and a smock for enhanced safety and operation.

Generally, water is the ‘universal solvent’ as it dissolves almost everything. But oils are where we draw the line, making mineral spirit essential.

Furthermore, the formula dissolves oils, from oil-based wood finishes, stains, and sticky sap to adhesives from stickers.

As a result, mineral spirit is available in two versions: General purpose cleaning and woodworking projects.

  • General Cleaning Projects: Use mineral spirit to break down sap and sticky glue. Also, it is an excellent degreaser in the auto industry.
  • Woodworking Projects: The formula cleans stains and finishes off brushes and rollers. You can also use it to temporarily clean the lumber before finishing or to change the wood’s color.

In addition, feel free to thin the finish or Stain for other reasons.

What Do Mineral Spirits Do to Wood?

Mineral spirits affect the wood in various ways. For instance, they clean stubborn stains and blemishes and restore the lumber’s shine.

Below are more benefits of the formula.

  • Restore the Wood’s Warmth and Shine

Mineral spirits are perfect for reviving dull wood. Besides, they cut through years of build-up stains, grime, polish, wax, and oil remnants.

Of course, you can remove these blemishes with standard cleaners. But you’ll need more elbow grease and time to deliver a satisfactory outcome.

Moreover, mineral spirits are relatively mild and preserve the lumber’s finish, unlike stronger solvents. The latter removes the topcoat, requiring you to reapply it.

  • Accentuate the Wood Grain

Choosing a lumber type with a beautiful, natural wood grain is advisable when you want an aesthetic piece. In addition, consider a finishing strategy that highlights this beauty.

Fortunately, mineral spirits are excellent for the above task. They temporarily raise and highlight the wood grain, allowing you to test the surface and determine what to adjust.

  • Clean Stubborn Stains from Lumber

Unlike removing dust, handling stubborn stains is an uphill task, especially on wooden surfaces.

Further, patios and decks will likely have tree sap stains, which ruins their lovely appearance.

Luckily, you do not need to worry anymore. Mineral spirits soften the blemish, making it easy to clean the surface and restore the wood’s newness.

In addition, you only need to soak a rag in the formula and let it sit on the flaw for a few minutes. Then, wipe it away.

Generally, oil-based stains on wood include food stains around the kitchen, stains from oil-based beauty products, like lotion, and adhesive stains from stickers and price tags.

And mineral spirits are perfect for removing these blemishes without much hassle.

  • Clean Oils From Oily Woods

Wood types, such as Rosewood and Purpleheart, are incredibly oily, making them challenging to operate.

Further, power tools gum up the material, leading to time wastage or even ruining the project.

Thankfully, wiping the wood with mineral spirits removes the oil from the surface. In addition, although the formula does not affect the lumber’s fiber, it makes the surface easier to finish.

However, you will still have to protect the workpiece with a sealant or an evaporative finish. But cleaning the surface with mineral oils is still essential for a better outcome.

  • Prepare Wood for Staining

You already know mineral spirits dilute oil-based finishes, making them more convenient to apply.

But there are other uses for the formula. For example, it comes in handy during wood cleaning to deliver a clear, pristine surface.

Mineral spirits do not need aggression or force to deliver the desired result. You only wipe the surface gently with a spirit-dampened rag.

Moreover, the process is relatively gentle. Therefore, you will not leave ugly marks on the lumber.

How To Use Mineral Spirits on Wood?

We use mineral spirits on lumber for woodwork, such as wood preparation before staining, restoration projects, accentuating the wood grain, and cleaning oils from oily lumber.

You can also use the formula to clean paintbrushes and other applicants.

In addition, the application procedure is almost similar for most tasks. So it will be easy to use the formula.

  • Cleaning Wood Before Finishing

The supplies needed for the project include

  • A toothbrush or a small brush
  • 200-grit sandpaper
  • Clean cloth
  • Latex gloves
  • Soft, dry lint-free cloth
  • Mineral spirits
  • Scrap wood
  • Tack cloths

Next, check out the step-by-step guide below.

  • Step One: Clean the Lumber

The wood surface needs cleaning before receiving mineral spirits. The process removes debris and dust lest they contaminate the formula.

Wipe the wood with a clean cloth and ensure complete coverage. Alternatively, use a vacuum cleaner to remove dirt from extensive applications. This way, you will cover all the spots. 

Although you are using mineral spirits to prepare the wood for staining, clean the surface to guarantee a successful job. Then, sand it gently after drying.

  • Step Two: Sand The Wood Surface

Scuff the lumber gently with 220-grit paper until you deliver a smooth surface. Further, sanding opens the wood pores, making them ready to receive mineral spirits.

The process also eliminates saw marks from manufacturing. Remember, these blemishes are invisible to the naked eye. Therefore, please do not skip this stage.

Ensure you sand along the grain’s direction without scratching the surface. Otherwise, the mineral spirits will highlight these flaws.

Moreover, avoid higher-grit paper as it kills the lumber’s grain and ruins its appearance. Worse still, over-sanding may compromise even stain absorption.

Lastly, clean the sanding dust with a shop vacuum or wipe the surface with a clean tack cloth. 

  • Step Three: Dampen The Lint-Free Cloth with Mineral Spirits

The lumber is now ready for the application procedure. Pour mineral spirits onto the soft dry lint-free cloth until it gets saturated.

Then, move to the next step.

  • Step Four: Test Mineral Spirits on Scrap Wood

Test the formula with scrap wood before applying it to the workpiece. Then, observe how it alters the lumber’s color and the final finish.

In addition, remember various wood receive mineral spirits differently. So, please use scrap wood similar to the workpiece to get an accurate idea of the outcome.

You can also take a picture and share it with the customer during a commercial project. This way, they can give feedback on whether they like the color and finish.

Lastly, this step helps minimize mistakes and deliver a better idea of how mineral spirits interact with the wood’s fibers.

  • Step Five: Apply Mineral Spirits on Wood

Confirm you are happy with the results from the test and apply the mineral spirits. Next, take a lint-free cloth and dampen it with the formula.

Further, pour the solvent until the cloth becomes saturated. Then, wipe or scrub the wood without missing spots.

Always wipe in the wood grain direction for better absorption and to prevent the cloth from spreading residue on already-wiped areas.

In addition, please avoid circular or back-and-forth movements as they may ruin the wood,

Fortunately, the cloth picks up debris and dust, cleaning the wood uniformly. Therefore, you do not need to use much force or aggressive patterns.

Change the cloth once it gets dirty and saturate the new one with mineral spirits to enhance efficacy.

Also, use an old toothbrush or a small brush to cover detailed and hard-to-reach surface areas. Then, wipe and scrub until you remove all the dirt.

After applying the mineral spirits, you will observe a significant change, say, a color alteration in the lumber. But this is temporary and will compromise your finish.

  • Step 6: Let the Workpiece Dry Completely

Let the surface dry thoroughly after using mineral spirits. Besides, the wood needs time to dry properly or won’t accept the finish.

Thankfully, the waiting duration is pretty short, about 20 minutes, allowing you to complete your work on time.

In addition, experts discourage woodworkers from waiting longer than 20 minutes because mineral spirits dry pretty quickly.

Lastly, the formula brings out the wood’s natural luster after drying, leaving you with a clean and fresh-looking workpiece.

  • Cleaning Paintbrushes

Mineral spirits come in very handy during painting. Besides, they reduce the need for more painting supplies, significantly reducing your budget.

However, we have some guidelines to follow when using paintbrushes to apply the formula.

  • Step 1: Pour the Mineral Spirits into a Clean Can

Get a container that fits your tallest paintbrush to the bristles. Thankfully, Tupperware or old plastic takeaway containers are ideal for this task.

So you won’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get the correct vessel.

Add the mineral spirits into the container, leaving enough room to submerge the brush’s bristles completely.

  • Step 2: Dip Your Paintbrush

Dip the brush into the formula and swirl it around, ensuring the mineral spirits reach all the bristle’s crevices.

Also, push the paintbrush against the can’s sides to soak the solvent into and between the bristles.

  • Step 3: Comb the Bristles

Remove the brush from the liquid and put it on a dry cloth after a minute or so. Then, use a paintbrush comb or fork to go through the bristles.

This exercise helps remove as many paint flakes as possible. In addition, it loosens old and dried-up paint bits, making the next stage easier.

  • Step 5: Wash with Soap and Water

Confirm whether the paintbrush is clean. If not, repeat stages three and four until you get a satisfactory result.

Once you get the desired outcome, rinse the mineral spirits from the brush using dish soap and water.

Otherwise, you risk inadvertently thinning your oil-based finishes and ruining water-based ones during your next project.

  • Thinning Wood Stain 

Oil-based products are incompatible with water, requiring a different solvent during thinning.

Fortunately, mineral spirits’ efficacy is incredible. And you only need the correct procedure to deliver the best result.

  • Step 1: Transfer the Wood Stain Into a Bucket

You can use a bowl when working on small projects involving small wood stain amounts. But using a small bucket is appropriate.

Also, depending on how much wood stain you need, you can transfer it into the bucket. The idea is to have enough formula to avoid redoing the mixture later if it runs out. 

Moreover, note down the wood stain needed to replicate the correct ratio.

  • Step 2: Add Mineral Spirits To the Container

Adding small formula amounts at a time is essential, as penetrating wood stains have a thin consistency.

Further, use a tablespoon or a tiny measuring tool to deliver an accurate measure.

  • Step 3: Test the Stain

Stir the mixture after every addition. Then, test it on scrap wood to confirm it is ready for application.

Remember, stained surfaces are lighter when dry. Therefore, please avoid thinning the stain until it’s too light. Also, stop adding the thinner when you get a slightly darker color.

  • Choose the Best Mineral Spirit

Another critical aspect to consider when working with mineral spirits is what to consider before purchasing. Besides, we have plenty of products on the market.

In addition, formula variety makes shopping challenging as you must pick the most suitable one.

So, here is a summarized guideline on factors to consider when shopping for mineral spirits.

  • Tip 1: Check the Formula Grade

Primarily, mineral spirits are available in three grades: high flash, regular, and low flash. Use a formula less potent than the regular grade for domestic use.

Besides, a low flash grade will still deliver a satisfactory outcome.

  • Tip 2: Buy Mineral Spirits, Not Mineral Oil

This oil is famous for treating dry skin and cleaning dishes and other utensils. In addition, you can use it on wood surfaces, but mineral spirits are more effective.

Therefore, please get mineral spirits when you want the best results.

  • Tip 3: Confirm You Are Not Buying Paint Thinner

Paint thinners are excellent for thinning oil-based finishes and have various effects on woodwork.

However, they are more toxic and less refined than mineral spirits. So, the latter is best for your wood cleaning project.

  • Tip 4: Check If the Formula is Odorless and Non-flammable

Ideally, odorless variants are the best and more convenient to handle. Moreover, they are safer as they undergo refining that removes toxic compounds.

  • Tip 5: Buy High-Quality Mineral Spirits

Although the solvent is relatively safe, taking certain primary precautions is advisable. Further, it is inherently toxic and can lead to environmental and health hazards.

Thus, purchasing low, dubious-quality mineral spirits risks a dangerous product.

The above hacks help you understand better the product in question. In addition, they make product identification straightforward, saving time and energy.

Here’s How to Use Mineral Spirit On Wood:

Does Mineral Spirits Remove Stain?

Mineral spirits help in stain removal. Typically, they weaken the bond between the lumber and the stain.

Also, you can use them for sticky and tacky surfaces when removing excess stain finishes.

The process is as follows.

  • Get Everything You Need. You will need the mineral spirit, a few old rags, and protective clothing such as a face mask and goggles.
  • Dampen the Rag With the Mineral Spirits. Pour a small portion of the formula onto the cloth. Also, only add enough to dampen the accessory, not douse it.
  • Place the Rag on the Stained Spot. Let the rag sit on the surface and squeeze out the excess mineral spirits.

In addition, give it a few seconds to help soften stubborn sports. So, you won’t need much effort during cleaning.

  • Clean the Surface. Wipe away the Stain from the surface. Further, follow the wood grain and avoid scrubbing or circular motions, especially when carving the lumber.

Can Mineral Spirits Damage Wood?

Fortunately, mineral spirits do not damage lumber. Besides, they are among the safest solvents for your woodwork.

The formula softens finishes, causing them to lose bonds with the surfaces. It also raises the wood grain for better sanding.

Lastly, mineral oils remove oils from oily wood. This occurrence does not ruin the lumber as it’s part of the cleaning process.

How to Remove Paint from Wood Using Mineral Spirit

Ideally, the paint finish should be fresh for a better result. But you can still make good progress with dry paint.

Only ensure you scrap the surface thoroughly before adding mineral spirits.

Here are steps to adhere to when using mineral spirit to remove a paint finish.

  • Prepare the Area

Prepare the working area before beginning the work. Also, clear away the furniture and other objects for better operation.

Next, lay an old sheet or drop cloth over the floor to protect it from accidental spills and paint drips.

Further, opening doors and windows would help increase airflow. Sometimes the mineral spirits and the finish may have strong smells. 

Also, wear old clothes that you do not mind ruining with paint and rubber gloves to protect your skin and hands.

  • Pour the Mineral Spirits Into a Clean Container

You can use a glass or metal container in this step. Moreover, please avoid plastic vessels, which will dissolve in the solvent.

Then, fill the container halfway and ensure there is room to add paint.

  • Dip a Brush In the Mineral Spirits

Soak the brush into the formula and brush it over the paint finish. Also, the objective is to wet the paint, so use a generous amount.

Further, you may need to dip the paintbrush multiple times to remove all the paint. Thus, please exercise some patience.

  • Wipe Away the Paint Finish

Wipe the softened paint with a rag, beginning from the top. Then, work your way down the workpiece.

Ensure you wipe in the wood grain direction to avoid ruining the lumber. You may also require a scraper or putty knife to remove stubborn paint.

  • Rinse the Surface With Water

Use clean water to rinse the area once you’ve removed all the paint. This way, you are sure that no lingering residue will compromise the final finish.

You can also use water and soap, but it is not mandatory. The mineral spirits do a thorough job of cleaning the surface.

  • Allow the Project to Dry Completely

Let the surface dry thoroughly. But remember, the process may require a few hours, depending on the humidity and temperature.

  • Apply a Fresh Paint Coat

Do a fresh coat once the wood is dry. Also, sand the surface first when painting over old paint finishes.

The process helps the new paint coat adhere better.

Depending on the paint type, you may require a primer to facilitate a durable project. So, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid mistakes.

Further, the project label prescribes the recommended drying duration. And violations may lead to poor adhesion and paint peeling.

Generally, removing paint from lumber is time-consuming. But it is worth it for the fresh appearance it gives the surface.

Furthermore, mineral spirits are effective and relatively safe for paint removal projects.

Sometimes, you’ll need to strip the surface for thick paint layers. So, scrub the finish using a paint scraper, then wipe it with a rag soaked in mineral spirits.

Alternatively, when handling thin paint layers or small paint patches, you can directly wipe the surface with a spirited rag.

However, the process needs more effort than if the paint was still fresh. In addition, the paint may only dissolve partially.

So, you’ll need to get a more potent solvent, such as turpentine.

How Long Does Mineral Spirits Take to Dry On Wood?

Mineral spirits take about 20 minutes to dry. However, please do not wait longer to finish the surface, as the formula dries quickly.

The formula removes the woodwork’s dullness and thus enhances the wood grain and delivers a refreshing look.

Lastly, mineral spirits clean off the grime build-up over the years. Therefore, when the wood dries, it regains its original luster.

How Long After Applying Mineral Spirits Can I Paint?

The recommended waiting duration is 15 to 20 minutes for oil-based paints. This way, you are sure that the wood is ready to receive the topcoat.

Please avoid using mineral spirits to prepare workpieces for a water-based finish. The formulas are not compatible and may lead to a failed attempt.

However, you can correct the above issue by cleaning the surface again with 50:50 water and denatured alcohol.

Then, let the project dry for 24 hours before adding the water-based paint finish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some of these questions are:

  • Are Mineral Spirits the Same as Paint Thinner?

Although mineral spirits and paint thinner are similar, they possess different chemical compositions.

For instance, the formulas come in handy when thinning paints. But only mineral spirits are efficient in cleaning surfaces.

Furthermore, paint thinner is mineral spirits in simple form without additives. Therefore, sometimes both formulas are interchangeable in multiple aspects and work similarly.

However, mineral spirits are more potent than paint thinner, whereas the latter is more volatile and has a strong smell.

  • How Do Mineral Spirits Work?

Mineral spirits are primarily petroleum distillate, functioning as a solvent. Besides, woodworkers use it as paint thinner or an oil-based solvent since it dissolves oils.

The formula makes paint formulas thinner and more manageable. It also helps creative refine the topcoat’s color.

You can use mineral spirits as a cleaner in various industries, including woodworking.

Furthermore, they do not mix with the dirt but thin and dislodge it, thus removing stubborn stains.

  • Are Mineral Spirits Toxic?

Mineral spirits are toxic as they give off strong air-polluting fumes. Therefore, please wear a respirator when applying them.

In addition, wash the formula off immediately if it pours on your skin. Otherwise, it causes skin irritation, rashes, and even burns.

  • How Do I Dispose of Mineral Spirits?

Unfortunately, health experts categorize mineral spirits as hazardous waste. Thus, disposing of them with other household waste is not advisable.

Instead, every region has specific rules governing mineral spirits’ proper disposal to ensure people’s and the environment’s safety.

In addition, please avoid pouring mineral spirits into the drain as they leach into groundwater and contaminate it.

Some recommended disposal strategies include:

  • Soak an old cloth with the formula and lay it somewhere to dry. The rag sucks up the liquid and loses it in the air.

Further, mineral spirits are highly volatile and quickly evaporate.

Use a rag to wipe the mineral spirits onto a scrap wood piece, used newspapers, or cardboard. These accessories absorb the formula and are safe to toss into the trash once they dry.

  • Take mineral spirits refusing to dry to your local hazardous waste disposal area. Also, please note that the formula fails to dry if it goes bad. 


  • How Do I Remove Mineral Spirits Residue?

Generally, mineral spirits leave a residue when used to remove paint. Further, these leftover formula needs cleaning for a complete job.

Therefore, get some water and soap and rinse the remaining mineral spirits immediately.

In addition, let the formula dry on a cloth before tossing it in the trash. Otherwise, pouring it down the drain contaminates groundwater, creating health issues.

  • What are the Alternatives to Mineral Spirits?

Mineral spirits are the most recommended thinning and cleaning solvent unless you want a stronger solution.

However, we have situations when you cannot access the product or need a more potent product.

In this case, the alternatives are as follows.

  • Denatured Alcohol

This solvent comprises ethanol and mainly works as a camping stove fuel. However, you can use it in wood sanding or as a cleaning aid like mineral spirits.

Denatured alcohol contains methanol, a pretty toxic formula. Therefore, wear protective clothing to avoid inhaling the fumes or irritating your skin.

Moreover, like mineral spirits, denatured alcohol strips oil. Thus, most woodworkers prefer the solvent for cleaning surfaces before finishing.

  • Charcoal Lighter Fluid

Oddly enough, this formula is a product of methanol/ethanol or mineral spirits. Further, since it is mineral spirit-based, you can use it for various applications.

For instance, the lighter charcoal fluid cleans oily surfaces before painting or staining.

Only don’t set yourself on fire as it is highly flammable.

  • Acetone

Acetone is another excellent substitute for mineral spirits. Besides, woodworking professionals consider it useful for degreasing and general wood cleaning.

You can use the formula to remove nail polish or clean grease, dirt, oil, and glue from various items.

Further, acetone works effectively on various surfaces, including glass, plastic, and metal, unlike mineral spirits which ruin some plastics.

In addition, you do not need a face mask when handling the solvent as it’s not a volatile organic compound and does not produce toxic fumes.

  • Turpentine

This formula is more toxic than white or mineral spirits. Moreover, it gives off a strong smell, requiring you to work in a well-ventilated area.

It is also advisable to work with a respirator to avoid inhaling the fumes.

Further, like mineral spirits, turpentine degreases oil bike and car parts. Some painters even use it for clean paint sprayers after spraying oil-based primers and paint.

However, follow the product label for your sprayer and call the manufacturer when in doubt about cleanup.

  • Is Mineral Spirit The Same As Mineral Oil?

Although the mineral spirit and oil originate from petroleum distillate, they are not the same product.

Mineral oil is viscous and thicker than mineral spirits as its refinement formula focuses on removing more toxins.

Therefore, the non-toxic product is food grade, meaning you can use it for human consumption.

On the other hand, mineral spirits undergo refining but retain a lot of toxins. Furthermore, they are thinner than their counterparts.

As a result, the formula remains toxic, requiring careful handling.

  • Does Mineral Spirits Darken Wood?

Mineral spirits darken lumber, but temporarily. Moreover, the wood’s original color comes back after drying.

Therefore, the formula will not discolor your workpiece. Instead, it eliminates the dull appearance and cleans the workpiece to deliver a refreshing look.


Mineral spirit is a staple in all woodworking stations. Besides, DIYers have it in their storage locations, just in case.

The formula also is famous for household and professional projects, making it a must-have.

Therefore, knowing how to use mineral spirit is advisable if you want a successful project. In addition, you can only benefit from them by using the correct application techniques.

Fortunately, the discussion above gives a detailed account of

How to Use Mineral Spirit On Wood

Mineral spirits have multiple uses, including showing the wood grain, cleaning grime off lumber, diluting oil-based finishes, and renewing dull top coats.

Furthermore, applying the formula is pretty straightforward. You only need to dampen a rag with the spirit and wipe it over the surface.

Also, you can mix it with your preferred oil-based stain. Then, use the mixture as you normally would.

Image of a woodworker wearing hearing protectors for woodworking

Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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