The Ultimate Turpentine Vs Mineral Spirits Comparison!

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There are a huge number of different mediums and solvents that you are able to use for painting with a huge number of individual use cases for each solvent within different types of painting too. Due to so many people recently getting involved in painting as a way to pass the time and express themselves, we have noticed a spike in the number of people reaching out with questions about various mediums and solvents.

One of the more commonly asked questions that we have noticed people asking time and time again is for a dedicated turpentine vs mineral spirits comparison article. This is often due to turpentine being one of the most popular options on the market right now with a huge range of use cases but people looking for a valid alternative that offers similar performance with less toxicity.

Our hope with this article is that we will be able to go over a wide the various advantages and disadvantages of turpentine and mineral spirits to offer our readers an inside into the better product for their requirements. Depending on your exact situation, one may be the better option than the other but there are a number of different variables to consider when choosing your medium of choice.

Turpentine Vs Mineral Spirits

Turpentine is one of the most popular solvent based mediums on the market with painters using it for everything from cleaning their brushes to reducing the required drying time of their oil based paints. Mineral spirits offer some of the advantages of turpentine with a slightly slower drying time when mixed with oil paints but tend to be less toxic due to having the toxic volatile organic compounds and sulfur removed during production.

We have our ultimate guide to oil painting mediums that goes into much more detail on the major oil painting mediums be it oil based or solvent based that offers the various advantages and disadvantages of each. When it comes to turpentine and mineral spirits, you have to realise that both products have been developed to serve very similar use cases so in most situations, the performance is very similar to each other no matter what option you choose.

Mineral spirits is also listed under various names such as paint thinner so you may actually be using mineral spirits without knowing it due to the change in the naming convention too. This is a very common oversite that we see time and time again with people looking for advice on solvents for painting and when we look a little deeper, it turns out that they are already using mineral spirits under another name for their various tasks.

The Advantages Of Turpentine!

Turpentine is a cheap, easy to fine, fast drying solvent that offers painters a great way to manipulate the natural properties of their oil paints when used as a painting medium. Turpentine also has a number of other use cases within the painting space with the main one being based around cleaning various pieces of equipment after your painting session with minimal effort required on your part.

We would highly recommend that you go with a standard, distilled turpentine for your painting needs but there are other variants of turpentine on the market that can perform well. One thing we would recommend is that many of the scentless turpentine products that are on the market can perform well in most cases but will often not perform as well as regular distilled turpentine.

Due to this, you should look at how well ventilated the area you paint in actually is as if the fumes from the turpentine wont be causing you any problems or issues, you could easily use regular turpentine for the better performance rather than the scentless turpentine. We also have a dedicated article going over how to use turpentine in oil painting that may be helpful to you in a number of ways when looking to get the most out of your turpentine.

The Advantages Of Mineral Spirits!

Mineral spirits are the main ingredient in most paint thinner products and have a wide range of use cases in the painting space. These range from being able to manipulate the drying properties of oil paints to tweaking the texutre of paints one dry. Mineral spirits can also be an excellent tool to have in your collection to clean your painting accessories or remove paint from surfaces quickly.

There are a huge range of different mineral spirits on the market with different brands often using a very similar formula to each other while often calling them something totally different. When it comes to helping you quickly and easily remove paint from a surface that you accidently got it on during your painting session, mineral spirits dos tend to take the lead over turpentine in many cases due to it being quicker to lift the unwanted paint off the surface.

Another advantage that mineral spirits has is that you are often able to use it to prevent your brushes from drying out when not in use or to clean them between colors. Although you can technically do this with turpentine and still get great results, you are usually able to add a little water to the mineral spirits to tweak its strength to what you need and still get great performance but adding even a small amount of water to turpentine can drastically reduce how well it will perform for you.

Turpentine Vs Mineral Spirits Toxicity!

Both turpentine and mineral spirits are toxic solvents with all variants of both products having some level of toxicity to factor in. In many cases, mineral spirits are slightly less toxic than turpentine due to having the toxic volatile organic compounds and sulfur removed during the production process but this does not totally remove the toxicity from mineral spirits.

You also have to factor in that there are turpentine formulas on the market that have been highly refined to reduce the toxicity of them as well as the fumes that the give off. As we touched on earlier, these scentless variants of turpentine are technically less toxic than their regular counterparts as well as many regular mineral spirit formulas but they will often perform less effectively in most use cases.

This tends to be true with all solvents commonly used for painting. The more work that goes into reducing their toxicity, the less optimal the formula at actually doing its job due to the chemical strength being drastically reduced in most cases. This is unavoidable and a limitation of the technology that we have available to use right now and the core compounds of solvent based liquids.

Mineral Spirits Vs Turpentine For Cleaning Brushes!

Both mineral spirits and turpentine are excellent options for cleaning your paint brushes after a painting session. Due to both being retailed at a very similar price point, it is often better to just go with the easiest solvent for you to get at the time. many established artists will carry both turpentine and mineral spirits in their painting accessories anyway so cleaning your brushes with whatever you have to hand is often the easiest option.

Due to the vast majority of artists carrying turpentine in their collection due to it being such an excellent option for use as a medium for oil painting, turpentine often becomes the default option for cleaning your paint brushes after use. In reality though, mineral spirits do tend to offer a very similar level of performance making them an equally good choice for the majority of people.

We have a dedicated article going over how to clean oil paint brushes that goes into much more detail on how you are able to clean your brushes after use. The methods, tips, and tricks suggested in that dedicated article on cleaning your paint brushes helps to maintain the integrity of your bristles on your brushes during the cleaning process to ensure that your brushes will be able to last you for as long as possible without issues with their flexibility dropping.

Mineral Spirits Vs Turpentine For Oil Painting!

Turpentine tends to be the best option when looking for a medium for oil painting and although mineral spirits can work, their slower drying time than turpentine often rules them out for use as a medium for your base coat. Many oil painters tend to prefer an oil based medium for all coats after their base coat rather than a solvent removing the need for the slower drying mineral spirits in many cases.

More often than not, a turpentine formula will be used as the base coat medium of choice for oil painting with something like linseed oil being used as a medium for the additional layres in the painting. We have a dedicated article going over how you are able to use linseed oil and turpentine for oil painting that may be helpful due to going over this in more detail.

In reality though, you are often able to use a wide range of different mediums in place of the linseed oil with a wide range of effects and drying times being available to you. Although turpentine is usually used to help reduce the required drying time of your base layers of oil paint, it is not essential and many people don’t use any mediums at all with their oil paints and will simply wait for their oil to naturally oxidise and dry.

Mixing Turpentine And Mineral Spirits!

We do not recommend that you mix turpentine and mineral spirits for use with your oil paints as most people fail at making a mixture with the best features of both products and end up with the worse features of both instead. Simply sticking to turpentine (usually the best option) or mineral spirits without mixing the two together will often be the best path to take in most situations for oil painting.

Another potential issue with mixing turpentine and mineral spirits is that you may end up ruining a specific feature of either product that you have paid over the odds for resulting in wasted money. As we touched on earlier, both turpentine and mineral spirits have specialise variants of their formulas on the market that have been designed from the very start to do a specific task in oil painting.

The majority of the time, taking one of these specialist variants and adding the other formula to it will not only remove the specialist properties of the base formula resulting in you paying over the odds for the product but also reduce the performance of both of the core ingredients too. Even skilled, experiences oil painters often just stick to using their turpentine or mineral spirits right out of the bottle rather than trying to mix the two due to it often being such a waste of time.

Can Turpentine Be Substituted For Mineral Spirits For Painting?

Not only can turpentine be substituted for mineral spirits when painting but it is often recommended that most people use turpentine instead of mineral spirits if possible, especially when working with oil paints. The native properties of turpentine often make it a much better option than mineral spirits in most cases and will offer a better end result for the exact same task.

Although you are able to thin oil paint without turpentine and still get a solid result once your paint has dried, you will often get a better overall result if you do use turpentine to thin your paints, especially for a base layer. It will make the paints that the turpentine is mixed with much easier to blend while also ensuring that they dry as quickly as possible too.

Thats said though, mineral spirits can often be used to great effect with your oil paints without issue and be a suitable alternative or replacement for turpentine in many cases and offer a level of performance close to actual turpentine. Mineral spirits do have some very niche situations where they can be considered better options than turpentine to but as most of our readers are beginners who are new to the painting hobby, our default recommendation is turpentine.

Is Turpentine Or Mineral Spirits Better?

For most people involved in the painting space, turpentine will be the better option with it not only offering a higher level of performance and a better end result but also being slightly easier to use as a paint medium or cleaning agent. Mineral spirits does still have its place and comes in at a close second to turpentine with many people still opting to use it instead due to personal preference.

We have gone over the various advantages of turpentine over mineral spirits throughout the article multiple times so hope that our readers better understand why most of them should be going with turpentine. Out of all of the solvent based mediums that are commonly used with oil paints though, we would place turpentine first with mineral spirits in second and then there being a relatively large gap between them and third place.

This is why we mentioned that both turpentine and mineral spirits are often considered to be interchangeable in most cases due to having such a similar level of performance for most of their common use cases. If you are set on picking up a solvent for your painting sessions then either really is a solid option with turpentine sneaking out ahead in some situations.


That brings our article going over our ultimate turpentine vs mineral spirits comparison article to a close. We hope that we have been able to help you better understand the advantages and disadvantages of turpentine and mineral spirits and where each pull ahead of the other when used for painting. Although personal preference and the exact task you will be using each solvent for do come into play, most of our readers will be better off by just going with turpentine instead of mineral spirits.