What’s The Difference Between Solvents?

The painting world is filled with very sticky material.  And that sticky paint can be very difficult to clean off.  So there are plenty of solvents used by commercial painting contractors to help clean their tools.

From denatured alcohol, to mineral spirits, to turpentine, to xylene.  These are all solvents frequently used by commercial or industrial painting contractors.  But knowing which solvent to use can be perplexing.

And the reason is that there are many different types of paints.  From alkyds, to acrylics, to epoxies and urethanes.  They all have different chemical properties.  And depending on those properties, it will require a different type of solvent to break apart that paint.

And even though there’s a surplus of solvents to select from, mineral spirits and denatured alcohol are some of the most commonly used solvents.

Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits, which are also known as white spirits, are a petroleum sourced mixtures of aliphatic hydrocarbons.  They are also known as a weaker solvent, which makes it pretty ideal for residential use.

Being aliphatic, means that it is slow evaporating, which also makes it suitable for removing alkyd paint.  So when you’re painting some trim or baseboard with Kilz or other types of alkyd coatings, you’ll want to atleast have some mineral spirits to clean up any paint that might get on your clothes or furniture.

Denatured Alcohol

When painting with coatings stronger than just alkyd paint, then denatured alcohol will be a good option.

The main ingredient in denatured alcohol is ethenol, which is an excellent solvent, acting as a stain-remover, thinner and cleaner.

But not only can it clean, it can break down resins.  So if the applicator is coating with urethane or epoxy, it’s a wise idea to have some denatured alcohol on stand by, because it has the chemical properties to breakdown those resins.

In conclusion…

Solvents are important to have when dealing with alkyd, or 2 component paints.  But knowing which solvent to use is the hard part.  Because there isn’t just 1 solvent that can be used across the board.  Each one has its own specific purpose, that can tend to each specific paint.  So be aware of which paint is being applied, so that you know which solvent to use during the project.