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6 Best Paint Thinners for Any Job

When your project requires paint thinner, make the right choice for best results. These six options are good bets.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

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Using Paint Thinner Gettyimages 1282135072Ole_CNX/Getty Images

What Is Paint Thinner?

Paint thinners are solvents used to dissolve oil-based paints, primers and stains, thereby reducing their viscosity (thickness).

Common uses for paint thinner:

The most popular types of thinners are derived from petroleum, such as mineral spirits and turpentine. There are also alcohol-based products like denatured alcohol (ethanol) and acetone (a.k.a. nail polish remover), which are commonly used to thin lacquers, shellacs and epoxies (adhesives and primers).

As with any solvent, be sure to read labels carefully for proper use.

Note: Paint thinners are not for use with latex paints and finishes. Thin those paints and finishes with water only.

Safety

Whenever handling paint thinner, Andrew Raker, owner of Clark Paint in W. Springfield, Mass. says, “Always read the caution and safety information on the packaging before use. In most cases, you want a supply of fresh air and good ventilation.”

Precautions to take when working with paint thinners:

Flammability

Solvents can be extremely flammable, so disposing of rags and left-over thinner properly is paramount. Never ball up wet rags and toss them into a container because they can spontaneously combust. Instead, rinse them out with water and let dry completely before throwing away.

Storage

Always keep paint thinners in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area, away from heat, ignition sources and, of course, pets and children.

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Sunnyside Odorless Mineral Spirits

Promote better air quality when working indoors with the non-smelly Sunnyside Odorless Mineral Spirits. Not only does it thin paint, varnishes and stains, it can also clean up residue and gooey messes around the house without leaving behind an icky scent.

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Sunnyside Lacquer and Epoxy Thinner

Highly-rated by Amazon customers, Sunnyside Lacquer and Epoxy Thinner dissolves and thins lacquers and shellacs better than standard paint thinner. Keep this product handy in the garage or workshop (it’s part thinner and part degreaser) because it’s great for cleaning tools, auto parts, machine components and more. You can even run it through a sprayer or airbrush to effectively clean those tools after use.

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Klean Strip Acetone

Functioning as a reliable thinner and a remover, Klean Strip Acetone is alcohol-based and specially formulated to thin or clean polyester resins (wood filings and outdoor furniture), epoxies (primers and sealers) and adhesives (glues).

Use it to remove ink and permanent marker from walls and whiteboards, un-superglue fingers, erase scuffs from tile floors and get rid of stubborn stickers on glass and metal. It does all that without leaving behind a cloudy film.

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Real Milk Paint Citrus Solvent

A greener alternative, Real Milk Paint Citrus Solvent can be used wherever paint thinners or mineral spirits are required. Made of 98 percent pure citrus peel oil extract (the other two percent is water), its crystal-clear formula won’t add an amber color to tung oil. That leaves your woodworking project with a rich, natural finish.

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Chelsea Classical Studio Lavender Spike Oil

Oil painting enthusiasts won’t turn up their noses at Chelsea Classical Studio Lavender Spike Oil, a safer and non-toxic choice. Besides diluting oil paint, resin and varnish mediums, it carries a distinctive and pleasant lavender scent that makes it a sweet alternative to other more putrid-smelling solvents. It can be used in hand-made soap and for aromatherapy, too.

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Weber Odorless Turpenoid

For those who dabble in the fine arts, Weber Odorless Turpenoid thinner and cleaner is an outstanding substitute for turpentine (a.k.a. gum spirits, a solvent distilled from the resin of pine trees).

A top seller on Amazon with more than 1,000 five-star reviews, it features the same properties and drying time as traditional turpentine but without the strong odor. It’s compatible with all oil-based artist mediums yet won’t affect their true color.

“I tried turpentine from the hardware store and the odor made me physically ill,” wrote an Amazon customer. “This is worth the $$$.”

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Toni DeBella
Toni DeBella is a freelance travel, lifestyle and digital content writer based in a medieval hill town in central Italy. Her work has been featured in such publications as Fodor's, The Telegraph, Walks of Italy, Italy Magazine, Frommers.com, Touring Bird (via [email protected]) and more. Most recently she authored the 2020 edition of DK Eyewitness Sicily travel guide. When Toni is not roaming around Europe, you'll find her tending her alley-side container garden or honing her clay-court tennis game.

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