Mineral spirits, white spirits, or mineral turpentine are petroleum-derived clear liquids commonly used as organic solvents in paint. They come in various types and grades, each with specific applications and characteristics. Mineral spirits are a mixture of aliphatic, open-chain, or alicyclic C7 to C12 hydrocarbons. They are insoluble in water and serve as an extraction solvent, cleaning solvent, degreasing solvent, and solvent in aerosols, paints, wood preservatives, lacquers, varnishes, and asphalt products.
About 60% of the white spirit consumption in Western Europe is used in paints, lacquers, and varnishes. Odorless mineral spirits (OMS) have been refined to remove toxic aromatic compounds, making them suitable for applications like oil painting. In households, mineral spirits clean paint brushes, auto parts, tools, and more.
Types of Mineral Spirits
Three different types and three different grades of white spirit exist, defined by the treatment they have undergone:
- Type 1: Subjected to hydrodesulfurization (removal of sulfur).
- Type 2: Solvent extraction.
- Type 3: Hydrogenation.
Each type comprises three grades: low flash grade, regular grade, and high flash grade. The grade is determined by the crude oil used as the starting material and the distillation conditions. Is also type 0, defined as a distillation fraction with no further treatment.
Do Mineral Spirits Leave a Residue?
Whether mineral spirits leave a residue is a common concern, especially in applications like woodworking and cleaning. Mineral spirits are often used as a paint thinner or component of paint thinners. They are also used for cleaning and degreasing machine tools and parts. However, certain mineral spirits, such as turpentine substitutes, may leave an oily residue. This is because turpentine substitute can have a wider range of components and is not made to a standard like white spirit.
The residue from mineral spirits can vary depending on the type and grade used. For example, odorless mineral spirits have been refined to remove more toxic aromatic compounds, making them less likely to leave an unpleasant residue.
Does Mineral Spirits Leave a Residue on Wood? When used on wood, mineral spirits sometimes leave a white or oily residue. This can occur if a lower grade or a type of mineral spirit unsuitable for the specific application is used. The residue may also result from interacting with the material being cleaned or thinned.
Understanding the Evaporation Process of Mineral Spirits
Mineral spirits, a petroleum-based solvent, are widely used in woodworking for tasks like cleaning paintbrushes, thinning paint, and restoring wood furniture. But what happens to mineral spirits after they’ve been applied? Do they vanish into thin air or linger on the surface?
How Mineral Spirits Evaporate
Mineral spirits do indeed evaporate, but their evaporation rate is rather slow. When applied to a surface, mineral spirits evaporate within 15 to 20 minutes and completely dry out. This evaporation process is faster for petroleum-based products but does not happen in the blink of an eye.
If you’ve used mineral spirits on a surface and left it for some time, you can expect it to dissipate completely. You won’t have to take extra steps to clean it off, as it will be gone when you return. However, you may notice residue formed on the spots you’ve cleaned, which are remnants of the dirt you just got off the surface. A new application of mineral spirits can get rid of this residue.
How Long Does It Take for Mineral Spirits to Evaporate?
The time mineral spirits evaporate depends on the surface and the amount used. On a surface, mineral spirits evaporate within 15 to 20 minutes. Depending on the amount, an unsealed container would likely take a few days to dry. If the container is sealed, mineral spirits can stay without evaporating for several years.
For optimal storage, it’s best to keep mineral spirits in the original containers they came in and tightly seal them. Containers made of solvent-resistant plastic or metal are also suitable.
Do Odorless Mineral Spirits Leave a Residue?
Odorless mineral spirits don’t leave any residue, making them ideal for cleaning projects and tools. Any residue noticed after cleaning with odorless mineral spirits is likely due to dirt not being entirely cleaned and should be cleaned again with mineral spirits.
Methods to Remove Mineral Spirits Residue
Mineral spirits are widely used for cleaning, degreasing, and thinning paint. While they are known to evaporate completely, leaving no trace, there are instances where they may leave a residue.
Techniques, Tools, and Products for Removing Residue
- Using Dish Soap and Water: Apply a few drops of dish soap to a damp rag and wipe the area. Rinse with clean water to remove any remaining residue.
- Rubbing Alcohol: Soak a paper towel or cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and place it over the affected area. Please wait a few minutes before removing it and rinsing the surface. Rubbing alcohol leaves no residue behind and is safe for most surfaces.
- Acetone Nail Polish Remover: This method can be harsh and possibly hazardous to some surfaces. Test it on an inconspicuous part of the surface first. If safe, apply some acetone to a cotton ball and dab the mineral spirits residue. Rinse the surface and repeat if necessary.
Alternatives to Mineral Spirits
When cleaning, degreasing, or thinning paints, mineral spirits have been the go-to solution for many. But what if you’re looking for something more environmentally friendly or less harsh?
- Citrus-Based Cleaners: Made from citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, these cleaners are natural and pack a punch for cleaning power. They’re a breath of fresh air in the world of solvents.
- Vinegar and Baking Soda: A classic combo that’s stood the test of time. Mix them, and you’ve got a cleaning solution that can tackle most jobs mineral spirits can do without harsh chemicals.
- Vegetable Oil and Essential Oils: A vegetable oil blend with a few drops of essential oils like lavender or tea tree can be a gentle yet effective alternative. It’s like bringing the garden into your garage.
Effectiveness and Comparison
While these natural alternatives may not always have the same robust effectiveness as mineral spirits, they often come close. It’s a trade-off between power and gentleness; sometimes, the softer touch wins the day.
Case Studies and Real-world Applications
Mineral spirits aren’t confined to the DIYer’s garage; they’ve made their mark in various industries and households. Let’s take a look at some real-world applications and success stories.
- Automotive Industry: From cleaning engine parts to degreasing, mineral spirits are the unsung heroes in the automotive world. They’re the grease to the wheels.
- Painting and Coating Industry: Need to thin that paint to the perfect consistency? Mineral spirits are there to save the day. They’re the artist’s invisible brush, creating masterpieces one stroke at a time.
- Manufacturing: Whether it’s cleaning machinery or preparing surfaces for painting, mineral spirits have found their niche in various manufacturing processes. They’re the silent workers on the factory floor.
- Cleaning Tools: Got some stubborn grime on your tools? A little splash of mineral spirits is as good as new. It’s like giving your tools a spa day.
- Removing Stickers and Adhesives: Those pesky price tags and stickers don’t stand a chance against mineral spirits. It’s the magic eraser for the modern world.
- Wood Treatment: Want to bring out the natural beauty of wood? Mineral spirits can clean and prepare the surface for staining or painting. It’s like a makeover for your furniture.
Historical Background of Mineral Spirits
The history of mineral spirits is as rich and complex as the substance itself. It’s a journey that takes us centuries, unraveling this versatile solvent’s evolution and early uses.
There’s much confusion surrounding the history of mineral spirits in art. Some claim that it came into use during the late 19th century, while others date its origin to the 1920s in dry cleaning. However, historical documents tell a different story.
Théodore de Mayerne, writing in the 17th century, mentions its use in painting. In his book “Materials for a History of Oil Painting” (1847), Charles Lock Eastlake maintains that its use in painting was widespread from the earliest times. The fact that authors writing hundreds of years ago were familiar with it means that mineral spirits were used in painting well before the 19th century.
Mineral Spirits in Art and Craft
The world of art and craft is a canvas of creativity, and mineral spirits have been one of the essential brushes used in painting this canvas.
Painting with Mineral Spirits
Mineral spirits have been a vital part of oil painting. They are distilled from crude oil and are related to kerosene. They are used to thin paints and clean brushes. The products marketed as odorless mineral spirits are the most refined and are suitable for painting.
In crafting, mineral spirits have found their place as a gentle solvent that doesn’t dissolve certain materials like damar crystals. Their modest solvent power and ability to cover better than turpentine-thinned layers make them ideal for various crafting techniques.
Mineral spirits allow fine detail to work in the thinnest layers and enable glazing techniques. They can be more streaky than turpentine, which, in the right circumstances, adds a unique charm to the artwork. It’s like having a subtle dance between control and freedom on the canvas.
Mineral spirits are more than just a solvent; they symbolize human innovation, creativity, and practical wisdom. Understanding their residue, evaporation, and various applications provides a comprehensive insight into a substance that has been part of human history and continues to shape our present. Whether you’re painting a masterpiece, cleaning a stubborn stain, or exploring the annals of history, mineral spirits are there, silently playing their part, adding color and clarity to our world. So next time you come across a bottle of mineral spirits, remember, it’s not just a liquid; it’s a legacy.