So I was at Home Depot yesterday, looking for some mineral spirits since I wanted to try a new method for removing the remaining dust on a project prior to staining it.
I couldn't find any mineral spirits by name in the paint section, so I asked the guy behind the paint counter. He told me it was just an aisle over, but all I had seen there was paint thinner, varsol, and turpentine (not to pure mention methyl hydrate...Ice Road Truckers, anyone?).
I returned to the guy behind the paint counter, and he said those were all just different names for mineral spirits, and anyone would do for wiping down wood.
So, I did a little search on this forum and it seems that they are all petrol product relatives, there does seem to be some differences. So, gents, where do you get your mineral spirits, and do you buy it by the name "mineral spirits" or some other variant (like turpentine, paint thinner, etc.).
The difference between mineral spirits, paint thinner, and varsol is very slight. They are 'functionally equivalent' in my experience. That having been said, I prefer to have a jug that says 'mineral spirits' on it, so I buy it from the local Benjamin Moore store. They happen to stock a brand that says 'mineral spirits'.
Methyl hydrate is different - it's an alcohol. Turpentine is more expensive, but does a similar job as mineral spirits - I suppose it would be considered the 'natural source alternative'.
Mineral Spirits is definitely different from Varsol or Turpentine -- I've quit buying the last two (although I have a container of each) for cleanups since they smell strongly and it's hard to get the smell off your hands. Mineral Spirits does not have as strong an odour. I checked my two containers of MS and both have "Mineral Spirits" in large letters, but one has "Paint Thinner" under the name in smaller letters.
Unless stores have quit carrying it, it should be available in HD, Rona, CTC or paint stores. I cannot remember where I bought either of mine, but I'm sure it was one of the above. As I recall, it should be on the same shelves as the other products mentioned.
Turpentine definitely smells different than mineral spirits, but according to Recochem, who makes both products, mineral spirits and turpentine are interchangeable.
Varsol is just a trade name for a purer version of paint thinner. Both paint thinner and mineral spirits are usable for thinning oil-based finishes.
I posted that because the HD near me also stopped carrying Mineral Spirits as labeled on the bottle. I got my last bottle at Windsor Plywood, but callee's comment, I think I'll check Wal-mart next time I'm there.
Real turpentine is made from pine or spruce resin, and is often recommended as the best to thin out paint. A lot of folk medicine is also made with it.
Paint thinner and mineral spirits are petroleum based and are often used interchangeably.
Varsol is an old brand-name recipe for mineral spirits.
Word of warning, although all are supposed to be interchangeable, they are not all created equally.
I used to use a no name low-odor paint thinner to make by wipe-on poly with great results. Then I tried my usual recipe using RONA low-odor thinner and it took forever to dry. Retried it with Varsol and it worked fine, then tried it with turpentine and it also worked fine. Perhaps I just got a bad batch that one time, but I stick to turpentine now.
Not to muddy the waters, but to add another option.... Naptha works great. Flashes off very fast, so it's great for wiping varnish. It does however smell terrible. It's very easy to find - "coleman camp fuel". As the name implies, it's very flammable. But, it's used in stoves since it burns so clean.
Solvent based thinners are on the decline because they are not used much anymore. No one paints their houses in oil paint, everyone uses latex. That leaves more of this type of thing to specialty retailers who can actually help you. Varsol(a tradename for paint thinner), mineral spirits and paint thinner all will thin paint which is their intended purpose. However, each has their own composition which will give it differenct performance and this performance which vary from manufacturer to manufacturer as well. A good paint store, rather than a paint department will have many thinners in stock and make a suggestion on what you need and why.
As too the naptha suggestion it is highly flammable and smells terrible. Its great if you want to get high, but I would make another thinner choice for home use.
The way I understand it.... Mineral spirits is a bit more refined to eliminate the odor, other than that they seem to be interchangable. MS costs more than Paint Thinner, and maybe that is why they stopped carrying it.
so why do the big box stores drop these common products? I had the same issue looking for amonia.
wouldn't think it would be hard to find, all the grocery stores seemed to have it, but when I went looking cdn tire had it but HD didn't and the grocery stores didn't..
I wondered if it has to do with MSDS training.. remember not to EVER mix ammonia and bleach. I never tried it but have heard it is a very bad thing to do.
The other reason might be mark up ? they still seem to sell brand name stuff that is probably just as dangerous, so my hunch is that it is more about their markup scheme. If they water it down and call it XYZ cleaner they can justify selling it for double the price?