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Paint Thinner vs. Acetone: What’s the Difference?

mixture of paint for painting_banedeki_shutterstock

When preparing to paint, or when cleaning up paint, it is difficult to know whether you should use a paint thinner or acetone. We often use both items in painting scenarios, but each is very different, and it’s essential to know when to use them.

We are going to help by giving a detailed look at each one so you will know when to use acetone and when to use paint thinner on your project.Divider 2

Paint Thinner and Acetone

Let’s begin by looking at some things acetone and paint thinner have in common.

Common Features of the Paint Thinner and Acetone
  • Both acetone and paint thinner are solvents, which means you can use either to dissolve a great many things, including paint. Solvents are good at removing dried paint, varnish, lacquer, and other dried finishes.
  • Acetone and paint thinner release toxic fumes that are harmful to your health. Both require adequate ventilation and you should always wear a gas mask when working with these chemicals.
  • Both acetone and paint thinner are highly flammable and require extreme care when handling. You should never use either near an open flame. Improper storage of used rags can also lead to spontaneous combustion, so it is vital to dispose of your used materials properly.

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AcetoneEternal 100% Pure Acetone

We use a dry distillation process to create acetone, which also happens to be a natural chemical in the human body. Acetone is the chief ingredient in nail polish remover. It is a powerful cleaner due to its ability to mix with water, kill germs, dissolve the grime, and evaporate quickly. It will also dissolve superglue if you accidentally glue fingers together. It has uses in the creation of medicines and the creation of different types of plastics. Acetone will dissolve Styrofoam and certain plastics.

In the painting field, we generally use acetone to prepare metal for painting, and we use it to remove hardened paint. It’s perfect for cleaning old brushes or dried paint pans and getting hard to remove oils and grime off metal surfaces. Acetone cannot mix with paint to thin it.

Pros
  • Evaporates quickly
  • Mixes with water
  • Prepares metal for painting
  • A thinner for polyester resin
  • Dissolves superglue
  • Removes rosin flux
  • Used in creating some medicines
  • Powerful cleaner
  • Disinfectant
Cons
  • Flammable
  • Dissolves Styrofoam cups
  • Toxic fumes
  • Not good for mixing with paint

Paint ThinnerSunnyside 70532 Pure Odorless Paint Thinner

Paint thinner is often just mineral spirits, but it may contain other ingredients, including acetone. This product is usually used to remove paint and to thin it out. We thin oil-based paint to use it with spray guns and for many other reasons. Thinned paint is easier to spread, and it will go further. We also use paint thinner to clean up when we are finished painting as it makes the paint watery and easy to wipe up. It’s slow to dry, so we have more time to work with wet paint and clean it up. A paint thinner can also degrease metal. If the paint thinner is only mineral spirits, it’s reasonably safe to use. Still, it can also include other ingredients, including acetone, that may make it more dangerous to your health. Always read the label when using paint thinner to learn what ingredients it uses and what the safety requirements are.

Pros
  • Cleans oil-based paints
  • Change the viscosity of the paint
  • Allows paint spraying
Cons
  • May contain turpentine, acetone, mineral spirits, butanol, and xylene
  • Can be dangerous if inhaled
  • Dries slowly

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Conclusion

Hopefully, after reading this article, you have a better idea of what product is better suited to your needs. Acetone is perfect for cleaning and removing thick hardened paint, but you cannot mix acetone with paint and still use it. Paint thinner is better for cleaning wet paint, though it will remove dried paint slowly if you soak it. A paint thinner can mix with paint without ruining it, and it allows the paint to work with a paint sprayer for airbrushing and other types of work.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over our paint thinner versus acetone article. If it has helped you learn the difference between the two and helped you decide which is right for your project, please share this article with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.


Featured image credit: banedeki, Shutterstock

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