Lacquer Thinner vs. Paint Thinner: Differences and Usage

By MWB-Team •  Updated: 05/26/23 • 

Paint and lacquer thinners are both solvents used in finishing and refinishing furniture. Both are designed to change the chemical structure of paint or lacquer and evaporate as they dry. They are both also used in cleaning up tools or dissolving resins.

Although both paint and lacquer thinners are solvents, each addresses different needs and has pros and cons. Which one should you use for your project?

What is Lacquer Thinner?

This solvent dilutes, dissolves, and cleans tools and surfaces. While lacquer thinners are very similar to paint thinners, they only work primarily on lacquer products.

A lacquer thinner is a mixture of chemicals like toluene, methyl ethyl ketone, acetone, and xylene. Lacquer thinners do not all have the same chemical combination. Each product will vary on the chemicals used and mix ratios.

Klean Strip Lacquer Thinner

Klean Strip Lacquer Thinner

Lacquer is highly flammable and should be used in a well-ventilated area. It is available in both aerosolized and liquid forms. When applied with lacquer, a lacquer thinner evaporates quickly and dries in a matter of minutes.

The most common use of lacquer thinners is dissolving thick lacquers and cleaning up lacquer surfaces to remove the finish. However, lacquer thinners can also be used to clean tools and degrease wood and metal.

What is Paint Thinner?

Paint thinner is a broad term for liquid products for dissolving and diluting oil-based paints and varnishes. It can also be used to clean paintbrushes and other tools.

The term paint thinner is a product of mixing pure mineral spirits and other additives like benzene. However, other eco-friendly products from soy, citrus, pine (for turpentine), and other organic materials will fall under paint thinners.

PPG Paint Thinner

PPG Paint Thinner

The most common use of paint thinners is thinning out oil-based paints, stains, and varnishes. They can also help you while spraying paints, cleaning painting tools, and wiping off oily surfaces.

Lacquer vs. Paint Thinner – Their Differences & Similarities


Lacquer thinner combines different solvents like methanol, acetone, hydrotreated light distillate, toluene, ethyl acetate, and other ingredients. However, the combination of solvents on lacquer thinners will change from one manufacturer to another.

Paint thinner usually combines mineral spirits and other additives like benzene.


Lacquer thinner is considerably very stronger compared to paint thinner. It is powerful and can soften dried and cured lacquers and other oil-based painted surfaces. The thinner can also damage rubber and plastic or even strip paints easily.

Paint thinners are mild and slow acting. It is usually effective on wet coatings and can safely clean up cured painted surfaces without a huge risk of destroying the paint coating.

Evaporation Rate

The evaporation rate of lacquer thinners is very high, so most lacquers are sprayed. However, not all lacquer thinners evaporate faster. Lacquer thinners with brush-painted lacquer have added additives that considerably reduce the evaporation rate.

Paint thinner evaporates at a moderate rate. The evaporation rate of paint thinner will also depend on the application surface and temperature.

Safety and Environmental Concerns

Both lacquer and paint thinners are considered hazardous, and you should wear the proper equipment when applying them. You should also work in a properly ventilated area because of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and gases these thinners emit. However, lacquer thinner has fewer VOCs compared to paint thinner.

Proper handling should also be a priority to avoid fires. Lacquer is highly flammable, and caution should be taken when working with it. On the other hand, paint thinner is also flammable but less compared to lacquer.


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