Mineral Spirits 101: Using Mineral Spirits on Wood

By MWB-Team •  Updated: 05/26/23 • 

Mineral spirits have long been in a woodworker’s kit. However, not many woodworkers know more about this solvent other than it can be used to thin finishes or clean tools after finishing. In this article, we’ll explore mineral spirits, how to use them on wood, and some alternatives to mineral spirits.

Most people use the terms mineral spirits and paint thinner interchangeably. Paint thinners is a generalized term that refers to any solvent that thins paint. However, mineral spirits refer to the composition of the product. There are different paint thinners available, including mineral spirits, turpentine, citrus solvent, and even water because it thins water-based paints. Check out our guide on lacquer thinner vs paint thinner.

Mineral Spirits and Other Finishes Arranged On A Shelf

Mineral Spirits and Other Finishes Arranged On A Shelf

There are three grades of mineral spirits available – low flash, regular, and high flash. The regular grade is good for most uses, and it’s the odorless mineral spirit usually used as a paint thinner.

Why Use Mineral Spirits on Wood?

Apart from thinning paint and cleaning paint applicators, mineral spirits are versatile solvents that can be used on wood for different purposes. Below are some reasons to use mineral spirits on wood.

1. To Renew Dull Wood Finishes

As time goes on, wood finishes lose their shiny appearance and become dull as dirt, grime, or wax builds up. Although refinishing is an option in the future, in the meantime, you can bring back the shine with mineral spirits.

Wood Chair After Wiping With Mineral Spirits

Wood Chair After Wiping With Mineral Spirits

Dip a clean cloth in mineral spirits so it becomes damp. After that, wipe down furniture or other wood products while adding more mineral spirits when necessary. Mineral spirits cut through dirt, grime, and build-up of wax, oils, or polish to restore the natural luster of a finish.

Be careful not to use powerful mineral spirits that might cut through a finish. However, mineral spirits usually strip wet finishes, which makes them completely safe for use on cured and dried wood finishes.

2. Cleaning Wood

If you’re looking for an effective and cheaper way to clean stubborn stains from wood, mineral spirits will come to the rescue. Mineral spirits are particularly good at cutting through oil-based stains. Just pour some mineral spirits into the wood and let them soak in and soften the stains. You can then wipe the wood surface to remove softened stains, grime, or dirt.

3. Removing Oils from Wood

Oily woods are harder to finish because the oils in the wood fibers make it harder for finishes or stains to be absorbed or adhere to the wood. However, this can be fixed easily by cleaning the oily wood with mineral spirits just before you apply a finish. Woods such as rosewood, ebony, teak, or cocobolo can be washed with mineral spirits to reduce the oils and make finishing easier.

4. Enhance The Grain of Wood

You can use mineral spirits to temporarily enhance the wood grain so you can choose a better wood for your project. Rub a clean cloth damped with mineral spirits on the wood’s surface as you would while staining wood. This will reveal the grain of the wood, and you can select a piece of wood with the grain you like.

Mineral spirits after the final sand

Mineral spirits after the final sand

5. Prepare Wood Before Staining

Applying mineral spirits before staining not only enhances the grain of the wood but will also show other surface imperfections, such as mill marks. This can help you fix these imperfections before you apply a stain or wood finish saving you time and the headache of stripping a finish.

Enhanced Wood Surface Imperfections After Wiping With Mineral Oils

Enhanced Wood Surface Imperfections After Wiping With Mineral Oils

To show surface imperfections, use a clean cloth and apply mineral spirits to dampen it. After this, wipe down the wood to show scuffs, sanding marks, or mill marks if present.

Alternative to Mineral Spirits on Wood

MWB-Team

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