Can You Use Mineral Spirits on Wood? (Answered + Tips)

If you buy something through our posts, we may get a small commission. Read more here.

Share It

You may have unused mineral spirits in your workshop and you want to make the most out of them but you’re unsure what else you can use them for.

If you don’t want to risk damaging your pieces, our expert woodworkers will share if you can use mineral spirits on wood. Keep reading!

Mineral Spirits, Explained

Mineral spirits are clear organic solvents produced by distilling petroleum products. They are commonly used for cleaning solutions and thinners for certain types of paints including latex, varnish, and polyurethane. These make them loose and flexible to work with. 

In some countries, mineral spirits are more popularly known as white spirits, which typically consists of different light hydrocarbons that make them more volatile. 

How Mineral Spirits for Woodworking Work

Essentially, mineral spirits act as solvents that easily dissolve oil-based and other solvent-based wood finishes, which makes them excellent thinners. They can mix these finishes, soften their bonds, and remove them from the wood surfaces.

can of mineral spirits

You can also use them to loosen dried oil-based paint and wood finishes stuck on your paintbrushes and other painting materials. You must only soak them in mineral spirits mixture and you can easily remove the stuck paint off the bristles. 

Using Mineral Spirits on Wood in 8 Methods

Method #1: Clean the Wood Before Staining

Most woodworkers keep mineral spirits in their workshops for painting projects. 

If you have excess mineral spirits, instead of leaving them on the shelf, you can use them to clean many types of surfaces. In fact, one of the main purposes of mineral spirits is to remove dirt and stains on wood surfaces. 

Also, they are volatile, so they dry faster, making the cleaning procedure more efficient. Therefore, if you need to clean your furniture faster, using mineral spirits can speed up the process. 

Ideally, you should apply mineral spirits on wood surfaces to prepare them for finishing. Unlike water, mineral spirits help the wood pores to absorb the stains instead of raising the grain, giving the wood a richer and shiner finish. 

person holding cloth

Below are the steps you can follow to clean the wood with mineral spirits before you apply a finish. 

Step #1: Sand Your Wood

Sanding the wood surface is an important step to ensure your wood can achieve a smooth and flawless finish. 

To start, use medium-grit sandpaper and gently rub it on the wood surface. To fully refine the surface texture, switch to fine-grit sandpaper for the last step of sanding.

Step #2: Wet Your Clean, Lint-Free Cloth/Rag with Mineral Spirits

Once you’ve finished sanding the wood, you must use a tack cloth to wipe the debris and dust off the wood surface. 

We recommend using a tack cloth as it contains turpentine and has adhesive properties, making it effective at picking up and removing the sanding dust from the wood surface. 

cloth and white bottle

Alternatively, you can make your tack cloth by moistening a clean lint-free rag with mineral spirits or turpentine. It is cheaper but as effective as a tack cloth.

Step #3: Wipe the Wood Using Your Dampened Rag

Use a moistened rag with mineral spirits to wipe the sanding residue on the wood surface. Gently apply even stokes along the wood grains direction. 

Ensure to wipe on only one direction and avoid going back and forth or circular motion to avoid creating a mess or redistributing back the residue on the surface. Work on a small section and clean the rag or use a different rag before moving to another section

Step #4: Clean the Wood Using a Dry Rag

Once the wood surface is thoroughly cleaned, use a dry rag to wipe the mineral spirits’ residue. We suggest you rub the wood surface with a dry cloth several times to ensure that there are no excess mineral spirits. 

Step 5: Air-Dry the Wood

Although mineral spirits dry fast, we suggest you allow at least 20 minutes to air dry the surface before applying wood conditioner or finish. This will help the finish or stain to adhere properly. 

applying drying oil on plywood

Method #2. Clean Your Paintbrushes

It can be challenging to remove dry paint or varnishes stuck on the bristles of your paintbrushes. Although they are impossible to remove with water, the dissolving agents of mineral spirits can easily clean your paintbrushes. 

By following these instructions, your paint brushes will be restored to their original condition in a short amount of time.

Step #1: Pour Some Mineral Spirits into a Container

Choose a container that can fully accommodate your paintbrush. Pour mineral spirits on it, enough to dip the bristles. Hold your paintbrush and soak in the mineral spirits, ensuring that the bristles are fully submerged. 

Step #2: Swirl the Dirty Brush Bristles into the Mineral Spirits

While the bristles are submerged into the mineral spirits, swirl them around to allow the solvent to get through the bristles and soften the paint covering them. 

cleaning paint brush

You can push the bristles against the bottom or the walls of the container to help the solvent get through the bristles faster. Do this for one to two minutes depending on the amount of dried paint.

Step #3: Start Combing the Brush Bristles

After one or two minutes of swirling the bristles, withdraw your paintbrush from the container, then comb the bristles using a paintbrush comb or any smaller brush. Ensure to set your brush on the rag to avoid dripping paint. 

Step #4: Soak the Brush Again into the Mineral Spirits

To wash off the dislodged paint from the bristles, drip it back on the mineral spirits. Repeat the swirling process, then take it out of the container and brush the bristles again with the comb. Do this step several times until the paint completely comes off the bristles.

Step #5: Wash Your Brush Using Soap and Water

Lastly, you must wash the mineral spirits off the paintbrush. This is to remove the strong smell of the mineral spirits. Also, they are highly flammable, so you must completely wash them off to avoid fire hazards. 

cleaning brush with soap and water

To do this, you must mix laundry detergent or dishwashing soap with water, then soak the bristles into the mixture. Rinse the paintbrush to remove the mineral spirits residue. Then, allow the clean paintbrush to fully dry.

Also Read: How to Clean Your Polyurethane Brush 

Method #3. Dilute the Wood Stain

If your oil-based wood stain is too dense or thick, it will be difficult to apply. As mineral spirits work well with oil-based products, you can mix them with the stain, making them less dense. 

Essentially, mineral spirits are excellent paint or stain thinner and diluting agents for various oil-based products. You can use mineral spirits on wood stains by following the steps below.

Step #1: Transfer the Wood Stain into a Container

You can use a small container or bucket to transfer the wood stain depending on the amount you need for your project. 

foam brush and Waterlox TB5284 Stain

As much as possible, we suggest you prepare the mixture only once to achieve consistency. But if you’re working on a bigger project and need to remix, it’s important to note the mixture’s ratio so you can replicate it. 

Step #2: Pour Some Mineral Spirits Inside the Container

Typically, wood stains have thinner consistency to easily penetrate the wood. Therefore, we suggest you start by adding one tablespoon of mineral spirits at a time, taking note of the measurement as you add more to the mixture.

Step #3: Test the Wood Stain

After adding one spoon of mineral spirits, stir your mixture and test its consistency on a piece of scrap wood. You don’t want the stained surface to look light since it tends to turn lighter as it dries. 

Therefore, stop adding mineral spirits when you reach a slightly darker shade than how you need it. This way, it will become lighter as it dries, resulting in the exact shade you want. 

Method #4. Restore Wood Projects

Taking care of your delicate antique furniture can be challenging as they are highly valuable wood pieces and you don’t want to damage them with harsh cleaning solutions. Some cleaning products like scouring pads soaked in the soapy solution can scratch the wood surface. 

can of mineral spirits

However, cleaning them with just water cannot be effective, if not causing more harm by exposing the wood to moisture. 

This is where mineral spirits can help you the most as they can get through the dirt buildup and dislodge them from the wood surface, revealing the beauty of the wood finish concealed by the thick layer of dirt. Below are the steps on how you can properly restore your antique furniture.

Method #5. Clean Sap and Oil-Based Adhesives from the Wooden Surfaces

Your outdoor furniture is exposed to various harsh environmental elements like sap from trees on your lawn. If your furniture got stained by tree sap, it can be tremendously difficult to remove because of its adhesive nature.  

absorbent cloth for cleaning

Similarly, your new furniture may have stickers on them that leave stubborn adhesive, which you can’t simply clean with soap and water. 

Fortunately, mineral spirits can dissolve these tacky messes and remove them from the wood surface easily by following the steps below.

Method #6. Clean Up the Excess Tacky Stain from Your Stained Wood

Excess oil-based stain must be cleaned off the wood surface after five minutes of application. But if you wait longer before wiping it off, the stain can be a mess that is difficult to remove. Thankfully, you can repair this using mineral spirits with the steps below.

drying stain

Using Mineral Spirits to Strip Off Stains from Tacky Surfaces

Method #7. Highlight Flaws on Your Wooden Surfaces

If you want to achieve a perfect wood finish, you must ensure to cover all the imperfections of the wood surfaces. Essentially, you can use mineral spirits on wood grains to highlight their flaws, so you can easily see and fix them before you apply the finish. 

To use the mineral spirits to fix the wood surface imperfections, follow the steps below. 

Method #8. Remove Stains Off Your Skin

If you’re working with wood stain, it may get on your skin and it won’t be removed with just water, especially if it’s oil-based.  

washing wood stains off hands

If this happens, you can use mineral spirits to remove wood stain from your skin. However, don’t let the mineral spirits stay on your skin for a longer time because they may cause irritation. Follow the steps below to safely use them on your skin.

Using Mineral Spirits Safely: What to Do?

Mineral spirits have high volatile organic compounds (VOC) content, making them toxic and harmful to your body, especially when ingested or stayed on your skin too long. They are also flammable solvents, so they present a fire risk. 

Below are the things you must do to safely use mineral spirits. 

protective gears

Other Safety Measures to Consider When Using Mineral Spirits

Generally, mineral spirits can pose various hazards to your health and surroundings while working with them, so you must ensure you follow these safety measures.  

How To Dispose of Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits are classified as hazardous waste, requiring you to dispose of them at the proper disposal site in your local area. This is a governing rule to protect the people and the environment from the danger they can pose. 

odorless mineral spirits

After you used mineral spirits, you must avoid pouring the remaining content in the drain as they may contaminate the groundwater. So, here are some ways how you can dispose of them properly.

  1. Pour the mineral spirits on an old rag and allow it to fully dry. As they are volatile, mineral spirits can easily evaporate.
  2. You can also use old newspapers to absorb the excess mineral spirits, then let them dry and throw them into the garbage bin.
  3. Once your mineral spirits go bad, they won’t fully dry. In this case, you must take them to the hazardous waste facility in your area. 


Do mineral spirits damage wood?

No, mineral spirits do not damage the wood. Mineral spirits are safer to use on wood to soften the bond of wood finishes, so you can easily remove them and clean the wood surface.

Will mineral spirits remove varnish from wood?

Yes, mineral spirits will remove varnish from wood. When you apply mineral spirits on a varnished surface, they will loosen the bond and dissolve the varnish, making it easier to wipe the varnish off the wood surface. 

See Also: Does Vinegar Remove Paint from Wood?

Can you use mineral spirits as wood conditioners?

Yes, you can use mineral spirits as wood conditioners. If you apply them directly on the wood surface before staining, they can dilute and lighten the stain, then penetration like how conditioners work. 

How long to let the wood dry after cleaning with mineral spirits?

You should let the wood dry for 20 minutes after cleaning with mineral spirits. Once the wood surface feels dry to the touch, you can proceed to apply the wood finish.

Will mineral spirits lighten wood?

No, mineral spirits will not lighten wood. Instead, they will temporarily darken the wood fibers, highlighting the flaws. However, the wood’s natural color will come back as it dries. 

How long does it take for mineral spirits to dry before staining?

It takes 15 to 20 minutes to fully dry before staining the wood surface. Mineral spirits are volatile [1], so they dry faster. Use your fingers to lightly touch the wood surface. If it’s dry to the touch, you can now apply the stain.

Are mineral spirits capable of removing stains?

Mineral spirits are not capable of removing old stains completely, but they can remove dirt and water stains on the wood surface. They can also lighten the stain on a dark-stained surface. 

How you should clean minerals spirits off?

To clean mineral spirits off your skin or on the surfaces in your home, you must use soap and warm water. This solution is excellent in softening mineral spirits, making the easier to wipe off.

What mineral spirits can do to wooden surfaces?

Mineral spirits can dissolve and get through dirt buildup and tacky grime on wood surfaces. To clean wood surfaces, use a clean cloth saturated with mineral spirits, then gently rub it on the surface. 

Will mineral spirits leave a residue?

Yes, mineral spirits leave a residue on the wood surface. But you can easily remove their residue by washing the wood surface with water and laundry detergent or dishwashing soap. 

Next Readings


Mineral spirits have many uses, so most woodworkers always have them in their shops. If you have excess bottles sitting on the shelf in your workshop, don’t let them go to waste. 

Now that you know how you can use mineral spirits on wood, you will be able to finish more woodworking projects to make the most of them!

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
Related Articles
Join our community on facebook and get 3 woodworking plans for free!

Join Our Woodworking Community on Facebook And Get 3 Woodworking Plans for Free!