The process of degreasing and removing stains from your wood furniture can be made significantly more efficient with the use of mineral spirits, a petroleum-based solvent. However, a common query arises: does mineral spirits evaporate quickly, or does it take an extended period before vaporizing, allowing for reuse?
In this informative guide, I will provide insights into the proper storage and utilization of mineral spirits during your woodworking projects, ensuring that you make the most of this valuable solvent.
Do Mineral Spirits Fully Vaporize?
Mineral spirits or white spirits evaporate eventually but are still effective in woodworking in removing grease, stains, and resin and can be used as an all-purpose cleaner. It is odorless and colorless, so it does not harm the air.
Because it is a solution of hydrocarbons derived from petroleum, it contains molecules more volatile or prone to vaporizing than the substance it dissolves.
But mineral spirits evaporate completely afterward. Although its evaporation rate is slower than that of gasoline vaporization, it is worth noting that mineral spirits are petroleum-based solvents that evaporate at a faster rate. But how do solvents like mineral spirit evaporate?
Mineral spirits evaporate completely at a room temperature of 68oF (20oC) because this type of solvent has a low-boiling point. The higher temperature of your workspace, the faster the mineral spirits evaporate.
Therefore, your workspace should have good air circulation or a well-ventilated area because mineral spirits evaporate when it has into contact with air.
Presence of Molecules
Another reason mineral spirits evaporate completely is the tiny and light molecules that can freely move and mix into the air. These molecules are light as air, so it remains in the gas phase, making it impossible to condense and form droplets.
Types of Mineral Spirit and Their Evaporation & Drying Times
|Types of Mineral Spirit
|Evaporation and Drying Times
|Mineral Spirit (Odorless)
|10 to 15 minutes
|Low-odor mineral spirit
|15 to 20 minutes
|Mineral Spirit in Opened and Poorly Ventilated Containers
|3 to 4 months
|Opened and Properly sealed container
How Long Does it Take for Mineral Spirits to Fully Evaporate + Drying Time
Naturally, mineral spirits evaporate completely within 24 hours after you applied on a surface. But you can achieve a dry surface between 10 to 20 minutes.
It takes as fast as 10 to 15 minutes for odorless mineral spirits, while low-odor mineral spirits could take up to 20 minutes to dry. You can check the surface to see if the mineral spirit has evaporated.
Once you notice the shiny and wet-looking surface, it has not yet completely evaporated. Otherwise, it is completely dry if the surface looks dry and clean.
If you apply low-odor mineral spirits over the paint, you will notice that the mineral spirit evaporates before it is completely dry.
Also, the container’s mineral or white spirit can evaporate, particularly those unsealed containers. Typically, mineral spirits totally evaporate in a few days, depending on the amount left in the container.
Provided the container is effectively sealed after each use, you have the option to reuse the mineral spirit for a period of 3 to 4 months.
Moreover, it is also recommended to keep and store the remaining mineral spirits in their original containers for optimal storage. Otherwise, you can use a plastic or metal container to store solvent or solvent-resistant.
Can You Stop Mineral Spirits from Evaporating? + How to Slow Down the Process
Mineral spirits evaporate eventually, but you can slow down the vaporization following these methods.
Store in a Container
Store mineral spirits in their original container are recommended to prevent vaporization . It will also maintain its efficacy in dissolving grease and removing paint or old finishes on the surface.
Keep it Cool and Dry
You should keep the mineral spirit container in a cool and dry place far from any heat sources to slow its vaporization. Since it’s a petroleum-based solvent, it is flammable so that any heat source can evaporate.
For safe storage of mineral spirits, maintain temperatures below 105°F (41°C). Temperatures beyond this threshold can potentially lead to ignition.
As an alternative storage location, consider utilizing your outdoor shed or garage to ensure the proper handling and storage of mineral spirits.
Use a Desiccant
To slow down mineral spirits evaporation, you must use a Desiccant. This material can absorb moisture which causes the mineral spirits to evaporate and lessen its efficacy. One of the effective desiccants you can use is silica gel, which can also slow down vaporization.
Don't Open the Container Frequently
Mineral spirits containers should be left alone and sealed unless you are going to use them. If there’s left in the container, you should refrain from opening it. This will reduce its evaporation process and extend its shelf life.
Use Solvent Stabilizers
You can use solvent stabilizers to slow down mineral spirits evaporation. These stabilizers extend the shelf life of mineral spirits by preventing the molecules from breaking into small pieces and evaporating.
How to Use Mineral Spirits
Do mineral spirits evaporate, considering they are essential in woodworking? Indeed, you can use it for a wide array of uses, although the mineral spirits evaporate completely.
Aside from surface degreasing or removing paint thinner and resins, you can use mineral spirit on wood to wipe off sticky residues and clean frames, dishes, and other surfaces. You can also use this solvent in cleaning and restoring wood furniture.
Here are the basic steps to restore and clean your wood using mineral spirits or white spirits.
Step #1: To understand the condition and color of the old finish, pour a drop of mineral spirits on the small part of the wood.
Step #2: Apply the solvent on the area of the wood and rub the surface to remove the old finish.
Step #3: Then use a dry cloth to clean the surface. You can apply a thin coat to protect the finish, making the appearance look new.
Mineral spirits are most effective on oil-based paints or finishes, and to get optimal results, you must follow the instructions indicated on the container. Also, this solvent must be kept out of reach of children.
Is it Okay to Reuse Mineral Spirits? How?
Mineral spirits do not rot or spoil, making them reusable after a few months. Here’s how to keep used mineral spirits before they evaporate.
Step #1: Get the used mineral spirits and pour mineral spirits into some safe containers, which can be safe metal or plastic containers.
Step #2: Ensure the container is airtight to keep the used mineral spirit in good condition.
Step #3: Once sealed, place the container in a safe place and leave it there for a few days. This will enable the gunk or residue of used mineral spirit to settle at the bottom of the container, leaving the clean mineral spirits above.
Step #4: Get empty containers and pour the clean mineral spirits. You can use a coffee filter or any filtration material during the process so the mineral spirits leave residue behind.
Step #5: After pouring mineral spirits, seal the new container airtight and keep it until you use it for your next woodworking.
In reusing your mineral spirits, you will have the benefits of saving money and hurdle in disposing of the mineral spirits.
Will Odorless Mineral Spirits Leave Residues?
Using odorless mineral spirits does not leave residues because it has been refined to separate gunk from the solvents. The residues came from the highly volatile shorter hydrocarbons, a main component of mineral spirits.
If there’s no filtration, the residues release a low odor of mineral spirits and create a thin sheen residue visible on the surface after it reaches the evaporation rate. On the flip side, the odorless mineral spirit leaves a sheen layer with no residues after complete drying.
On rare occasions, when you see a few traces after using odorless mineral spirits, residues do not belong to the solvent. Not all mineral spirits produced residues on the surface. It can be caused by dirt or impurities left on wood surfaces after preparation.
How Long Mineral Spirits Last: Will it Expire?
Typically, it does not expire, but mineral spirits do evaporate slowly, allowing you to use it for two to five years, given that you store them properly. Once you open it, you should secure the tightly sealed containers until the contents evaporate.
What to Do After Using Mineral Spirits?
You can safely dispose of mineral spirits containers if there’s no solvent left. Otherwise, store it in a cool, dry place using its original container, or you can get a solvent-resistant plastic or metal container. You can also use a silica gel to keep the substance intact.
How to Remove Mineral Spirits Residue
Residue from mineral spirits can be removed using a lint-free tack cloth with turpentine or alcohol, depending on the availability of either solution.
You can start by pouring alcohol into your tack cloth and rubbing the surface. After you remove the residues, you have to let the surface dry and check for traces of the residues.
How Long Will It Take for Mineral Spirits’ Smell to Go Away?
The mineral spirits’ odor will begin to go away in one to three days, but after you apply it, you can tell the smell of the solvent dissipates within 20 minutes.
Although mineral spirits claim to be odorless or low-odor, you must still wear a facemask during application since the smell of solvent is strong at the beginning of the application, which can cause breathing issues.
Also, you have to look for a workspace with proper ventilation to have a good circulation of air that contributes not only to the rapid evaporation of mineral spirits but to letting the smell disappears quickly.
Disposal of Mineral Spirits: Can You Dump it Down the Drain?
Since mineral spirits are petroleum-based solvents, it is worth noting to dispose of them properly because they contain toxins, are considered soil pollutants, and are flammable.
It’s essential to never dispose of mineral spirits containers and their contents directly into your regular garbage or drainage systems, as this can lead to groundwater contamination. Proper disposal methods should be followed to ensure environmental safety.
How to Properly Dispose of Mineral Turpentine
Instead, locate a hazardous-waste collection site where you can properly dispose of your mineral spirits. You can inquire with your local business on waste disposal for pick-up and disposal arrangements or inquire about a hazardous waste disposal event.
You can also drop the mineral spirits containers at the hazardous waste collection facility. If you are hesitant to dispose of mineral spirits, contact the manufacturers and seek disposal instructions.
Are Mineral Spirits Flammable? + Safety Precautions to Consider
As mentioned, mineral spirits are flammable because of volatile hydrocarbons, which can ignite and burn once exposed to heat or flame sources. Therefore, here are the safety precautions you must consider when storing mineral spirits at home.
If you have highly flammable products such as mineral spirits, keeping a fire extinguisher in the vicinity is better. You need to follow the instructions of the manufacturer, particularly on proper disposal handling.
When applying mineral spirits, it’s crucial to take safety precautions to protect yourself. This includes wearing gloves and a facemask to prevent contact with your skin and inhalation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Additionally, ensure you are working in a well-ventilated area to minimize exposure to fumes and maintain a safe working environment.
Are Mineral Spirits Toxic and Poisonous?
The rapid evaporation of mineral spirit is caused by its substances, which are also toxic and poisonous. The toxicity level of this solvent is considered low, so when you’re exposed to this solvent, you will experience irritations of your lungs, nose, and stomach upset.
Will Mineral Spirits Melt Plastic?
Mineral spirit does not melt the plastic but softens the bass of a plastic container. Therefore in storing it, you should use an acrylic or polycarbonate container with a heavy base. This will ensure your mineral spirits are kept and reused after some time.
Is it Fine to Touch Mineral Spirits?
You should prevent mineral spirits from getting to your skin as much as possible because it contains harsh chemicals. It has toxic and poisonous.
Mineral spirits can leave an oily residue on your skin, which can lead to dryness and cracking. For this reason, it’s essential to wear industrial rubber gloves when handling mineral spirits to protect your skin and maintain its health.
Mineral Spirits As a Cleansing Agent
Since mineral spirits can remove grease and paint spills on the surface, you can use them as a cleaning agent by following a few safety protocols, such as wearing gloves and a full face mask.
Before using it on the entire surface, you must test a small area to know the solvent’s reaction to the surface. Then you can remove oily residue and lubricants from your utensils, glass windows, and tables.
Alternatives to Mineral Spirits
Different solvents can be used instead of affordable mineral spirits that are less flammable and safer. Paint thinner or thinning paint is less flammable than acetone and safer than mineral spirit, but you must dilute it with water.
While acetone offers similar results to mineral spirits, acetone contains higher VOCs than the latter. Acetone emits strong fumes that can result in chronic exposure to acetone.
Turpentine, as an alternative, can effectively substitute mineral spirits, as they share similar effects and require identical safety precautions. However, it’s worth noting that mineral spirits are generally considered milder in comparison to turpentine.
To sum up, it’s evident that mineral spirits do indeed evaporate swiftly after application. However, with proper storage and careful handling, you can effectively slow down the evaporation process, ensuring the solvent remains usable over an extended period.
Mineral spirits prove to be versatile solvents that find utility not only in woodworking but also serve as valuable ingredients for various household cleaning tasks. Their multifunctional nature underscores their significance in both the workshop and everyday household chores.
Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.
Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.