Solvents Commonly Used By Painting Contractors

Solvents Commonly Used By Painting Contractors


There are several different solvents used by painting contractors for different painting situations,  either cleaning or thinning products for proper spraying consistency. Here we will discuss most common ones used.

Using Solvents, like stains, varnishes, and shellacs are very flammable and extreme care needs our attention at all times for upper respiratory and fire hazards.

Important Safety Precautions Using These Common Solvents

  • Adequate ventilation must be available, never in a confined room
  • Eye protection & Respirator w/charcoal filters are a necessity
  • Rubber latex gloves keep contaminants and chemicals from skin absorption
  • All rags used should be laid out flat, wadded up is a fire hazard and could easily ignite
  • All open flames such as pilot lights for water heaters, stoves, furnaces should be turned off

1. Mineral Spirits: Aliphatic Hydrocarbons similar to Lighter Fluids

  • Typically used to thin varnishes, shellacs, and most alkyd oil based paints.
  • Another name for Mineral Spirits is Paint Thinners.
  • Used to clean paint splatters, brushes, spills, adding to paint only when recommended.
  • Not as "Hot" as Lacquer Thinners

2. VM&P Naphtha:  Stands for Varnish Maker's and Painters Naphtha Solvent

  • Similar to Mineral Spirits, VM&P Naphtha used by Professional Painters as paint thinner
  • VM&P Naphtha's are faster drying allowing quicker second coats for some Alkyd Paints.

3. Lacquer Thinner Solvent:  Strong "Hot" Solvent based of Different Mixtures

  • Used to thin Urethane, Alkyd, or Polyurethane Varnishes
  • Being "Hot" Lacquer Thinners can melt Styrofoam, plastics, fiberglass. This product is extremely flammable.
  • Great to use Lacquer Thinner cleaning brushes with dried oil based paints and stains.
  • Lacquer Thinners can revive some wood fillers which have dried and hardened, being Lacquer Thinner based.

4. Denatured Ethyl Alcohol / Denatured Alcohol Solvent

  • Ethyl Alcohol is drinkable, Denatured is not
  • Denatured Alcohol used in Shellac based primers
  • Cannot substitute with rubbing alcohol or methanol

5. Xylene and Toluene Solvents

  • Xylene and Toluene primarily used in mixing with certain manufactures Enamels, Varnishes and Conversion Varnishes.
  • Xylene and Toluene are very strong, these are some chemicals used within Lacquer Thinners, and some Paint Removers.
  • Use only Xylene and Toluene when Paint manufacture recommends it's specific addition for exact measurement.

All Solvents should have containers tightly closed in metal containers, placed into a fireproof metal cabinet when not in use. When using them, all attention must be given when lids are open. Turn off TV's, radios, phones, trying not being distracted what you are doing.

Keeping air quality to it's highest is extremely important, having adequate ventilation. If spraying these solvents, proper breathing aids, many having charcoal filters is recommended. Making sure all open flames in the area are turned off. All rags, cloths used needs to be draped hanging like on a clothesline to properly dry.

These solvents mentioned are commonly found at local paint stores in your area. Also found at box stores such as Lowe's & Home Depot.

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