Mineral Spirits Before Painting: What You Need to Know

Mineral spirits are a versatile solvent that can be used in furniture refurbishing projects in many ways. You can use mineral spirits to make dull wood look as good as new, and you can even use it as a paint thinner for oil-based paint.

One of the most popular uses for mineral spirits is cleaning wood furniture before painting.

In this post, you will learn why mineral spirits are good for paint prep, and how to use mineral spirits to clean furniture before painting.

But first, it is important to understand the effect that mineral spirits have on wood.

What do mineral spirits do to wood?

Over the years, wood furniture can accumulate grime, and oil remnants on the surface. This buildup on wood surfaces can progressively make the wood look dull over time.

Minerals spirits are a mild organic solvent that is effective for cleaning off wax, dirt, and oil on wood surfaces. By removing this buildup, mineral spirits revive a wood surface’s shine and breathe new life into furniture. A dull piece of wood furniture can look much brighter after mineral spirits are applied.

Although mineral spirits are certainly stronger than other cleaning solutions, it doesn’t damage wood, nor does it remove most clear wood finishes.

Related: Cleaning Wood with Mineral Spirits Before Staining

Is using mineral spirits before painting a good idea?

Mineral spirits are an excellent material to use for paint prep.

Before painting, it is incredibly important to thoroughly clean your furniture. When there is a layer of grime on a wood surface, the paint will adhere to the grime rather than the grain of the wood itself. This means that once the paint dries, it will be relatively easy to rub it off. That being said, it is important to make sure the wood is completely clean before applying paint.

That’s where mineral spirits come into play, as it is a great solution for cleaning wood before painting. Products such as Klean Strip mineral spirits (available here on Amazon) are effective for removing:

  • Dirt
  • Dust
  • Oil (either residue from cooking or natural oil from your hands)
  • Stains (from food or drink)
  • Sap
  • Grease
  • Wax
  • Adhesive from stickers

Nevertheless, once mineral spirits have been used to clean wood, you might not necessarily be ready to paint. A few extra steps might be needed depending on the type of mineral spirits you used to clean the wood surface. Follow the steps below to learn more about the full process of cleaning wood with wood spirits before painting.

How to clean wood with mineral spirits before painting

Before getting started, be sure to put on some rubber gloves. Mineral spirits can cause burns and irritation on the skin. Additionally, you should move your furniture to a well-ventilated area since mineral spirits have a strong odor.

To clean wood with mineral spirits, pour a bit of mineral spirits into a small pale or container.

Soak a clean cloth in the mineral spirits. 

Wipe the cloth on the piece of wood furniture, and reapply the mineral spirits to the cloth as you go to ensure the furniture has been completely wiped down with the mineral spirits. 

As you wipe down the wood, you will notice an immediate color change. With every swipe of the cloth, the wood will look brighter and rejuvenated. This makes it incredibly easy to detect the areas on the wood furniture that have not been wiped down quite yet.

Once you have completely wiped down the piece of wood with mineral spirits, you might notice an oily residue left behind. This residue can prevent your paint from adhering strongly to the wood. That said, it’s important to remove it. 

To remove mineral spirits residue, use a dry lint-free cloth to wipe down the furniture. To be extra sure to get rid of any remaining residue, use a washcloth soaked in soapy water to wipe down the furniture. The dish soap and warm water will ensure the cleaning is extra thorough.

Once finished, let the furniture dry for 30 minutes before applying paint.

Should you use mineral spirits on wood after sanding?

Many wonder if it makes sense to use mineral spirits on wood after sanding. Ultimately, you can apply mineral spirits on wood after sanding to clean off the wood dust, however, this isn’t the most practical use case for mineral spirits.

Mineral spirits are best used to remove grease, grime, and dirt BEFORE sanding. If you don’t adequately clean the wood furniture before sanding, you could inadvertently rub grease and grime into the wood grain rather than remove the grease and grime altogether.

Once you have cleaned the wood and sanded the wood, you can simply use a water-soaked rag to clean off the wood dust. Again, you can use mineral spirits at this point if you want, but it would be overkill. 

Alternatives to mineral spirits for prepping wood furniture

Mineral spirits are certainly a highly effective solution for cleaning furniture, however, there are numerous other materials to clean furniture with before painting:

  • White distilled vinegar: Although vinegar has the same acidity as many household multipurpose cleaners, it doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals that can be damaging to wood surfaces.
  • Denatured alcohol: Not only can it remove grease and grime, but it’s also strong enough to remove finishes from wood.
  • Dish soap: The best part about dish soap is that practically every household has a bottle of dish soap.
  • Degreaser: As the name implies, it is powerful for removing stuck-on oil and grease from countertops and stovetops.
  • Simple Green: Simple Green is an environmentally friendly, yet extremely powerful all-purpose cleaner.

Final words

Although there are numerous cleaning solutions that you can use to prep furniture, mineral spirits are one of the most effective. However, it’s worth stressing again that safety should be taken seriously. Always be sure to wear rubber gloves, goggles, and a respirator when handling mineral spirits, and be sure to apply the solvent in a well-ventilated area.





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