Knowing how to use paint thinners properly is a question that often comes to mind.

Because paint thinners are hazardous and require extreme care when working with them.

In fact, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists established limited values for inhaling paint thinners because of their toxicity.

Thus, you must know how to use paint thinners properly. 

Paint Thinners

Paint thinner is the generic name given to solvents that are potent for dissolving paints (oil paint), and reducing paint viscosity. They are also used for.

Paint thinners do spray thin paints; they are also handy for clean- up’s when you are done with your painting equipment (application equipment, containers, brushes, or rollers).

Some brands of paint thinners are used with oil-based paints, stains, and vanishes to provide a superior finish.

You need to understand the various types of paint thinners and how to use them properly.

Common paint thinners available include; turpentine, mineral spirit, acetone, toluene, naphtha, glycol ethers, and methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), also known as butanone and xylene.

Paint thinners composition, toxicity, and rate

Paint ThinnerCompositionStrengthsToxicityThinning rate
TurpentineFast drying dilutes paint quickly.Effective for removing oils, home and garage messes.Highly toxic. Can cause headaches, sleeplessness, lung bleeding, and nausea.Extremely high.
Mineral or White SpiritsContains an aliphatic mixture, open-chain, or hydrocarbon.It contains an aliphatic mixture, open-chain, or hydrocarbon.Effective for dissolving paints and dry-cleaning solvents. Also used as a solvent in rubber industries.High.
TolueneCompose of benzylic C-H bonds.Apposite for refining oil, manufacturing, and thinning paints and lacquers.Contains lower-molecular weight ethers and alcohol. Based on alkyl ethers of propylene glycol.High.
NaphthaTypically composed of petroleum distillates, natural gas condensates, and the distillation of coal tar and peat.Highly flammable and can also cause eye, nose irritation, headache, and skin inflammation.Very effective for thinning paint, also used as an ingredient in cleaning agents.Very High.
Glycol EthersModerately toxic but highly flammable. Exposure between 200 and 500 ppm can lead to feeling high, dizziness, weakness, irritability.    Most glycol ethers are water-soluble, so they are not toxic. However, frequent exposure can cause low motile sperm countModerately toxic but highly flammable. Exposure between 200 and 500 ppm can lead to feeling high, dizziness, weakness, and irritability.    Fair
Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK)An organic compound that is soluble in water. Colorless and liquid.An aromatic organic compound closely related to toluene but contains two benzene groups attached to benzene.Has a low evaporation rate; extremely irritable, especially to the eyes and lungs.High
XyleneAn aromatic organic compound that is closely related to toluene but contains two benzene groups attached to benzene.Very potent, excellent for removing old paints, and also very useful for removing greasy stains, resins, and glue.Very potent solvent and is used in the production of household products, including, lacquer, paint removers, varnishes, denatured alcohol, and glues.      Very High.

Safety Caution

As earlier said, paint thinners are highly toxic, so you have to put some safety considerations in place when using them.

  • Use breathing masks and safety goggles:

Most paint thinners contain toxic chemicals that can cause lung, eye, nose, and throat irritation.

Breathing masks and safety goggles will help to protect your face.

  • Wear gloves and overalls (If necessary):

Because paint thinners are typically caustic, exposure to the skin can cause skin irritation.

  • Stay in a well-ventilated area:

Try as much as possible to work outdoors using paint thinners.

If you have to work indoors, ensure you put on mechanical fans and open the windows.

  • Keep any and everything flammable away from the area you are working on.

Paint thinners are highly flammable; thus, when using paint thinners and disposing of the items you used while using paint thinners, you have to follow the safety guidelines for paint thinners disposal in your area.

How to Thin Paint Using Paint Thinner

One of the best ways to thin oil-based paint is by using paint thinners. It is very effective and reasonably accessible; you must follow these instructions carefully to properly use paint thinner.


Step 1Choose the suitable paint thinner
Step 2Measure and mix paint thinner with paint
Step 3Test run
Step 4Repeat the process (if necessary)

Step 1: Choose the suitable paint thinner:

Most paint thinners contain specific manufacturer directions. These instructions specify the type of paint they can thin and otherwise.

It is essential that you check these directions to ensure that you pick the proper solvent that suits the paint you want to thin.

Step 2: Measure and mix the paint thinner

For general-purpose paint thinning, the general rule is to add one-part paint thinner for every three-part (3-1) or four-part (4-1) paint.

Make a combination of a small amount of paint and paint thinner to create a test batch; if needed, add one-part paint thinner to the original mixture until you get the right mix.

As you stir with a paint stirrer, ensure not to add too much paint thinner to avoid making the paint watery.

You should create a test batch before thinning the whole paint.

Step 3: Test run

This is where you will know how thin the paint is.

For sprayer applicators, the best way to know if the paint has been thinned enough is if the paint flows freely. Another method to know if the paint has been thinned enough is that the paint completely covers the surface you are spraying it on.

Step 4: Repeat the process:

If, by any chance, the paint was not thinned enough, repeat the process and continue to do so until you find the correct ratio.

After finding the correct ratio, then you can begin to paint.

Pro tip: Ensure you are thinning paint at room temperature as cold paint will appear thinner than it actually is.

This ensures you don’t use too much thinner.


Paint thinners should not be used to thin latex paint, shellac, or lacquers. They should only be used for oil-based paints.

How to Use Paint Thinners to Strip Paint

Coupled with thinning paint, paint thinners perform well when removing paint from any surface.

You have to take in some considerations and perform a few tasks, and you are good to go.


Step 1Fill a container with paint thinner
Step 2Apply the paint thinner to the paint
Step 3Scrape off the paint with a scraper
Step 4Remove the paint thinner

Step 1: Fill a container with paint thinner:

Get a container that you will throw away and fill with paint thinner.

Make sure the paint thinner is the proper one for the target surface because there are many options.

There is one for dry wood, aluminum, steel, etc.

Step 2: Apply the paint thinner to the paint:

Using a paintbrush or a rag, apply two coats of the paint thinner on the target surface, depending on availability.

However, the best option is to follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Let the paint thinner sit on the surface for about 5-10 minutes, drastically dissolving the paint.

Step 3: Scrape off the Paint

After the thinner softens the paint, get a plastic scraper to remove the stain.

The paint will come off relatively quickly if it doesn’t, apply another coat of the paint thinner and repeat the process.

Step 4: Wash off the paint thinner

Once the paint has been completely removed, get a rag and water to wash off the paint thinner.

You must wash the paint thinner off the surface; this will prepare the surface for repainting.


Ensure you use the safety gears I listed above when removing paint thinners.

They are highly toxic and flammable. Hence safety precautions should not be compromised.

Remove Paint from the Brush Using Paint Thinners

Paint brushes are often disposed of when they are done with; this is major because only a few know how to remove paint from brushes using paint thinners.

Carefully follow these instructions to learn how to remove oil-based paint from paint brushes using paint thinner properly.

Items Needed

  • Paint Thinner.
  • Three clean containers.
  • Clean rag.
  • Soapy water.
  • Paintbrush comb.


Steps  Instructions
Step 1Dip a dry brush into paint thinner and shake off any excess.
Step 2Wrap the paintbrush in clean paint thinner-soaked rag.
Step 3Swiss brush in paint thinner.
Step 4Comb the paintbrush with a paintbrush comb.
Step 5Swiss brush in another paint thinner.
Step 6Swiss brush in warm soapy water.
Step 7Dry the paintbrush

Step 1: Dip a dry brush into paint thinner-

Remove paint from the paintbrush before you start painting.

Fill a container half full with paint thinner, then carefully dip the brush inside the container.

This will get off any excess on the paintbrush and will make your paint job more manageable.

Step 2: Wrap the paintbrush in a clean rag soaked in paint thinner

During painting, you may want to take breaks. You should not leave the paintbrush with the paint on it to dry.

Instead, wrap the paintbrush in a clean rag you are willing to throw away soaked in paint thinner.

Step 3: Swiss brush in paint thinner

When you are done painting, fill up a container (preferably a jar with wire), with paint thinner.

Swiss the paintbrush in the container to get the paint off.

Do not soak the brush in the paint thinner; this will weaken the bristles.

Step 4: Comb the paintbrush

To remove the paint that may still linger on the brush, use the paintbrush comb to comb the brush.

Step 5: Swiss brush in paint thinner

Fill another container with paint thinner and swiss the brush in the paint thinner.

When you do this, the paintbrush will begin to look like you never had any paint on it.

Step 6: Dip brush in warm soapy water

After removing the paint, you must remove the paintbrush from the thinner.

Dip the brush in warm soapy water to wipe off the paint thinner remaining.

Step 7: Dry the paintbrush

Hang the paintbrush in a well-ventilated area for it to dry off.

Use the same instructions listed above to use paint thinners to remove paint from rollers, just that you will need bigger containers and more paint thinner.

How to Clean Spray Gun Using a Paint Thinner

When you are done spray painting, you need to clean the paint sprayer to be able to reuse it.

Paint thinners are excellent options for this. To use paint thinner properly, follow the instructions.


  • Fill the sprayer container with paint thinner and shake vigorously.
  • Dip a rag you are willing to dispose of in a bowl of paint thinners to clean the nozzle and tip of the gun.
  • Dip another dry rag in warm soapy water to clean the container and nozzles.
  • Fill the spray gun with water and test whether the spray paint has been completely removed.

How to Properly Store Paint Thinner

After using the paint thinner, the container should be sealed and stored in an excellent, dry location.

To store paint thinner properly:

  1. Use the original container with proper labeling and safety instructions.
  2. Keep the container tightly sealed to prevent evaporation and spills.
  3. Choose a cool, well-ventilated area away from heat, flames, and direct sunlight.
  4. Please keep it away from ignition sources to prevent fire hazards.
  5. Store it out of reach of children and pets.
  6. Separate it from incompatible substances to avoid chemical reactions.
  7. Label the container clearly and keep the safety data sheet (SDS) accessible.
  8. Follow local regulations for proper disposal when needed.

Always handle paint thinner cautiously, wear protective gear, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety guidelines.

Should I Dilute Paint Thinner

Paint thinners should never be mixed with water. This will reduce its efficiency.

Also, using the paint thinner to thin or remove oil-based paint will no longer be feasible as water does not mix with oil.

What is the Ratio of Paint Thinner for a Spray Gun

The general ratio for thinning paint for a spray gun is to add one-paint thinner to three-part paint (3-1).

However, this rule may be modified, If the paint does not run freely in the spray gun.

What Can I Use Instead of Paint Thinners

Aside from paint thinners, other solvents are effective for thinning oil-based paint.

The citrus solvent is a very plausible alternative. It is manufactured as a direct replacement for paint thinners.

It is natural, less toxic, less irritable, and much safer to work with.


If you want to know how to use paint thinners properly or know more about them, you have discovered what you are looking for.

The only question that may pop up in your mind now is which paint thinner is the best to use.

If it were up to me, I would recommend using citrus solvents instead for safety.

However, if citrus solvents do not do the trick, I advise that you use acetone because of all the paint thinners listed above, only acetone can remove spray paint even when it is dry.,