Mineral spirits, also known as white spirit, or mineral turpentine, is a petroleum-based solvent that is widely used in different areas of woodworking.
Things such as cleaning paintbrushes, thinning paint, removing paint, cleaning spots off wood, and restoring wood furniture can all be performed with the help of mineral spirits, which is why woodworkers usually prefer to keep a bottle or two available at all times.
A question that we get asked a lot is whether mineral spirits evaporate or not, as this is an essential factor for deciding about storage conditions.
So, do mineral spirits evaporate?
Mineral spirits do indeed evaporate, but their rate of evaporation is rather slow. While leaving your mineral spirits out for an extended amount of time will most certainly dry them out, you don’t have to worry about evaporation during usage as it doesn’t happen that quickly.
If you have applied mineral spirits to a surface, you can expect it to evaporate at some point as it’s a petroleum-based product. Petroleum-based products are known to evaporate just like many other liquids, and in fact, at a faster rate.
Do Mineral Spirits Evaporate Completely?
Another question related to the evaporation of mineral spirits is whether they evaporate completely, referring to whether something needs to be done to clean mineral spirits off a surface after it’s used or not.
Mineral spirits do evaporate completely, meaning that you won’t have to take any extra steps to clean it off after applying it to a surface. You can use the mineral spirits, forget about it for some time, and it will be gone by the time you come back.
That being said, you may notice residue formed on the spots that you have cleaned with mineral spirits, which are practically remnants of the dirt that you just got off the surface. By cleaning the surface again with a new application of mineral spirits, you can get rid of this residue and completely clean your surface.
How Long Does It Take for Mineral Spirits to Evaporate?
Mineral spirits that are applied on a surface evaporates within 15 to 20 minutes and completely dries out.
You can also check whether the mineral spirits have evaporated or not by looking at the surface, which would be a better indicator than an arbitrary amount of time. If the surface is still wet, the mineral spirits are most likely still there, but if the surface looks dry, as if you have never applied the mineral spirits, you can conclude that it evaporated.
On the other hand, an unsealed container of mineral spirits would most likely take a few days to dry out, depending on the amount. If the container is sealed, mineral spirits can stay in the container without evaporating for quite a few years.
For optimal storage, you should always keep your mineral spirits in the original containers they came in and tightly seal them with the seals that belong to those containers. If you don’t have access to the original container anymore, you should be looking to use a container made of solvent-resistant plastic or metal.
Using a container that isn’t made of these materials can result in the container being completely destroyed.
Do Odorless Mineral Spirits Leave a Residue?
Odorless mineral spirits don’t leave any residue, which is why you can feel free to use them to clean your projects and tools without having to worry about any leftovers.
That being said, you may notice residue after cleaning a surface with odorless mineral spirits due to dirt not being entirely cleaned. This residue doesn’t belong to the mineral spirits and should be cleaned again, with the help of mineral spirits.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to rinse the surface if you wish to ensure that there are absolutely no traces of mineral spirits remaining.
Can You Reuse Mineral Spirits?
One of the best qualities of mineral spirits is that they can be indefinitely reused until they evaporate.
Here are the steps you can take to prepare your used mineral spirits for reuse.
- Pour the used mineral spirits into a safe container. As the mineral spirits will stay in the container for a while, you must choose a solvent-safe plastic or a metal container for this process.
- Seal the container airtight. Ensuring that the container is tightly sealed is an important step of the process, as failing to do so will result in your mineral spirits being evaporated.
- Store the container somewhere safe, and forget about it for a while. Time will allow mineral spirits to separate from the gunk as the gunk will slowly settle at the bottom of the container, leaving clean mineral spirits above.
- Bring a fresh container, and pour the mineral spirits into it. Since the gunk resides at the bottom of the container, you can easily pour the clean mineral spirits into the fresh container while leaving the gunk behind. If you wish, you can use something like a coffee filter to ensure that all of the dirt stays behind.
- Seal the new container airtight and store it as long as you wish.
Just like that, you got yourself a fresh batch of mineral spirits. While you will eventually lose the entirety of the mineral spirits to gunk and evaporation, this process will save you a significant amount of money in the long run.
Alongside the monetary gain, this process also saves you from the hassle of having to dispose of the used mineral spirits, which is a considerable benefit on its own due to how complicated it can get to dispose of mineral spirits at times.
How to Dispose of Mineral Spirits?
As mineral spirits technically never go bad, there is no need to ever dispose of them.
That being said, if you are really looking to get rid of your mineral spirits, the best thing to do is to take them to a hazardous-waste collection site with a label that clearly states that the container contains mineral spirits. If you don’t know where this site may be, or if your city even has one, it’s best to consult the municipality about this and see if you can arrange a pick-up.
Throwing bottles of mineral spirits or pouring the contents into the garbage is also something you should never do due to their toxicity and inflammability. The same thing applies to anything that could have soaked mineral spirits, such as rags and towels.
Also, refrain from pouring mineral spirits down the drain as it can cause groundwater contamination.
Finally, remember to leave empty containers of mineral spirits open until they completely dry out before taking them to recycle.
While mineral spirits do evaporate, they won’t evaporate right off your container in a matter of minutes due to their slow evaporation rate. Even though it’s imperative to keep your bottle of mineral spirits sealed for long-term storage, there isn’t much to be worried about during active usages, such as thinning paint.
On the other hand, if you’re planning on using the mineral spirits on a surface for purposes such as cleaning, you can count on it evaporating in a rather short time without requiring any extra steps for getting it off the surface.