Cleaning up after a paint job always requires some sort of solvent. For latex paints, this solvent is water; but for many paint products like oil-based paint and varnish, some other solvent is needed. Unfortunately, these other solvents arent as benign as water. For this reason, the EPA has been creating regulations that pressure paint manufacturers to reduce the VOCs in their paints.
By definition Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are organic liquids that evaporate. The word organic refers to chemicals that contain a carbon atom in their molecular makeup. The word volatile doesnt mean that it is flammable, like many people think, but rather that it evaporates. This includes almost all liquids.
Water gets a pass, because the water molecule H2O doesnt contain carbon; only hydrogen and oxygen. However, pretty much everything else that it used as a solvent for paints qualifies as being VOCs. This is especially true of any oil-based products that are used as paint thinners.
While manufacturers are gradually moving away from oil-based paint products, in order to satisfy FDA regulations, there are still some around. For these products, finding an appropriate solvent for cleanup and thinning of the paint is important. This need to meet FDA regulations draws a line which clearly divides all paint thinners and products. On one side of the line are the more traditional thinners, which have VOCs and on the other side of the line are newer chemical thinners which are either low VOC or dont contain any VOCs. Some of these newer products actually work incredibly well, especially when you consider that oil and water dont mix.
In this list, well cover both categories of paint thinners. Keep in mind that paint formulations vary widely, so the results you get from a particular paint thinner may be different than those that I have received. A lot depends upon the particular chemical composition of the paint product you are trying to thin. In all cases, I still have to say that the old-fashioned products work better, even though they are not as good for the environment.
Before trying to pick out a paint thinner, be sure that you know what type of paint material you are expecting to use it with. This is important, as different thinners work with different paints. For example, mineral spirits is excellent for use with standard oil-based paints, but wont do a thing for cleaning up lacquer; nor does lacquer thinner work well for cleanup of most oil-based paints.
Even with all the miracle products on the market, it's hard to beat good old fashioned mineral spirits. Unfortunately, it's not as good for the environment as those other paint thinners are. Read Full Review
Its hard to beat good old mineral spirits as a paint thinner. Mineral spirits have replaced turpentine as the standard paint thinner for oil-based paints. While it is more volatile and flammable, it does a better cleaning job and is considerably less costly. The other thing is that it produces much lower odor than turpentine does. Some mineral spirits paint thinners are labeled as low odor paint thinner. This is really no different than other mineral spirits, but is low odor as compared to other non-mineral spirits options. For cost and ease of use, mineral spirits takes the prize.
Kleen-Strip has produced a low VOC variant of mineral spirits, which is VOC compliant in all of the United States, including southern California. This gives you the best of both worlds, a good paint thinner and lower impact on the environment. Read Full Review
Kleen-Strip has revisited mineral spirits and produced a VOC compliant version. This paint thinner retains all of the benefits of any other mineral spirits paint thinner, but will still meet the most restrictive VOC regulations in the country, those of Southern California. They accomplished this by creating a more highly purified version than what is normally considered acceptable. However, this does have a price, as the price listed here is per quart, whereas the price for the normal mineral spirits is for a gallon.
Like citrus degreasers, this citrus paint thinner uses citrus oil to cut through the oil in the paint and clean. It works amazingly well for a water based product. Read Full Review
In seeking to find alternative means of thinning paints, which are not harmful to the environment, a wide number of options have been tried. This paint thinner is based upon citrus oil, which has been used successfully in a wide range of cleaners and degreasers. In fact, this paint thinner can also be used as a degreaser for tools and car parts. The citrus oil cuts through grease amazingly well, is water soluble and has a pleasant odor, making it much nicer to work with than other options. The only drawback is the price. This is a .75 liter container, at a much higher price than the gallon of mineral spirits; so dont waste it.
In an effort to satisfy EPA regulations, Kleen-Strip has created this product. It is low VOC, contains no hazardous air pollutants and no ozone-depleating chemicals either. Read Full Review
Ill have to say that I was extremely skeptical the first time I bought this product. When I poured it out of the container to clean the first brush, I was sure that they salesman had taken me to the cleaners. However, it worked and when all is said and done, thats what matters. While I cant say that it is as easy to work with as mineral spirits, I can say that it got my brushes clean and thats what I needed it to do. This is a low VOC product, which contains no hazardous air pollutants (per the EPAs definition) and no ozone-depleating chemicals either. It is made of 65 percent renewable materials, reducing your carbon footprint every time you use it. Dont be thrown off by other peoples reviews of this excellent product; theyre comparing it to mineral spirits, instead of rating it based upon its own performance. Dont try using it to thin paint though, as it doesnt work well for that; just for cleanup.
Like the product from Kleen-Strip, this one from Sunnyside is an attempt to satisfy the EPA. While not as good as mineral spirits, it will clean your brushes and other tools. Just be sure to shake it well before using. Read Full Review
This product from Sunnyside is similar to the Kleen-Strip green product. Like it, it is a green product, created to reduce pollutants and impact on the environment. It is also a milky white product, which must be shaken before using. Be sure you shake it well, as it tends to separate while sitting. You cant use it for thinning paint, but only for cleanup. As a water-based, low VOC product, it does well for cleaning up brushes and other tools. Once again, if you compare it to mineral spirits, you wont be happy; but if you look at it for what it is, it does the job it is intended to do.