Difference Between White Spirit and Mineral Oil

Mineral oil and mineral spirits may find a place under your sink or on a shelf in your garage, but while they sound similar, they are very different. Don’t know what to use for your project? Here’s what you need to know.

What is the difference between white spirit and mineral oil?

Both start with the word “mineral” and are clear, liquid by-products of petroleum refining, but that’s where the similarities end.

Here are some differences between white spirit and mineral oil :

mineral spirits

Common use:

  • Thinning paint or ink
  • Cleaning brushes and other tools
  • Cleaning up paint stains
  • Removing layers of polish, wax and oil from wood
  • Wood preparation before staining or painting
  • Removing residue from stickers
  • Restoration of garden tools.
  • Window frame cleaning
  • Removing scuff marks from the floor
  • Degreasing auto parts and other tools
  • Cleaning plastic outdoor furniture
  • Removing juice from garden tools

Similar to:

  • Turpentine
  • Acetone
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Charcoal starter fluid

Security Considerations:

  • flammable
  • Must be used in a well ventilated area
  • Irritating to eyes, skin and lungs (wear safety goggles and gloves)
  • Not food safe
  • Even odorless white spirit is dangerous when inhaled

Mineral oil

Common use:

  • Condition of wooden furniture
  • Provides wood with a moisture barrier
  • Protects wood from mold growth
  • Prevents water absorption of wood
  • Used for processing meat block countertops, cutting boards, wooden utensils, wooden plates and bowls, wooden poker chips.
  • Protects blades on tools from rust
  • Various health/beauty uses (e.g. dry skin, dandruff, calluses, earwax, constipation)
  • Lubricates door hinges so they don’t squeak
  • Prevents rust on metal garden furniture.
  • Cleans and polishes stainless steel appliances
  • Silences the creak of floorboards

Similar to:

  • Beeswax
  • Coconut oil
  • Board creams based on beeswax

Security Considerations:

  • highly flammable
  • Food safe / non-toxic
  • It is a laxative, so excessive use can cause gastrointestinal upset.


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