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Paint Thinner Vs Brush Cleaner: Are They The Same?

You're starting a new painting project only to find your brushes riddled with dried-up paint. You may be wondering what the best solution is for cleaning them up. Can you use a paint thinner as a brush cleaner? Are they the same thing? We've scoured the internet to give you answers to these questions.

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Paint thinner and brush cleaner are not the same. There are differences between the two, including their components and their uses. Paint thinner works by dissolving paint and its viscosity, while brush cleaner restores and cleans dried synthetic brushes.

We've determined that there is a slight difference between paint thinner and brush cleaner. We'll elaborate more on this topic, so if you want to learn more about these two products and their uses, please keep reading. 

A collaged photo of a paint thinner and brush cleaner, Paint Thinner Vs Brush Cleaner: Are They The Same?

What are the components of paint thinner?

Most people use paint thinner to remove different kinds of paint stains. Paint thinner is usually made out of mineral spirits that consist of a flash point around 40 °C (104 °F). It is a solvent that can thin oil-based paints. Some of these products are known to be used as paint thinners: Acetone, Turpentine, Naphtha, Methyl ethyl ketone, and Dimethylformamide.

Man pouring paint thinner to a cup for mixing paint

What are the uses of a chemical-made thinner?

Solvent chemical thinner is strong against removing oil-based paints and stains. Its main goal is to give the desired color effect and to varnish.

Many traditional artists use this product to achieve the preferred color outcome. Another use for the chemical thinner is for cleaning up brushes, rollers, and spray equipment. 

What are the components of brush cleaner?

Putting a paint brush to a glass full of water

Brush cleaners are usually solvent-free and designed primarily to remove oil and acrylic paints. They are a good counterpart of oil painting solvent.

Brush cleaners consist of the following ingredients: Methylene chloride, Methanol, Toluene, Monoethanolamine, Raffinates, Acetone, Butoxyethanol, Potassium soap.

What are the uses of a brush cleaner?

Aside from removing oil and acrylic paint, its main purpose is to restore and clean hardened dried brushes. 

Differences between paint thinner and brush cleaner 

Paint brushes in small cups

We narrowed down the strengths and weaknesses of both products to compare their differences.

Let's start with paint thinner. As we have learned, paint thinner is usually made out of strong chemicals. Aside from removing paint, paint thinner also has a variety of other uses.

A paint thinner can be used to reduce paint viscosity. As a result, people usually add a little bit of it to freshly opened oil-based paint to achieve the best result for consistency. It also makes for a smoother, glossy-looking appearance when applied.

As for paint brush cleaners, these products are made specifically for brush care and cleaning. There are generally two types of brush cleaners.

One is a solvent-based cleaner used for both natural and synthetic brushes, and the other is a water-based cleaner used mostly for synthetic brushes.

You can use paint thinner to clean brushes, but brush cleaners cannot be used as paint thinners, as they do not have the same effect on the paint. Brush cleaners are made specifically to clean and maintain your brush's integrity. 

How to properly use a paint thinner

An opened can of paint thinner

First, you need to have safety equipment like gloves, proper clothes, and safety glasses on hand. This is necessary because the product itself contains strong chemicals that can harm you. 

Step 1: Choosing the suitable thinner

Choosing the right thinner is a must, because not all thinners are suitable for your paint of choice.

Step 2: Having the appropriate amount of thinner

Manufacturers have a recommended amount of thinner. 3:1 or 4:1 ratio is the accepted ratio in thinning.

Step 3: Assessment of the mixture

Choose a portion of a wall, prepare your paint thinner mixture, and apply it to the wall. Wait for a minute or two to see the outcome. To ensure the quality of the mixture, check the surface of the wall.

After you painted the entire exterior, and notice that there is no dripping to be found on the surface of the wall then you are good to go.

Storing your paint thinner

After using your paint thinner, it is important to properly store it so you can still make use of it when you need it again. In storing your paint thinner, the best place to put it is in a cool dry location.

Make sure that the container is properly sealed. During hot days, high temperatures can cause the paint to evaporate. The worst-case scenario is that the container is at risk of catching fire or exploding due to flammable substances.

Disposing of paint thinner

Disposing of your paint thinner is not as easy as it seems. Due to its chemical compounds, you cannot just throw paint thinner in the garbage can. Paint thinner has compound mineral spirits, acetone, and different solvents that are known to be highly hazardous.

Disposing of your paint thinner carelessly might cause you to get into trouble, as there are laws established for violators who do not follow the appropriate ways of disposing of it. But don't worry! We are here to help guide you in this area. Just follow the tips below.

Put empty containers in household trash

If the container is dry and empty, it is safe to throw it in your household trashcan. Just make sure the container is sealed off.

If you noticed that there's still paint residue or sludge, or that the substance is still liquid in form, it is best to open the lid and let it dry out. This is to make sure that the container is dry  and can be disposed of properly. You can also dry paint residue using an old cloth.

Donate unused thinner  

One of the easiest ways to dispose of your unused paint thinner is to give it away. Some local organizations may want it—especially volunteer groups. You could also find a friend or a neighbor who might need it.

Contact hazardous collection facility

Search for your local hazardous waste collection online to get the details. Input "hazardous collection" and then input your city in the search field to find out disposal collecting centers near you. 

How to clean paint brushes

A can of paint thinner for painting a wall

We've been talking about how to use paint thinner and what its effects are. But can you use it as a brush cleaner? Well, the answer depends on the type of paint that you are trying to clean off.

In this section, we'll talk about how to properly clean your paint brushes so that they are ready to be used for your next project. 

Use up excess paint

After you've finished with the project, there may still be some paint left on your brush. Make sure to use up any excess paint from the brush by running it by the rim of the paint can. 

Determine the right solvent to use

Not all cleaning solvents can work on the type of paint that you used. To make sure that you'll be using the right type, examine the paint can and determine if the paint is oil-based or latex.

A general rule to remember is that you can use mineral spirits or paint thinner on oil-based paint and a simple hot water and mild dish combination on latex paint.

Once you've determined the proper solvent to use, immerse your brushes in it and stir them around. If the paint is dried up, you may need to let it soak for a few minutes. Make sure to wear gloves for safety, especially when working with paint thinner. 

Wash in soap and warm water 

Use warm water with soap to clean off the solvent and any remaining paint that has been loosened.

Dry your brushes

Dry your brushes by shaking off the excess water and then blotting them with a newspaper or cloth. 

Store brushes properly

Make sure that your brushes are stored properly, by hanging them or laying them flat. This will ensure that the bristles will keep their integrity and be ready to be used on your next project. 

In closing

A collaged photo of a paint thinner and brush cleaner

Paint thinner and brush cleaner differ in their uses and elements. Each has its own strengths due to its chemical components, so you can decide which one is best to use for your project. 

Before you go, make sure to check out these other articles that might be helpful to you.

How Long Does It Take To Mix Paint?

Goo Gone Vs Acetone: Which To Use?