Do It Yourself: How To Use Paint Thinner Properly

Properly use and dispose of paint thinner with safety precautions in place.

The first step in proper use of paint thinner is to take safety precautions. Gloves should be worn as well as long sleeves and full length pants. Paint thinner irritates the skin; prolonged use can cause rashes. When using paint thinner, and paint in general, be sure the area where it is being used is well-ventilated by opening windows, doors or any other opening that will allow air to circulate the fumes. Additionally, use a fan whenever possible. The fumes are toxic and have cumulative effects on the brain and nervous system. Paint thinner is used to clean up oil paint, varnishes, stains, polyurethanes and wiping oil finishes. Do not use with shellac, lacquers or latex paints. Death can occur if proper precautions are not followed. Read instructions and warnings on paint thinner can carefully.

When proper precautions are in place, paint thinner can be used. Brushes and rollers used with oil paint, varnishes, stains, polyurethanes or wiping oil finishes should be worked through in a bucket of paint thinner. About two to three inches of paint thinner in each rinse is adequate. When the thinner is coming clean in the wash process, shake out the excess and wrap the brush in waxpaper or aluminum foil. Hang the brush(es) instead of laying it on end. Rollers should be kept on their frame then spun out and placed in plastic so as not to dry out.

Paint thinner can also be used to salvage old, uncleaned paintbrushes. Take the old brush, simply soak it in a small container with enough solvent - the can of paint thinner should list proper instructions. After the brush has soaked for some time, work the solvent into the bristles with gloved hands and a brush comb. Brush combs can be bought anywhere paint is sold. An old fork can also be used. Repeat these steps until the old paint has been removed. The brush can then be soaked in prepared brush cleaner solutions. Trisodium phosphate (TSP) can also be used and is found wherever paint and paint supplies are sold. These steps should restore the brush. When finished, wrap the bristles in brown paper or a heavy paper towel to help maintain the bristles shape. Store the brush on a hook or flat on its side.



Just as proper use of paint thinner is important, proper disposal of paint thinner is just as vital. To help dispose of paint thinner, let the particles of pigment settle out. Next pour the thinner off the top and reuse it. Store the paint thinner in its original can with a secured lid. Most waste haulers won't accept liquid paint thinner but small amounts of it can be hardened and deposited in the trash. Environmental regulations differ among counties; local offices should be contacted before disposing of liquid paint thinner. All paints, solvents and adhesives, including paint thinners, contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Proper handling and disposal is critical. It's imperative not to clean brushes in an area where residue can flow to a street, gutter or storm drain. This will contaminate nearby water resources and will eventually make its way into the ocean.

With proper preventive measures and disposal, paint thinner is a useful tool in all painting and refinishing projects.

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