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Mineral Spirits is a petroleum distilate commonly used as a paint thinner and mild solvent. In Europe, it is referred to as petroleum spirit or white spirit. In industry, mineral spirits is used for cleaning and degreasing machine tools and parts. According to Wesco, a supplier of solvents and cleaning equipment, mineral spirits “are especially effective in removing oils, greases, carbon, and other material from metal.” Mineral spirits may also be used in conjunction with cutting oil as a thread cutting and reaming lubricant.
Artists use mineral spirits as an alternative to turpentine, one that is both less flammable and less toxic. Because of interactions with pigments, artists require a higher grade of mineral spirits than many industrial users, including the complete absence of residual sulphur. Odorless Mineral Spirits are mineral spirits that have been further refined to remove the more toxic aromatic compounds, and are recommended for applications such as oil painting, where humans have close contact with the solvent. According to Robert Gamblin of Gamblin Artists Colors, the best brands contain 100% aliphatic compounds, and dry without leaving any residue.
A typical composition for mineral spirits is the following: aliphatic solvent hexane having a maximum aromatic hydrocarbon content of 0.1% by volume, a kauri-butanol value of 29, an initial boiling point of 149F (65C), a dry point of approximately 156F (69C), and a specific mass of 0.7 g/cc. In the European Community, the composition of mineral spirits comes from Article 11(2) of Directive 2002/96/EC (WEEE).