Uses of Mineral Spirits
When you want to clean something or erase a mistake, usually soap and water or an eraser should do the trick. But what if you are working on a greasy, oily engine turbine, like the ones used in cars? Or your mistake is a wrong stroke of the brush on an oil canvas? On such working surfaces or items, conventional cleaning methods do not work. This sort of cleaning calls for a chemical substance, known as a solvent, which can dissolve or eat away at the oily substance. In case of automobile and machine parts, solvents eat away at grease. Solvents can be used to thin paint and remove spots or dirt in dry cleaning. One useful solvent is mineral spirits or white spirit. Also known as Stoddard solvent (after its inventor W. J. Stoddard), this spirit is derived from petroleum and is prized for its less toxic chemical properties, as opposed to most solvents.Applications of Mineral Spirits As a Cleansing Agent
- Mineral spirits is a very powerful decreasing and cleansing agent for automobile and machinery part cleaning. The spirit eats away at oil and chemical grease and washes the part clean.
- Such spirits are even used to wash away dirt and grime from metallic objects and tools. Even dried paint, which accumulates on metal and thickens, can be dissolved and then washed off, on applying mineral spirits. This helps preserve the look and quality of the object, as opposed to scratching off the paint.
- They can be used as a solvent to erase mistakes made while painting.
- Wooden furniture which has been coated with a layer of lacquer, shellac or varnish, can be cleaned and polished with a small amount of mineral spirits. But first a small area of the furniture should be tested before complete use.
- It can be used to clean paint brushes, especially those used in heavy oils and paints.
- If sticky tape and price tags on glassware need to be removed, then dip a small ball of cotton in some mineral spirit and wipe off the sticker. Then rinse away the spirit.
- You can use mineral spirits on linoleum tiles to get rid of skid marks and scratches.
- Use mineral spirits to dissolve gum and other sticky resins, that are stuck to carpets or clothing.
- When combined with cutting oil, they are used as a lubricant for cutting threads.
As a Substitute for Turpentine Painters and artists use solvents like turpentine, to thin out or dilute the thickness of paint, so it can be painted on canvas or surfaces easily. But turpentine has a very noxious odor and can cause breathing problems and nausea if inhaled repeatedly. Plus, turpentine is highly flammable and a potentially hazardous substance to have in an art studio. So a less harmful substance, which is not so toxic and less flammable, is mineral spirits or white spirit. It has the desired thinning effect and its odor is not so noxious. For those disturbed by a lingering chemical smell, mineral spirits come in odorless form, where the solvent is treated, such that it has no smell. As a paint thinner, it costs even less than turpentine.Side Effects of Mineral Spirits Mineral spirits are made from a combination of various chemicals and as such, can be hazardous to health, if handled incorrectly. Some possible adverse effects of its use include:
- If inhaled, it can cause breathing difficulties, feelings of nausea and dizziness and one's throat can feel clogged and swollen.
- In a confined space, one can feel drowsy and dizzy from inhaling the spirit and then may faint.
- If ingested or swallowed, it can burn the digestive tract and cause severe throat pain and vomiting.
- Mineral spirits on skin can cause irritating rashes and skin burn. If a large amount falls on the skin or if the spirit is not washed off in time, it can burn skin tissue and create a scar.
Mineral spirits uses are varied and diverse and it is prized for its effectiveness. But care must be taken with its use, as it is chemically dangerous. Do not inhale the spirit for long, cover your nose and throat. Keep it away from any naked flame or heat source. Use gloves while handling it and if it falls on your clothes, wash it away immediately.
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