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I have to do some oil painting and I've been looking at the different solvents I can use to clean oil paint from the brushes so that I can reuse them.

There are apparently many solvents that can clean oil paint. I've read if I want to go completely non-toxic I can use baby oil but then there's no way to get the baby oil out of the brush (or so I've heard). I've also seen a 3 step process that ends in detergent in water (I assume detergent emulsifies the oil), but isn't it bad to mix oil and water? In other words if water is left retained in the brush and I dip in an oil paint then the oil and water won't mix and ... fish eyes or something?

So then I'm left with toxic solvents. I'll be going to Home Depot soon so I'll probably get something there. I was thinking of Naphtha because I've read it's good for cleaning. Is Naphtha more or less risky to damage my brain than Mineral Spirits? Is there a chart of this somewhere, like risk vs effectiveness of thinners? Also, I've read of Odorless Mineral Spirits but apparently they aren't very effective at removing oil at least according to the HD customer reviews that's why I'm not considering it.

Thanks for any advice.
 

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Are you talking about oil painting as in art? Fels Naptha soap isn't the same as Naptha which is poisonous. Well, I wouldn't eat the soap either but it's been used for years. Are you opposed to Linseed oil which is from flaxseed and edible? This article includes comments at the end by an Art teacher that doesn't use solvents from petroleum. I don't know if it affects the look, though. http://www.williamsburgoils.com/blog/?p=103

If it's oil painting as in house, I don't know :)
 

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Minimal use as you have described will have no effect on you. Many of us on here have used mineral spirits and other harsh chemicals for years without any problems. As long as you are cautious and don't get any on you, you should be fine. Mineral spirits is great at removing oil-based paint from brushes. Suspend your brushes over top of a metal can containing MS and let the MS (and gravity) do the work. The MS will work the paint out of the bristles and the oil paint will drop to the bottom of the can. You won't have to touch the mineral spirits at all.
 

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I have to do some oil painting and I've been looking at the different solvents I can use to clean oil paint from the brushes so that I can reuse them.

There are apparently many solvents that can clean oil paint. I've read if I want to go completely non-toxic I can use baby oil but then there's no way to get the baby oil out of the brush (or so I've heard). I've also seen a 3 step process that ends in detergent in water (I assume detergent emulsifies the oil), but isn't it bad to mix oil and water? In other words if water is left retained in the brush and I dip in an oil paint then the oil and water won't mix and ... fish eyes or something?

So then I'm left with toxic solvents. I'll be going to Home Depot soon so I'll probably get something there. I was thinking of Naphtha because I've read it's good for cleaning. Is Naphtha more or less risky to damage my brain than Mineral Spirits? Is there a chart of this somewhere, like risk vs effectiveness of thinners? Also, I've read of Odorless Mineral Spirits but apparently they aren't very effective at removing oil at least according to the HD customer reviews that's why I'm not considering it.

Thanks for any advice.
Deck,

It'd probably help if you were to expand a little on the project you have to paint with oil paint...Virtually any solvents that are effective in cleaning your brushes with (when using oil paints), you've already been exposed to with the paint itself. If you're looking to use a solvent, use clean mineral spirits. "Clean" Mineral Spirits (...or "100" Pure") is generally regarded as "odorless" and is equally effective at cleaning brushes and equipment - and, I s'pose poses less health hazards as the non-odorless variety, or Naptha - but there are health hazards associated with every solvent available for clean-up.

One other way to clean oil paints from brushes (without using petro solvents) is to use Lestoil (by Clorox) - Pull an MSD Sheet from Clorox to tell you if the chemicals used to mfr. Lestoil are safer, or less hazardous, than petro-solvents. But this is a wonderful cleaning product, that when used according to package directions, you can clean your brushes with Lestoil, then your brushes will rinse clean with warm water - leaving your natural bristles soft and absorbent as new - if you're concerned with the water left in the bristle, buy a brush spinner. Good luck...
 

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Deck:
Use mineral spirits to clean your brushes. Store the mineral spirits in a plastic jug or bottle and the pigments will gradually settle to the bottom of the jug or bottle allowing you to pour off the soiled mineral spirits to be used again to clean more brushes.

If you're looking to use a solvent, use clean mineral spirits. "Clean" Mineral Spirits (...or "100" Pure") is generally regarded as "odorless" and is equally effective at cleaning brushes and equipment - and, I s'pose poses less health hazards as the non-odorless variety, or Naptha - but there are health hazards associated with every solvent available for clean-up.
With utmost respect for Ric's knowledge and experience and the great stuff he posts, the difference between regular and odorless mineral spirits has nothing to do with purity.

When mineral spirits are taken off the boiling oil in a refinery, what's collected are hydrocarbon solvents of two different kinds; aliphatic and aromatic. The aliphatic solvents are the straight chained hydrocarbons with no carbon rings in them. Think along the lines of propane or butane, but the molecules involved have more than 4 carbon atoms in them, so they're longer and/or have branches in them. Aromatic hydrocarbons, on the other hand, are the hydrocarbon molecules with carbon rings in them, and typically those carbon rings are 4, 5 and 6 sided, like benzene or naphtha.

Generally speaking, aromatic hydrocarbons have strong smells associated with them, hence the origin of the name "aromatic". Aliphatic hydrocarbons generally have much less smell associated with them.

When you buy a jug labeled simply "Mineral Spirits" in a hardware store, it'll contain a mixture of both aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons. But, companies that produce hydrocarbon cleaning solvents will further separate the aromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbons and sell the aliphatic mineral spirits separately as "Odorless Mineral Spirits" or "Low Odor Mineral Spirits". The aliphatic mineral spirits alone are equally effective at cleaning alkyd and oil based paint out of brushes, it's just that they have less odor to them. No one sells the aromatic hydrocarbons separately (that I know of) because there's really no market for mineral spirits that smell worse than normal.

So, Odorless Mineral Spirits is nothing more than a jug containing ONLY aliphatic hydrocarbons (and no aromatic hydrocarbons). But, they're still mineral spirits and still equally effective at thinning and cleaning up alkyd and oil based paints. They just smell less.

I really don't know if there's any health difference between inhaling aliphatic hydrocarbons that you can't smell as opposed to inhaling aromatic hydrocarbons that have a lot of odor associated with them.

If I have time tonight, I'll post some images of aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons so that people can easily see the difference between the two.
 

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There are soy based thinners you can use with oil brushes, depending on what you're doing with them and what type of oil you're using.

Several years ago, my wife picked up a contract painting coats of arms using One Shot sign paint. She was using artists brushes though. Left them soaking in the soy stuff overnight, never had a problem the next day. She convinced me to give it a try when I was doing one of the last jobs I used oil paint using much larger brushes.

I ended up losing a few brushes using the stuff. It just wasn't strong enough to get all the paint out of the larger brushes or something like that.
 

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Your solvent of choice will go further if you wring all the paint that you can out of the brush first. Save the Sunday advertising papers. After done painting, lay the brush flat in the advertising, close the paper on it, and step on it. While stepping on it, draw it out slowly. Repeat a few times on clean pages.

It's surprising how much paint you can get out of a brush.
 

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You're going to paint with oil for some reason. You're worried about exposure. Use a respirator. For clean up, use paint thinner. Wear gloves. And wear a respirator if the smell bothers you. I'd be more concerned with the paint than the solvent though. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after use and you'll be fine.

It's very simple. Don't over think it.

You may want to consider using one of many "oil modified" or "hybrid" products that are available on your project though. Much nicer to work with, soap and water clean up. Great hold out. Many of the benefits of oil minus the headache and the yellowing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for all the ideas guys, this thread has a lot of interesting information. What I'm doing is painting oil-based dap33 window glazing which requires sealing with oil paint (or oil primer followed by latex paint). Here's a pic:



I went to Home Depot today and bought Rustoleum Flat Black Oil Paint and several 1" foam brushes (.67 ea). I figure it will be easier to throw them away then buy a $8 oil brush and clean it.

Home Depot around me sells the Lestoil cleaner. I hesitated to buy it because I read a lot of reviews on amazon about the containers leaking. That happened to me once with PineSol and it was a total disaster. I just didn't want to chance it. What ever happened to making things rugged enough to store for years?

Also the Home Depot sells mineral spirits but only odorless. I have read somewhere that odorless mineral spirits are not as effective because it doesn't have the aromatic things (xylol and toluene I think) that do a lot of the cleaning work. With respect to Nestor_Kelebay's comments, he sounds like he knows what he's talking about so maybe what I read was wrong. It couldn't hurt to try the odorless if the foam brushes turn out to be a waste of time.

I also was thinking, I have Murphy's Oil Soap, so maybe I can rub some of that into a paintbrush?

For the mineral spirits what if you don't have an old coffee can, and how do you recover the mineral spirits after using them and the paint goes to the bottom, do you pour the spirits back in the same jar as the new spirits?
 

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Thanks for all the ideas guys, this thread has a lot of interesting information. What I'm doing is painting oil-based dap33 window glazing which requires sealing with oil paint (or oil primer followed by latex paint). Here's a pic:



I went to Home Depot today and bought Rustoleum Flat Black Oil Paint and several 1" foam brushes (.67 ea). I figure it will be easier to throw them away then buy a $8 oil brush and clean it.

Home Depot around me sells the Lestoil cleaner. I hesitated to buy it because I read a lot of reviews on amazon about the containers leaking. That happened to me once with PineSol and it was a total disaster. I just didn't want to chance it. What ever happened to making things rugged enough to store for years?

Also the Home Depot sells mineral spirits but only odorless. I have read somewhere that odorless mineral spirits are not as effective because it doesn't have the aromatic things (xylol and toluene I think) that do a lot of the cleaning work. With respect to Nestor_Kelebay's comments, he sounds like he knows what he's talking about so maybe what I read was wrong. It couldn't hurt to try the odorless if the foam brushes turn out to be a waste of time.

I also was thinking, I have Murphy's Oil Soap, so maybe I can rub some of that into a paintbrush?

For the mineral spirits what if you don't have an old coffee can, and how do you recover the mineral spirits after using them and the paint goes to the bottom, do you pour the spirits back in the same jar as the new spirits?
That is not a primer. the dap should be primed with an oil based primer first
 

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For a project like that I would buy cheap dollar store brushes (even chip brushes cut off straight) and throw them away between coats. I've never heard of using foam with oil and foam tears quickly on rough surfaces.
 

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Agreed, foam brushes worthless.

For the record, Rustoleum oil paint is one of the smelliest there is, but it's good stuff.

Zinsser oil-based primer would be a better first coat though.
 

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You'll be fine. Especially in an outdoor setting where there is a lot of fresh air. And yes, you can use the foam but eh-- I'd use a crummy chip brush for 75 cents or whatever just because it'll be easier to control exactly where the paint is going to go. Oder less will work fine. Just keep in mind that it is odor "less" not odor free. Either way unless you're bathing in it or plan on having it on your hands for long periods of time (it absorbs into the skin and can make you kinda queezy after prolonged exposure) you'll be just fine. I'd be more concerned with that aspect than airborne exposure on this project. I've been thinner sick a few dozen times. Usually after a big oil job (priming after fire damage, etc.) But never after just washing a brush out...good luck. And tape might be helpful (it's a guide, don't just slop it onto the tape)...:) happy painting.
 

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Deck - Thanks for a really interesting post. I learned a lot about Naptha, Fels Naptha (Wikipedia) & the hazards of paint fumes. Even my occupation has chronic exposure to hepatotoxic chemicals - that I didn't know!
 

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How the hell did us old farts live this long when all we had was oil based lead paint, turpentine, and painted the whole house with a 3" brush. We worked with asbestos in some form almost everyday, never heard of radon. Saw some mold or mildew, clean it up. Worked on cars running lead gas, painted with lacquer . ETC, ETC. ETC.

THANK GOD MY GOVERNMENT IS LOOKING OUT FOR ME NOW.
 
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Yeah. I knew a guy who smoked until he died of old age at 91. Therefore, smoking is harmless.

Anyway, I occasionally have a need to clean a good brush for "fine" work. But often the disposable "chips" brushes work OK and avoid all the hassles. The brushes are much cheaper than the cost of mineral spirits plus my time and effort.
 

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ToolSeeker- so you have a perfect Liver panel, Renal panel, Pulmonary Function tests & Arterial Blood Gases? Show me and I'll believe you :) He or she has a perfect right to care about his or her health.
 
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