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Difference between Acetone and Paint Thinner

Difference between Acetone and Paint Thinner

Finding the right solvent for your home improvement project can be difficult, but it’s important to get it right. It might seem like acetone and paint thinner are interchangeable when it comes to their uses – after all, they both have powerful cleaning abilities that make them popular solvents. But in fact, there are important differences between these two liquids that you’ll want to understand before beginning any painting or staining job. In this post, we’ll explore the chemical composition of each compound as well as how their differences could affect your next home improvement project.

What is Acetone?

  • Acetone is a colorless and volatile compound mainly used as an industrial solvent. It has important uses in chemistry and in everyday life, due to its characteristics of being flammable, highly volatile, and conveniently soluble in many other compounds.
  • Acetone is extremely useful for dissolving plasticky substances such as some paints and coatings. Acetone has many other applications including use in the manufacture of plastics, cleaning cosmetics brushes and sponges, and removing silicone caulks from valves and joints; Acetone can also be found in several household products such as nail polish remover and paint thinner.
  • As Acetone is very efficient at dissolving solids, spills must be carefully cleaned up in order to avoid potential health risks. Acetone undoubtedly plays a key role in our lives every day!

What is Paint Thinner?

  • Paint thinner is a powerful solvent for thinning oil-based paint, stain, and varnish. Paint thinners are also used to clean brushes and surfaces after painting projects. Paint thinner consists of organic solvents like turpentine, mineral spirits, toluene, and acetone.
  • Paint thinner is key in making oil-based paints manageable so that they can be layered on materials like walls, furniture, and floors without getting too thick and clumpy.
  • Paint thinner works by breaking up the paint molecules so that they lay smoother without any buildup or bubbles. Paint thinner should always be handled with care as it has very strong vapors that can cause skin irritation and inhalation complications. It’s important to use protective gear when working around paint thinners.

Difference between Acetone and Paint Thinner

Acetone and Paint Thinner are two items that are commonly confused, but they are not the same.

  • Acetone is a colourless, mobile, volatile liquid that is a type of ketone. Acetone is an effective solvent intended for use in difficult-to-remove substances like superglue, nail polish, and wax.
  • Paint thinner on the other hand is a petroleum-based solvent that mixes paint for easier brushability and helps to clean up the residue after finishing a painting project.
  • Acetone will dissolve paints and paint thinners will not and can only be used to clean surfaces prepped for painting rather than actually thinning paints or primers.

Acetone is far more volatile than paint thinners, making it more dangerous to work with as it evaporates quickly in low temperatures, whereas paint thinner evaporates slower due to its higher viscosity.


In general, paint thinner is less toxic and has a lower evaporation rate than acetone, making it better for indoor use. Thinner also works well on latex and oil-based paints, whereas acetone is only effective on lacquer and epoxy. For these reasons, many professionals recommend using paint thinner when working with Interior paints. Of course, every project is different so be sure to consult your local hardware store expert or the manufacturer’s instructions before starting any new job. With these tips in mind, you should have no problem selecting the best solvent for your next painting project!

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