You probably have heard the term lacquer thinner and know from the name itself that it is designed to thin out lacquer.
But there is more to the product that the name.
What is Lacquer Thinner? It is a combination of solvents that can dissolve the plastics or resins that are used in modern lacquer products.
As with most products that contain solvents, it is highly flammable, emits strong odors, and creates fumes that are harmful is breathed in.
The primary purpose of lacquer thinner is to think paints that are made with lacquer.
They are primarily used to clean brushes, rollers, and spray paint devices after lacquer paints have been used.
Unlike water which does little to break up the paint, the ingredients of the thinner will breakdown the lacquer which removes it from the surface.
What is Lacquer Thinner Made From?
There are different solvents that are used depending on the brand of the product itself. But the most common items include the following.
- Butyl Acetate
- Methyl Ethyl Ketone
In addition to cleaning up lacquer paint from surfaces, it can also make the lacquer flow easier out of a spray gun.
Adding a small amount of thinner makes the lacquer flow better to create a finish that is smooth, glossy, and free of streaks.
It is also used to move adhesives and inks from different types of surfaces.
Lacquer thinner should be added a little at a time to produce the right consistency.
Otherwise, adding too much will make the lacquer paint itself running and too thin.
While many people will use lacquer thinner to clean surfaces as it works considerably better compared to mineral spirits, the toxicity and flammability of the product makes it dangerous to use without considerable care.
Yet with the proper care there are different uses for the product.
4 Benefits and Uses of Lacquer Thinner
Lacquer thinner is often used to remove the sheen on surfaces to make the more attractive, but that is but one of several uses.
When in the can it does appear to have a color, but that fades away as the thinner is applied and dries.
The solution of chemicals that make up lacquer thinner is perfect for dissolving or breaking up lacquers, paints, oils, grease, and any materials that have strong adhesive qualities.
However, they should not be used on oil-based paints as the interaction may cause cracks to appear on the surface.
Plus, you may not be able to properly gauge the reaction of the thinner to the paint, so it is best to test it on small out of the way surfaces first and then judge the results.
In addition to the aforementioned products, lacquer thinner is also appropriate to use on the following.
1- Clear Spots of Paint
Because many lacquer thinners contain kerosene, it is a powerful solvent against paint.
This means that if you have spots of paint from drips for example, you can quickly clean them away using lacquer thinner.
Even hardened stains on doorknobs or similar surfaces can be removed when applying a little lacquer thinner.
Just put a little on a cloth and rub it into the surface.
You may want to pour a little, just enough to cover the paint spots, let it sit for a few seconds, then rub it away.
2- Aniline Dyes and Shellac
Such products can also be successfully thinned and removed by using lacquer thinner.
This is because it often contains alcohol that can clean away the sheen or gloss on surfaces which in turn removes the aniline dyes and shellac.
As a general cleaner, lacquer thinner can do the job as well.
3- Removes Tar
If you need to remove tar, grease, or tree sap, then lacquer thinner is perfect for the job.
While there are specialized products that work just as good as lacquer thinner with less toxic ingredients, the thinner itself is a better generalized product that can be used on a wide variety of items.
For alkyd or oil-based paints, then try turpentine as it can remove them successfully.
Just remember to wear a mask, gloves, and be in a well-ventilated area.
4- Thinning Sheen
If the lacquer thinner contains either amyl, ethyl, or both, you can use them to thin out the gloss or sheen on surfaces.
It also will clean such surfaces to remove any grease or grime.
The best way to remove the sheen is by putting the thinner into a spray device.
Apply the thinner evenly across the surface, let it sit momentarily, then remove.
In addition to the sheen, it also removes residues from plastic or cement surfaces.
You can remove stains caused by varnish or paint from many types of fabrics.
Just remember to use a spray instead of a nylon brush as the acetone present may weaken the bristles of the brush.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls. He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.