What Is Mineral Spirits
Mineral spirits consists of a purified petroleum distillate that has small hydrocarbon content. Hydrocarbons are basically chemical compounds that contain exclusively hydrogen and carbon. Hydrocarbons include methane, with one carbon atom that is bonded to four hydrogen atoms. Other materials may contain a much larger number of hydrogen and carbon atoms. Mineral spirits have proper characteristics of flash point and volatility, due to which these materials are suitable for use as a solvent and paint thinner. Mineral spirits are also called petroleum spirits and white spirits. Paint professionals widely use mineral spirits as a substitute for turpentine for paint thinning, and cleaning paint brushes. Mineral spirits are preferred to use for paint thinning because of low cost, and less unpleasant odor. Mineral spirits are also utilized for the cleaning and degreasing of machinery, and as a lubricant for the screw threads reaming. Mineral spirits do have little odor that is unpleasant for some painters, who use odorless paint thinners. These materials are mineral spirits with the addition of formulated additives for the elimination or reduction of smell.
Characteristics Mineral Spirits
Mineral spirits are obtained from distillate during the oil refinement process. Though turpentine is a suitable thinner, mineral spirits are a better alternative because of their superior chemical properties. Some of the important characteristics of the mineral spirits are described below:
- Mineral spirits are rather volatile, and include a fair quantity of aromatic content. Therefore, aromatics toxic behavior is a serious health concern that may lead to environmental hazards.
- Mineral spirits spills may cause groundwater contamination.
- Mineral spirits contain volatile organic compounds that facilitate formation of smog, and can be poisonous if inhaled.
- Since the mineral spirits evaporate rapidly, control of worker exposure to these materials is hard to manage. Used mineral spirits are a hazardous waste, and should be disposed appropriately.
- Mineral spirits are excellent for the cleaning of painting rollers, brushes, and paint guns. They are also used to decrease the viscosity of solvent based coatings.
- During production of mineral spirits, chemicals like paraffin and alicyclic combine with benzene hydrocarbons, to produce varieties of mineral spirits. The difference in the types of mineral spirits produced is essentially their volatility and flashpoint.
Precautions when using Mineral Spirits
Mineral spirits are considered to be safe solvents and cleaners. However, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration describe mineral spirits as a mild irritant. On reaching their high flashpoint, mineral spirits burns like other hydrocarbon based solvents. Hazardous toxins are emitted that are harmful for humans. It is believed that extended mineral spirits exposure to painters may lead to brain ailments. Though the mineral spirits are much safer compared to numerous solvents, these should be handled and stored with suitable precautions, as are necessary for the petroleum distillates. Mineral spirits may be harmful if proper precautions are not taken during their handling. Mineral spirits should be used in an area that has ample ventilation, and located at a distance from spark, heat source, and flame. Rubber gloves should be used while handling mineral spirits. The lid of container should be tightly fixed so that children do not have contact with mineral spirits. Unsafe liquids must be located out of the reach of the children.