Paint thinners are used for a variety of applications. Most notably, they can reduce the viscosity of paint as their name implies. They can also be helpful to clean and rid your brushes and materials of paint. Paint thinners are typically used in oil-based paints and are made of chemicals that can be harmful when inhaled. That’s where eco-friendly solutions come in.
Because increased exposure to chemicals found in paint thinners can be dangerous and result in negative health outcomes, companies have developed natural alternatives that cut down on chemicals and emissions. We have selected some of the best eco-friendly paint thinners to give you a great alternative for cleaning brushes and thinning paint if necessary.
The 7 Best Eco-Friendly Paint Thinners
Because of the toxic chemicals involved in using paint thinners, we have pulled together the best eco-friendly solutions that rely on natural oils and reductions in chemical contents to provide the same result as a traditional paint thinner. These are not only better for the environment, but they are also safer to expose your body to.
The Real Milk Paint Company: Citrus Solvent
This product is a natural alternative to a paint thinner as it replaces the use and function of mineral spirits in both thinning paint and cleaning brushes. The product is made of citrus solvent, which is citrus oil that is extracted from orange peels. This makes up 98% of the product, and the other 2% comes from water.
Compared to paint thinner, it may evaporate a bit more slowly but the fumes inhaled are safer than paint thinner chemicals. Paint thinners can cause damage to your lungs and internal organs while this product does not. This product is also clear-colored, eliminating the chance to stain surfaces like other products.
What We Like
- It is a safe alternative to most solvents and chemicals used for the same purpose.
- It can be thrown away without putting harmful chemicals into the environment.
- It has many uses beyond that of a paint thinner, making it a versatile product for thinning paint, thinning Tung oil, dewaxing, and degreasing.
What We Don’t
- The product dries more slowly than chemical alternatives for quick use.
Bioshield Citrus Thinner
Citrus-based thinners have proven to be effective in both thinning and removing paint from your equipment. Bioshield paint thinner provides both environmental consciousness and the successful removal of paints. It also provides a variety of other functions, making it a solid investment if you also need to remove oils, grease, wax, resin, or tars.
This solution is similar in function to turpentine, a solvent that aims to accomplish the same cleaning goals. You can use it to clean a variety of surfaces, and it is pH neutral, making it mild on surfaces and contact with your skin. It provides all the cleaning benefits but with oil from citrus peels rather than harmful chemicals.
What We Like
- Does not contain harmful chemicals that are found in traditional paint thinners and mineral spirits.
- It works on many surfaces and cleans multiple kinds of build-up.
- Low VOC (volatile organic compounds) prevents toxins from entering the atmosphere at levels that paint thinners contribute.
What We Don’t
- Citrus-based paint thinners are typically more expensive than standard chemical paint thinners.
co-House Extra Mild Citrus Thinner
Using similar citrus ingredients, the Eco-House thinner is all-purpose, being used on oil-based products, varnishes, waxes, resins, gums, and tars. It is a mild solvent and has medium strength capabilities, making it gentler than other paint thinners. We recommend this product for users who need to remove many of the substances mentioned without the harshness of chemicals.
Because it dries more slowly than chemical solvents, you can work with it longer in paint application. This is advantageous for artists who want to work with and manipulate the paint for longer periods of time.
What We Like
- Extra mild solution for those seeking an all-purpose thinner that is not harsh on surfaces or skin. This product is especially good for people with allergies.
- A safe and environmentally friendly solution to taking care of all paint thinning needs.
What We Don’t
- Slow drying time may be a disadvantage in cleaning brushes and drying them quickly for new use.
Chelsea Classical Studio Lavender Spike Oil Essence
While most of the natural solutions to paint thinners are used with citrus oils, the same effect can be achieved using specific lavender oils. Spike lavender is within the lavender family and has thinning properties similar to turpentine. It is a natural solvent that can be used to thin oil paints as well as varnishes and resins.
What We Like
- Spike lavender oil is a safe alternative to turpentine as it does not contain the harmful chemicals that can be hazardous to your health when inhaled.
- The oil is typically used in making aromatherapy candles, providing a safe and pleasant smell.
- The thinner is incredibly versatile for accomplishing many different painting techniques.
What We Don’t
- It is fairly expensive for the size of the container (over $15 per ounce), making it better for thinning paints than as a cleaning solution.
- The design of the bottle can waste some oil when it is poured. It is recommended to use a dropper to save oil or some users dip directly into the bottle.
Made by Natural Earth Paint, this natural alternative to paint thinners and solvents is made of natural oils and is 100% non-toxic. The product is soy-based and vegan, making it animal cruelty free. This paint thinner is specifically designed for artists and can be used at a professional level for their brushes and equipment.
This product is used specifically for oil paints and helps to remove them from brushes, palettes, containers, and work surfaces. This is a high quality product that allows you to accomplish clean up and new painting techniques without the headaches associated with chemical paint thinners.
What We Like
- No harmful vapors are emitted, and the solution does not irritate once in contact with skin.
- Does not pollute the environment once disposed of.
- Can be used to make unique effects (glazing, dripping, underpaintings, etc.) on painting technique.
What We Don’t
- Fairly niche product being used specifically for artists rather than larger home projects or commercial use
- While non-toxic, fumes can still be overwhelming give people headaches if inhaled
- Dries slower than mineral spirits or other chemical paint thinners
Klean-Strip Green Paint Thinner
If you are looking for a strong paint thinner that has no hazardous air pollutants or chemicals that deteriorate the ozone, Klean-Strip Green Paint Thinner will do the job. It is best for cleaning and preparing paint, but it can also be used to remove dirt from many surfaces such as wood, plastic, metal, and painted surfaces.
This product has low VOC content and is made from 65% renewable resources. Use it for your paint thinning, cleaning, and dirt removing needs!
What We Like
- This product will thin oil-based paints without impacted dried paints.
- It can be used indoors with limited odor.
- Non-flammable for safety, but still should be kept out of direct sunlight and heat.
What We Don’t
- The product is not entirely natural compared to other environmentally friendly products.
Green Envy Paint Thinner
Green Envy’s paint thinner acts as an environmentally friendly alternative to your traditional paint thinners. This product is designed for thinning oil and latex paints. It allows for the cleaning of brushes, painting materials, and surfaces, and is also a useful degreaser. It differs from traditional thinners in that is it water-based, making it more environmentally friendly.
If you are looking for an effective paint thinner that is better for the environment and your health, Green Envy provides this solution. It still contains many of the chemicals found in mineral spirits and paint thinners, but at lower concentrations.
What We Like
- Fewer odors and toxins allows for safer use and impacts upon you and the environment.
- This product is less flammable than traditional paint thinners and should be kept away from heat.
- Low VOC (volatile organic compounds) means cleaner air, fewer contributions to ozone deterioration, and smog.
What We Don’t
- Not an all-natural product, chemicals can still be inhaled and put into the air.
Why Use Eco-Friendly Paint Thinners?
Now that we’ve selected the best eco-friendly paint thinners on the market, you may be wondering if it matters. Does using eco-friendly paint thinner compared to the traditional chemicals matter? The answer is yes. Eco-friendly thinners are not simply a marketing tool to show that companies are investing in better solutions for the planet, they are safer!
There are a couple of benefits to using eco-friendly paint thinners:
- They limit pollution: The most obvious reason (said in the name) to use eco-friendly paint thinners is for their environmental safety. With limited to no use of harsh chemicals, disposal of materials will not harm the planet and chemicals will not be released into the air. Having low VOC content limits ozone deterioration.
- Health and Safety: Paint thinners expose humans to lots of chemicals that can be damaging to their internal organs and unsafe upon contact with skin. Eco-friendly paint thinners use natural materials to produce the same effects.
- All-purpose: Many all natural paint thinners, especially those made with citrus oils, can be used for a variety of purposes. Not only does it thin paint and clean paint off, you can degrease, dewax, and take off gums, tars, and resins. If you do not plan to use the paint thinner frequently, having it around can have usefulness in other areas.
You will not only be doing the environment a favor by choosing natural products, but you will also be putting your well-being and health first. These reasons alone should convince you using an eco-friendly paint thinner is the way to go.
When To Use Oil-Based Paints
Because most paint thinners are designed to work with oil-based paints, it is important to know when you will need paint thinner in different applications. The most common use for oil-based paints is oil painting for artists. It is one of the most popular art mediums because of its versatility and range of techniques.
Oil-based paints can also be used for home painting. People use oil-based paints because they are durable and long-lasting. You should use these paints if you do not plan to change wall colors often. These paints can handle more frequent contact, making them great for children’s rooms and areas that can get roughed up more easily.
You should use these paints on molding and trimmings as well as they are more likely to be bumped where scratches and chips will look more obvious. Oil-based paints will be the best option for increased durability.
How To Thin Paint
When thinning paint, you’ll need to make sure you follow the proper steps to ensure that the paint is to your desired viscosity. There are two main factors to consider when thinning paint:
- Using the correct type: You must use a paint thinner that is compatible with the type of paint you are using. Most paint thinners are used for oil-based paints, but there are other variations for latex and water-based paints.
- Mixing the correct amount: The paint container should guide you on the proper paint to paint thinner ratios. It is recommended that you start with small amounts of thinner and build up as to not add too much thinner from the start. You should always have more paint than thinner. Different types of painting will require varying levels of thickness.
To mix the paint thinner, you should follow the directions laid out by the manufacturer and put both into a bucket. Add thinner in small amounts until you have thoroughly mixed in all the thinner. Use a paint stirrer to mix the paint for a couple of minutes. You should notice the consistency start to change.
To see if your paint has the correct consistency, apply two coats to the surface you are painting. Evaluate the results. You want to make sure it is not dripping and you cannot see the surface underneath. If the paint is still too thick, you can add more paint thinner.
How To Clean Brushes and Equipment
Using paint thinner to clean oil-based brushes is an effective way to remove all paint from your supplies. There are some steps you should follow to be most efficient and minimize the amount of thinner you use.
- Rinse brushes in paint thinner: Prepare a small amount of paint thinner and really try to remove as much paint as possible from the brushes. It is best to work outdoors and with gloves for most paint thinners, but eco-friendly citrus-based thinners do not require this. This should remove the bulk of the excess paint.
- Use a brush spinner: Brush spinners will continue to get the remaining paint out of the brush and aid in drying. You can also blot with a paper towel if you don’t have a spinner.
- More paint thinner: Use a clean container of paint thinner to get anything left out of the bristles.
- Spin again
- Clean in soapy water: Now that you’ve removed all the paint, you can rinse in water with soap for additional cleaning. Some painters do not do this with natural bristles.
- Spin and hang: You’ll want to spin the remaining water out of the brush and reshape it to its smooth and uniform condition. Let dry.
Properly cleaning your brushes is key to keeping them in great condition and getting the longest life out of them. Nice brushes can be expensive and not taking care of them after use will damage them. If you want to learn more about the best methods of cleaning pain brushes, our article here covers that in full.
The Best Eco-Friendly Paint Thinners
Using eco-friendly paint thinners is an ideal solution if you want to keep both the environment and yourself healthy and safe. Working with paints and the fumes associated with paint thinners can be incredibly harmful to your health and pollute the environment upon disposal. While you will be paying slightly more for these products, their benefits outweigh the costs.
The all-purpose benefits of eco-friendly paint thinners also make them a worthwhile investment for many projects around your house when you need to remove paints, resins, waxes, and grease. Paint thinners have multiple practical applications so you won’t have to buy it for one use and never use it again.
Our favorite paint thinners are the Bioshield Citrus Thinner and the Real Milk Citrus Solvent. They are both made from citrus oil, making them natural products that will both accomplish your paint thinning needs and are safe to use. You will not need to wear protective gear to work with these products like you would if you used a traditional chemical solvent.
You will not go wrong with any of the paint thinners on this list, but these are our picks for the best eco-friendly paint thinners. Avoiding harmful chemicals as much as possible is important, especially if you work with paint frequently. Using a natural alternative will allow you to continue your tasks without putting your health at risk!