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How to Safely Dispose of Mineral Spirits: What You Need to Know!

paint brush white spirit

Mineral spirits are extremely handy for woodworkers and DIYers to have on hand. They’re perfect for thinning out oil-based paints, cleaning stubborn paint out of used rollers and brushes, and even just basic tidying up around the shop.

However, how do you dispose of mineral spirits once they’ve been used?

You can’t simply dump these in the trash. It’s a serious fire hazard to do so. Mineral spirits have an exceptionally low flash point and can ignite at only 104° F! This means that tossing them out in a dumpster on a hot day can spell disaster.

And you can’t just pour them down the drain either. Over time, high concentrations of mineral spirits can cause damage to the surrounding ecosystem and contaminate groundwater.

If these two reasons aren’t enough, improper discarding of mineral spirits can have you in front of a judge facing punishment and receiving a hefty fine. So, it’ll behoove you to learn how to properly dispose of mineral spirits.

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Reclaim and Recycle Used Mineral Spirits for Future Use

Just because you use mineral spirits for one project doesn’t mean they’re finished. You can reuse them over and over for several more projects. All you need to do is properly recycle them.

To do so, transfer your used spirits into a clean, empty glass container and wait. The paint and gunk within the mineral spirits will eventually sink to the bottom. Afterward, carefully pour the clean spirits into another jar that’s been properly labeled with date and identifier.

However, the problem with this is the time needed to wait. This process can take weeks or even months depending on how dirty the spirits are and the scope of the project they were used on.

But don’t fret. You can reclaim them much quicker using a filtration method.


Filtration Method

To get started, you’ll need some nitrile gloves, coffee filters, a large resealable glass jar, and a bit of cotton cord.

  • Layer two or three coffee filters within the mouth of the jar and secure them firmly with the cotton cord.
  • Don your nitrile gloves.
  • With your gloved hands, slowly pour the used mineral spirits through the coffee filters so they strain through and collect in the jar.

The coffee filters will collect large bits of gunk and paint allowing only cleaner spirits to pass through. Once all the used mineral spirits have passed through the filter, you can reseal the jar, label it, and store the container in a proper facility for another use.

Be sure to dispose of your coffee filters and collected waste properly though. Let them completely air dry before wrapping them in an old newspaper, sealing them in a plastic bag, and tossing them out with the trash.

Mineral spirits
Image Credit: Larry Koester, Flickr

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Discard Empty Mineral Spirit Containers with Household Garbage

While you should toss the mineral spirits themselves out with your regular garbage, it’s ok to do so with the emptied containers—provided it meets two conditions.

  • The container is completely dry.
  • There is less than an inch of paint sludge at the bottom of the container.

If the paint sludge at the bottom is still too liquid, simply remove the lid to the container and set it outside to air dry. You’ll find that the mineral spirits will evaporate into the air and leave behind a solid waste matter.

However, if after you complete this step the sludge is still greater than 1 inch, you’ll need to dispose of the container along with the leftover mineral spirits themselves.


Take Leftover Mineral Spirits and Soaked Shop Rags to a Hazardous Waste Collection Facility

Mineral spirits and their byproducts are considered to be hazardous materials and as such are required to be disposed of at a certified hazardous waste collection facility. While this may sound like an out of the way step, it’s necessary to ensure safe handling of your used mineral spirits. Depending on the amount you need to discard, they may send a representative to help you collect them.

Another option is to contact your local government office (City Hall, Town Hall, etc.) and ask them if they are doing a hazardous waste pickup drive soon. Most communities around the country will hold drives where they’ll collect the waste you bring in for free. So, if you can store your leftovers until then, there should be little issue.

Remember, it’s not just the mineral spirits you need to dispose of either. You need to turn in spirit-soaked shop rags and towels. These can be just as combustible and dangerous as the mineral spirits themselves.

As a pro tip, be sure to contact your drop-off point before actually going. They may have special requirements as to how they want the materials packed before delivery.

paint
Image Credit: tookapic, Pixabay

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Disposing of Mineral Spirits Properly

Whenever you start a DIY project, you need to ensure you see it through to completion—and that includes proper material disposal. Disposing of your old mineral spirits isn’t just good practice. It’s required by law and helps to ensure the safety of those around you.


Featured Image: Lenscap Photography, Shutterstock

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