Below you’ll find definitions of some terms associated with removers and solvents. We hope you’ll find them useful in learning about your product options, determining which products are right for your job and communicating with the experts at your hardware retailer.


Strong fast-evaporating solvent. Water-soluble. VOC exempt. Not a good solvent for oil-based coatings. Good thinner and clean-up solvent for fiberglass resins & adhesives

Substance used to adhere something to something else. Chemical types are: epoxies, hydrocarbon, acrylates, and water-based adhesives. No single solvent is good for all adhesives.

After Wash
Strong solvent blend for removing the residue after a stripping project. Also loosens any remaining paint. Although sometimes you could use water or Odorless Mineral Spirits, using After Wash saves an extra stripping step because it removes remaining paint.


Opaque, white, dull, hazy appearance on lacquer caused by water condensing onto the film as it dries. Happens in high humidity conditions.

Boiled Linseed Oil
A classic wood finish and natural protectant that is produced from the seed of the flax plant and processed so that it will dry faster than raw linseed oil. Boiled Linseed Oil protects and seals unfinished wood surfaces and produces a beautiful hand-rubbed finish on fine wood and antiques.


Clear finishes

Unpigmented coating. Transparent. May or may not contain stain. Examples are polyurethanes, varnishes, shellacs & lacquers. A clear finish does not necessarily mean without color.


Denatured Alcohol
Blends of ethanol made to be unfit for human consumption. This is a fuel for marine stoves.


Specific chemical reactants. Always 2-component. Won't dry well unless you mix the 2 components. Examples are: adhesives, coatings, fillers, patching compounds. Hard & chemical resistant.


Mixture of polyester resins and glass fibers. Uses include tubs, doors, boats & auto parts. Gel coat is on surface to make it glossy. Gel coat is polyester resins without the glass fibers so it is very chemically sensitive. Be careful not to mar or soften fiberglass by leaving stripper on too long. Check every 5 minutes.


Japan Drier
Mixture of metallic driers which are added to oil-based or alkyd-based coatings to promote drying in low temperature or humid conditions. Not intended for latex or lacquers.


1-K Kerosene
Specific grade of kerosene suitable for burning in unvented kerosene heaters. Differs from 2-K in that 1-K has a lower sulfur level. Some grades of 1-K must be dyed red for tax reasons.


Traditionally, a coating using natural cellulose as its resin. Dries strictly by solvent evaporation. Always soluble in the solvent that evaporated from it. Fast-drying. No adhesion problems among layers. Good gloss & appearance.

Lacquer Thinner
Blend of solvents formulated for specific properties such as dry time, cost, & resistance to blushing (see definition). Used to thin and clean up lacquer finishes.

A paint that's made up of an emulsion of resin droplets in water. Resin may be acrylic, vinyl acrylic, or vinyl. Water acts as its carrier. When water evaporates, the resin coalesces into a film on the surface.


Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK)
Strong solvent, very similar to Acetone, but somewhat slower evaporating. Same uses as Acetone.

A fungus or mold often seen growing on the surface of paint, wood, tile, etc. Usually the term mildew is used for forms of mold that are growing superficially on the surface rather than a mold which grows beneath the surface such as wood rot fungus. Many times mildew may be actually growing on an organic soil on the surface, such as tree sap, rather than on the surface itself. It is important to remove mildew from a surface before painting as the mildew can easily grow through the new paint.

Muriatic Acid
Muriatic Acid is another name for hydrochloric acid, which is a strong mineral acid. Muriatic acid's uses include removing excess mortar from bricks, adjusting the pH of swimming pools, and etching concrete before painting. As with any strong acid, you should read and follow label directions for eye and skin protection, dilution instructions, and take care not to mix with other household chemicals.


Odorless Mineral Spirits
Petroleum distillates with a boiling range between 300-425o F. Odorless Mineral Spirits has much less odor than regular mineral spirits because the aromatic compounds and sulfur compounds have been removed during the distillation process. While Odorless Mineral Spirits is a slightly weaker solvent than regular mineral spirits, it is an excellent choice for thinning paints and coatings or cleaning up after projects, especially indoors. It is a great solvent to remove grease, wax and oils.

Oil-based coatings
Oil based coatings were traditionally defined as using natural drying oils such as linseed oil or tung oil as the resin within the coating. These natural drying oils require metal salts to dry.


A pigmented, opaque coating generally composed of 3 major components: 
(1) the binder or resin sticks it to substrate and makes it a film, 
(2) the pigments which provide the color & hiding, and 
(3) the solvent which is the carrier for the resin & pigments to transfer from liquid form to a coating on the surface.

Paint Thinner
A solvent which is used to thin & clean up after oil based paints. Usually contains mineral spirits. Also good for removing wax, grease & oils.

Phosphoric Acid
A weak mineral acid used to remove rust, treat metal or etch concrete. It is non-volatile so it doesn't cause rusting on surrounding metal as long as it is rinsed from most surfaces.

(oil-modified) - An exceptionally hard and wear-resistant varnish containing a resin of reacted isocyanate and drying oils. These are usually used on high wear surfaces such as floors, doors, bar tops, and tables.


Red or yellow iron oxide that forms on steel or iron when exposed to moisture or chemical attack. Must be removed or reacted/converted before painting to allow better paint adhesion.


A coating that contains resin made from secretions of the Laccifer lacca beetle. May be clear or pigmented and is soluble in alcohol. Used as a decorative clear finish or to seal knots in wood.

Solvents and thinners are mixed into wet paint, varnish, stain and other finishes to thin them out. A thinner will do more to weaken consistency than a solvent such as mineral spirits.

A transparent or semi-transparent coating designed to color a surface without hiding it. Some stains are designed to fully penetrate into the surface while others leave a transparent but colored finish over the surface.

Stripper or Remover
A mixture of chemicals used to soften or dissolve a coating so that it can be easily removed. A Stripper usually contains a solvent or solvents to attack the film and may contain other ingredients such as wax (to slow evaporation) or thickeners (to provide cling to vertical surfaces).


An organic solvent also known as methyl benzene which is known for its good solvency and fast evaporation rate. Used in many epoxy coatings and adhesives as a thinner and clean up solvent. Sometimes known as toluol.

Trisodium Phosphate (TSP)
A chemical used on various surfaces to clean and prepare for painting.

A natural solvent derived from pine trees and used for the thinning and cleanup of oil-based paints and varnishes. A natural alternative to mineral spirits or paint thinner with stronger solvency.


A mixture of resins and solvent which dries to a clear, solid film usually by chemical reaction. Some varnishes today use water as a solvent but traditionally varnishes would be considered oil-based.

Varnish Makers & Painters (VM&P) Naphtha
A petroleum distillate similar to mineral spirits but with faster evaporation.

A thin sheet of wood, plastic, or other material used as a decorative and durable outer layer on furniture, countertops, floor, etc.

Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)
Carbon compounds which are volatile and have been found to contribute to air pollution (ozone).  These are typically organic compounds with a very low boiling point; because of this they evaporate quickly.  The majority of scents and fragrances on the market are noticeable because they’re VOC’s.


Waterproofing Sealer

A coating applied to wood, brick, or masonry surfaces designed to prevent or reduce water penetration and to protect from water damage.


Xylene (Xylol)
A petroleum distillate similar to toluene in applications but with a slower evaporation rate.