Why Do Mineral Spirits Sometimes Leave Behind A Residue? (Revealed!)

When you think of mineral spirits you think of solvent cleaner. Which makes sense, since this powerful liquid can dissolve away grease and break down oils.

But, what happens when that mineral spirit itself starts to leave behind it’s own greasy residue?

You see, not all mineral spirit products are the same. Some are more filtered than others. And some have more of a ‘whiff’ about them.

So, in this post, we first dive into what mineral spirits are made from (hint: their main ingredient is the key reason behind that residue). You will also find out what makes odorless mineral spirit so different from their low odor counterparts.

And we reveal which type of mineral spirit evaporates fast, leaving behind no greasy residue.

do mineral spirits leave a residue

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What Are Mineral Spirits?

Mineral Spirits (sometimes referred to as White Spirit or Mineral Turpentine) is a filtered form of petroleum. Similarly to mineral oil, this clear liquid comes from petroleum distillate.

This is the same stuff used to make diesel, paraffin oil, and even baby oil.

However, mineral spirit is mostly used as a mild degreaser, since it is great at breaking down oils. It can also be used as an additive in solvent based paint and varnishes too.

What’s The Difference Between Mineral Oil And Mineral Spirits

Mineral oil has been so refined, that it’s non-toxic enough to be applied onto cutting boards. And this non-drying oil is even safe enough for human consumption.

However, mineral spirit is a solvent liquid, and it is too toxic to ever risk being ingested. In fact, mineral spirit can even cause skin irritations, if applied topically.

Do Mineral Spirits Leave Behind A Film?

It depends on the level of refinement. Or, to make things simple, it depends on how that mineral spirit smells.

You see, not all mineral spirits have been filtered to the same level of refinement. And it is the refining process that dictates whether that mineral spirit fluid will leave behind residue (or not).

For example, mineral spirit products that still have an odor about them, aren’t as filtered as odorless mineral spirits.

That’s because these low odor mineral spirits still contain highly volatile shorter hydrocarbons. Those volatile hydrocarbons are what gives low odor mineral spirit an aroma.

Regardless, these low odor mineral spirits are the kind that can leave a thin sheen residue behind. Think of them as being more like a very (very!) lightweight version of diesel oil.

Related Post: Thinning Shellac With Mineral Spirits Won’t Work (Here’s What Will)

What About Odorless Mineral Spirits? Does Odorless White Spirit Leave An Oily Residue?

Well, odorless mineral spirits have been filtered so that they are free of highly volatile shorter hydrocarbons. And that extra filtering also means that this version of mineral spirit leaves behind no residue.

This version of petroleum distillate is so refined, that it completely evaporates soon after application.

And odorless mineral spirit evaporates really fast too. Seriously, you shouldn’t leave the cap off odorless mineral spirit for too long.

Related Post: Can You Mix Linseed Oil With Mineral Spirits? [Best Practice Revealed!]

But Do Low Odor Mineral Spirits Completely Evaporate Too?

Low odor mineral spirits will do all of its evaporating within the first 20 to 30 minutes. If its been over 30 minutes, and it still feels greasy, that residue is simply what you’re left with.

Odorless mineral spirits, on the other hand, will dry in half the time of their aromatic counterpart. They can evaporate in as little as 15 minutes (especially in warm weather).

To Sum Up, Here Are The 3 Key Takeaways From This Post…

  • 1). Mineral spirits are a refined form of petroleum distillate. It is too toxic for human consumption, and can cause irritation if it gets on your skin.
  • 2). Low odor mineral spirits are more of a very, very thin oil. These solvents can leave behind a barely-there greasy residue.
  • 3). Odorless mineral spirits are more refined than low odor versions. Odorless mineral spirits evaporate fast, and leave behind no residue.


Peduto, V. A., A. Toscano, and M. Marchei. “Systemic poisoning caused by percutaneous absorption of mineral spirit.” Minerva Anestesiologica 58.12 (1992): 1335-1338.