Mineral Oil Vs. Mineral Spirits

Mineral oil and Mineral spirits share the same precursor and even sound alike but they are extremely different in content and their uses.

A lot of people tend to mix up these two terms and this article will explain exactly what makes these two so different from each other.

Mineral Oil Vs. Mineral Spirits: Even though both mineral oil and spirit are both petroleum by-products, they have very different uses and properties. Mineral Oil is a food-safe product that can be used as wood polish, skin moisturizer, a laxative, and a lubricant. Mineral Spirits are an organic solvent used as a cleaning agent or a paint thinner.

Continue reading below to learn more about the difference between mineral oil and mineral spirits.

What Is The Difference Between Mineral Oil And Mineral Spirits?

First, we need to break down each of them completely to truly know what they are.

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is a by-product of the distillation of petroleum. It is a colorless and odorless combination of hydrocarbons of the alkane group. Mineral oils are safe to use in food as well as things or areas that come in contact with food, although it is typically used as a lubricant, moisturizer, or in medicine as a laxative.


Mineral oil is a multipurpose product that can be used for many different things around the house such as :

Relieving Constipation: Mineral oil can be used to produce a laxative. So if your stool is stuck, it can play an important role in assisting the movement of the stool. It plays a vital role in making your bowel movement smooth and facilitating the thrust of the stool.

It lubricates the bowels and ensures the stool has good moisture. It could also serve as a good remedy for people suffering from hemorrhoids and anal fissures as it makes sure the stool does not cause tearing on their mucosa.

Treating Dry Skin: Mineral oil has certain properties in its composition that prevent the loss of moisture from the skin. So if you suffer from dry skin due to any reason, mineral oil could prove to be a great solution for you as it would help your skin to become healthy and soft.

Treating Skin Irritations: Mineral oil can also be used to treat problems in the skin. If you wish to use mineral oil for skincare, then you should seek proper medical advice and make sure you understand how to apply it properly as well as the possible side effects of using mineral oil.

It is used to cure skin irritations such as eczema; where regularly rubbing the oil on your skin clears the abnormal skin and releases you from the pain of the inflamed and itchy skin, xerosis; where the oil makes sure the skin retains its moisture and prevents the skin from drying up, as well as in removing earwax with the oil disintegrating the wax into a smooth compound that can easily flow. The mineral oil could also be used to cure a range of other skin diseases.

Treating Cracked Feet: Having cracked feet is a problem in a large percentage of people around the world and finding a quick fix is quite difficult.

However, mineral oil has proved to serve as a good remedy for cracked feet. So you can gently apply the oil on your feet every night and after a short while, you would begin to see the results.

Finishing Wood: Mineral oil is an odorless and non-toxic substance so it can be used on wooden surfaces. The mineral oil protects the wood against humidity and mold and also against wear and tear.

It does not pose any health hazards if it is used to make materials that come in contact with food. This means it can be used on wood surfaces that are in the kitchen or even on dining tables. It is also an appropriate finish for wooden toys even if the babies put these toys in their mouths.

Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits is a by-product of petroleum that is typically used as an organic solvent. It is often referred to as “white spirits”. It has quite a high molecular weight, as opposed to the mineral oil, and it is very effective in painting because of its ability to dissolve in oily things and evaporate fast.


Most people think only of cleaning when they hear mineral spirits but it also serves as a good alternative to turpentine or other chemicals as a paint thinner. The mineral spirits can be used as:

A Cleaning Agent: The mineral spirits can be used as a cleaning and degreasing agent as it has certain attributes that get rid of oil from surfaces.

This is why it is used mostly in machinery and cleansing of various automobiles. It is also used to remove grime and dirt from various metallic equipment as well as for cleaning of paint brushes because of its ability to eradicate heavy oils, paints, and polyurethane on the paintbrushes.

A Paint Thinner: The mineral spirits could also be used for thinning oil-based paint and oil-based varnishes. It is commonly used in the painting industry to correct any errors made in the paintwork.


Even though both mineral oil and spirits are both petroleum by-products, they have very different uses and properties. The mineral spirits generally has a higher molecular weight than mineral oil and it tends to be putrid which makes it hazardous to our health.

Mineral oil is used for finishing wood and is a versatile and food-safe oil with many other different uses in and around the household while the mineral spirits is mainly used as a cleaning agent as well as a paint thinner. The mineral spirits must not be consumed or applied on the skin as it could impose many health risks.

The mineral oil is relatively safe and it is suitable for use on human beings although it could have its side effects. Mineral oil has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration so it can be purchased from various stores and pharmacies.

Mineral spirits, on the other hand, is not food-safe and can be quite dangerous to the health of people. It has a foul odor that could lead to irritation of the nasal mucosa.

To sum it all up, you can use mineral oil as a food-safe penetrating-wood finish and use mineral spirits as a cleaning agent and a paint thinner. Just make sure you do not mix them up, and this could surely be avoided by storing them in different places.

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Kevin Nelson

I will always have a special place in my heart for woodworking. I have such fond memories working on projects with my parents on the weekends in the garage growing up. We built tables, shelves, a backyard shed, 10' base for a water slide into the pool, 2 story fort playhouse with a fire pole, and so much more. This woodworking blog allows me to write helpful articles so others can enjoy woodworking as much as we have.

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