Make short work of some of your toughest cleaning jobs with a little mineral spirits and the right technique.

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Using Mineral Spirits Around the House

You’ll want to have mineral spirits on hand if you’re about to tackle a painting project, but it’s also a great way to clean tools, remove sticky residue, and even get wood furniture or floors looking their best. Here are eight ways to put mineral spirits to use.

Thin paint Thin any oil-based paint to your desired consistency with mineral spirits (latex and water-based paint can separate when exposed to mineral spirits). If you’re painting a wall or other large surface, mix the paint and mineral spirits in your painting bucket or tray. For smaller jobs, such as touching up small scratches on furniture, mix paint and solvent on a painting palette or in a small bowl. A rough rule of thumb is one part mineral spirits to every three parts of paint; increase the amount of mineral spirits slightly if you aim for a slightly transparent finish. Degrease automotive parts Auto buffs and cyclists who do their own repairs will appreciate how mineral spirits makes quick work of gunky, dirt-and-oil buildup on car engines, bicycle chains, and the like. For small parts, submerge the metal piece in a container of mineral spirits to loosen grease, and then use a scrub brush to remove any remaining grime. Clean larger parts that aren’t easily submerged with a mineral-spirits-soaked rag. Once thegrease is gone, wipe away excess solvent with a clean, dry rag and continue onto the rest of the maintenance checklist, relubricating with fresh oil as necessary. Remove paint spills Oops! You spilled oil-based paint on the floor. Dampen a clean rag with mineral spirits, and then quickly wipe away the paint before it dries. If it’s already dry, apply elbow grease—the spot should clear with some scrubbing. You can safely use mineral spirits to remove paint from most hard floor surface, including tile, linoleum, laminate, and wood without a wax finish, but before getting started, test a small, inconspicuous spot to be sure the solvent doesn’t damage the floor’s finish, and use the mineral spirits as sparingly as possible to get the job done. Wipe away sticky price tags residue Your new dishes would be beautiful if it wasn’t for the annoying residue left behind by the price tags. Simply pour a little mineral spirits onto a rag or paper towel and wipe the glue residue off the glass, porcelain, or glazed clay surface. Once it’s gone, wash the dish in warm, soapy water as usual. Clean scuff marks off your floors Before banishing ugly black scuff marks on linoleum, wood, laminate, tile, and vinyl floors, patch test mineral spirits in a hidden spotto ensure it won’t harm the finish. If all’s well, dab at the scuffs with a mineral-spirits dampened paper towel or rag until the mark is gone, and then wipe away the solvent residue with a damp rag and a few drops of dish soap.

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Get garden tools shiny (and less sticky) Are your loppers or your garden saw gummed up with sap? Remove the sticky stuff by submerging the tool in a container of mineral spirits or, if the tool is too large, wiping it with a mineral spirits-soaked cloth. Once the sap is gone, use a dry cloth to remove solvent residue.