Lacquer Thinner vs. Paint Thinner

Updated April 17, 2017

Of the many different products that can be used for cleaning up stains, paint and varnish, the most commonly used are lacquer thinner and paint thinner. The choice regarding which product to apply depends on the project. There are many differences between lacquer thinner and paint thinner, so it is important to consider the surface involved and the purpose the thinner will be used for.


Lacquer thinner is used to thin lacquers and paint, but is also used to clean up after paint and varnishing projects. It can remove stains, such as ink, from metals. Lacquer thinner also strips old paint and varnish from items that need to be refinished. Paint thinner is mostly used to thin interior and other oil-based paints, but can be used to clean wood, metal and concrete.


Lacquer thinner is stronger than paint thinner. It can damage some materials and most fabric, so it is best to test a small area before applying to a large surface. Paint thinner can damage materials such as foam and soft plastics but is safe on most other materials. Paint thinner can also damage paint and varnish coatings.


Typically paint thinner and lacquer thinner have some of the same ingredients. Acetone, turpentine and toluene are common in paint thinner, which is oil-based and has fewer additives than lacquer thinner. The composition of lacquer thinner varies slightly among manufacturers, but, in addition to the ingredients found in paint thinner, can contain methylene. Other possible ingredients are ethanol and methanol.

Health Risks

Most ingredients in paint thinners and lacquer thinners have health risks. The most serious risk is connected to inhaling the fumes, which can cause dizziness and nausea and can irritate or damage the respiratory system. Thinners can also be absorbed through the skin, allowing toxins to enter the bloodstream, possibly leading to dermatitis and organ damage. Prolonged exposure to thinners causes more serious cases of internal damage.

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About the Author

Caroline Winnick began writing in 2008. She has published a book, "Suspicions Never Die," and has experience in wedding planning articles as well as cooking and homemaking articles. Caroline is currently attending Cape Fear Community College for an associate degree in business and English.