Paint thinner and lacquer thinner, while both solvents, have very different properties. Their different properties lend to different uses. Understanding the different characteristics of paint thinner and lacquer thinner can help you make the best choice for the specific job you are working on.
Paint thinner is a single solvent made of white spirit and other additives. Lacquer thinner is a combination of solvents whose formulation changes from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Paint thinner is a very mild solvent. As such it can be used to clean up in some situations without risk of destroying the underlying paint coating. Lacquer thinner is a considerably stronger solvent.
Paint thinner evaporates at a moderate rate. Lacquer thinner evaporates at a much faster rate, though there is not a standard evaporation rate for all lacquer thinners. The evaporation rate of lacquer thinner allows you to use it to thin and spread or smooth lacquer before it hardens completely.
Lacquer thinner is more flammable than paint thinner.
Paint thinner helps you thin and clean up standard oil based paint. Lacquer thinner helps you thin and clean up lacquer. Lacquer thinner also removes ink on metal and removes adhesive residue.