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What thinner should I use?

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  • Member since
    August, 2012
What thinner should I use?
Posted by JMorgan on Monday, March 13, 2017 3:37 PM

Aren't all lacquer thinners created equal? I use Klean-strip, a Walmart brand, to thin Testor's lacquers. Is this OK? If not, what should I look out for in the ingredients and for what brands of paint are certain thinners compatible with? Do you always have to use the manufacturers recommended thinner?

  • Member since
    May, 2004
  • From: Land of Lakes
Posted by cbaltrin on Monday, March 13, 2017 3:46 PM

All laquer thinners are not the same. That being said, you don't have to use the manufacturer's thinner; however, you need to experiment with 3rd party thinners to make sure you get the results you want before using them on your prize model.  Best to post the question again like "What would be a good thinner option for paint brand X?"

  • Member since
    March, 2003
  • From: Western North Carolina
Posted by Tojo72 on Monday, March 13, 2017 5:34 PM

I like to use the manufacturers no risk,no worries.

  • Member since
    March, 2013
Posted by patrick206 on Monday, March 13, 2017 6:03 PM

I fully agree with Tojo, I believe from a compatibility standpoint, it's the best choice to use additives produced by the manufacturer. A faulty chemical reaction could ruin your finish, and maybe the model.

I do use paint store, major brand lacquer and enamel thinners, mostly for AB cleanup when done spraying. I stick with the DuPont brand, the quality seems consistent. They are quite strong and very effective cleaners. One has to be careful when using them, be sure to use in a well ventilated area.

  • Member since
    September, 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Monday, March 13, 2017 6:37 PM

Here's a good explanation from "Popular Woodworking".

"Lacquer Thinner
Lacquer thinner is the solvent and thinner for all the types of lacquer, including nitrocellulose, CAB-acrylic and catalyzed. It’s the most interesting of the solvents because it’s composed of half-a-dozen or so different individual solvents. Manufacturers vary these to control solvent strength and evaporation rate.

Solvents from five different families are used in lacquer thinners, including toluene, xylene and “high-flash” (meaning fast evaporating) naphtha from the petroleum-distillate family. The other four families are ketones, esters, glycol ethers and alcohols.

All the individual solvents from the ketone, ester and glycol-ether families dissolve lacquer on their own, but they evaporate at different rates. So manufacturers choose among them to make a thinner that evaporates in steps at the speeds they want. Alcohol doesn’t dissolve lacquer on its own, but it does when in combination with these other solvents. So one or more of the alcohols is usually added to the mix to reduce cost.

The nature of lacquer is that is can be fully dissolved and still be too thick to spray efficiently. So to further thin the lacquer without adding expensive dissolving solvents, manufacturers add up to 50 percent toluene, xylene or high-flash naphtha to, in effect, “thin” the lacquer thinner.

By varying the solvents used, manufacturers can control the strength of lacquer thinner (automotive lacquers need a higher percentage of dissolving solvent) and the speed of evaporation. For example, lacquer retarders are made to evaporate slower so the lacquer stays “open” on the surface of the wood longer in order to eliminate blushing (turning white) in humid weather and dry spray (a sandy surface) in hot weather.

The purpose of using multiple individual solvents evaporating at intervals is to control the thickening of the lacquer on a vertical surface to reduce runs. The lacquer thickens quickly after being sprayed but enough of the slower evaporating solvents remain so the finish has time to flatten out. Lacquer thinner is unique among solvents for having this characteristic.

A cheaper “clean-up” lacquer thinner is often available. It’s made with a higher percentage of “thinning” petroleum-distillate solvents and doesn’t dissolve lacquer well. You will have problems if you use this thinner for thinning lacquer."


  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • From: AandF in the Badger State
Posted by checkmateking02 on Monday, March 13, 2017 10:06 PM

I also buy my lacquer thinner from Walmart.  I use it for everything and haven't had any problems with it for airbrushing.  Also cleans out the airbrush fine.

I've used it with Testor's MM; Humbrol; Colourcoats and Floquil.  Haven't had any issues with it at all.

Nulla Rosa Sine Spina




  • Member since
    March, 2010
  • From: Winamac,Indiana 46996-1525
Posted by ACESES5 on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 1:00 PM

I have used lacquer thinner and mineral spirets since I started modeling back in 2010, lacquer thinner for cleaning only. Mineral Spirets for thinning Model Master paints, the only manfacturer thinner i use is X20 for my Tamyia colors. I have used Kleen Strip, Sunny Side and just recentley tried lacquer thinner from Lowes no probluems with any of them.           just my thoughts on this matter             ACESES5                  Smile Burger

  • Member since
    March, 2007
  • From: Northeast WA State
Posted by armornut on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 1:45 PM

This is some very good information. Thanks for asking, and thanks for posting.

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