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View Full Version : Whatís wrong with turpentine?


MarcF
01-29-2019, 12:28 PM
Iíve been using OMS (Gamsol) for a medium AND for brush cleaning.
I just read the thread about recycling OMS.
Honestly doesnít make much sense to me. All that handling, heating (?), pouring, etc.
Iíve actually tried to filter it through melita filter cones. I made a mess that had to be cleaned up, and recovered some Gamsol and it was still cloudy.
I recognize that there better ways, and that OMS can be conserved and reused. For a final brush dip or paint thinner itís very good.
But itís $30 a bottle and whatís wrong with good old, traditional turpentine for cleaning brushes of oil paint? Is it too harsh for fine brushes? Donít like the odor? No ventilation? What?
I donít like to (and no longer) just dump used thinner down drain. I collect it in old plastic milk or water jugs, (still on first one) and I guess Iíll put the jug in the trash. Going to a Sherwin Williams to ask some questions and get some turps today - maybe theyíll take the jug of used thinner.

Delofasht
01-29-2019, 01:04 PM
Used thinner will eventually settle and the pigments will drift to the bottom of the bottle, decant (pour from the top) the clear liquid off the top and you are good to go for another usage. Less loss of OMS that way.

Another tip is using the same cleaning procedure that I use for cleaning with oil: wipe with paper towel, dip, swirl on clean spot of palette, repeat process two or three times, wipe up excess off of palette. This is what I do during a session for changing hue or value massively, at the end of a session I tend to store the bristles of my brush in oil (but you could just wash them out with a bar of hand soap after the above rinsing procedure). Also it means you can leave the thinner covered more often like this, which means less breathing in the fumes (which are bad for the lungs).

As for turpentine versus OMS, well... turpentine makes more fumes, making it take a lot less long to hurt the lungs. Also, hardware stores and the like tend to carry cheaper versions of turpentine, the fumes of which smell really bad in addition to hurting the lungs. If you have excellent ventilation, there is probably nothing wrong with using Turpentine at all though. I have some in a few jars that I have been using up since they were picked up in an old painting kit for a few dollars at the second hand store. The small amount I have will likely last my lifetime, as I might use a drop now and again for something or another, but almost never use it in excess like I did as a teen.

Richard P
01-29-2019, 01:21 PM
You know you can use oil, soap and water to clean your brushes? (which will probably last longer too) You don't need solvents for cleaning your brushes.

contumacious
01-29-2019, 01:54 PM
As already mentioned, if fumes bother you, clean your brushes with oil during painting and soap and water after.

Turpentine
Turpentine from the hardware / paint store is not the same as artist quality turpentine. Hardware store OMS is going to be likely cheaper than Turpentine and less dangerous for your health. You might want to buy some of all three and compare how they work for you vs the Gamsol, as well as how your body reacts to them. Some people like the smell of it.

As noted already, Turpentine is more toxic than OMS, but they are both toxic. Gamsol is the least "bothersome" of all artists solvents from what I have read and experienced. It is expensive. I buy it on sale for $35 / gallon and get enough to last me several years. Turpentine is probably the most toxic of the solvents artists commonly use.

My personal experience is as follows:

Turpentine
Most people will develop some kind of physical reaction to Turpentine if used over many years. There are stories of artists getting seriously sick from Turpentine fumes. I used to use it exclusively but over about 10 years it slowly started to make me quite ill. Headaches, asthma like lung problems, dizziness. I can only use it outdoors or with a mask. It is great for dissolving Damar Resin. OMS won't do that. Hardware store, for me is even worse than the artists stuff as far as health issues go. I avoid both of them if I can but I do use artist quality from time to time.

Some reading on the toxicity of Turpentine
(https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@[email protected]+204)

Oil of Spike
An amazing solvent that also makes me AMAZINGLY sick to use it in the studio. I like how it works, but hate how it smells. Some people love the smell, some hate it, others rub it on their skin and some even drink it in minuscule quantities....no kidding! My recommendation is to NEVER ingest it or rub it on your skin. I can only use it outdoors or I will get seriously bad headaches, burning eyes and lung reactions. The jury is still out on Oil of Spike as far as toxicity with all kinds of starkly conflicting information being presented by artist and the art materials makers.

Hardware Store OMS
Pretty stinky, but cheap. $13 / gallon. I use it in a ventilated area for cleaning large numbers of brushes. I have a brush cleaning station that will hold about 50 brushes that has a permanent bath of KlenStrip OMS in it. I also fill my plein air brush washers with it for outdoor use.

Gamsol
I haven't found a fast acting solvent that is less irritating than Gamsol. If I slosh it about on an underpainting with no ventilation, I will get a headache after an hour or so, but not even close to how sick Turpentine and Oil of Spike make me. I use it in the studio all year but I ventilate the room even in the winter with an exhaust fan.

Of course, there will be plenty of people here on WC and out in the real world who will disagree with pretty much everything I have said, in part or whole, so you really need to test this stuff yourself before making it part of your routine rather than relying on what others say.

MarcF
01-29-2019, 01:58 PM
My lungs are in no condition to absorb any additional damage so I guess Iíll nix the turps. I have reasonable ventilation- with HVAC, window and ceiling fan.
I find it hard to get the pigment out of the brushes with just soap and water. What kind of oil? Must I use linseed or can I get some vegetable oil (safflower?) in supermarket? I hear ďvegetable oilĒ but what kind? There are many. Gamblin safflower oil - for artists - is bound to cost a lot more than a gallon of Wesson!
The thing about hardware stores is that they also carry cheap drop cloths and cheap wide brushes, etc. I didnít know oil painting would cost so much. No wonder full time painters are usually broke.

Richard P
01-29-2019, 04:20 PM
As long as you clean the oil out afterwards you can use supermarket safflower or walnut oil to remove as much of the paint as possible and then use dish soap (washing up liquid here in the uk) and hot water.

cb3
01-29-2019, 04:36 PM
IF, you want to try Real Turpentine check out these guys.
http://www.diamondgforestproducts.com
The hardware store turps are just nasty.

For any solvents - Always use ventilation.

Most major cities offer Toxic Waste Disposal - you can take your used OMS there.

MarcF
01-29-2019, 05:21 PM
$6.39 for 32 oz.

And the box under it is a palette seal. It says it maintains oil paint for days or weeks. You put your palette in and close the lid. I suppose you could put it all in the freezer too.

DAK723
01-29-2019, 05:28 PM
When I used to use OMS, I alternated two glass jars and let the pigment/sludge settle on the bottom. One bottle of Gamsol can last a long time this way. I found it really didn't matter of the if the OMS was somewhat cloudy.

Regardless of how you clean out your brushes after painting, I would recommend Masters Brush cleaner. It doesn't list the ingredients, but I would guess that it contains some oils in it. It works well enough in my opinion, that you will never meed solvents to clean again.

Don

MarcF
01-29-2019, 05:47 PM
I like Gamsol - and I use it pretty liberally.
I do keep a mason jar of clear, another of a little used, and another of really used. After a painting session, each one goes into the next one, and I replace the new stuff. I can't see using a cloudy medium for mixing, though.
And I see you can decant the clear liquid and will be doing more of it. I bought some plastic containers with lids (for storing food) that look like really good (cheap) brush washing tubs, and will use my Pink Soap brush soap and when that's gone, just regular Dawn.

Jon Bradley
01-29-2019, 05:59 PM
There's nothing's wrong with turpentine, if you handle it with care. The hardware store's variety is described (at least near me--Klean Strip brand, carried by walmart and Home Depot, at least) as "artist turpentine." It works great. I've seen a lot of nagative feedback on its use for art on some threads, and I can't say I understand the caution--cleans oil paint just fine.

I wasn't very comfortable with OMS emitting fumes and me not being the wiser due to lack of discernable odor. Some love it and gamsol though.

Dawn soap for clean-up. Other soaps cost too much.

Good luck.

Pinguino
01-29-2019, 07:47 PM
1. Some materials, such as real Copal varnish, really do need turpentine or equivalent. Avoid them if possible.

2. Artist-grade OMS is purified to remove the compounds most likely to cause problems. Nevertheless, many volatile organic compounds will cause headaches or dizziness in sufficient atmospheric concentration, or duration of exposure, even though there is no allergic reaction or sensitivity. Ordinary animal cell membranes contain oil-like substances that, to put it crudely, are "thinned" when solvent fumes are absorbed in the membrane.

3. Artist-grade OMS is (in the USA terminology) a "combustible" liquid. Turpentine, any kind, is a "flammable" liquid. Combustible liquids will burn but will not (at room temperature or somewhat above it) burst into flame when a source of ignition is nearby. Flammable liquids will burst into flame. Thus, combustible liquids can be legally transported by some methods that ban flammable liquids. Likewise for storage.

4. Really, don't attempt to recycle OMS or any combustible or flammable liquid, by heating them. Just don't do it. These materials are cheap enough. Your life and your home are more expensive. That reminds me: In the area where I live, every year a house or two goes up in flames, because the owner or renter was using flammable materials to process vegetable intoxicants (marijuana) into more potent forms (hash oil, etc.). Ever hear of the Darwin Awards?

5. Safflower Oil comes in two forms, both of them natural (different breeds of the plant). Historical safflower oil, still grown today, has a low content of Oleic Acid, and is the kind used in paints. Culinary safflower oil, such at the Spectrum Natural brand, comes from plants that produce a high Oleic Acid content. Oleic acid is only a marginally-drying oil; it takes a long time to produce a weak film. So, you can clean brushes with culinary safflower oil, or keep them immersed, as long as you ensure that the oil is almost completely removed from the bristles before re-use. A tiny amount of contamination won't hurt, but too much of culinary oil will cause the following paint to dry slowly and poorly. If cleaning between colors in a session, it is better to use the paint-grade oil. They cost about the same. Of course, paint-grade oil will spoil faster, so it should be kept refrigerated if possible (like linseed oil), and carefully labeled as "not for food use" in case the oil contains additives.

MarcF
01-29-2019, 11:25 PM
I got the culinary oil, as you saw. It's high oleic.
For what it's worth, I soaked some brushes in it, swirled them around - let it soak in a bit - and it removed zero pigment. They were clean brushes, but I figured it would lift at least a LITTLE color off them.

Seaside Artist
01-30-2019, 12:44 AM
I got the culinary oil, as you saw. It's high oleic.
For what it's worth, I soaked some brushes in it, swirled them around - let it soak in a bit - and it removed zero pigment. They were clean brushes, but I figured it would lift at least a LITTLE color off them.



Was the paint fresh or had it dried on the brush for a few minutes or more? DIP the brush immediately after finishing with it and wipe out onto a paper towel, cheap toilet paper or cloth (swirl the pigment out and re-dip). I pour a small amount of Walnut oil into a tiny glass jelly jar and use the dip method. If paint has started to set up...there is more to cleaning them.



Hardware turps should not be used with Artist Oils and is more toxic than artist-grade. It should not be used in an enclosed area such as a home or studio. Now that artist know better we need to treat our lungs and bodies better.

JCannon
01-30-2019, 05:47 AM
For cleaning brushes during a painting session (as opposed to an after-session cleaning), I use an old salsa jar filled with about an inch or two of Kleen-strip "green" OMS from the hardware store. A gallon is cheap and very low on fumes compared to normal OMS. Basically, it's about as smelly as a glass of water, unless you get your nose right over the jar.

This stuff probably should not be used as a solvent in actual painting. (In a pinch, maybe.) But as a cleaner, it works.

Real turpentine is necessary for dissolving resins for use in a medium. The turp you find in hardware stores is an industrial by-product, and smells awful. The real thing smells like Christmas, but it's pricey.

Pinguino
01-30-2019, 11:26 AM
I got the culinary oil, as you saw. It's high oleic.
For what it's worth, I soaked some brushes in it, swirled them around - let it soak in a bit - and it removed zero pigment. They were clean brushes, but I figured it would lift at least a LITTLE color off them.
By any chance, are you using Alkyd paint? The Alkyd medium is not as easily dissolved as ordinary oils.

Merely swishing a brush around in oil won't clean it much. You have to also use some mechanical effort, such as wiping.

If the brush contains paint that has partially cured, then oil won't be powerful enough to remove the cured paint.

contumacious
01-30-2019, 02:23 PM
For cleaning brushes during a painting session (as opposed to an after-session cleaning), I use an old salsa jar filled with about an inch or two of Kleen-strip "green" OMS from the hardware store. A gallon is cheap and very low on fumes compared to normal OMS. Basically, it's about as smelly as a glass of water, unless you get your nose right over the jar.

This stuff probably should not be used as a solvent in actual painting. (In a pinch, maybe.) But as a cleaner, it works.

Real turpentine is necessary for dissolving resins for use in a medium. The turp you find in hardware stores is an industrial by-product, and smells awful. The real thing smells like Christmas, but it's pricey.

I have a gallon of that Green OMS that I bought by mistake to use for some other project and I really disliked it for that application. I am glad you mentioned it and will definitely give it a try for cleaning brushes in the studio. It sounds like it would be perfect for that. Faster than oil cleaning and I would assume easier to get out of the brush with a rag. Plus no oily rags to deal with.

The "good stuff" Turpentine is an entirely different animal for sure. Unfortunately, the fumes from the high dollar artists version also make me sick. I do my Damar crystal melting outside.

WFMartin
02-01-2019, 05:56 PM
Whatís wrong with turpentine?

Short answer: Absolutely nothing, in terms of its use with traditional oil paint!

Just select the art-quality Turpentine, and eliminate the hardware-store type of Turpentine. Distilled Spirits of Gum Turpentine is the liquid that is distilled from the sap of quality pine trees. Art quality Turpentine is made from the sap of pine trees, and Hardware Store Turpentine is often obtained from scraps of wood that they cook in order obtain the Turpentine. The difference between these two versions is incredible. Easy to determine the high-quality material from the low-quality material--just by smell.

Turpentine aids in the drying of oil paint by acting partly as a catalyst to dry the applied paint from the inside, as well as from the outside. This is a characteristic that most other solvents do not exhibit.

Turpentine dries faster, by evaporation, than Odorless Mineral Spirits, and even faster than Oil of Spike Lavender. So, for those who prefer faster drying times, I can't think of any better choice, and all without using alkyd mediums.

The ingredients of some medications, and some cosmetics often list Turpentine among them, and that is of the same high-quality Turpentine that should be used as a solvent for oil paint.

I generally judge the "right" or "wrong" aspect of any material that is used with oil painting based upon its behavior, and compatibility with oil paint [rather than for its toxicity, or sensitivity issues]. For this, I can't imaging any material being more compatible with oil paint than Turpentine.:)

timetobe
02-01-2019, 07:38 PM
I've been using artist turpentine for decades. I've not had any adverse physical reaction to it that I've noticed. I see nothing wrong with it.

I'm not a full time artist though and I have a reasonably large space to paint in. Also, in the UK we don't have many long periods of hot weather. Maybe that is why I don't feel any effects?

But a friend, now in his 70's, has been a painter/decorator of houses all his working life, I guess exposed to hundreds of gallons of the low quality hardware stuff over the years, and he seems fit.

I'm aware of the danger of over exposure to fumes so I am careful to use small mouth jars. I prefer turpentine to Gamsol and other variations of OMS.

David

thisisnotatoy
02-03-2019, 02:25 PM
Formerly turpentine (Oleum Terebinthinae) was used to treat various diseases. It was used for inhalation, to rub into the skin, and also consumed in the amount of 5-6 drops of oil on honey or juice.

Pinguino
02-03-2019, 03:14 PM
Formerly turpentine (Oleum Terebinthinae) was used to treat various diseases. It was used for inhalation, to rub into the skin, and also consumed in the amount of 5-6 drops of oil on honey or juice.
That is true. I recall that it was an ingredient (maybe still is) is certain major-brand medications and balms, when I was a child. In some cases, it was merely as a solvent (for waxy balms), in other cases, it was used as an active ingredient.

However, it is my understanding that the active medicinal property of turpentine is as an irritant. That is, adding it to nose drops, or as part of an inhaler, was suppose to irritant the mucous membranes, causing dilution of mucus, which would help clear congestion. But certainly, we do not normally want an irritant in the air we breathe!

I also recall when oleomargarine was supposed to be the "healthier alternative to butter," but that was in the days before trans fats (present in most margarines) was discovered to be more harmful than most saturated fats (present in butter). Nearly all of the widely-advertised margarines of the 1960s are no longer available, for that very reason.

You can also find "medicinal arsenic" if you search hard enough.

Delofasht
02-11-2019, 06:59 PM
I made a video on how I Rinse a Brush with Oil (https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCr4JXBRaY8X_2CCrJDy-TFQ/videos?view=0&sort=dd&shelf_id=1), this is the same procedure is that I use with solvents, but I screw a lid back on the solvent jar when I am done (no clips for brushes to hang in that jar).

JCannon
02-12-2019, 12:16 PM
Delo, that's a good video. I nevertheless use solvent.

Regarding the medicinal uses of turpentine: There are old-timers who insist that bathing in the stuff can cure E.D. So keep turpentine out of the house if you fear that the National Enquirer might display your shortcomings.

Some artists believe that linseed oil and turpentine "marry" in mysterious ways that oil and OMS never do. Although I use OMS, I have learned to respect each artist's sense of mystery.

JustAStudent
02-12-2019, 12:26 PM
Regarding the medicinal uses of turpentine: There are old-timers who insist that bathing in the stuff can cure E.D.
And there's your reason to stop using turpentine, you're taking it away from some poor old man who just wants to get his jollies with Mildred down the hall. He fought in the big war for his right to soak in turps.

Delofasht
02-12-2019, 12:33 PM
Delo, that's a good video. I nevertheless use solvent.

It is the same method I used for rinsing my brush with solvent too. I had started with a Silicoil jar filled with solvent, it worked fine, just more fumes. The coil felt nice, but ultimately doesn't work the pigment out of the bristles any better than working it in circles on the clean spot on my palette.

Pinguino
02-12-2019, 01:04 PM
And there's your reason to stop using turpentine, you're taking it away from some poor old man who just wants to get his jollies with Mildred down the hall. He fought in the big war for his right to soak in turps.
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

AnnieA
02-12-2019, 01:57 PM
MarkF, a few thoughts:
I'm surprised to find there is still debate going on about turpentine. From what I've read, it's use has been abandoned by most artists because of the health risks associated with it, and because a healthier alternative, OMS, was developed, of which Gamsol is the least smelly in my experience.

There is also a new Sennelier thinner in their "Green for Oil" series of products. It's said to be non-toxic and effective, although more expensive than other solvents (perhaps not more than Gamblin's gamsol, though). I plan to try it and will report back when I do.

I found that after cleaning with just soap and water there was still pigment in the bristles of my brushes. So now, I do a first pass with soap and water, but then switch to Master's Brush Soap for final cleaning. I use it until there is no more color visible in the suds. It really is amazing stuff and the combination of the oil and Master's leaves my brushes in very good condition.

Cleaning with oil during a session can work well if it's followed by cleaning with Master's Brush Soap to remove any remaining pigment.
But it will not remove stains. Stains are common when using pigments such as the pthalos, and won't come out of the bristles. It's nothing to worry about though, because if you've otherwise thoroughly cleaned your brush, the stain itself won't have any affect on any paint you later apply with it.

I think you'll like the Masterson box you bought. I rely on mine to keep my paint workable for way longer than it would be if left out in the air. I even get a little extra mileage by putting a cotton ball soaked with clove oil (which retards drying) into the box. You can also put the box in the fridge or freezer for even longer storage.