I found myself scratching my head in Woodie’s one day wondering what is the difference between white spirits, methylated spirits and turpentine.

For home decoration purposes, these are really three versions of the same thing.

White Spirits

This is probably the most common paint thinner that you can buy in DIY stores in Ireland to clean paint brushes. It’s an “extraction solvent” which means that it separates the water, and the plastic/resin in emulsion paint and makes it easier to clean. It is always a clear liquid. It’s not completely safe but is the safest of the three to use. This is what I buy to clean paint brushes.

Methylated Spirits

This is also called ‘denatured alcohol’ outside Ireland and does the same thing as white spirits, but is made from pure ethanol with added poison to discourage people drinking it (yes, really!). You can buy it in most DIY stores in Ireland and is often dyed a colour like purple.


This is a natural version of the same thing but is the most dangerous of the three. It is highly flammable and its vapour can irritate the skin and eyes. If you are just cleaning paint brushes, avoid this. You’ll sometimes see it mixed with things like beeswax for cleaning furniture.

Read about how to use white spirits to clean paint brushes here.





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