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Expert's Corner — naphtha

TIP: Naphtha for Cleaning

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Naphtha, commonly sold as “V M & P Naphtha,” is better than mineral spirits (paint thinner) for cleaning oily and waxy surfaces, including crayon marks. Naphtha is a stronger solvent than mineral spirits but not so strong that it damages any finish other than wax as long as you don’t soak the surface. Naphtha also evaporates much more rapidly, which I find to be a more user-friendly quality. The downside of naphtha, compared with mineral spirits, is that it has a stronger odor. So it’s wise to arrange some air movement to remove the smell from the room or shop.

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TIP: Thinning Polyurethane with Naphtha

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Naphtha dries (evaporates) much faster than mineral spirits (paint thinner). This leads many to believe that thinning polyurethane with naphtha will make it dry faster. This is not entirely the case. Like all varnishes, oil-based polyurethane dries in two steps. The first is evaporation of the thinner. The second, and much longer step, is by the crosslinking brought about by the introduction of oxygen from the air. When you apply polyurethane, you notice that it stays wet on the surface for a short time as the thinner evaporates. Then the finish goes into a tacky or sticky stage for an...

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TIP: Benzene and Benzine

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Benzene and benzine are not the same thing. Though they are often confused or used interchangeably in books and magazines, they are very different. Benzene is carcinogenic and was removed from the consumer market 40 years ago. Before then it was often used as a paint and varnish remover. Benzine is another name for naphtha in the US, though the term is rarely used in this manner anymore. It’s also a common name for gasoline in England. Naphtha (benzine) is a faster evaporating, less oily (“drier”) form of mineral spirits. It’s not dangerous if used in moderation. Here’s an easy...

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