Sensitivity to mineral spirits?

I suspect that I have developed a sensitivity to odorless mineral spirits. I’ve been breaking out with a rash on my face for the past six months, and it seems to recur after oil painting. I’ve been using Turpenoid, but wasn’t ventilating my painting room adequately until recently and soon it will be too cold to paint with windows open.

I’ve got quite an investment in oil paints and mediums, so would rather not switch to water-mixable oils or acrylics unless necessary. Also, I am not totally sure the rash is caused by OMS exposure, although the circumstantial evidence is compelling. The rash goes away if I don’t paint for a while and seems to come back when I paint, particularly if for several hours or days in a row.

I recently bought some Gamsol to use instead of Turpenoid, but it’s still OMS. Are there other good options that I should consider for cleaning brushes and thinning oil paints? I really love oil painting and have learned many techniques for using it over the years. Not a fan of acrylics, watercolors, pastels for my personal work although I appreciate work by others in various media.

I clean my brushes with soap and water. Murphy’s Oil Soap works well. I have a local soap company that makes a soap with fir balsam in it that cleans oil paint like magic.

Google “solvent free oil painting” for ideas and suggestions. Gamsol is the least irritating OMS I have found. Gamblin also offer solvent free medium and solvent free painting gel. Their customer service would be happy to answer questions you have about these products.

I hope you find a solution that works for you.



I don’t use any kind of mineral spirits.
I just use good old fashioned linseed oil to thin my paint as I go, then wipe my brush on a paper towel often, dipping back in the linseed oil again if I need to, then wipe again.

Then I use studio soap to wash my brushes which is also made from linseed oil. Works an absolute treat.

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Switch to acrylics :wink:

Or…you can clean your brushes with baby oil.

I can’t use mineral spirits or any kind of medium. I paint with just paint.

I gave up oil painting a long time ago and switched to acrylics because i cant take the solvents…But Ive now found a product by “Natura” Brush Cleaner & Conditioner and paint thinner. I like it and am returning to oils…acrylics just dont compare. This product also works well to clean acrylic paint. Sold at Homehardware…in canada anyway.
I alos know an oil painter that uses ony baby oilécor/Surface-Preparation/Solvents/Thinners/500mL-Natura-Paint-Thinner/_/N-2pqfZ67l/Ne-67n/Ntk-All_EN/R-I1650405?Ntt=Natura+Paint+thinner

I bought this a while ago from the USA. It performs quite a lot like OMS, but not 100% the same. Might be worth a try if you are sensitive.

Thanks for all of the suggestions. I’ll try them out and report back if I see any improvements.

Here’s a link that might interest you. It’s an article in Williamsburg paints.

I am also very sensitive to solvents. I was recently able to paint with oils again when I discovered that Turpenoid Natural doesn’t bother me. I sometimes use it to clean the brushes–although I usually just wipe the brushes well and then use Murphy’s (original formula) oil soap and water to clean them. If you need a thinner, you might try ECO Oil Medium (made in Italy). It is a bit pricy, and I had to wait for a backorder from Dick Black the last time I order it, but it is clear, totally non-hazardous and has almost no smell. I love it.

Hi, there is a product available here in England called Zest it. I believe it is made from citrus oil and is totally non toxic. It also has a soft orange smell. Also another available from Robersons called Studio safe orange solvent. Both work fine to thin oil paint but both take a bit longer to evaporate out of the mix so after blocking in it pays to wait for a while before continuing with neat paint. It can also be a little quicker if you use as little solvent as possible when blocking in.

I have been oil painting for ten years and making a living at it for the last three. I stopped using any solvents nine years ago. I cut my oil paint with either walnut oil or pure linseed oil. I do not ever clean my brushes. I just leave them in water all the time so they never dry out… I do not use gamsol or anything else, just walnut or linseed oil.


Your art is stylized and fun, I really like it!

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I used to use Res-N-gel when I painted with oils, and I used to clean brushes with soap and water.

I use just walnut oil.

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I use Lavender brush cleaner from JerrysAerorama. Just has a very faint lavender scent. I clean my brushes and palette with it then use Murphys oil soap and water.

Hi David:
You may want to look at Mark Carder’s web site, DrawMixPaint.
He never cleans his brushes, he dips them in an oil mixture, then lets them sit.
He even sells his “Brush Dip”, along with paints, palettes, drawing dividers, etc.

His entire line is solvent free.
You might pick up an idea there about how to go solvent free in your own painting.

Any type of goat milk soap is great for cleaning brushes. It removes all types of paint and leaves the brushes clean and conditioned.

Check out “SOYsolv II Eco Friendly Cleaner And Degreaser” sold at Jerry’s Artarama. My friend had very serious health issues from mineral spirits and changed to this product as a brush cleaner. She has not been bothered after changing. Have you tried the ‘Water Soluble Oils Paints’ there are several on the market with great reviews.

I often use cooking oil and standard dishwashing liquid to clean brushes. Wipe brush, clean dip in cooking oil then clean with dish soap and water. Works great when you run out of the specialty cleaners as others have suggested here, like the Murphy’s soap which I like.
Also you should take a look at this post regarding studio ventilation.