14 Differences and Similarities Between Paint Thinner and Acetone

Even though different names are known for them, acetone and paint thinner are utilized in very similar ways. However, their properties and applications are distinct from one another.

What is Acetone?

Acetone is a type of solvent that can break down and dissolve other types of substances. There is no way around it – businesses will always put acetone in their products. The smoke from tobacco and the exhaust from vehicles both contain acetone traces. Acetone can also be found in trees and other types of plants.

What is Paint Thinner?

Paint thinner has the ability not only to dissolve paint but also to reduce the viscosity of the paint. As a result of its ability to dissolve paint, it’s frequently employed in removing paint from brushes and rollers and cleaning up any paint spills. Its job description is very close to that of acetone, which suggests that the two might be interchangeable.

Similarities and Differences Between Acetone and Paint Thinner

1. Both are used as solvents in various industries.

Acetone and paint thinners have been used in different industries, but their applications are similar overall. One can identify the differences by simply looking at the names of both solvents. Paint thinners use acetone, an ingredient, to increase their capacity to strip paint off, and you can use acetone in itself to strip paint off all on its own, among other things.

2. Paint thinner is a thinning agent for paint.

After completing your work, you can use paint thinner to clean your equipment and tools, which is especially important if you have been working with oil-based paint. It’s possible to use paint thinner to “thin” the paint, reducing its viscosity and making it suitable for use in sprayer applicators. Paint thinner has several critical applications, including one that most people are unaware of: it can be used to stop paint from drying out when it has been left uncovered.

3. Acetone isn’t used for thinning paint

You can still use acetone for thinning paint. However, remember that you can only thin paint using acetone once the paint has completely dried up. If you want to thin paint when it’s still wet, it’s better to use a paint thinner than acetone.

4. Acetone can be used instead of paint thinner for the less important painting tasks

If you have a painting task that doesn’t require too much work, it would be best to use acetone since it’s cheaper than paint thinner. An example of a task that wouldn’t require too much thinning would be painting fences.

5. You can use acetone to remove old paint and resins

If you need to remove old paint and wax, the best option would be to use acetone. The reason is that acetone is a solvent capable of dissolving old and dry paint faster than a paint thinner. What’s good about acetone is that it evaporates quickly without leaving any residue on the surface it was used on.

6. Acetone can be used as a stain remover

Acetone is a solvent capable of removing grease stains on some colorfast fabrics. But do remember that acetone is still a strong dissolver, and using this on sensitive materials can cause bleaching and damage. So it would be best to use it on colorfast fabrics.

7. Acetone is used in the beauty industry

Some products in the beauty industry do contain acetone. Mostly when it’s used for cleaning the nails of people. Because acetone is a dissolving solvent, it can clean a person’s nails. Using acetone on nails is something most people do, but using it consistently can also be toxic to the body.

8. Acetone is used as a glass cleaning agent 

Acetone is an excellent cleaning solvent when it comes to glassware because it’s capable of removing organic residue. It can also dry newly washed glassware after it has been rinsed with DI water. 

9. Paint thinner is not used in the beauty industry

Paint thinners are excellent for removing oil-based or enamel paint from a paintbrush. But using this solvent consistently can cause significant harm to your body. Being on the skin for a prolonged period can irritate, numb the fingers and arms, and even cause dermatitis.

10. Both thinner and acetone are highly flammable

Paint thinner and acetone solvents can dissolve even the most challenging paint. And being a dissolving agent would mean it’s volatile, meaning both solvents should be used with proper procedure and training.

11. Neither paint thinner nor acetone melt plastic

Even when both solvents can dissolve paint, this doesn’t mean that they are capable of melting plastic. Instead, it will damage the surface of the plastic and soften it, smearing it. So if you apply it to glass, expect the surface to soften and smearing to appear after using the thinner or acetone. 

12. Both paint thinner and acetone can damage wooden surfaces

If a thin coating protects the wooden surface or a spill happens on the wooden surface, then expect the surface to discolor. In turn, leaving a stubborn stain that would roughen the grain.

Another thing to remember is that acetone is the most potent solvent capable of dissolving paint on a wooden surface once the paint has dried.

13. Both paint thinner and acetone remove paint

This was why both solvents were made—for their capabilities in removing paint, splatters, and even spills. Choosing which one to get isn’t that important. What matters is what you are trying to remove, what type of renovation or changes you would make to your furniture, and even colorfast fabrics.

14. Acetone is cheaper than paint thinners

Paint thinners are, in fact, pricier than acetone. The reason is that they use a lot more materials to create paint thinners than acetone, which can sometimes be found on trees or even some plants that can carry them inside. 

The prices differ based on the amount or volume you are buying. For paint thinners, a gallon usually costs 39.99 USD. Usually, acetone costs less than paint thinners. But because of the shortage of acetone around the world, its price has increased, costing 1349 USD per tonne. And this price increase was just this year alone. 

Researchers have also estimated that the price will not stop increasing since the amount of acetone stock currently available is not enough to give to everyone in the world. So, for now, paint thinner is the better option when trying to thin something out.


Acetone and paint thinners are solvents capable of dissolving paint and removing splatters or paint marks. Acetone has more mass-market uses in daily (beauty) products while paint thinners are mainly used to dissolve paint.

Telling the two apart will only take effect when you decide what to remove and what to put back. However, these two solvents are very capable, and being extra cautious when using them will always be necessary because both solvents are very flammable and capable of emitting toxic fumes, putting the person using them in danger.