Distilling Lacquer Thinner

Recovered solvents can be suitable for cleanup, but not for use in finishes. February 2, 2011

We are interested in distilling our waste finishing products. Is there a way to test the purity of the distilled lacquer thinner so we can use it in our finishes other than cleanup?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor B:
You might have luck talking to the people who actually make solvent distilleries (CB Mills comes to mind). They may be able to help analyze your solvent blend, but I would recognize that any recovered solvent is not going to be like fresh solvent and if you have waste thinner from more than one product (thinner from stain, glaze, lacquer, CV, etc.), your blend will be heavy in diluent and latent solvents and weaker in active solvents. A solvent recovery company like Safety Kleen may be able to analyze your solvent too.

From contributor C:
Putting aside the diluent properties of the reclaimed thinner, it always comes back amber/yellow, not water white. We only use this for cleanup. Use the virgin solvent to reduce your lac. Why risk it?

From contributor M:
How many gallons a week would you be processing? We keep extra empty 5 gallon cans on hand to pour back potential waste. We keep these sealed and allow them to settle for several days. We then pour these up and they are usually pretty clear; the bottom drudges are poured into a can for sending to disposal. Really cuts down our use of new thinners for cleanup and miscellaneous things, but we would never consider adding the recycled stuff into our finishes. We do get more use with a lot less waste this way. Of course this probably would not work on a large scale.

From the original questioner:
Thank you. We are using a proper still to distill our waste. Our recovered thinner is clear. We spray many different products - pre-cat lacquer, conversion varnish, regular lacquer. So I am hoping there is a way to use what is distilled for other than cleanup.

From contributor S:
Your thinking is wrong. The only reducers to use for thinning coatings should be virgin materials, nothing reclaimed. Reclaimed thinners are used for cleanup, not for coatings. Reducers are formulated balances of different solvents. How is your reclaimed thinner a carefully formulated balance? It's not. It's a goulash of distilled solvents and its solvency and evaporating and flash properties are different from batch to batch.