Lacquer Thinner Price Versus Quality

When lacquer thinner prices are rising, buyers look for better bargains. But are the lower-priced options reliable? July 7, 2005

The cost of thinner seems to be getting out of hand. I am currently paying about $13 a gallon for ML Campbell. I can buy KleenStrip from Home Depot for around $10.50. I can also buy Sunnyside for under $5.00. Is there a big difference in the thinners to warrant the price difference? What happens with the cheaper thinner?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor S:
Take a look at the VOC rating on the can. Some thinners are hotter than others. I buy my thinner in 5 gallons for $39.50.

From contributor C:
To the original questioner: Solvent costs have indeed skyrocketed over the last 18 months. So has the price of steel (for the cans). You'll find out real fast what the cheaper thinner will do when you try it. It might coagulate, turn a cloudy-white color, stink, or work just great (which isn’t likely).

Have you considered using a higher solids coating with Airmix equipment, which would probably eliminate any need for reducing? Of course there is still cleaning required, but that is not as critical.

From contributor D:
The cost of all solvents are going up, especially acetone, which is going through the roof right now. As a buyer for a paint distributor, I have a hard time keeping costs as low as possible for our customers.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that a lot of the products made by MLC, Valspar, Sherwin Williams and Chemcraft to name a few, make their thinners to work with their paints. As far as Sunnyside goes, I wouldn't use it in any paint, period! You are asking for trouble. It might be a good clean up thinner, but that is about it.

As far as the Kleenstrip product, I don't know, but I wouldn't recommend it in any of the paint I sell. A lot of the cheap stuff you buy is probably reclaimed product, there is no quality control on it, and there might be contaminants that will affect your MLC product.

From contributor T:
To the original questioner: There's a wide range in the formulations and quality of the solvents in various lacquer thinners. My supplier has a source of thinners that's completely compatible with the finishes I use, and less expensive, though they admit the brand name is somewhat higher quality.

I'd be cautious about using another brand of thinner. It may not be compatible. And your finish supplier/manufacturer won't back their product if you don't use their thinners.

Have you looked into buying in larger quantity? If you're getting gallons, you should see a savings by buying 5 gallon pails. And if you're buying pails, you should get a discount if you buy a few at a time. Your best deal is buying it in a 55 gallon drum.

From contributor B:
ML Campbell has a lower grade (fast) thinner in 5s for around $31. WFS has a #48 thinner for $33. I'm told that both are comparable, but I have used #48 for years and I know it's a good spray grade. Campbells may be good now, but later in summer it may flash off too fast.

From contributor N:
To the original questioner: Price will tell you, or should, what quality of a thinner it is. You should also be getting msds sheets on all your products. Ask for a "certified" MSDS or product data sheet from the supplier and it will tell you what quality it is by the solvents and percentage of each. If they cannot give you a certified sheet, then it is reclaimed thinner.

If you purchase a less expensive thinner and you think you are winning, you may be wrong! Chances are that you will need 50% more thinner than you would need with a quality thinner to get your material to spray the way you want it to. Cleaning equipment may be the same. One gallon of the cheap thinner may only last several cleanings, while the good thinner may last twice as long or more.

From contributor D:
One thing to remember about MSDS's and CPDS's - if a paint or thinner contains less than the required reportable amount of any chemical, then some companies don't put this chemical on the MSDS.

One chemical that comes to mind is formaldehyde. If the paint contains less than, (for example ), 0.5%, then by law it doesn't have to be reported on the MSDS, and that company in turn can sell it as formaldehyde free.

So when you look at an MSDS for a reclaimed solvent, some things might not be listed. Also the percentage by weight range will be 5-40% instead of a range of 5-10%, because each time they make the reclaimed product it has no quality control.