A brush used with varnish has been put into a sink, full of water with dishes. The dishes have not come into contact directly with the varnish, but with the varnish diluted in water. Is throwing all away too drastic? Is it enough to wash them normally? Should I wash them with white spirit?

I don't know much about the varnish, just that it's white varnish for wood/metal.

  • Varnish tends to not be water soluable. How much floated off the brush up to the water's surface? Pull the brush out, use some paper towels to skim any blobs that floated off and the dishes should be fine. Barring this is some sort of water washable stuff. Feb 18, 2013 at 20:29
  • The water has a milky aspect, there are no blobs. I am not sure yet about what happened, I just saw the milky water, the brush, and a can of white varnish not too far from them.
    – laika
    Feb 18, 2013 at 20:36
  • 1
    It's water soluble then, if it's colored the water like that... If none of the china, glassware or silverware have been allowed to air dry with this stuff on them, wash them off in hot, soapy water and rinse well, they should be fine. Anything porous like wooden spoons, rubber spatulas probably need replacement. Feb 18, 2013 at 22:15

1 Answer 1


Varnish is usually a mixture of a drying oil, some resin such as pine tar, and a solvent such as turpentine. The drying oil most likely won't kill you. The most commonly used oil, linseed oil, is actually just non-food-grade flax oil by another name.

The Greeks put pine tar in their wine, and it's a tasty treat.

The solvent is a little more troublesome. The pinene in turpentine for example, has a nasty looking chemical structure. However, Solvents, by their liquid nature are pretty easily washed off, epecially when you put plenty of soap in your water.

I'd give the dishes a good washing, and use them without a second thought. I'd also try not to leave a paintbrush in the kitchen sink again.

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