I'm completely new to the world of DIY, and recently completed my first minor woodworking project. After staining my piece, I cleaned my brush with mineral spirits. Now, every source that I can Google tells me that I can reuse the dirty spirits by letting them sit until the stain settles, then pour off the clean spirits from the top. However, the exact opposite is happening; the stain is separating and floating to the top! What do I need to do in this situation?

  • My dad used to store used spirits in old pickle jars. I'm not a fan of storing tainted volatiles in glass jars. I'd make this an answer, but it'd sound too flippant: don't care. When you can't use it to clean a brush anymore, throw it away. It could be 50% stain and still clean a brush.
    – Mazura
    May 13, 2016 at 20:34

1 Answer 1


Perhaps I'm missing an obvious problem, but I'd simply pour off the dirty stain in the mixture into a waste container and then save the clean spirits that remain below.

  • I bet a glass "gravy separator" could be nice here. Keep an eye out at garage sales. May 13, 2016 at 19:50
  • My concern initially was that there was something I was overlooking in my n00b-ness. Also, that you wouldn't be able to get all of the varnish off the top, and if you're supposed to let the spirits evaporate from the waste then obviously that won't happen if the stain is covering it.
    – Sandalfoot
    May 16, 2016 at 18:23
  • If you let the mineral spirits evaporate, then they won't be around for reuse. The resulting mineral spirits are unlikely to be perfectly clean, but they'll be more than good enough to do the initial cleanup on some used brushes in the future.
    – BMitch
    May 16, 2016 at 18:43
  • I was talking about the waste mixture left over after the "clean" spirits have already been poured off. You're going to lose some spirits either way, but the way it was explained to me was that after saving the bulk of the spirits, there would be some varnish/spirits left over. You let the spirit evaporate from that leftover mixture, then toss the varnish. However, it doesn't seem to me like that would work if the varnish rises to the top, rather than the bottom. I may be wrong, though, as I've been keeping eye on the waste jar and there doesn't appear to be any spirits in it anymore.
    – Sandalfoot
    May 24, 2016 at 20:26

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