What to do with used alcohol, mineral spirits?

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Forum topic by John Williams posted 09-13-2010 03:53 AM 16530 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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John Williams

4 posts in 3612 days

09-13-2010 03:53 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question solvents

I’ve started using shellac and due to brush cleaning my supply of “clean” unused denatured alcohol is turning into used alcohol. I’m looking for suggestions from others as to what to do with this used alcohol. Is there a way to filter it to remove most of the shellac? If not, how do I safely get rid of this stuff? I have the same question with regard to used mineral spirits.

Thanks in advance for the advice.

Marysville, OH

11 replies so far

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3284 posts in 3279 days

#1 posted 09-13-2010 04:39 AM

You can use successively diluted alcohol as you move through the process of using it up. First, it cuts your shellac. Then, it cleans your brush (or you can let the brush dry and soak it later- this works for both shellac and lacquer, but not for enamel). If you leave the stuff to settle, most of the shellac or lacquer will be on the bottom of the container, and you can decant most of the alcohol or lacquer thinner off the top. At some point it will be so contaminated that you will have to dispose of it. As a hobbyist, I simply set it outside where it won’t get rained on (rare in southern California) and toss the dried stuff in the trash bin. In more restrictive environments, you can take it to a municipal facility that will burn it for power generation.

I have generally given over to spraying lacquer. Cleanup is then easy- I run enough thinner through the gun to clean it, and the stuff evaporates so fast that it’s over in seconds.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View PurpLev's profile


8541 posts in 3819 days

#2 posted 09-13-2010 04:40 AM

thats a good question. we have a ‘hazardous material’ collection day once in a blue moon here where those things are supposed to be trashed separately from others. I also keep empty solvent based finish cans for that.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View araldite's profile


188 posts in 3574 days

#3 posted 09-13-2010 05:09 AM

If it’s a small amount, I just leave it open outside in a protected place and let it evaporate. Otherwise you’ll have to find the hazardous waste disposal site in your area.

-- Failure is the road to success if you learn to learn from your mistakes - Vince, Greenville, SC

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2658 posts in 3697 days

#4 posted 09-13-2010 06:23 AM

Works good to light the BBQ?

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View Greedo's profile


473 posts in 3131 days

#5 posted 09-13-2010 12:16 PM

i poor my used spirits and “contaminated dilutants” onto a pile of woodchips and sawdust so it can evaporate away from my workspace obviously. it’s better than pooring it down the drain.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5097 posts in 4131 days

#6 posted 09-13-2010 03:46 PM

Burn the alcohol if you must. Alcohol and shellac are biodegradable, and won’t harm squat. You could even just pour it on the ground in some out-of-the-way spot. Take the used mineral spirits to the local oil change place. They’ll dump it in the recycle tank.


View Riz's profile


41 posts in 3002 days

#7 posted 09-13-2010 04:21 PM

You can pour it through a coffee filter to filter the stuff. other than that burn the alcohol recycle the mineral spirits, like bill said. If producing a ton of it, ,may want to look into burning to produce heat for your shop, just a thought.

-- Paul "Riz" Erie, PA "Share your wisdom, it is the way to achieve immortality"

View TheDane's profile


5534 posts in 3833 days

#8 posted 09-13-2010 04:42 PM

Mineral spirits can be re-used … just pour it into a glass jug or other container, let it settle, then do as Riz suggested.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View John Williams's profile

John Williams

4 posts in 3612 days

#9 posted 09-14-2010 02:50 AM

Thanks to everyone for the advice. Since I’m not really generating that much and I don’t have a charcoal grill (yes, I use a gas grill) I guess burning it is pretty much out of the question and since I like my neighbors I’ll leave their garden alone. I’m thinking that re-using alcohol for brush cleaning and then just evaporating the remainder is the way to go. That was what I was leaning towards but wanted to get the opinions of others. I’ve been allowing the solids to settle out of the mineral spirits but didn’t know that the mineral spirits could be re-used. I’ll give that a try also.

Thanks again for the advice!

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3284 posts in 3279 days

#10 posted 09-14-2010 02:54 AM

I wouldn’t recommend dumping alcohol on the ground, it can kill all the good bacteria in the soil.

I don’t know where you live, Bill White, but the oil recycle people get all kinds of hostile here in sunny Cal if you put anything other than engine oil in the stuff you bring in…and won’t take it.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View JimDaddyO's profile


575 posts in 3249 days

#11 posted 09-14-2010 03:09 PM

Alcohol and shellac are both naturally occurring substances and are bio-degradable. While I would not just throw a bunch of alcohol on the compost pile, I wouldn’t sweat disposing of it too much (NOT DOWN THE DRAIN!). Any other typed of thinner or mineral spirits or petrolium based product ought to be disposed of properly….hazardous waste site, recylcling center, etc.

-- my blog: my You Tube channel:

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