LumberJocks

Rubbing alcohol or denatured alcohol?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Finishing forum

Forum topic by Josh posted 01-02-2014 03:53 AM 2887 views 1 time favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Josh's profile

Josh

1201 posts in 2034 days


01-02-2014 03:53 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question tip

Hey you woodworking people from around this beautiful earth sphere!

I gotta question. I just used shellac (Zinsser, bullseye) on a sweet box I made for a guy I know. I had never used shellac before. I assumed warm soapy water would clean my brush. I was way wrong and the brush quickly seized up, becoming rock hard. I looked on the back of the can and it said to use denatured alcohol for brush clean-up. I remembered I had some rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) from last semester’s online Botany lab kit (don’t ever take an online Botany class (shudders)). So I was able to rid the brush of the congealed shellac but it took a while.

Would denatured alcohol work faster? Or is rubbing alcohol just as good?

Thanks for your input.

-- Tree, wood, and box lover from Pennsylvania


17 replies so far

View shipwright's profile

shipwright

7173 posts in 2263 days


#1 posted 01-02-2014 04:32 AM

Any alcohol will dissolve shellac. For cleaning it’s not too important.
For dissolving flakes or diluting however the different alcohols will give different characteristics. The critical thing is purity. You want alcohol, not water. Look for 99% pure.

Methyl alcohol (methanol, methyl hydrate) is the most volatile and drys too fast to be of much use except for cleaning in a pinch.
Ethyl alcohol (denatured, ethanol, Stolichnaya, Jack Daniels) is slower and is the norm.
Isopropyl alcohol ( isopropanol, rubbing) is slower yet and IMHO is a little easier to use in some applications. I like it for French polishing.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees. http://thecanadianschooloffrenchmarquetry.com/

View dawsonbob's profile

dawsonbob

1916 posts in 1220 days


#2 posted 01-02-2014 04:36 AM

Something that I learned here on LumberJocks is that you can clean your brushes with plain old sudsy ammonia. It worked just fine for me.

-- Mistakes are what pave the road to perfection

View Josh's profile

Josh

1201 posts in 2034 days


#3 posted 01-02-2014 05:42 AM

Thanks, you two.

-- Tree, wood, and box lover from Pennsylvania

View MalcolmLaurel's profile

MalcolmLaurel

269 posts in 1088 days


#4 posted 01-02-2014 12:44 PM

Just to add a couple of things: “Rubbing” alcohol sold in stores is isopropyl alcohol cut with water; the most common types are 70% alcohol (thus 30% water) or 90%. With the added water, neither are suitable as a thinner. Pure isopropyl alcohol is much harder to find.

“Denatured” alcohol is ethanol (ethyl alcohol) cut with a very small amount of methanol (methyl alcohol) to make it toxic, so people don’t drink it without paying liquor taxes. This is the usual shellac thinner, readily available in hardware stores.

Methanol is toxic, and also not readily available in pure form.

-- Malcolm Laurel - http://MalcolmLaurel.com

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3942 posts in 1958 days


#5 posted 01-02-2014 01:28 PM

If you intend to dedicate that brush to shellac use only, there’s no reason to clean it. Let it set up, and store. The next time you need it, let it sit in your shellac for a several minutes; it will come right back to life. But as mentioned above, ammonia is an excellent cleaner and a lot cheaper than using DNA.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Skylark53's profile

Skylark53

2631 posts in 2525 days


#6 posted 01-02-2014 01:40 PM

Josh, that’s all good advice for you. How did you like using the shellac? I had not used it in years until seeing here on LJs that its still the finish of choice for many experienced and accomplished woodworkers. I use it often now. I still have a magazine rack I built (actually assembled with a good bit of help) about 50 years ago at VBS.

-- Rick, Tennessee, John 3:16

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

5994 posts in 1793 days


#7 posted 01-02-2014 02:52 PM

If you intend to dedicate that brush to shellac use only, there’s no reason to clean it. Let it set up, and store. The next time you need it, let it sit in your shellac for a several minutes; it will come right back to life.

this is AWESOME to know…. I’m digging a brush out of my trash can tonight…. Thanks for sharing.

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3942 posts in 1958 days


#8 posted 01-02-2014 03:18 PM

Funny place to store it (LOL).

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View shipwright's profile

shipwright

7173 posts in 2263 days


#9 posted 01-02-2014 03:56 PM

Malcolm, I have found 99% pure isopropyl alcohol in gallon jugs being sold as horse liniment.

+1 Fred, I am terrible with cleaning brushes but I have a really expensive one from Tools for Working Wood for shellac because shellac will forgive me for neglecting it. ....... :-)

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees. http://thecanadianschooloffrenchmarquetry.com/

View Vincent Nocito's profile

Vincent Nocito

485 posts in 2829 days


#10 posted 01-02-2014 04:06 PM

+1 to MalcolmLaurel. Rubbing alcohol contains too much water. Denatured ethanol can contain methanol (poison) or ethyl acetate (lacquer thinner) or toluene. Pure ethanol is often sold as Everclear and in many states requires a liquor tax stamp.

View distrbd's profile

distrbd

2227 posts in 1911 days


#11 posted 01-02-2014 04:31 PM

Shipwright is right on,99% alcohol for thinning/mixing works like a charm,I use household Ammonia to clean the brush,but Mainiacmatt gave me a new tip.I hate the smell of Ammonia.

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

View Josh's profile

Josh

1201 posts in 2034 days


#12 posted 01-04-2014 10:30 PM

Thanks everyone! I will keep that brush dedicated to shellac then. Good to know. Rick, not sure if I like the shellac, though. Well, Im not that experienced with it yet, obviously. What I did do, however, was after the second coat of shellac on the money-clip box, I sanded it very lightly with 320 sandpaper and that took out any remaining specks. It is very smooth and doesn’t look scratched from the sandpaper.

-- Tree, wood, and box lover from Pennsylvania

View Knothead62's profile

Knothead62

2581 posts in 2426 days


#13 posted 01-04-2014 11:39 PM

FWIW, I used denatured and 91% rubbing alcohol for cleaning up epoxy. Both work great. Buy some of each and test them for what you are going to be doing. Let us know the results.

View mcoyfrog's profile

mcoyfrog

3800 posts in 3059 days


#14 posted 01-04-2014 11:52 PM

whoa thats cool i didn’t realize you could just leave it in.. WOW I use shellac all the time i’m doing that…

I just buy the 3lb cut shellac then mix it with denatured alcohol for my base finish,(about 3:1 so each coat drys really fast) after several coats of this with sanding in between finish it off with a wipe on poly and walla awesome finish with little fuss. Kind of a modern french polish LOL

-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

View Kelly's profile

Kelly

1113 posts in 2409 days


#15 posted 01-05-2014 05:26 PM

Malcolm, Regarding your statement “I have found 99% pure isopropyl alcohol in gallon jugs being sold as horse liniment,” I hope the liniment you found was cheaper than what I found ($120.00/gal). The denatured alcohol I find in the big box stores only runs around fifteen a gallon.

I’m down to my last gallon, or two. Sears had gallons they were clearing out for ”$1.00 per gallon,” so, of course, I bought all ten gallons of it.

showing 1 through 15 of 17 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

HomeRefurbers.com