Turpentine is a common household solvent derived from pine resin that has a variety of uses. However, once turpentine has been opened and exposed to air for a period of time, it begins to oxidize and become less effective. This leads many people to wonder what they can do with old turpentine that may no longer be suitable for some applications. The good news is that there are still numerous ways to use up old turpentine rather than simply throwing it away. This article will explore several options for recycling old turpentine in creative and practical ways around the home.
Check if the Turpentine is Still Usable
Before deciding how to best use up old turpentine, the first step is to check if it is still usable for its original intended purposes. Some signs that turpentine is too old and oxidized to effectively work as a solvent include a thick, gummy consistency, dark brown or black discoloration, and a sharp, unpleasant odor. If your old turpentine bottle just has a slightly reduced amount of clear, thin liquid with a typical turpentine smell, it may still be suitable for applications like paint thinning and brush cleaning. It helps to compare the consistency and odor against a new bottle of turpentine. If the old turpentine is determined to be in good usable condition, you may continue using it as normal. But once it shows the signs of age as described above, it’s time to get creative with uses around the home.
Use as a Paint Thinner for Oil-Based Paints
One of the most common original purposes for turpentine is thinning oil-based paints and clean up. As long as the aged turpentine has not thickened or become too discolored, it can often still work for paint thinning and cleaning brushes used for oil or enamel paints. The oxidation that occurs as turpentine ages can actually help increase its effectiveness at cutting through thick, dried oil paint. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended paint thinner to paint ratio when using old turpentine for thinning. And test on a small area first, as overly oxidized turpentine could affect the finished paint color. But in many cases, slightly old turpentine is perfect for saving money on paint thinner costs.
Make Your Own Wood Cleaning Products
One great way to use up old turpentine is by creating your own all-natural wood cleaning solutions. For example, you can mix 1 part old turpentine with 2 parts olive oil and a few drops of lemon essential oil to make a furniture polish. The turpentine helps cut through built-up wax, dirt and grime, while the oil moisturizes the wood. The lemon oil adds a light citrusy scent. For a heavy-duty wood scrub, combine 1 part turpentine, 1 part baking soda and just enough water to form a paste. The baking soda functions as a gentle abrasive to lift away stubborn marks and debris. These types of simple turpentine-based homemade cleaners are thrifty, effective and avoid the harsh chemicals found in many commercial wood cleaners.
Sanitize Gardening Tools
Another handy way to use up oxidized turpentine is by using it to sanitize and disinfect gardening tools. Metal tools like trowels, pruners and shovels can harbor bacteria and fungal spores that potentially transmit plant diseases when used on multiple plants. Wiping down tools with a rag soaked with old turpentine helps kill pathogens lingering on the surfaces. This is especially useful for disinfecting tools after working with any diseased plants. The antiseptic powers of turpentine make it ideal for this task. Be sure to follow up by coating the metal tool surfaces with a light oil or silicone spray to prevent rusting after sanitizing with turpentine.
Create a Metal Parts Cleaner
With its strong solvent properties, even aged turpentine can be mixed into a solution for cleaning oxidized metal parts around the home and garage. Try mixing a 50/50 solution of old turpentine and kerosene to clean metal engine and machine parts that are covered in built-up grease and grime. The turpentine-kerosene solution helps penetrate and dissolve sticky residues that other cleaners may struggle with. It also evaporates faster than other cleaning solutions. Follow up by rinsing the parts with water and allow to fully dry. This creates a thrifty metal parts cleaning agent using old turpentine that would otherwise be disposed of. Exercise proper ventilation when working with turpentine solutions.
Repel Insects from Plants
Here’s a great tip for gardeners and landscapers: old turpentine can be repurposed as an organic home remedy for repelling invasive insects from trees and shrubs. Combine 1 part aged turpentine, 1 part cooking oil and 1 part liquid dish soap. Mix well and pour into a spray bottle. Spray the solution directly onto plant leaves, stems and trunks to safely repel soft-bodied insects like aphids, mites and mealybugs. Reapply after rain. The oil helps the solution stick, while the turpentine’s odor drives away unwanted bugs. This creates an economical and eco-friendly pest control spray.
Preserve Wooden Tool Handles
As a type of wood sealant, old turpentine can help preserve and waterproof wooden tool handles, from hammers and axes to shovels and rakes. Using a cloth, apply a thin coat of turpentine to clean, dry wooden surfaces. Allow it to fully soak in for maximum penetrating effects. This helps lock in moisture and prevents drying, cracking and splintering. The turpentine also protects wood from UV damage while adding a nice sheen. Reapply once or twice per year to maintain the protective seal. This is a great way to salvage turpentine that is too old for thinning paints.
Create a Metal Patina Solution
With its acidic properties, old turpentine can be used to create antique-looking patinas on metal surfaces like brass, copper and iron. To safely age metal with an oxidized finish, mix turpentine with other common household ingredients. For brass and copper, combine 4 parts white vinegar, 4 parts hydrogen peroxide, 4 parts salt and 1 part old turpentine. For iron, mix 4 parts white vinegar with 1 part turpentine. Apply the solution with a steel wool pad or rag to corrode metals as desired. Neutralize with baking soda and water. Always test on a small hidden area first. Patinating metal with turpentine solutions provides a unique artsy way to use up old turpentine.
Clean Paint Brushes
As long as it hasn’t become too thick or gummy, old turpentine often still works great for cleaning dried oil-based paint from brushes. Simply submerge the paint brush bristles in a jar of turpentine and allow it to soak for 10-20 minutes. Then wipe the bristles against the inside of the jar to dissolve leftover paint. Repeat as needed until the bristles are clean. Follow up by washing the brush with mild soap and water, then rinse and allow to fully dry. Proper brush cleaning with turpentine helps extend the life of good quality brushes. Only use very old turpentine for this purpose if other methods fail to clean brushes.
Create a Rust Remover Solution
Here’s another way old turpentine can be repurposed for home maintenance: mixing up a homemade rust remover. Combine 1 part white vinegar, 1 part turpentine and 1 part cooking oil in a spray bottle. Shake well before each use. Then simply spray the solution directly onto rusted metal surfaces like wrought iron patio furniture, tools, railings, bolts and more. Allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes before scrubbing with a wire brush or steel wool. The acidic vinegar and penetrating turpentine help dissolve rust, while the oil lubricates the surface. Rinse thoroughly. This is a great rust treatment for items that can’t be fully submerged in other solutions.
Make Fire Starters
For another practical reuse, combine old turpentine with shredded newspapers or sawdust to create homemade fire starters for fireplaces and campfires. The fumes from the turpentine allow these simple starters to easily ignite and establish coals for bigger logs. To make newspaper starters, rip or shred newspaper into small pieces and place into a bowl. Add just enough turpentine to thoroughly saturate the paper. Form into small nest shapes and allow to fully dry before use. For sawdust starters, use a 50/50 mix with turpentine and also let dry completely. Use caution when burning any turpentine solutions.
Clean Paint Rollers
Here’s a thrifty way to get more life out of paint rollers. After finishing a paint job, thoroughly rinse the roller with water to remove excess paint. Once dry, saturate the roller in a container of old turpentine. This helps soften and remove any remaining dried paint embedded deep in the roller. After 15 minutes, rub the soaked paint roller over a wire scrub brush or on a screen to dislodge the loosened paint. Follow up by rinsing with soap and water before a final drying. Avoid using very old, oxidized turpentine for this purpose. With this simple process, paint rollers can be easily cleaned and reused rather than thrown away.
Older turpentine can also be mixed into a homemade cleaner for dirty concrete surfaces like driveways, patios, sidewalks and garage floors. Combine 1 part turpentine with 2 parts baking soda and just enough water to form a thick paste. Spread the paste onto the concrete and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. The bubbling action helps lift away embedded grime, oil stains and more. Once done, scrub with a stiff brush and rinse thoroughly with a garden hose. Avoid using this method on polished concrete, as the scrubbing can damage the surface. But for general cleaning of bare concrete, this turpentine paste works great and provides a good reuse option.
Remove Grease and Oil Stains
Here’s another good DIY cleaner to make with old turpentine: a spot treatment for grease and oil stains. Works great on garage floors, driveways and oil-stained patio concrete. Simply spread a small amount of turpentine directly onto the stain and allow it to soak in for 2-3 minutes. Scrub lightly with a stiff scrub brush. The solvent properties in the turpentine will help break down and dissolve pesky oil and grease spots. Follow up by rinsing the area thoroughly with water to remove any residue. Avoid excess rubbing, as this can further grind the stain into the concrete. This provides a simple and effective staining treatment using common household turpentine.
Create Lamp Oil
Looking for an easy way to reuse old turpentine? Try blending it into homemade lamp oil for oil burning lamps and tiki torches. Combine 1 part turpentine with 2 parts clear mineral oil or light machine oil in a sealed container. Shake vigorously to fully mix together. Then fill lamps and torches with this easy turpentine lamp fuel. The mineral oil provides thickness to carry the wick, while the turpentine enhances flammability. Make sure to test unfamiliar lamp oils on a small wick first to gauge performance before filling a whole lamp reservoir. Adjust proportions as needed. This provides a great way to use up turpentine that is too aged for other applications.
Clean Stained Glass Windows
Old turpentine can also provide an effective cleaner for stained glass pieces that are covered in grime or paint splatter. Simply dip a soft cloth into turpentine and gently rub onto the stained glass surface. Continue lightly polishing until built-up debris is dissolved. Avoid using too much pressure, as scrubbing can damage delicate glass pieces. Also avoid immersing entire glass pieces to prevent seepage between lead seam areas. Once clean, wipedown with mild soap and water and allow to fully dry. The penetrating powers of turpentine work great to gently cut through paint and grime on stained glass windows and other decorative glass items.
Remove Scuff Marks on Floors
Over time, high traffic areas on hardwood and linoleum floors can develop scuff marks and stains from shoes. But you can easily remove these pesky marks using old turpentine and some basic supplies. Just mix equal parts turpentine and olive oil and apply directly to scuff marks. Allow 2-3 minutes to penetrate. Then scrub with a soft cloth in direction of the wood grain. The oil moisturizes the floor surface while the turpentine’s solvent properties lift the scuffs away. Follow up by wiping the area with a damp cloth. Avoid excessive soaking to prevent wood damage. With a little turpentine, those stubborn floor scuffs can be erased!
Transfer Images to Wood
Artists and DIY enthusiasts can use old turpentine to transfer printed images onto blocks of wood for unique photo art pieces. Start by printing out a mirror image of the desired photo or graphic. Coat the raw wood surface with a thin layer of old turpentine. Place the printed image face down onto the wood and let sit 1-2 minutes. Use a rubber roller on top to ensure full contact. Finally, gently rub away the top paper layer with water and a cloth or soft brush. The image should now be transferred onto the wood. Finish by sealing or varathane over the wood surface. This provides an easy way to transfer photos to wood using basic household turpentine.
As you can see, there are a remarkable number of ways to reuse and recycle old turpentine around the home rather than throwing it out unused. From homemade cleaning solutions to art projects, wood maintenance, metalwork and more, aged turpentine still has many valuable applications. The key is finding useful purposes that align with the level of oxidation and thickness of your leftover turpentine. With some creativity and the proper safety precautions, that old bottle of turpentine gathering dust in your garage or basement can provide economical solutions to many household tasks. So next time you need to thin paints or clean brushes, reach for the fresh turpentine and save the older supply for one of these handy alternative uses. Your wallet and the environment will thank you!