What To Do If You Get Paint Thinner On Your Skin

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Paint thinner is great for thinning oil paints and cleaning your painting materials, but it is something that you must use with extreme caution. This is because it can be quite dangerous if it ends up on your skin.

If this happens to you, you need to know how to get paint thinner off your skin immediately, which I will share below.

Most artists use paint thinner in their work, for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, most paint thinners are considered hazardous household chemicals, and they can be dangerous if you get them on your skin or ingest them.

Paint thinners will remove the oils from your skin, leaving your skin dry and unprotected. This can cause irritation and even burning and infection.

We have all had our moments when we spill things, including paint thinner, and I’m sure I’m not the only one of us who has gotten paint thinner on my skin. In this post, we will discuss what you need to do when this happens (and chances are it will happen at some point).

Keep reading to learn more.

What is Paint Thinner Exactly?

Paint thinner is a catch-all term for a variety of products that can be used to thin paint, clean painting materials, etc. There are many different types of paint thinner, with one of the most common being turpentine. Other forms of paint thinner include acetone, toluene, xylene, and naphtha.

These are all solvents, and they work to break down oil-based paints, primers, and stains. When used for thinning oil paint, it reduces the viscosity of the paint so it spreads easily onto a canvas or can be used in an airbrush.

While paint thinner is something that every artist needs at various times, it must be handled with great care. If not used properly, it can be quite dangerous.

Effects of Paint Thinner on Skin

As I already mentioned, paint thinner is a solvent that is used to thin oil-based paint, and it can also remove paint from brushes and other art supplies. It is handy stuff to have around, as long as you use it properly. Always read the directions and warnings on any type of paint thinner you use.

When paint thinner comes into contact with skin, it can cause a number of problems. These include but are not limited to, irritation, itching, redness, and even burns.

You may even experience other symptoms, such as nausea or dizziness. This would happen when you not only get paint thinner on your skin but also are exposed to the vapors.

A lot of people are under the misconception that since paint thinner evaporates quickly, it is not dangerous if it comes in contact with skin. This is definitely not the case!

Paint thinner can lead to burns on your skin. This is because it is often made with petroleum-based chemicals, and these are very flammable.

When paint thinner is exposed to air, the fumes can actually ignite and start a fire. Even if only the fumes come into contact with your skin, it can cause burning.

Even if you are only exposed to paint thinner for a few minutes, it can cause third-degree burns. These burns will leave lasting damage on your skin at the deepest layers.

Any time you are working with paint thinners, it is important that you take the appropriate safety precautions. Always wear gloves when handling paint thinner, and I also advise that you wear long sleeves to ensure it doesn’t get on the skin of your arms.

Because of the hazardous nature, some people prefer using other natural paint thinner alternatives.

How to Get Paint Thinner Off Skin

You will know it when you get paint thinner on your skin because almost immediately there will be some redness and irritation. If it isn’t washed off immediately, it can also cause burns.

Any time you get paint thinner on your skin, it is imperative that you wash the area immediately. Use soap and cool water to clean the paint thinner from your skin.

If there is any irritation, pain, or burning, a cold compress can help to relieve it. Or, you can take a cool bath, which will likely be necessary if you get paint thinner on any area of your body other than your hands.

If the pain and/or burning are severe, it may be necessary to seek medical attention. The first thing to do is wash the area with soap and water, as I have already mentioned. If the burning causes blisters to develop, seek treatment immediately.

What to do if you have paint thinner in eyes?

If paint thinner or any other chemical gets into your eye, it’s crucial to act immediately, as these substances can be harmful. Here’s what you should do:

Immediately Rinse the Eye: Go to the nearest sink, shower, or eyewash station. Hold the affected eye open with your fingers and let lukewarm water (not hot or cold) flow over it. It’s essential to rinse your eye continuously for at least 15 minutes, ensuring that the water runs from the inner corner of the eye (near the nose) to the outer corner, so the contaminant is flushed away from the tear duct.

Avoid Touching or Rubbing: Do not rub your eye, as this can exacerbate the injury.

Seek Medical Attention: After rinsing, seek immediate medical attention, preferably from an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) or go to the nearest emergency room. Even if the pain or irritation seems to subside, it’s crucial to get a professional evaluation to ensure there are no lasting effects or damage.

If possible, bring the container or label of the paint thinner or chemical with you when you seek medical attention. This will help medical professionals understand what specific chemical was involved and provide appropriate care.

Remember, time is critical. Prompt and thorough rinsing is essential, and seeking professional medical care afterward is non-negotiable.


If you work with oil-based paints, you are going to need to use paint thinner. Not only is it commonly used to thin out paints that are too thick, but it can also be used to clean paint from brushes and other supplies, even if the paint has already dried.

There may be times when you need to use paint thinner to remove paint from your skin. But, know that it will likely cause some irritation and that you need to wash the area immediately to prevent this from happening.

Always keep paint thinners and other solvents out of the reach of children and animals. It is dangerous enough when it gets on skin, but it can be deadly if it is ingested.

Check my guide on how to dispose of used paint thinner for more tips.

*image by Kostia777/depositphotos