Gum Turpentine vs Mineral Turpentine: Differences and Uses

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Turpentine, a widely known solvent with diverse applications, is primarily derived from two sources: gum turpentine and mineral turpentine. Both types of turpentine have their own distinct characteristics and applications, often causing confusion among consumers. This article aims to shed light on the differences between gum turpentine and mineral turpentine, exploring their origins, composition, uses, and the benefits they offer in various domains.

Gum Turpentine Overview

Gum turpentine, also known as pure gum spirits of turpentine, is a natural resin extracted from certain pine trees, primarily the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) and the slash pine (Pinus elliottii). The extraction process involves tapping the trees and collecting the sap, which is then distilled to obtain the essential oil known as gum turpentine. The process is sustainable and does not harm the pine trees, making gum turpentine an eco-friendly choice.

Gum turpentine is composed mainly of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons, primarily pinene isomers (alpha-pinene and beta-pinene), camphene, myrcene, and other terpenes. These compounds contribute to the distinct aroma and properties of gum turpentine.


  • Art and Craft Industry: Gum turpentine is a favorite solvent among artists for thinning oil-based paints, cleaning brushes, and removing paint from surfaces. It evaporates readily, leaving no residue.
  • Health and Wellness: In traditional medicine, gum turpentine has been used to treat various ailments, including coughs, colds, and respiratory issues. However, caution is advised regarding its ingestion due to potential toxicity.
  • Woodworking: It is used to clean and prepare wood surfaces before staining or painting. Gum turpentine can also help dissolve glue and remove adhesive residues.
  • Aromatherapy: Gum turpentine is used in aromatherapy for its piney aroma, believed to have a calming and soothing effect.

Mineral Turpentine Overview

Mineral turpentine, often referred to as white spirit or mineral spirits, is a petroleum-derived solvent. It is produced through the distillation of crude oil, resulting in a colorless liquid with a milder odor compared to gum turpentine.

Mineral turpentine is primarily composed of aliphatic hydrocarbons, including various isomers of octane, nonane, and decane. It lacks the specific terpenes found in gum turpentine.


  • Paint Thinning and Cleanup: Mineral turpentine is widely used in the paint and coating industry for thinning oil-based paints, cleaning brushes, and tools.
  • Cleaning and Degreasing: It is an effective solvent for cleaning and degreasing surfaces, machinery, and automotive parts.
  • Adhesive and Resin Removal: Mineral turpentine is utilized to remove adhesive residues and uncured resins.
  • Industrial Applications: It finds applications in various industries, including metalworking and manufacturing, as a cleaning and degreasing agent.

Differences between Gum Turpentine and Mineral Turpentine

Source and Production: The key distinction lies in their origins, with gum turpentine being a natural resin extracted from pine trees, whereas mineral turpentine is a petroleum-derived product.

Composition: Gum turpentine contains specific terpenes like pinene, giving it a unique aroma and properties, while mineral turpentine is composed of aliphatic hydrocarbons.

Environmental Impact: Gum turpentine is considered more environmentally friendly as it is derived from a renewable, sustainable source (pine trees) and is biodegradable. On the other hand, mineral turpentine is petroleum-based and less environmentally friendly.

Odor and Volatility: Gum turpentine has a strong pine-like odor and evaporates relatively quickly. Mineral turpentine has a milder odor and evaporates at a slower rate.

Gum Turpentine Mineral Turpentine
Source & Production
Extracted from pine trees
Petroleum-derived product
Contain specific terpenes like alpha pinene and beta pinene
Composed of aliphatic hydrocarbons
Odor & Volatility
Strong pine-like scent and evaporates instantly
Slower evaporation and a milder odor
Environmental Impact
Eco-friendly, renewable source and biodegradable
Less eco-friendly
Applications & Benefits
-Solvent for thinning oil-based paints in art and craft
- Clean wood surfaces and remove adhesive residues
- Suitable for aromatherapy
- Traditional medicinal uses in controlled and appropriate quantities
- Efficient solvent for industrial and cleaning purposes
- Widely available and cost effective


Understanding the differences between gum turpentine and mineral turpentine is essential for making informed choices based on the intended use and preferences. Gum turpentine, with its natural origins and unique properties, is favored in certain applications, especially in the artistic and health sectors. On the other hand, mineral turpentine, a petroleum-derived solvent, excels in industrial and cleaning applications. Ultimately, both have their merits and are valuable in their respective domains, contributing to a wide array of applications across various industries.

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