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Altering the odor of paint thinners

  1. Aug 12, 2012 #1
    Hi all ,

    Does any one know what the best and cheapest way to alter the smell of paint thinners . I would assume adding a concentrated fragrance that would evaporate would do the trick . Please advise ????Thanks
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 14, 2012 #2
    Adding new stinky volatile chemicals would certainly double the stink.
    But not "remove" the first odor of still-present volatile compounds that will still be present, still evaporating from your unchanged paint thinner.
    Covering up- let us say- fecal odors is pretty difficult too.
    Why not purchase "odorless thinner" which is non-stinky paint thinner (a hydrocarbon only solvent) that as been distilled to remove the volatiles, in the traditional manner?

    Thus they don't ADD stuff, they boil off the stinky volatiles: This ancient process is called fractional distillation. Look it up.
  4. Aug 17, 2012 #3
    Thanks for the info . My daughter has this small chemistry project to do over summer and the idea is that she wants to change the smell of the thinner (ie not to smell at all like thinners ) with out changing the composition . As for boiling it it can be done but iam worried to deal with such a volitale material .

    Your advise is appreciated
  5. Aug 17, 2012 #4
    Boil the stinky solvent in open air, in a closed container, vented only with a metal (copper?) 1/2 inch diameter vertical tube 2 feet tall, with a long 100 degree bent end 2 feet long at the top. Use an electric plate-type heater which will be quite safe. The boiling solvent will "reflux" in the vertical tube, allowing only the most volatile compounds to distill off. Put a cloth rag with ice or cold water on your new "downspout" and you will collect the condensed stinky volatiles in a glass jar.

    Or you could make moonshine like this....it's the thousand-year old way to make whiskey. That is a fact, not a joke.
    If the Ancient Romans had known how to do this, the Roman Empire may have lasted much longer than it did. All of the Roman rulers drank concentrated wine boiled down in lead containers. But wine dissolves lead salts, and this boiled wine was poisonous, causing many Romans to become crazy, with strange self-destructive behavior. Like Emperor Nero!

    This is a great research topic for a science project as well as true detective-history.
    All children should be exposed to science this way!
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2012
  6. Aug 17, 2012 #5

    Thanks for the info . Can you advice at what temperature to boil the thinner in order to evaporate the stink ??

    My other question this boiling will not alter the chemical composition on the thinners ??

  7. Aug 17, 2012 #6
    I don't know what the mixture is in the thinner! Boil it to find out. If it is like jet fuel (most likely) maybe 130 degrees F. Use a thermometer, stick it down a straight vertical tube near the top. When the vapors start to come out the top. look at the thermometer.
    Distillers use a T-top there so you can read the thermometer. Do Distill until the temperature goes up- say 10 degrees. Then stop take away the heat. cool. Smell the pot...

    The little bit of odorous material you smell is so tiny, it cannot hurt you. Like, pumping gasoline at the gas station.

    99% of the solvent is hydrocarbons, straight and branched chain molecules. Like jet fuel.
    Removing a little bit of aldehydes or ketones does not affect the composition. Itis like washing your underarms to remove stinky chemicals does NOT change your body composition.
  8. Aug 27, 2012 #7


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    Staff: Mentor

    I'd be very cautious about advising anyone to boil something as flammable as paint thinner. Even in the absence of a naked flame, there are dangers of ignition. The spark from an electric switch, static electricity or even a spark when something is accidently dropped onto stone or concrete could be enough to ignite the fumes. Just too risky all together.
  9. Aug 28, 2012 #8
    There is a whole science to distillation. That is why I said you must condense the distilling vapors by cooling-- back to liquid, then catch the liquid distillate in a container. One can distill ethyl alcohol or gasoline this way safely. I have done it with n-hexane, a highly flammable solvent, in my laboratory hundreds of times. One does NOT blow flammable vapors into an open flame or spark source.
  10. Aug 28, 2012 #9


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    Staff: Mentor

    OP is apparently asking for a school kid who will be doing this at home. Way too risky.
  11. Sep 7, 2012 #10
    I have a suggestion as I wana lessen the risk of my daughter distlling the thinner . As she is required to change the smell of the thinner if she adds liquid scents into the mixture will the inherent smell of the fumes of the thinners alter ??? . The idea is that the thinner does not smell like a thinner with out altering the effectiveness . Guys any ideas or suggestions??
  12. Sep 7, 2012 #11


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    Staff: Mentor

    Why not try it and judge for yourself? It's easy enough to try; the two might not even mix. In any case, I doubt that people would be fooled, and those of us who are allergic to many of the cheap scents would prefer the fumes of thinner by itself any day.

    Besides the ordinary turps, there is a low-odor turps available at a higher price. Presumably it contains a different fraction, less odorous, but just as effective at dissolving organics. (Turps is close enough to paint thinner for our purposes.)

    I wondered whether it might be possible to perform an experiment similar to evaporation or distillation, but using water-soluble and much safer reagents. Something like an analog demonstration. But none come to mind.

    Science offers such a breadth of scope for experiments, that I think your daughter should be encouraged to look at other topics to experiment with, something guaranteed to be safe. I would never consider boiling paint thinner using improvised apparatus in my home (or garage).
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