Turpentine, a natural resin-derived solvent, has been utilized for centuries due to its remarkable versatility and wide range of applications. However, confusion often arises when it comes to differentiating between hardware store turpentine and gum spirits of turpentine. In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the dissimilarities between these two common types of turpentine, exploring their origins, properties, uses, and potential benefits. By understanding their unique characteristics, consumers can make informed decisions regarding their specific needs.
Origins and Production:
Hardware store turpentine, also known as rectified turpentine, is typically a byproduct of the paper industry. It is derived from the distillation of crude wood turpentine, a substance obtained by tapping pine trees for their resinous sap. The crude wood turpentine undergoes a refining process, which involves removing impurities, such as resin acids and other volatile components, resulting in a more purified form suitable for general household applications.
On the other hand, gum spirits of turpentine, also referred to as pure gum turpentine or 100% gum turpentine, is obtained directly from the pine tree resin through a traditional method known as gum tapping. This process involves making incisions into the tree’s bark, allowing the resin to flow out naturally. The resin is then collected, distilled, and purified to produce gum spirits of turpentine, which retains a higher concentration of natural compounds found in the resin.
The difference in production methods contributes to variations in the chemical composition of these two types of turpentine. Hardware store turpentine usually contains a mixture of turpentine oil, which is the volatile fraction, and other additives, such as petroleum distillates or mineral spirits. These additives are incorporated to enhance specific properties or extend the shelf life of the product. Consequently, hardware store turpentine may exhibit a different odor, evaporation rate, and solvency power compared to gum spirits of turpentine.
Gum spirits of turpentine, being obtained directly from the resin, retains a higher concentration of natural compounds present in the pine tree sap. The primary active ingredient in gum spirits of turpentine is alpha-pinene, a terpene responsible for its characteristic pine aroma and other potential benefits. The purity of gum spirits of turpentine ensures a more authentic and unadulterated form of the solvent.
Uses and Applications:
Hardware store turpentine finds widespread use in various applications. It serves as an effective solvent for oil-based paints, varnishes, and enamels, facilitating their application and ensuring proper flow and leveling. It can also be utilized for cleaning brushes, removing paint and varnish residues, and thinning oil-based coatings. Additionally, it serves as a general-purpose cleaner and degreaser, making it a handy product for household chores and maintenance tasks.
Gum spirits of turpentine, with its more concentrated natural composition, offers distinct applications and potential benefits. It has been historically used in traditional and alternative medicine for its purported therapeutic properties although it cannot currently be offered for such purposes. When historically used topically, it is believed to have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antimicrobial effects. Moreover, some individuals choose to use gum spirits of turpentine as a natural remedy for respiratory ailments, as an ingredient in herbal remedies, or even as a component in natural skincare products.
Safety is an essential aspect to consider when handling any solvent, including turpentine products. Both hardware store turpentine and gum spirits of turpentine should be used with caution and following proper guidelines. It is crucial to read and adhere to the safety instructions provided by the manufacturer. All turpentine can only be offered for solvent purposes and should only be used in a manner consistent with its labeling.
Hardware store turpentine, being a refined product, often contains additives that may pose certain health risks if used improperly. These additives can contribute to a stronger odor and potentially higher toxicity compared to gum spirits of turpentine. It is recommended to use hardware store turpentine in a well-ventilated area and avoid prolonged skin contact or inhalation of fumes.
Gum spirits of turpentine, on the other hand, being a more natural and pure form of the solvent, generally carries a lower risk of adverse health effects when used appropriately. However, it is important to note that individual sensitivities and allergies can still occur.
In conclusion, the distinction between hardware store turpentine and gum spirits of turpentine lies in their origins, chemical composition, uses, and potential benefits. Hardware store turpentine, derived from the refining of crude wood turpentine, serves as a versatile solvent for household applications and general-purpose cleaning. Gum spirits of turpentine, obtained through gum tapping and distillation, retains a higher concentration of natural compounds found in pine tree resin, potentially offering additional beneficial properties.
When selecting the appropriate type of turpentine, it is crucial to consider the specific requirements of your intended application. If you seek a solvent for painting, varnishing, or general cleaning purposes, hardware store turpentine may be a suitable choice. However, if you are interested in exploring other potential benefits or prefer a more natural and unadulterated form, gum spirits of turpentine might be worth considering.
Regardless of the type chosen, it is essential to handle turpentine products with care, follow safety guidelines, only use in a manner consistent with its labeling and take necessary precautions to minimize health risks. By understanding the differences between hardware store turpentine and gum spirits of turpentine, consumers can make informed decisions and effectively utilize these solvents for their intended purposes.