When you’re cleaning, refinishing, or thinning, pour out the right chemicals to get the job done.

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The chart below sorts out the most common workshop solvents and their uses. While all of these liquids commonly are called solvents, note that they're also used as thinners. A solvent dissolves certain solids. A thinner mixes with a liquid and dilutes it.

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Take precautions when using these substances because overexposure in liquid or vapor form can cause a range of short-term and long-term health problems. Toluene, for example, is considered a probable cause of cancer.

Protect your skin with rubber gloves, and wear goggles to protect your eyes. Provide adequate ventilation for the sake of your lungs and to eliminate the risk of an explosion if your shop contains a pilot light or other open flame.

Rags soiled with solvents should be stored temporarily in metal, self-closing containers, or taken outdoors immediately and allowed to dry. Once the solvent smell disappears, you can throw them in the trash. Store containers of solvent behind closed doors in a metal cabinet. Take unwanted solvents to a recycling center.