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As an artist, when disposing of a paper towel or cotton rag containing oil paint, turpentine, odorless turpentine substitute or mineral spirits at the end of a painting session, I generally pour water over the paper towel or cotton rag to reduce its flammability. Sometimes I rinse out the paper towel or rag in the sink before disposal to reduce concentration of the solvent. Does mixing water with the oil paint binder and solvent actually reduce its flammability? I understand mixtures can be categorized as suspension, colloidal or solution, and I would be curious to know whether or how this categorization pertains.

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It really depends exactly on what you're mixing the water with. Soaking a rag or paper towel will reduce the flammability and is recommended by many safety organizations online (here is one). However, if you are washing off a large amount of solvents or flammables with water and the chemicals are immiscible in water, it can sit on the top of the water and still burn if exposed to some ignition source.

The best thing to do is to look at SDS or MSDS sheets if you are unsure what the best disposal procedure is for some chemical you are using. Additionally, a google search should offer additional information on disposal and hazards of the substances painters used.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. The amounts I use are generally quite small. The information is very helpful. $\endgroup$ – Sketcher Oct 15 '20 at 1:57

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