What Is Sansodor Used For In Oil Painting

Sansodor is a brand of low-odour mineral spirit that is produced by Winsor & Newton, a fine arts company based out of the UK. It is a petroleum distillate based solvent that is used in the same manner as turpentine for oil painting. Petroleum distillates are derived from coal and are slightly more watery than the traditional solvent, turpentine.

Sansodor is often called an odourless mineral spirit (OMS), or a white spirit. It is similar in nature to Shellsol T and Gamsol oil, but is considered higher-quality and more affordable than these solvents. 

In oil painting, Sansodor is used for thinning oil and alkyd paints, cleaning brushes, and creating a wash in order to tone a canvas. It is a great solvent for artists who prefer to avoid turpentine, as turpentine is toxic and extremely unsafe to use in poorly ventilated areas. Visually, most solvents look the same, but they all vary in strength.

Turpentine is considered the strongest solvent, while odourless mineral spirits, such as Sansodor, are considered to be not as strong, but equally effective in most cases. Sansodor is one of the mineral spirits with the lowest odour and fastest evaporation times, approximately six to eight hours. Sansodor is much less toxic than turpentine, but costs approximately the same. It also has a great shelf-life and stores well when placed in a cool and dry area. 

Sansodor is effective for diluting and cleaning synthetically derived oil paints, but much less effective for diluting natural resins such as mastic, copal, or dammar. Sansodor also cannot be used to dilute Golden MSA Varnishes, as the varnish will turn into a cloudy goo.

When purchasing Sansodor, ensure that the product is genuine and not a bargain brand or a household version. The cheaper household mineral spirits, typically available at the local craft or DIY store, are liable to contain impurities and recycled matter in their formulas that are not conducive, and actually detrimental, to oil painting. 

Sansodor is classified as a lean medium, even though it is technically a solvent. In oil painting, there is a rule that states “fat over lean.” This rule is basically a guideline for how to build an oil painting piece. It is recommended to layer fattier mediums over leaner mediums to ensure your art stands up to the test of time. Layering paint in this way ensures that the paint will remain strong, be less prone to cracking, and maintain the optimum colour pigmentation. Sansodor is best suited for the initial phases of painting and should never exceed 50% of any oil paint medium mixture. 

Safety is always of the utmost importance when painting with solvents. Apart from water, there are no solvents that are considered totally safe, although there are some that are significantly safer than others. There are some artists that have a physical reaction, such as a headache, nausea, or dizziness, to certain solvents. In order to combat these side effects, it is sometimes recommended to wear gloves, use barrier cream, and even wear safety goggles while painting. Even though these safety measures are recommended, they are not entirely practical. Sansodor contains less of the highly volatile, shorter hydrocarbons that some toxic solvents contain, so it is classified as a mild irritant for short-term exposure to the skin or respiratory system.

The real issue lies in exposure over a longer period of time in a small, poorly ventilated space. Long-term exposure can lead to chronic central nervous system effects or severe skin irritation if it is direct contact. However, Sansodor is extremely refined and therefore much safer than other solvents, such as turpentine. In fact, Sansodor is three times less hazardous than turpentine.

Sansodor should not be left uncapped, such as in a pot with brushes, for long periods of time because it is much quicker to evaporate, and in a small, poorly ventilated space, Sansodor could cause irritation of the lungs rather quickly. It should also be noted that Sansodor is extremely volatile, with a flash point of 174 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning it will combust violently if near a flame or intense heat.

Below are some tips to stay safe while using solvents such as Sansodor:

  1. Always read the warning label on the product
  2. Always store the solvent in its original container. There is no guarantee that the solvent will not break down a different container
  3. Always make sure your solvent container is clearly labeled
  4. Always keep solvents out of reach from children and animals
  5. Never leave solvents unattended
  6. Always keep solvents away from heat or flame
  7. Always work in a well-ventilated area to avoid side effects such as headaches, dizziness, or respiratory reactions
  8. Wear gloves whenever possible
  9. Solvents will break down the natural oils on your skin, leaving you susceptible to greater irritation – so always wash any skin that comes into contact with a solvent with warm soapy water immediately
  10. Dispose of solvents properly. Never dump them down the sink. Please contact your local waste management authority for advice

When used appropriately, in thoroughly supervised and controlled conditions, solvents can be used with absolute safety. 

In summary, Sansodor is an excellent alternative to turpentine. It can be used as a paint thinner, brush cleaner, and for creating a wash. Sansodor is just as effective, while being three times safer than turpentine. Safety should always be observed, as all solvents are a general health hazard, but when used sensibly Sansodor does not present a danger. Remember to always use solvents in a well-ventilated area and wash any skin that comes into contact with the solvent