Penetrol Alternative – Here’s What We Would Use

Most people who are familiar with Penetrol endorse it so often and we all know why. The paint conditioner has been around for decades now and is excellent when it comes to improving paint’s adhesion, penetration, and brushability.

Penetrol contains natural oils that increase its bonding abilities to levels that water could never measure up to. But what if you cannot find Penetrol where you live and need a similar substance that has a low odor to use indoors?

Maybe you are just curious about what other kinds of products exist out there that can increase the bonding qualities of your paint mixture or simply serve as a rust inhibitor.

We have been where you are right now, did some digging, and came up with solutions you would love. These alternatives produce just as great results whether you prefer DIYs or want to pick a solution off the shelf.


Like Penetrol, you can use Owatrol on its own or mix it with paint. It has multiple benefits including rust inhibition, paint conditioning or simply aiding paint adhesion.

● Rust Inhibition

Owatrol provides a strong finish when used alone to inhibit rust. It drives out excess air and moisture from rusted metal, preventing further corrosion. When used on wood, it fills and protects porous surfaces from moisture damage. In effect, preventing the paint from flaking.

The oil penetrates the rusted metal and reaches the sound metal underneath to protect it from corrosion. You can apply it directly on the rusted surface to get rid of moisture and air that causes future damage. For a high gloss rusted finish, get a suitable clear oil to use as an overcoat.

● Better Adhesion

Owatrol provides a better adhesion surface for primers and other finishing coats. The oil contains a bonding film that helps to maintain the material’s natural look while enhancing adhesion.

Whether you are working with wood, steel, aluminum, zinc, and others, Owatrol is heat-resistant and allows you to paint directly on rust.

● Conditioning

Like Penetrol, you can mix Owatrol oil with oil-based paints for conditioning. Asides from protecting the surface from rust, it helps the paint flow better and maintain a wet edge. This way, you won’t have to deal with brush marks.

As a paint conditioner, Owatrol allows you to go on with your painting work in both cold and hot weather. It does this while preserving the paint’s natural qualities.

Metal Primers for Rust Inhibition

Using metal primers in place of Penetrol for rust inhibition is also effective. If you apply the paint directly to the rusted area, the topcoat has nothing to adhere to and you may end up stripping the paint. Quality metal primers offer color and UV protection in addition to driving out moisture.

Make sure the particular primer you get specifies that it inhibits rust. Zinc is usually added to these primers. Rather than reaching the underlying metal surface, the zinc oxidizes itself. The zinc additives can hold on for several years before breaking down completely and getting to the metal.

Some rust-inhibiting primers prevent rust from forming while others tackle existing rust and prevent further degradation.

If the metal has been exposed to high levels of humidity, you may need to strip and prime the material even if it has been primed before. This helps remove rust buildup or peelings from the topcoat. Steel often requires stripping with a wire brush if there is existing rust.

Apply the suitable topcoat as recommended by the primer and within the specified timeframe to get the best performance. Sometimes, you can apply the topcoat before the primer fully cures to get better adhesion. This is usually the case when working with difficult surfaces.

Metal primers are a good alternative for Penetrol as regards rust inhibition. Topcoats can peel and lose their waterproofing ability, leaving the material exposed to air and moisture. Primers prevent oxidation which leads to rust and decay.

Penetrol Alternative for Paint Adhesion

The top reasons why paint fails to adhere are improper application and working on poorly prepared surfaces. The paint ends up adhering to the peels rather than the surface itself.

Adding Penetrol to your oil-based paint prevents adhesion failures but what happens when you can’t find Penetrol or a similar oil?

The best alternative is to follow proper procedures before and during painting. Here are ways you can improve paint adhesion:

1. Preparing the Surface Correctly

You can avoid poor adhesion by cleaning the surface properly before painting. Sanding helps get rid of the oil or grease on surfaces that cause adhesion problems.

Scrape off the flaking paint completely if you’re not using a peel-stopping primer. Chemical paint strippers mostly come with rinses to remove residues that can affect bonding. Use the substance to completely get rid of an existing finish before priming.

2. Priming Properly

Using the right primer is just as important as priming at all. You can use your water-based primer as a base coat to improve the adhesion of your oil paint.

Water-based primers have a mild odor so they are perfect for DIY painting. They also dry fast and provide easy cleanup. There are lots of primers that specially cater to difficult surfaces and would do an excellent job like Penetrol.

These specialty primers work for materials damaged by water and smoke. You can use them over flaking surfaces too.

3. Right Temperature

Generally, you should not apply oil-based paint when the temperature is less than 40 degrees. In high-moisture areas, you want to hold on until the humidity levels stabilize.

Of course, you should paint on days when the rains won’t be coming and when the temperature is not above 90 degrees. This is part of proper application procedures to ensure the paint adheres.

DIY Alternatives for Paint Conditioning

There are several DIY recipes you can try, in place of Penetrol, to increase the flow and workability of your paint. Unlike harsh paint thinners, these DIY substitutes won’t alter the paint’s finish.

1. Linseed and Lemon

This mixture can improve the flow of oil-based paints. You will need lemons, linseed oil, buckets, a stirring stick, and a cup for measuring.

¼ cup of lemon juice to a cup of linseed oil should be enough for a gallon of paint. Add the mixture to the paint in bits while stirring to get your desired consistency. Once you are satisfied, let the paint rest for about 10 minutes before painting.

2. Mineral Spirits/ Turpentine

You will need a glove and mask for this mix if you are averse to strong smells. Add a part of turpentine or mineral spirits to every 3 parts of oil paint. Stir the mixture with a large stick.

Test the substance on a part of the material you intend to paint to see if the consistency is okay. You can add more turpentine until you reach the desired consistency.

3. Nail Polish Remover

Nail-polish removers that contain acetone are surprisingly great at thinning paint. Acetone emits toxic fumes so if you choose to try this recipe, make sure you are working in a ventilated area and have your safety gear on.

Like mineral spirit, one part of acetone to 3 parts of paint is sufficient. Stir the mixture thoroughly and leave to dry before painting.

Other solutions like a vinegar mix, sunflower oil, and baby oil can improve the flow of oil paints when properly mixed. You can mix them with your paint to reduce brush marks and get a smoother finish.

Here are some other tips to eliminate brush strokes when painting with oil-based paints:

  • Sand wooden surfaces until smooth
  • Consider adding a flow extender to the paint to slow down its drying time
  • Natural bristle brushes produce a smoother finish
  • Tape off paint excesses before brushing
  • Blend the paint with your brush from edge to edge
  • Take your time; paint the surfaces in sections
  • Apply a second coat


No doubt, Penetrol is versatile and compatible with various surfaces. But your oil-based painting can still come out excellent without it. Owatrol and Floetrol are product alternatives that have similar effects in oil and water-based paints respectively. They are worth trying out if you are looking for brand alternatives.

Unlike adding water to improve the penetration of your paint, most of the DIY solutions outlined will not evaporate quickly. Using a paint conditioner plus adhering to correct painting techniques are the surest ways to achieve the professional finish you desire.