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What are the Different Types of Solvents?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Whether discussing solvents for use around the home or in an industrial setting, there are three classifications or types of solvents to consider. There are oxygenated solvents, hydrocarbon solvents, and halogenated solvents. Here is what you should know solvents in general, and about each of these three classifications.

Solvents are thicker liquids that dissolve and will interact with other liquids to achieve a specifically designed purpose. In some cases, the solvent solution will be employed as a cleaning agent. In other instances, the solvent will permeate a surface and provide a degree of protection. A solvent may also offer a degree of lubrication as well, although this kind of solvent usually only lasts for a short period of time.

Oxygenated solvents include such products as ketones, glycol ethers, and alcohols. These solvents are created by extracting elements from other chemicals to come up with the desired consistency and balance of components. Generally, oxygenated solvents have a very high rate of purity, as the product is refined in the final stages of production. Minute particles and even excess water is extracted before the solvent is considered complete and ready for use.

Hydrocarbon solvents include aromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbons that make them ideal for use in a number of household products. These types of solvents are somewhat more complex in composition than the simple oxygenated solvents. Hydrocarbon solvents tend to be distilled to suit an intended purpose. This means the composition of the solute, color, and smell of the final product will vary greatly, depending on the purpose for the final product.

Halogenated solvents are actually hydrocarbon solvents that have underdone a chlorinating process. This means these types of solvents will possess many of the same qualities. The amount of liquid that dissolves is usually a little different, and the halogenated solvents may have a more pungent aroma than the gentler hydrocarbon solvents.

All three types of solvents are used around the home as well as in the workplace. Some of the applications for solvents cleaning permanent surfaces such as countertops and floors, adding a layer of protection to different surfaces, lubrication of small appliances, and helping to remove unpleasant odors from the space. The typical solvent dissolves in a relatively short period of time and does not leave a residue.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including HomeQuestionsAnswered, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By Certlerant — On Feb 26, 2014

Solvent fumes are heavier than air so they tend to hover in an area, sinking to the bottom of a room. They can flow good distances almost completely undiluted.

A cloud of solvent can become more then a breathing hazard. Most organic solvents are flammable and in sufficient numbers mixed with air can explode.

Poisonous and possibly explosive vapors can linger in old storage drums if not stored right. Old storage drums with these chemicals should be left open and allowed to drain upside down.

Poisoning from solvents can attack your kidneys, liver and damage your nervous system. Long term exposure can lead to cancer. Some solvents like ether and chloroform can knock a person unconscious just from inhaling the fumes.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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