Types of Solvents

This Web site deals with a subset of "organic" solvents, specifically hydrocarbon and oxygenated solvents. For example, water is a solvent, but is "inorganic," so is not discussed here. Oxygenated and hydrocarbon solvents represent most of the total organic solvents used each year in the United States. Organic solvents can be classified by chemical structure. There are three main types:


Major Types
Oxygenated Solvents*
alcohols, glycol ethers, ketones, esters, and glycol ether esters
Hydrocarbon Solvents** aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons
Halogenated Solvents*** chlorinated hydrocarbons

*Oxygenated solvents are synthesized from other chemicals to form the desired solvent. Those solvents are typically of a high purity with specifications ranging from 99.0% to 99.9% purity. Specifications for these solvents typically focus on impurities, such as water and non-volatile matter. The impurities present in these solvents are normally well characterized and can be predicted from the chemistry involved in their manufacture.

**Hydrocarbon solvents are complex mixtures composed of numerous compounds and are sold on the basis of customer specifications. Typical specification properties include distillation range, flash point, density, aromatic content, and color.

***The Solvents Industry Group represents major hydrocarbon and oxygenated solvents manufacturers and users. Information on halogenated solvents is at the Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance Web site, and is not discussed on this site. 

Solvents can help make showers, toilets, tubs, carpets and other household items both easier to clean and more hygienic.


Panel: Jon Busch
Media: Bryan Goodman