The term “Solvents” refers to a class of chemical compounds described by function – the term derives from Latin, meaning roughly to “loosen.” In chemistry, solvents – which are generally in liquid form – are used to dissolve, suspend or extract other materials, usually without chemically changing either the solvents or the other materials.
Many different solvents are used in a wide variety of everyday product applications – from paint, personal care products and pharmaceuticals, to pesticides, cleaners and inks. Without solvents, many products we rely on would not perform as well.
Varied and versatile different solvents meet specific needs to make products with optimal performance attributes, including spray paints that dry quickly and don’t clog the spray nozzle, inks that don’t smudge, paints that look good and last a long time, and strong cleaners that are good for tough, greasy jobs.
Types of Solvents: The chemical classification of a solvent is based on its chemical structure.
- Hydrocarbon solvents are classified into three sub-groups based on the type of “carbon skeleton” of their molecules, giving us the aliphatic, aromatic and paraffinic solvents families. Paint thinner is a common example of a hydrocarbon solvent.
- Oxygenated solvents are produced through chemical reactions from olefins (derived from oil or natural gas), giving us the following sub-groups: alcohols, ketones, esters, ethers, glycol ethers and glycol ether esters. The human body naturally produces ketones when it burns fat.
- Halogenated solvents are solvents that contain a halogen such as chlorine, bromine or iodine. Many people recognize perchloroethylene as an example – a highly effective solvent used in dry cleaning.