What Are Organic Solvents?

What Are Organic Solvents?

Organic Solvents Definition

Solvents are substances, generally, liquids, that have the ability to dissolve other substances. So, what are organic solvents? Organic compounds are chemicals that contain carbon, so organic solvents are simply carbon-based solvents. They are used in the production of a wide variety of goods, such as pharmaceuticals, cleaning agents, paints, adhesives, dyes, fabrics, and many others.

Organic solvents are also one of the classes of VOCs (volatile organic compounds). VOCs are compounds that produce gas at room temperature.

Examples of Organic Solvents

Since the only criterion for a solvent to be organic is that it must be carbon-based, there are numerous examples of organic solvents. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Toluene
  • Benzene
  • Ethanol
  • Diethyl ether
  • Acetone
  • Chloroform
  • Hexane
  • Dichloromethane

Hazards of Organic Solvents

Unfortunately, organic solvents carry with them a host of potential dangers to human health. The following list describes some of the hazards possessed by frequently used organic solvents.

  • Alcohols (methanol, ethanol): Can cause eye and respiratory tract irritation, depress the central nervous system, and cause intoxication in large amounts. Also, may lead to liver and kidney damage with repeated and prolonged exposure.
  • Aromatic hydrocarbons (benzene, toluene, xylene): Can depress the central and peripheral nervous systems, cause headaches and drowsiness, and cause skin and respiratory tract irritation.
  • Ethers (diethyl ether, tetrahydrofuran): Can cause dizziness, headaches, fatigue, and loss of sense of smell. Can also be carcinogenic and toxic to the blood with repeated and prolonged exposure.
  • Halogenated hydrocarbons (chloroform, methylene chloride): Can cause skin irritation, may lead to liver and kidney damage with repeated and prolonged exposure.

However, the risks carried by these organic solvents are limited by complying with the guidelines of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health), or ACGIH (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists)

OSHA’s PELs (Permissible Exposure Limits) are the most highly recommended protocols. If PELs are not available, then NIOSH’s RELs (Recommended Exposure Limits) or ACGIH’s TLVs (Threshold Limit Values) should be followed.

Generally speaking, always thoroughly research an organic solvent’s hazards and exposure limits before using it in the laboratory.

Where to Purchase Solvents?

Do you want to use an organic solvent for a particular extraction or chemical reaction? Here at Extraction Grade Solvents, we sell several industrial-strength organic solvents, such as acetone, butanol, and methanol. Our products are available in 5-gallon pails and 55-gallon drums, perfect for commercial use. Have any questions? Want to learn more? Read about organic solvent extraction here! Please contact our customer support team here!