Carbon tetrachloride

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Absorption and fluorescence emission spectra


A colorless, volatile liquid with a sweet, distinctive odor. Carbon tetrachloride was first produced in 1839 in Germany. It was used for many years to dissolve waxes, fats, and degrease metals. It was also a popular dry cleaning solvent and spot remover, however it is no longer widely used because of its toxicity. Carbon tetrachloride was once used as a single component fumigant and as a component in funigamt mixtures (Dowfume 75). Carbon tetrachloride was also used for a while in fire extinguishers (Pyrene), but was discontinued because it decomposed in high heat to form phosgene, a highly poisonous gas.

Synonyms and Related Terms

tetrachloromethane; tetrachlormethane; perchloromethane; tetrachlorocarbon; Carbona; Pyrene

Other Properties

Miscible in ethanol, benzene, chloroform, ether, carbon disulfide, ligroin.

Insoluble in water at room temperature. At elevated temperatures, carbon tetrachloride can slowly react with water to form hydrochloric acid.

Composition CCl4
CAS 56-23-5
Melting Point -23
Density 1.589
Molecular Weight mol. wt. = 153.8
Refractive Index 1.4607
Boiling Point 76.7

Hazards and Safety

Nonflammable. Forms phosgene in electrical fires, high heat or ultraviolet light.

Very toxic by inhalation, ingestion and skin absorption. Carcinogen and teratogen in both males and females. LINK: International Chemical Safety Card


Properties of Common Solvents

Sources Checked for Data in Record

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  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998
  • Website address 1 Comment: conservation termlist at (accessed 2001)

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