Butyl alcohol

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Colorless liquid solvent with an oily odor. Butyl alcohol, or butanol, is obtained from the fermentation of corn mash and was first produced commercially during the first World War. Of the four isomeric forms (n-butanol, isobutanol, t-butanol, sec-butanol), normal butanol is the most common. It is used as a solvent for paints, fats, waxes, oils and resins. Butanol is a stronger solvent than ethanol and can dissolve portions of oxidized oil films. It is also used in the manufacture of dyes, plastics, lacquers, rayon, and detergents.

Synonyms and Related Terms

n-butyl alcohol, 1-butanol; butanol; butyric alcohol; propyl carbinol


  • Skin contact may cause irritation.
  • Inhalation may cause drowsiness or dizziness.
  • Combustible. Flash point = 11-19C (52-84F)
  • ThermoFisher: SDS
  • EPA lists n-butanol as hazardous waste due to its ignitability; concentrations over 10% must be disposed of appropriately; note that isobutanol is also hazardous waste due to both ignitability as well as toxicity.

Physical and Chemical Properties

Miscible with ethanol, ether, and most organic solvents. Insoluble in water. Not hygroscopic.

Composition CH3(CH2)2CH2OH
CAS 71-36-3
Melting Point -90 C
Density 0.810 g/ml
Molecular Weight mol. wt. = 74.1
Refractive Index 1.3993
Boiling Point 117-118 C


Properties of Common Solvents

Resources and Citations

  • R. J. Gettens, G.L. Stout, Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia, Dover Publications, New York, 1966
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 23
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983 Comment: entry 1513; ref. index=1.3993
  • CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, Robert Weast (ed.), CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, v. 61, 1980 Comment: ref. index=1.397