Creosote oil (coal tar)

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A brownish oil with a phenolic odor obtained from the distillation of Coal tar. Creosote contains Cresol and other phenolic compounds with approximately 12 to 14% Anthracene. Prior to World War I, anthraquinone dyestuffs were prepared from the anthracene in creosote. Creosote has also been used as an Insecticide, Fungicide, Biocide, and Disinfectant. It is a common wood preservative for railroad ties, telephone poles, marine pilings, and shingles.

Creosote is on the ILFI Red list of building materials.

Synonyms and Related Terms

creosota (Esp.); créosote (Fr.); creosote oil; liquid pitch oil; tar oil; dead oil of coal tar; heavy oil; anthracene oil


  • Flammable. Flash point >93 C (>200 F).
  • Suspected carcinogen. Irritating to skin, eyes and nose. Inhalation or ingestion of high quantities may be toxic.
  • Bartoline: SDS

Physical and Chemical Properties

Soluble in ethanol, benzene and toluene. Insoluble in water.

Density 1.050 g/ml
Boiling Point 200-400 C

Resources and Citations

  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 250
  • Hermann Kuhn, Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art and Antiquities, Butterworths, London, 1986
  • Susan E. Schur, Conservation Terminology: A review of Past & Current Nomenclature of Materials, Technology and Conservation, Spring (p.34-39); Summer (p.35-38); Fall (p.25-36), 1985
  • Dictionary of Building Preservation, Ward Bucher, ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York City, 1996
  • Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, Douglas M. Considine (ed.), Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1976
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • Wikipedia: (Accessed Jan. 15, 2006)