Methyl ethyl ketone

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A colorless liquid Solvent with an acetone-like odor. Methyl ethyl ketone, or MEK, is used as a solvent for Cellulose nitrate lacquers, vinyl films, acrylic coatings, inks, and alkyd ( Glyptal) resins. It is also used as a component in paint removers and dry cleaning fluids. MEK does not dissolve Cellulose acetate or most waxes.

Synonyms and Related Terms

2-butanone; MEK; ethyl methyl ketone; ethylmethyl ketone; 2-oxobutane; methyl acetone; methylethyl ketone

Chemical structure

Methyl ethyl ketone.jpg


  • Flammable. Flash point = -9C Dangerous fire risk. Explosive in limits air 2-10%.
  • Toxic by inhalation.
  • Skin contact causes dermatitis.
  • Ingestion causes vomiting and abdominal pain.
  • Flinn Scientific: SDS

Physical and Chemical Properties

Miscible with water, ethanol, ether, benzene and oils.

Composition CH3COCH2CH3
CAS 78-93-3
Melting Point -86.4 C
Density 0.805 g/ml
Molecular Weight mol. wt.= 72.12
Refractive Index 1.379
Boiling Point 79.6 C


Properties of Common Solvents

Resources and Citations

  • R. J. Gettens, G.L. Stout, Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia, Dover Publications, New York, 1966 Comment: acts well on cellulose acetate
  • Reed Kay, The Painter's Guide To Studio Methods and Materials, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1983
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993 Comment: does not dissolve cellulose acetate and most waxes
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983 Comment: entry 6149; ref. index=1.379
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998
  • CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, Robert Weast (ed.), CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, v. 61, 1980 Comment: ref. index=1.377

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