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Since ancient times, the word 'naphtha' has had many meanings. Originally, it was a Persian word for liquid bitumen or petroleum. Later, naphtha refered to the volatile and flammable components in petroleum. Currently, it is used by the petroleum industry to refer to the petroleum or coal-tar distillate fraction obtained over the same boiling range as gasoline (35-204C). Naphtha contains both aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons. Naphtha is also used as the common name given to smaller portions of this hydrocarbon distillate mixture.

  • Light naphtha or petroleum ether = fraction collected from 35-60C
  • Petroleum naphtha, ligroin, or VM&P naphtha = fraction collected from 90-150C
  • Heavy naphtha, or mineral spirits = fraction collected from 150-200C

Naphtha is used as a solvent and dry-cleaning fluid to remove oil and grease.


  • Highly flammable (flash point = -18C).
  • Toxic by ingestion and inhalation.
  • Univar Solutions: SDS

Synonyms and Related Terms

naptha (sp); petroleum ether; ligroin; VM&P naphtha; mineral spirits

CAS 8030-30-6
Density 0.60 - 0.75 g/ml

Resources and Citations

  • R. J. Gettens, G.L. Stout, Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia, Dover Publications, New York, 1966
  • 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)
  • 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

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