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A clear, oily, colorless mixture of three liquid isomers: ortho-, meta- and para-xylene. Xylenes are obtained from coal-tar distillation with the meta- isomer being predominate. A large quantity of xylenes are used annually as raw or intermediate materials for synthetic fibers and plastics such as polyester. Xylenes are more toxic than toluene but safer than benzene. Xylene is used as a solvent for alkyd resins, synthetic lacquers, organic enamels, and rubber cements. It is also used in dye manufacture, as an aviation fuel, and in Canada balsam for oil-immersion microscopy.



Chemical structure


Synonyms and Related Terms

xylene; xylol; dimethylbenzene; aromatic naphtha; ortho-xylene; para-xylene


  • Flammable, flash point 27C (81F).
  • May be absorbed through the skin, can cause defatting and irritation. Inhalation of large amounts may be fatal (glue sniffer's syndrome).
  • CISCO hem: SDS
  • EPA lists xylene as hazardous waste; concentrations over 10% must be disposed of appropriately

Physical and Chemical Properties

Soluble in ether and ethanol. Insoluble in water.

Composition C6H4(CH3)2
CAS 1330-20-7
Melting Point (-25) - 13.2 C
Density 0.86 - 0.88 g/ml
Molecular Weight mol. wt.=106.16
Refractive Index 1.493-1.494
Boiling Point 137 - 140 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. 801
  • Reed Kay, The Painter's Guide To Studio Methods and Materials, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1983
  • Marjorie Shelley, The Care and Handling of Art Objects, The Metropolitan Museum, New York, 1987
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • Website: www.hants.org.uk/museums/ofr/cmeth_t.html
  • CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, Robert Weast (ed.), CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, v. 61, 1980 Comment: ref. index=1.493 (p-xylene); 1.494 (m-xylene)

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