Petroleum ether is a highly flammable liquid distillate of petroleum, heavier than naphtha and lighter than kerosene. It has many names, such as petroleum spirits, benzine (only in English-speaking parts of the world, as in many countries the term refers to gasoline), varnish makers & painters naphtha (VM&P), petroleum naphtha, naphtha ASTM. It is a lightweight hydrocarbon used chiefly as a nonpolar solvent.
Despite its name, petroleum ether is NOT an ether.
Petroleum ether is a volatile clear colorless liquid, with a characteristic smell of alkanes. Being a non-polar liquid, it is immiscible with water, but miscible with many other solvents, such as acetone or ethanol. Depending on the composition, it has a specific gravity of 0.6 - 0.8, and the boiling interval varies, depending on the composition, the most common used petroleum ether has a boiling interval of 60 to 80 °C. It self-ignites at 288°C and its flash point is -18°C.
Petroleum ether is sometimes available as barbeque charcoal lighter fluid.
Some sticker removers also contain petroleum ether.
Petroleum ether can be prepared by mixing it's constituent alkanes in the specific ratio, although it's cheaper to just buy it.
- Solvent for purification of organic and organometallic compounds
Petroleum ether is volatile and is irritant to lungs and eyes, as well as skin. It is however, far less dangerous and toxic than other non-polar solvents. Petroleum ether is volatile and poses a fire hazard.
Petroleum ether should be stored in closed bottles, in a cool, well-ventilated area, away from any heat, fire or spark sources.
Petroleum ether can be burned without generating hazardous fumes.