Toluene is an organic chemical compound considered as hydrocarbon since it has only carbon and hydrogen atoms. It is also classified as aromatic compound, due to benzene ring present in its structure. Besides, to benzene ring is attached methyl group (CH3). That is why the systematic IUPAC name of the substance is methylbenzene. Its alternative names include toluol, anisen, and phenyl methane.

General Characteristics

Toluene is a colorless liquid with chemical formula C7H8 and CAS number 108-88-3. It has a sweet, pungent odor, known to everyone, who has ever smelled the paint thinner. This chemical is less dense than water and insoluble in it. However, it dissolves easily in all common organic solvents. The other properties are as follow:

  • Density at room temperature: 0.87 g/mL;
  • Melting point: −95 °C;
  • Boiling point: 111 °C;
  • Flash point: 6 °C;
  • Molar mass: 92.14 g·mol−1.

Toluene is highly flammable; its vapor and air mixtures are explosive. That is why it is very important to stick to safety precautions recommended for flammables.

Though much less toxic than benzene, this compound is still very dangerous to human health. Its inhalation may cause weakness, drunken-type actions, color vision, hearing and memory loss, nausea, and even be fatal. The liquid itself irritates human tissues. Prolonged or repeated exposure may cause damage to organs. 


Among all the uses of toluene, the most important is its being an active participant of benzene and xylene synthesis. Besides, this chemical is widely applied as a solvent in many commercial products, like paint thinners, glues, nail polish removers, etc. It is added to gasoline for the improvement of octane ratings. This hydrocarbon also takes part in the manufacture of polymers used to make polyurethanes, plastic soda bottles, and nylon. 

In laboratory, toluene usually serves as a solvent for carbon nanomaterials or as fullerene indicator. In biochemical experiments, the compound is used to extract hemoglobin from red blood cells.

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