Xylene, also known as “dimethylbenzene” or “xylol” is a hydrocarbon solvent with vast usefulness in many industries such as the leather, petroleum, printing, wood, and rubber industries.
Likewise, the three isomers of xylene which you can also call “mixed xylene” (ortho-xylene, meta-xylene, and para-xylene) are indispensable in medical technology.
In this guide, we will review xylene and provide detailed answers to the query, “is xylene flammable?” as well as other FAQs that might pique your interest.
What Is Xylene?
Typically, xylene (C8 H10) is a clear, colorless aromatic solvent with a sweet scent. This solvent is employed in the manufacture of coatings, agricultural sprays, adhesives, chemicals, and many more.
Xylene is also a major ingredient in some aviation fuels and gasoline. Some gasoline(s) are combined with mixed xylene (usually 1% to 6% of mixed xylene) to improve their octane rating.
On the other hand, xylene can be used as a feedstock in manufacturing different polymers like dimethyl terephthalate, isophthalic acid, phthalic anhydride, terephthalic acid, and many more. Plus, you can use xylene as thinners and as solvents in gums, resins, paints, paint removers, lacquers, inks, polyester fibers, rubbers, etc.
However, note that almost all hydrocarbons can combust irrespective of if they are aromatic. Unlike xylene, which is an aromatic compound, kerosene is not aromatic but is flammable.
So, you need to be pretty sure if this essential solvent (xylene) is not putting you or your workspace at fire risk. Read on to find out if xylene will catch fire as most hydrocarbons would.
Is Xylene Flammable?
Yes, xylene is a relatively flammable liquid that catches flames readily in the right conditions (in the presence of naked flames, sparks, or high heat). At extremely high temperatures, xylene can explode.
And if stored in closed compartments, xylene can easily form an explosive air mixture or vapor capable of igniting. Meanwhile, these xylene vapors are denser than air, such that when they come in contact with air, they penetrate deeper into the air to instigate an explosion from a very far source. Note that explosions caused by xylene can spread faster and flashback.
The flash point of xylene usually falls between the range of 81°F and 115°F. At any temperature within this range, xylene will catch blaze and ignite spontaneously.
The boiling point range for mixed xylene is between 281.3°F and 291°F, while the melting point range of xylene isomers falls between -54.17°F (for meta-xylene) to 55.87°F (for para-xylene).
Can You Burn Xylene?
Sure, you can burn xylene. Xylene burns to give off noxious fumes which, when breathed in, can be harmful.
Xylene is one product of crude oil which is widely used in the manufacture of gasoline, glues, pesticides, paints, etc. Every gasoline constituent must be capable of undergoing combustion (burning) and xylene will do just that.
Thus, when exposed to any ignition source, xylene will burn readily and steadily.
How To Put Out Xylene Fire
Fires kindled by xylene spread rapidly within an enclosed area. Thus, to prevent a potential fire explosion, xylene fire must be extinguished quickly at the initial stage.
You can easily put out a small xylene fire by adding regular foam, dry chemicals, water spray, or carbon dioxide. With large xylene fires, regular foam, fog, and water, spray can help to extinguish the fire.
However, keep in mind that unlike when putting out small fires, fire-fighting substances should be applied slowly and at a maximum distance to large fires.
Side Effects Of Xylene
Every worthwhile substance usually has one or more shortcomings, consider xylene as one of these substances. If you breathe in xylene for long hours, it can become toxic to your health.
For a start, prolonged exposure to xylene can irritate or burn the skin, eyes, throat, and nose. Later on, symptoms like loss of muscle coordination, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, headaches, and suffocation might arise.
Xylene poisoning can also cause respiratory depression, ataxia, tremor, drowsiness, coma, and many more. Inhaling large doses of xylene can, however, damage the central nervous system and eventually result in death.
Moreso, xylene can contaminate the environment in some ways. This is the major reason musk xylene was banned by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA).
Categories Of People Who Often Encounter Xylene.
Xylene is used in several industries. And in these industries, some workers are exposed to xylene for long durations.
These workers are the most likely categories of people to suffer from the side effects of xylene.
Below are examples of workers who often encounter xylene. Check them out:
- Workers who distill and purify xylene.
- Laboratory workers who work with xylene in the production of solvents and industrial workers who employ xylene as a raw material.
- People (furniture refinishers and painters) who use mixed xylene to manufacture paint removers, paint thinners, and lacquers.
- Gas station workers who deal with petroleum products almost every day will be exposed to the xylene in these products gradually.
Safety Precautions To Observe While Handling Xylene
You need to be extra careful when dealing with mixed xylene solvent. This is because any simple mistake can put you at risk of a fire outbreak.
We certainly believe you will be quite curious about the precautions you can observe when handling xylene to ensure your utmost safety. So right here, we’ve garnered a handful of effective safety precautions to observe when dealing with xylene.
Now, let’s explore these precautions:
- Always keep xylene away from all sources of ignition. Store the solvent in a flame-free, smoke-free, flare-free, and spark-free environment.
- Each piece of equipment used in handling xylene must be grounded.
- In case of xylene spills, wipe off the solvent immediately. The spills of a substance can be flammable, eg, gas spills are usually flammable.
- Stop the outflow of a leaking xylene container and ensure the solvent does not flow into confined areas, sewers, waterways, cellars, etc.
Just like most hydrocarbon compounds, xylene is a flammable substance. This guide spotlights everything you need to know about xylene, its flammability, and safety precautions to observe while handling it.
Xylene is not environmentally friendly and can also be toxic to humans in some concentrations. Here is a safety data sheet for xylene that explains more about how to efficiently handle xylene.