Is Toluene Flammable? Facts, Uses And Flashpoint

Toluene, mainly a sweet odor and colorless liquid, is vastly used as an industrial solvent and a raw material for making PVC plastic. Despite being so beneficial in such industries, is toluene flammable and safe to use? 

Well, yes, it’s highly flammable, and if not handled with care, it can also be pretty risky! Toluene’s highly combustible carbon-hydrogen bond, low flashpoint, and high vapor pressure make it so reactive, especially when it comes in contact with heat sources. 

So, it’s highly recommended that you follow the safety measures when dealing with this compound. Want to know more about toluene’s flammability? Then read on till the end.

Is Toluene Flammable?

Why Is Toluene Flammable? 

Now, one of the significant reasons toluene is so flammable is that it can pretty easily go through extreme combustion reactions when exposed to flames or heat. Combustion reactions take place between fuel oxidizers. 

In this case, the fuel is toluene, and oxygen is the oxidizer. So, when these two react, a combustion reaction will be seen!

Here’re some of the factors and toluene properties that make this aromatic hydrocarbon so flammable −

High Combustible Carbon-Hydrogen Bond

Toluene comes with high combustible carbon and hydrogen bonds. And the specialty of these bonds is they can easily break apart when heat is applied and form reactive free radicals. 

Now, these free radicals can react with oxygen molecules in the air and result in combustion. 

Low Flash Point

The lower the flash point of a hydrocarbon, the more reactive and flammable it’ll be. Toluene already comes with a pretty low flash point (4°C). 

It means this aromatic hydrocarbon can easily give out enough vapor to get ignited even at room temperature. Due to this property, toluene is considered pretty flammable. 

Considerably High Vapor Pressure 

Toluene also comes with a pretty high vapor pressure. This means it can easily become vapor and evaporate in the air to produce a highly flammable mixture. 

The evaporation can occur at the lowest of temperatures, and this can happen even without ignition or flame. 

Is Toluene an Explosive? 

When we refer to a flammable substance, we mainly state it ignites at or below room temperature. However, that’s not the case for something explosive. Explosive means the substance burns at such a rate that it can exceed the speed of sound. 

So, is toluene an explosive then? Well, toluene isn’t classified as explosive. But it can surely turn into one under certain conditions. 

Is Toluene an Explosive? 

As you already know, toluene is highly reactive and can result in an explosive mixture by reacting with the oxygen in the air. So, when the concentrations in the air mixture spike, there’s a higher chance of an explosion when there’s any presence of flame or heat. 

Plus, storing toluene in a closed container can also result in an explosion, especially if the pressure inside the container increases. The increased pressure will let the content inside release through a small hole rapidly. Consequently, the toluene and air will come in contact speedily and cause explosion due to the reaction. 

What Happens When Toluene Is Burnt?

When toluene burns, it burns with a bright yellow flame and goes through a combustion reaction that generates excessive light, heat, and other products. This is why the reaction is also considered an exothermic reaction (because it releases heat). 

However, the amount of heat being released has much to do with the amount of toluene being burnt and the conditions in which combustion occurs. 

So, if it’s a complete combustion (a condition where the oxygen amount is sufficient), then the combustible products will be water vapor and carbon dioxide. 

And if it’s incomplete combustion (an insufficient oxygen amount), then the combustible product will be carbon monoxide (a harmful, deadly gas) and soot. 

How to Safely Work With Toluene?  

Finding an alternative to toluene isn’t always possible. Thus, we must maintain proper safety standards while working with this chemical. So, here we’re with the appropriate guidelines for working safely with toluene. 

Proper Ventilated Area

It’s important that you find a properly ventilated area to work with toluene. And it should be stored in such places as well. Make sure you choose a dry place and the containers of the chemical need to be clean and shielded. 

The most significant step is to keep these containers far enough from oxidizing territories or other chemicals. In a nutshell, you simply can’t let the compound mix up in any way possible! 

Applying Method 

Using a paintbrush or roller to use toluene is the best possible option. This way, you can use a minimal amount of the substance. 

On the contrary, if you need to spray it, you must arrange a paint booth. It needs to be entirely ventilated too. 

Your Dressing Appearance

While working with toluene, you need to be very careful about your clothes. For starters, you must wear gloves, boots, and aprons. 

Next, go for protective eyeglasses and a face shield. Use chemical protective rated fabric while dealing with such flammable compounds. 

Medical Help to Learn About 

If your skin directly gets in contact with toluene, treat the area as soon as possible. Start with cleaning it with soap and water. In the case of your eyes, flush them with cold water. Continue it for several minutes. After the initials, call for medical help. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. How much toluene is toxic? 

When toluene levels are 500 ppm, then this can turn pretty lethal. And those who inhale it will actually suffer the most! 

2. Is toluene more reactive than benzene? 

Yep! Toluene has methyl groups, making it (25 times) more reactive than benzene. 

3. What can neutralize toluene? 

You can usually neutralize toluene by applying 3 to 8% of aqueous ammonia solution with toluene. 

Bottom Line

So, after going through this blog, you should now know why toluene is so flammable. And in certain conditions, it can even turn explosive! 

Therefore, when handling toluene, make sure you follow all the safety measures to keep yourself safe from certain fire and health hazards. And if you do get exposed to this compound, do consult with a health specialist immediately.