Monday, 27 April 2015

Solvents used in detailing products

Solvents used in detailing products

Solvents [: (from the Latin solvere, "loosen") is a liquid, solid, or gas that dissolves another solid, liquid, or gaseous solute, resulting in a solution that is soluble in a certain volume of solvent at a specified temperature.

The most common solvent in everyday life is water. Most other commonly-used solvents are organic (carbon-containing) chemicals. These are called organic solvents. Solvents usually have a low boiling point and evaporate easily or can be removed by distillation, leaving the dissolved substance behind. To distinguish between solutes and solvents, solvents are usually present in the greater amount. Solvents can also be used to extract soluble compounds from a mixture; the most common example is the brewing of coffee or tea with hot water.

Solvent classifications

Solvents can be broadly classified into two categories: polar and non-polar. Generally, the dielectric constant of the solvent provides a rough measure of a solvent's polarity. The strong polarity of water is indicated, at 0 °C, by a dielectric constant of 88. Solvents with a dielectric constant of less than 15 are generally considered to be nonpolar. 

The dielectric constant measures the solvent's tendency to partly cancel the field strength of the electric field of a charged particle immersed in it. This reduction is then compared to the field strength of the charged particle in a vacuum. Heuristically, the dielectric constant of a solvent can be thought of as its ability to reduce the solute's effective internal charge. Generally, the dielectric constant of a solvent is an acceptable predictor of the solvent's ability to dissolve common ionic compounds, such as salts.

Solvents are usually clear and colourless liquids and many have a characteristic odour. Most organic solvents have a lower density than water, which means they are lighter and will form a separate layer on top. The concentration of a solution is the amount of compound that is dissolved in a certain volume of solvent. The solubility is the maximal amount of compound that is soluble in a certain volume of solvent at a specified temperature. 

Common uses for organic solvents are in dry cleaning (e.g. tetrachloroethylene), as paint thinners (e.g. toluene, turpentine), as nail polish removers and glue solvents (acetone, methyl acetate, ethyl acetate), in spot removers (e.g. hexane, petrol ether), in detergents (citrus terpenes), in perfumes (ethanol), and in chemical syntheses.


Most organic solvents have a lower density than water, which means they are lighter and will form a separate layer on top of water. An important exception: many halogenated solvents like dichloromethane or chloroform will sink to the bottom of a container, leaving water as the top layer. This is important to remember when partitioning compounds between solvents and water in a separator funnel during chemical syntheses.

The reasoning for the use of solvents for the removal of bituminous asphalt is that it dissolves it as a means of removal, as opposed to rubbing it, tar is waterproof so water alone will not remove it (although warm water will soften it). Asphalt is very sticky and its presence on your paint means that harder particulate matter (dirt/grit) has also stuck to it. By agitating or rubbing the dirt/grit that is contained with the bituminous asphalt will cause surface marring or possibly scratching, dissolution alleviates any potential surface damage.

Solvent Expansion

The main risks associated with using solvents; relate to the effects of solvent on the organic binder system that holds the paint together. The more acute element of risk is that of expansion of the paint through sorption of solvent. The polymerised urethanes dried oil network may not be truly soluble, but the polymer network may expand by sorption of solvent or concentrated isopropyl alcohol molecules and sometimes silicone.

Depending on the degree of expansion, the paint will be more or less softened and its capacity to bind the pigment particles may be affected. In the swollen condition, there is a risk that pigment may be removed from the paint through the (kinetic energy (friction heat) of a foam pad and rotary action (twisting) causing the paint to tear.

Safe Solvent

Solvents are used for chemical cleaning, and as a carrier system, it also makes products workable and to provide spread ability, as is the case with Carnauba wax, which in its natural state is rock hard.

The low surface tension of silicones is sometimes added to solvents to improve the wetting ability and to improve the surface contact. Solvents require an aerobic cure (exposure to air) to allow them to evaporate (outgas); some solvents contain formaldehyde, which dissolves both natural rubber and synthetic compounds, and some contain petroleum distillates specifically hydrocarbon and oxygenated solvents, which represent most of the total organic solvents used.
If you want to safely degrease your vehicles use an environmentally safe product that can also clean your paint, wheels, tires, engine bay, wheel wells, trim and etc
     P21S®® Total Auto Wash
·         Optimum Power Clean All Purpose Cleaner Degreaser
·         Wurth Engine Cleaner and Degreaser
·         Simple Green® Aircraft & Precision Cleaner
·         ValuGard New Car Prep
·         d-Limonene - Chemical Formula: C10H16

Non-Paint Safe Solvents
·         Aliphatic hydrocarbons (Mineral Spirits- V M & P, Naphtha)
·         Aromatic hydrocarbons (Toluene, Xylene)
·         2-Butoxyethanol or Butyl Cellosolve 
·         Esters (Ethyl Acetate, Butyl Acetate)
·         Ketone (Acetone, Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK)

Use caution with chlorinated solvents

Solvent Relative Strength Ratings (1/10)

·         Toluene- 10/10
·         Benzene- 9/10
·         Butyl (i-butyl alcohol) - 8/10
·         Butanone (methyl ethyl ketone or MEK)  - 7/10
·         Acetone -  6/10
·         Denatured alcohol (Ethanol or Methylated Spirits) –  5/10
·         Mineral Spirits(Stoddard solvent) – 4/10
·         Isopropyl alcohol – 3/10
·         Ethylene glycol – 2/10
·         Distilled water – 1/10

Offered as a guide only to show relative strength of commonly used solvents; all chemical cleaning is an exercise in risk/benefit analysis. Even with the mildest cleaning agent, such as distilled water, there will always be some risk of damaging

Organic solvents

Can be classified by chemical structure, for example water is a solvent, but is inorganic. Solvents provide solubility for the other ingredients, dependent upon the type of solvent used will determine the product's drying time.

Use a safe solvent; d-Limonene (3M Citrus Base Spray Adhesive Remover or P21S Total Auto Wash) that does not contain any harmful components (butyl, heptanes or xylene or hydrocarbon aliphatic solvents) With all cleaning products (especially solvents) always test a small inconspicuous area first to ensure it won't discolour, stain or etch the surface, and ensure that the pH of the product is suitable for the material After the paint surface has been subjected to a chemical cleaning its protective layer (s) have been removed and the paint surface left without protection, so it is very important that a wax or polymer protection be applied immediately.

3M Citrus Base Spray Adhesive Remover – a citrus-based, solvent-free adhesive remover leaves surfaces clean and dry with no residue. Removes marker graffiti from white boards and tape residue from masking, foam or duct tape. Clean, fresh citrus scent - not recommended for use on plastic

There are three main types:
1. Oxygenated Solvents- alcohols, glycol ethers, ketones, esters, and glycol ether esters. Oxygenated solvents are synthesized from other chemicals to form the desired solvent. Those solvents are typically of a high purity with specifications ranging from 99.0% to 99.9% purity.

2. Hydrocarbon Solvents (Petroleum Distillates) - aliphatic (include methane, propane, and kerosene, they are flammable and may be explosively flammable).

3. Aromatic hydrocarbons- (are the most toxic compounds found in petroleum products and include such substances as para-xylene (benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene), which are all volatile organic compounds (VOC) (See also Petroleum Distillates)

Notes- when using solvents always use Nitrile medical gloves (usually the blue or purple ones) if you are going to be using them for any length of time.

A safe solvent that does not contain any harmful components (heptanes or xylene or hydrocarbon aliphatic solvents (Stoner™ Tarminator or Valuguard New Car Prep, simply emulsifies and dissolves the bituminous asphalt / tar /grease when you spray it directly on the paint film surface It is important not to leave a solvent based chemical on the paint finish longer than is necessary. Simply apply to the affected area, allow sufficient dwell time, and carefully wipe off, you may have to apply it three or four times allowing plenty of "dwell time" between applications.

Other uses –it can also dissolve a variety of oil and petroleum based products, it's safe to use on all types of paint, plastics, synthetic fibres, carpet and upholstery.

If used on vehicle paintwork re-apply a protect rant after use it will dissolve chewing gum and adhesives. Use to de-tar wheel rims after cleaning, will also remove shoe scuffs marks from vinyl trim, and can be used to remove tree sap or fuel stains from paint surfaces.

With all cleaning products (especially solvents) always test a small inconspicuous area first to ensure it won't discolour, stain or etch the surface, and ensure that the pH of the product is suitable for the material

After the paint surface has been subjected to a chemical cleaning its protective layer (s) have been removed and the paint surface left without protection, so it is very important that a wax or polymer protection be applied immediately.

Notes- Use caution if you use WD40 as it contains strong hydrocarbon (aliphatic) solvents, which may cause the paint surface to become clouded (opaque) or compromise non-neoprene rubber, it is also highly flammable (easily ignited by heat, sparks or flames) Don’t let it drip onto the brake pads as they will become ineffective and / or grab and squeal

(MSD) –

One of the most widely used solvent in detailing -Isopropyl alcohol

[Anhydrous Isopropyl alcohol [Molecular formula C3H8O] for all-purpose cleaning, isopropyl alcohol, is a colourless liquid with a pleasant odour, and is highly flammable. A miscible clear fluid, Flash point 53.0F (12.0C) closed cup]

Be cognizant that modern paint systems are porous, so be cautious as to what solvents you use. Isopropanol (IPA) is a moderately polar solvent - Xylene and Toluene are non-polar strong solvents, which can etch the paint surface

Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) is available as 70 to 95 percent ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, along with water, acetone, methyl isobutyl ketone, and additives to give it a bitter taste some rubbing alcohol includes perfumes or artificial colouring. The term "rubbing alcohol" has become a general non-specific term for either isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol) or ethyl alcohol (ethanol) Rubbing-alcohol products can leave a residue behind It is prepared from a special denatured alcohol solution and contains 97.5-100% by volume of pure, concentrated ethanol (ethyl alcohol) or isopropyl alcohol (IPA)

For less dense (soft) clear coat, the lower rate of isopropyl alcohol dilution (1:10) is recommended; conversely denser (hard) clear coats should use a higher dilution (1:25); as you increase the dilution rate of isopropyl alcohol its paint softening effect drops exponentially.

 Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) is a fast evaporating solvent and at higher ambient temperatures will filly evaporate (flash) within ~30 minutes at higher temperatures. At greater dilution percentages it will evaporate more slowly, bear this in mind in warmer environments.

A recommended isopropyl alcohol (IPA) dilution of 1:10 to 1:4 ratios (10-25%) in distilled water as a ‘safe’ surface Wipedown cleaning solution. The reason for this wide range is due to the variations in the clear coat paint systems. My personal recommendation would be a 10% < dilution of Isopropanol (IPA) / distilled water solution. Be cognizant that a stronger (less diluted) solution of IPA can stain and even soften some clear coat paints, causing it to delaminate (wrinkle).

Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) and or other solvents will permeate the paint, causing both temporary softening and some swelling as well as paint delamination or staining Dependant on the solvent (strength) used and how much heat is entailed, the amount of swelling varies. (See also “Paint (Solvent / Alcohol) Swelling”)

Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) is readily available and like acetone, it dissolves a wide range of non-polar compounds. It is also relatively non-toxic and evaporates quickly. Thus it is used widely as a solvent and as a cleaning fluid

Mineral oil can be used to clean heavier oil stains by diluting and liquefying the other oils, rendering the oils more accessible to detergents.
Likewise, it can be employed to de-gum, to remove adhesive residue left by adhesive tape. Be cognizant that while it can be used as a solvent cleaner it can leave a residue, which is undesirable for paint cleaning applications.

Denatured alcohol (or Methylated spirits) - is ethanol that has additives to make it more poisonous or unpalatable, and thus, undrinkable. Do not use denatured alcohol as a substitute for Isopropyl alcohol (IPA)

An analogy: bituminous asphalt concrete (tar) is highly non-polar and IPA is not. Like dissolves like is a good general rule.

Use caution if using paint thinner / strong solvent as there is a possibility that it can have detrimental long term effects, which cause the paint matrix to fail over time leaving a dull area that has a similar appearance to strikethrough, which cannot be corrected

Solvent-based silicone dressings; Dimethyl Silicone (DMS) usually a clear greasy liquid, which leaves a never-dry gloss film, most contain petroleum distillate solvents.

Silicone is inert, it’s the solvent that damages the rubber, as it acts as a cleaning agent, as a result, the tyre begins to crack and rot. After the antiozonant works its way to the outside of the tyre and is exposed to the ozone in the air, it turns brown.

The technical term for this effect is blooming, which then removes the elasticity from vinyl, rubber and paint; causing them to evaporate out of the substrate, expelling the rubber additives to the tyres surface and could result in premature drying and cracking, leaving behind a dry inflexible surface. Many tyre manufacturers (Goodyear, Michelin, etc) have issued technical service bulletins advising against the use of tyre dressings containing DMS silicone.

The difference between water and solvent based is in the carrier system used. Solvent based products use a hydrocarbon silicone to suspend the product. When you apply it, the solvent evaporates leaving the dressing's active ingredients (silicone oil) behind; this type of silicone leaves a high gloss shine and will repel water longer but it is non-biodegradable. Most high gloss products are based upon (DMS) for vehicles fitted with ceramic brakes and / or pads PDS silicone products are not recommended as it can contaminate the pads and render them ineffective


In general, the standard pH test assumes an aqueous solution (water based). The pH of water immiscible solvents (Limonene) cannot be measured using typical methods.  The chemistry of organic solvents prevents accurate measurements using the 0-14 scale and standard electrodes.

A relative pH measurement is obtained by mixing the oil with an equal volume of neutralized water (preferably purified with no dissolved salts).  The pH of the water should be measured before mixing.  Mix the water and oil for approximately 5 minutes and then allow the phases to separate.

Measure the pH of the water phase again.  In principle, the pH of the water is now a reflection of the pH of the oil. 

This is not a precise value, but can be used as estimation for most applications.  Due to the nature of citrus processing, Limonene typically contains residual amounts of anhydrous acids and thus yields an acidic relative pH value of 10.5 – 11.5 

As a straight solvent, its flash point is 110.0F (43.0C) Limonene can replace a wide variety of products, including mineral spirits, methyl ethyl ketone, acetone, toluene, glycol ethers, and of course fluorinated and chlorinated organic solvents. As with most organic solvents, Limonene is not water soluble, so it can be used in the typical water separation units. With a KB value of 67, Limonene has solubility properties close to that of CFC, indicating that it is a much better solvent than a typical mineral spirit. Straight Limonene can be used as a wipe cleaner

Chemical Name: Benzene
Synonyms: Benzol, Cyclohexatriene
• Effects on Vehicle: Paint streaking, damage
• Health Effects: Carcinogenic
• Found In: Solvents, Compounds

Chemical Name: Toluene
Synonyms: Toulon, Methylbenzene
• Effects on Vehicle: Paint streaking and damage
• Health Effects:
• Central nervous system depression, cardiac dysrhythmia
• Found In: Solvents, Compounds

Chemical Name: m-Xylene
Synonyms: Meta-Xylene, 1, 3-Dimethylbenzene, m-Xylol
• Effects on Vehicle: Paint streaking and other damage
• Found In: Solvents, Compounds

White spirit
(Stoddard solvent) is a paraffin-derived clear, transparent liquid which is a common organic solvent used in painting and also used  an extraction solvent, as a cleaning solvent, as a degreasing solvent and as a solvent in aerosols, paints, wood preservatives, lacquers, varnishes, and asphalt products. White spirit is the most widely used solvent in the paint industry. Its paint thinning properties enable brushes to be properly cleaned (by preventing the paint from hardening and ruining the bristles) and therefore enabling them to be re-used. There are three different grades of white spirit: .T1 Low flash point (21-30.0C) T2 Medium flash point (31-54.0C) and T3 High flash point (55.0C)

Mineral spirits
(Mineral Oil) is a petrochemical based product, a clear, colourless, oily liquid that is a by-product of the distillation of petroleum that can be used to clean heavier oil stains by diluting and liquefying the other oils, rendering the oils more accessible to detergents. It has a high refractive index and is sometimes used in car care products. Likewise, it can be employed to remove adhesive residue left by adhesive tape.

It can be used as a cleaner and solvent but it can leave a residue, which is undesirable for paint cleaning applications. Other uses, as a prevention to stop chopping boards cracking and , as a rust prevention for steel A clear fluid , Flash point 107.0F (41.0C) closed cup

Mineral turpentine

Also known as turpentine substitute, is an inexpensive petroleum-based replacement for the vegetable-based turpentine. It is commonly used as paint thinner for thinning oil-based paint and cleaning brushes, and as an organic solvent in other applications

Rocket Chemical Company WD-40® (Water displacement)
Is the trademark name of a widely-available water-displacing spray.  The long-term active ingredient is non-volatile, viscous oil which remains on the surface, providing lubrication and protection from moisture. This is diluted with a volatile hydrocarbon to give a low viscosity fluid which can be sprayed and thus get into crevices. The volatile hydrocarbon then evaporates, leaving the oil behind

Use caution when using solvents; you'd be surprised at how silicones, solvents and oils migrate down into the paint matrix.

This is only a partial list of commonly used solvents for detailing

      1. Mechanism and Theory in Organic Chemistry - Lowery, T.H. and Richardson, K.S.
2. An introduction to Physical Organic Chemistry - Kosower, E.M.

I would like to think that these articles become an asset to anyone who is new to detailing and to professionals alike, as well as industry experts who seek to advance their knowledge.

I hope the above article was informative. By having some understanding of the ‘What’ and ‘Why’ as well as the ‘How’ along with a little science to help you understand how the chemicals we use react, you can achieve the results you desire.
I would appreciate it if you would share this article as it helps other detailers further their knowledge. 
Questions and/ or constructive comments are always appreciated.

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