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Acetone vs. Xylene: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on November 15, 2023
Acetone is a solvent known for its fast-drying property, while Xylene, another solvent, is recognized for its ability to thin paints and varnishes.

Key Differences

Acetone, an organic compound, is a colorless, volatile, flammable liquid and is the simplest form of the ketone bodies. Xylene, on the other hand, is a clear, colorless, sweet-smelling liquid that is very flammable and is refined from crude oil and has three possible isomers.
In the world of industrial and domestic uses, Acetone is commonly utilized as a solvent to dissolve other substances such as plastics, fibers, and more. In contrast, Xylene is often used in the printing, rubber, and leather industries.
Regarding safety and health, Acetone is generally considered a safer solvent when compared to many others, though it's not without its risks, especially when inhaled in large quantities. Xylene, conversely, poses significant health risks, including respiratory and central nervous system problems, when exposed without proper safety measures.
In a laboratory context, Acetone is frequently used in various chemical reactions and as a solvent in cleaning lab equipment. Xylene is prevalent in histology labs for tissue processing, staining, and cover-slipping and in thinning paints and varnishes in industrial applications.
Environmentally speaking, Acetone is classified as a volatile organic compound (VOC) but has a lesser impact on ozone depletion. Xylene, while also a VOC, presents more significant environmental concerns due to its contributions to the formation of ground-level ozone and water contamination.

Comparison Chart


Simplest ketone
Aromatic hydrocarbon


Solvent, cleaning agent
Paint thinner, solvent


Highly flammable
Highly flammable

Health risks

Irritation, dizziness on high exposure
Respiratory issues, CNS problems


Lesser ozone-depleting VOC
Contributes significantly to ozone layer

Acetone and Xylene Definitions


"Acetone is an organic compound."
The laboratory purchased a large quantity of Acetone for research purposes.


"Xylene is a common laboratory reagent."
In the lab, we often use Xylene for tissue processing before microscopic examination.


"Acetone acts as a powerful solvent."
She used Acetone to remove the paint from her hands.


"Xylene is used as a solvent in the printing and rubber industries."
They used Xylene to thin the ink for a smooth printing process.


"Acetone is used in nail polish remover."
She grabbed a bottle of Acetone to take off her chipped nail polish.


"Xylene poses significant health hazards."
Workers are advised to wear protective gear to prevent Xylene inhalation.


"Acetone is known for its rapid evaporation."
The spill of Acetone was quickly gone due to its fast-evaporating nature.


"Xylene is a volatile aromatic hydrocarbon."
The factory dealt with large volumes of Xylene, necessitating advanced safety protocols.


"Acetone is highly flammable."
Due to the high flammability of Acetone, the storage area was equipped with special safety features.


"Xylene has three isomers."
The scientist was studying the different characteristics of each Xylene isomer.


A colorless, volatile, extremely flammable liquid ketone, C3H6O, widely used as an organic solvent. It is one of the ketone bodies that accumulate in the blood and urine when fat is being metabolized.


Any of three colorless flammable isomeric benzene derivatives, C8H10, obtained from wood and coal tar.


(organic compound) A colourless, volatile, flammable liquid ketone, (CH3)2CO, used as a solvent.


A mixture of xylene isomers used as a solvent in making lacquers and rubber cement and as an aviation fuel.


A volatile liquid consisting of three parts of carbon, six of hydrogen, and one of oxygen; pyroacetic spirit, - obtained by the distillation of certain acetates, or by the destructive distillation of citric acid, starch, sugar, or gum, with quicklime.


(chemistry) Any of a group of three isomeric aromatic hydrocarbons, found in coal and wood tar.


The simplest ketone; a highly inflammable liquid widely used as an organic solvent and as material for making plastics


Any of a group of three metameric hydrocarbons of the aromatic series, found in coal and wood tar, and so named because found in crude wood spirit. They are colorless, oily, inflammable liquids, C6H4.(CH3)2, being dimethyl benzenes, and are called respectively orthoxylene, metaxylene, and paraxylene. Called also xylol.


A colorless flammable volatile liquid hydrocarbon used as a solvent


Is Acetone dangerous?

Acetone is flammable and can cause irritation, but it's generally considered safe with proper handling.

Does Acetone dissolve plastic?

Acetone can dissolve or degrade many types of plastic.

How is Acetone made?

Acetone is typically produced through the cumene process.

What is Acetone commonly used for?

Acetone is used as a solvent and in making plastics, fibers, drugs, and other chemicals.

What is Xylene used for?

Xylene is used as a solvent, in the printing, rubber, and leather industries, and in products such as paint thinners.

Can Acetone be found in households?

Yes, Acetone is commonly found in products like nail polish remover and paint thinner.

Is Xylene toxic to humans?

Yes, Xylene can cause respiratory issues and central nervous system problems upon prolonged exposure.

How does Acetone affect the environment?

Acetone has low toxicity for aquatic life and breaks down quickly in the environment, though it is a volatile organic compound.

Can Acetone cause skin irritation?

Yes, Acetone can cause dryness and irritation with direct skin contact.

Can I mix Acetone and Xylene?

It's not advisable due to increased flammability and potential chemical reactions.

Can Xylene be used in place of Acetone?

Sometimes, but Xylene is more toxic and less effective in dissolving certain substances.

Can you be exposed to Xylene at home?

Xylene may be present in lower concentrations in items like paint thinners and varnishes.

How is Xylene produced?

Xylene is primarily produced from the refining of crude oil.

Are there different types of Xylene?

Yes, there are three isomers of Xylene: ortho-, meta-, and para-xylene.

Is it safe to inhale Acetone or Xylene?

Both can cause health issues when inhaled, with Xylene being more toxic.

Do Acetone and Xylene have a smell?

Acetone has a distinct sweet, fruity odor, while Xylene has a sweet, aromatic odor.

Are there safer alternatives to Acetone and Xylene?

Yes, there are less toxic solvents, but their effectiveness varies depending on the application.

What’s the difference in flammability between Acetone and Xylene?

Both are highly flammable, but Acetone has a lower flash point.

How are Xylene and Acetone disposed of safely?

Both should be disposed of as hazardous waste, following local regulations.

Is Xylene a pollutant?

Yes, Xylene contributes to air and water pollution and is considered a hazardous air pollutant.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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