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Toluene vs. Xylene: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 24, 2023
Toluene is a monosubstituted benzene derivative with a single methyl group, while xylene is a disubstituted benzene with two methyl groups.

Key Differences

Toluene, chemically known as methylbenzene, is a hydrocarbon with the formula C₇H₈, featuring a benzene ring with a single methyl group. Xylene, on the other hand, is a group of three isomers (ortho-, meta-, and para-xylene), each with the formula C₈H₁₀, having two methyl groups attached to the benzene ring. The position of these methyl groups varies in each xylene isomer.
Toluene is a colorless, water-insoluble liquid with a distinctive smell. It has a boiling point of about 110.6°C. Xylene, also a colorless liquid, has a sweet odor and is slightly greasier than toluene. The boiling points of xylene isomers range from 138 to 144°C, depending on the isomer.
Toluene is widely used as an industrial solvent, particularly in the manufacture of paints, thinners, and adhesives. It's also a precursor in synthesizing other chemicals. Xylene finds its major uses in the production of terephthalic acid, dimethyl terephthalate (key precursors for making PET plastic), and in the laboratory as a solvent.
Both chemicals can affect the nervous system if inhaled in large quantities, but toluene is generally considered less toxic than xylene. Long-term exposure to xylene can lead to significant health problems including liver and kidney damage.
Both toluene and xylene are regulated substances, with specific guidelines for their handling and disposal due to their volatile nature and potential health risks. They are both classified as hazardous air pollutants under U.S. environmental regulations.

Comparison Chart

Chemical Formula

C₈H₁₀ (Isomers: o-, m-, p-xylene)

Methyl Groups


Boiling Point

138-144°C (varies by isomer)

Main Uses

Industrial solvent, paint manufacturing
PET plastic precursor, solvent

Health Risks

Neurotoxic in high exposure
More toxic, affects liver and kidneys

Toluene and Xylene Definitions


"Toluene serves as a precursor in the synthesis of various chemicals."
Toluene is often used in the chemical industry to produce other compounds.


"Xylene, a colorless liquid, is known for its sweet odor."
The sweet smell in the paint shop was due to xylene.


"In its pure form, toluene is a clear, water-insoluble liquid."
Toluene was separated as a clear layer above the water.


"In industry, xylene is used in the production of PET plastics."
Xylene is a key raw material in making plastic bottles.


"Toluene is a common ingredient in paint thinners."
He used toluene to thin the oil paint for his artwork.


"Xylene is a mixture of three structural isomers used as a solvent in the paint industry."
Xylene was the primary solvent in the varnish.


"Toluene is a colorless, aromatic hydrocarbon used as an industrial solvent."
Toluene's ability to dissolve paints makes it valuable in the paint industry.


"Xylene's chemical structure consists of a benzene ring with two methyl groups."
The lab experiment focused on the reactions of xylene's methyl groups.


"Toluene is a benzene derivative with a methyl group, known for its distinctive smell."
The sharp smell in the laboratory was due to toluene.


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


A colorless flammable aromatic liquid, C7H8, obtained from coal tar or petroleum and used in aviation fuel and other high-octane fuels, in dyestuffs, explosives, and as a solvent for gums and lacquers. Also called methylbenzene.


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


(organic compound) A colourless, inflammable liquid hydrocarbon, methylbenzene, CH3.C6H5, used as a solvent, in high-octane fuels and in the production of many chemical compounds.


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


A hydrocarbon, C6H5.CH3, of the aromatic series, homologous with benzene, and obtained as a light mobile colorless liquid, by distilling tolu balsam, coal tar, etc.; - called also methyl benzene, phenyl methane, etc.


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 liquid obtained from petroleum or coal tar; used as a solvent for gums and lacquers and in high-octane fuels


A colorless flammable volatile liquid hydrocarbon used as a solvent


"Xylene is a potent solvent, often used in thinning paints and varnishes."
The painter used xylene to adjust the consistency of his varnish.


How is toluene produced?

Toluene is typically produced in the refining of crude oil and as a byproduct in the production of coke from coal.

What are the main uses of toluene?

Toluene is used as a solvent in paints, coatings, and adhesives, and as a precursor in chemical synthesis.

Is toluene dangerous?

Toluene can be harmful if inhaled in large quantities, affecting the nervous system.

Is xylene dangerous?

Xylene is toxic and can affect the liver and kidneys with long-term exposure.

What is xylene?

Xylene is a disubstituted benzene compound, used in solvents and as a precursor for PET plastics.

What are the main uses of xylene?

Xylene is used as a solvent in the paint industry and in the production of PET plastics and terephthalic acid.

Can xylene be found in consumer products?

Yes, xylene is in some paints, varnishes, and cleaning agents.

How does toluene impact the environment?

Toluene can contribute to air and water pollution if not handled properly.

What are the physical properties of toluene?

Toluene is a colorless, water-insoluble liquid with a distinctive odor.

How does xylene impact the environment?

Xylene can pollute air and water sources and is a hazardous air pollutant.

What is toluene?

Toluene is a monosubstituted benzene derivative used as a solvent.

How is xylene produced?

Xylene is produced from the refining of crude oil and coal tar.

Can toluene be found in consumer products?

Yes, toluene is found in paints, nail polish, and adhesives.

What are the storage requirements for toluene?

Toluene should be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area away from heat sources.

What are the physical properties of xylene?

Xylene is a colorless, slightly greasy liquid with a sweet odor.

Can toluene be recycled?

Yes, toluene can be recycled and reused in industrial processes.

Can xylene be recycled?

Xylene can also be recycled in certain industrial applications.

What are the storage requirements for xylene?

Xylene must be stored similarly to toluene, in a cool, dry place away from flames and heat.

How is toluene exposure treated?

Toluene exposure is treated with fresh air and medical attention for severe cases.

How is xylene exposure treated?

Xylene exposure requires fresh air and immediate medical attention if symptoms persist.
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
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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