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THC Extraction Solvents Explained

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OTC Solvents FAQ


The following artical was copied and pasted from Erowid.com

This is version 1.00 of the OTC Solvents FAQ. It was preceded by two

draft versions, one of which has been widely distributed. This

version has been significantly updated, expanded, and corrected

Please destroy any earlier drafts of this document, as the

corrections and clarifications in this version may help avert

potential disasters which could result if the older information is

relied upon.

Significant effort has gone into the preparation of this FAQ, but it

is still lacking in a few areas. I need help with improving the

"solvents" section, especially what these solvents will and will not

dissolve. Some of the solvents listed are missing information on how

polar they are. It would also be nice to know which are the best

solvents for various substances.

Also, I would like to expand the "other substances" section,

specifically adding information on what will and will not dissolve

various interesting substances (or substances contained in) including

but not limited to: cinnamon, cannabinoids, citrus oils, DMT and

relatives, hot peppers, psilocybin/psilocin, aromatic oriental

mushrooms, LAA, garlic, opiates, ginkgo biloba, coca/cocaine, ephedra,

pseudoephedrine, ginsen, kava, and anything else you have information

on. (Information on any controlled substances would be just for the

purpose of satisfying curiosity; not to do anything illegal, of


I only took about 1 year of general chemistry in college, so I am not

exactly an expert on organic chemistry. It would be wonderful if

someone who is more knowledgable would suggest massive improvements

to the FAQ, or, better yet, if they would take over maintenance of

this FAQ altogether. Just keep in mind that the intended audience is

the not-too-much-above-average kitchen chemist. (Sometimes, it seems

that the more knowledgable people get a little too impatient with the

less knowledgable ones. Please don't be arrogant.) It wouldn't

hurt, however, to add extra information that would be useful to more

experienced chemists.

Please post any comments/additions/corrections to alt.drugs.chemistry

(or e-mail them to me by replying to the anonymous remailer if you

can figure out how to do it). Unfortunately, my news feed sucks, so

I may not see the comments posted to the alt.drugs.chemistry. If you

feel your comments have not been addressed within a week or two,

please post again so I will have a greater chance of seeing it. All

additions to this FAQ derived from comments, etc. will remain

anonymous unless otherwise requested.

Many thanks to those who have already contributed to this work.

========================= OTC* Solvents FAQ =========================

* OTC = over-the-counter

First draft: by "The Goose" on September 29, 1994

Draft version 0.1: by "The Goose" on October 25, 1994

Version 1.00: by "The Goose", last updated on May 19, 1995

PURPOSE: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This document is intended to provide information on solvents and

other substances to people who have less than an expert knowledge of

chemistry. This information can be used as an aid and a reference by

kitchen chemists, etc. who desire to do relatively simple organic

extractions (e.g. THC from pot, DMT from whatever, LAA from morning

glory, psilocybin/psilocin from shrooms, etc. for those who don't

mind breaking the law. Mint oil, citrus oils, and essences from

various herbs, for those like myself who would rather stay legal.)

Recipes for organic extractions are not provided here. There is an

extensive file on organic extractions at hyperreal.com (in


DISCLAIMER/WARNING: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I do not advocate breaking the law. References to illegal substances

are included, however, for informational purposes only (just to

satisfy everyone's curiosity). The authors of this document assume

no responsibility for the actions or consequences of what anyone may

do with this information. Even though efforts have been made to

assure accuracy, the information presented here is not guaranteed to

be accurate or complete. The use of any information contained in this

document constitutes an agreement to release the authors from any and

all liability for the said use of this information no matter what the

outcome of that use may be.

Most of the substances discussed in this FAQ are toxic to one degree

or another. Usually, after sufficient evaporation/separation/etc.,

such small quantities remain, that there is not a great risk of

poisoning, but you still need to watch out for contaminants. Many of

these substances contain contaminants of unknown toxicity. DO NOT

ingest unless you know what you are doing! You have been warned!

Also, it is not a good idea to breath the fumes from most of these

substances. You could get poisoned that way too. When evaporating

or boiling off solvents, make sure there is adequate ventilation.

Most of these solvents are flammable (or explosive). When working

with flamable solvents, avoid sparks (e.g. from electrical switches)

and open flames (e.g. from gas stoves). Using a hot plate with an

extension cord to get it away from the house is a good idea. Good

ventilation is the key to preventing both poisoning by inhalation,

and explosions resulting from the build-up of flamable fumes.

ALWAYS read the label of the products before you purchase them to

make sure they contain what you are looking for, and are not mixed

with a lot of other unwanted things. (See section on PURITY)

P.S. This information is incomplete, Never assume that something is

safe just because the information is not there!

P.P.S. Only you are responsible for your own actions!!

P.P.P.S. Use your head, damn it!!!

---------------- Answers to Frequently Asked Questions ----------------

1) What is petroleum ether?

A: Petroleum ether refers generically to the lower boiling fractions

of petroleum. Analytical grades may be quite pure, containing

only hexane and/or pentane, and having a boiling point no higher

than 69 degrees centigrade. The lower boiling fractions are most

useful when the solvent is to be evaporated or boiled off. The

petroleum ethers most often mentioned on the 'net usually consist

of somewhat higher boiling fractions of petroleum (e.g. 100 to

175 degrees centigrade). These are more useful when the solvent

is to be separated and discarded (e.g. when removing oil soluble

contaminants from water soluble extracts).

2) Are ether and petroleum ether the same?

A: No! Petroleum ether is a petroleum product. "Real" ether is

more commonly known as diethyl ether or ethyl ether. Its chemical

formula is C2H5-O-C2H5, and it is not a petroleum product.

Diethy ether is the "ether" that was traditionally used as an

anesthetic the early 1900's. Petroleum ether is sometimes

referred to as "ether" because its solvent properties are similar

to that of diethyl ether (i.e. it dissolves similar types of

substances and has a low boiling point). Often (but not always),

petroleum ether and diethyl ether can be used interchangeably.

It is usually easier for the layman to obtain petroleum ether.

3) Where can I get petroleum ether?

A: Chemical supply houses usually can provide petroleum ether. Ask

for it by boiling fraction or specific component (e.g. hexane,

pentane, etc.). It is best to have a reasonable knowledge of

chemistry when purchasing chemicals or solvents from professional

establishments. Many substances are controlled to some extent.

Often they will ask you to show identification, and sign a

statement explaining what your intended use is. This information

can be provided to government agencies such as the DEA. Since

most laymen would have a difficult time bluffing their way in a

chem supply shop, they probably would be tempted to use an

industrial grade which may be more easily obtained from local

retailers. These may take the forms of mineral spirits,

petroleum spirits, naptha, automobile starter fluid, etc. See

the SOLVENTS section below for more information on these products

and where to obtain them.

4) Where can I get solvent ?

A: Most solvents can be obtained from chemical supply houses. Just

keep in mind the precautions mentioned in #3 above. Many solvents

may be obtained from local retail establishments in industrial

grades either semi-pure or mixed with other (possibly useful)

solvents. For over-the-counter sources, see the SOLVENTS section


5) What are polar and non-polar solvents?

A: The easy answer: Polar solvents dissolve substances that are

water soluble, but do not dissolve oily substances. Non-Polar

solvents dissolve oily substances, but do not dissolve water

soluble substances. Moderately polar solvents have a tendency to

dissolve both types of substances. Petroleum distillates are

non-polar, alcohols are moderately polar, and water is polar.

The better (but not necessarily more helpful) answer: Polarity

is a somewhat vague notion which gives a general idea of what

will dissolve what. The chemistry-extracting file at hyperreal

states the following:

Polarity and solubility is a nebulous concept. If you actually

look at what is dissolved by what, you can only find vague

general principles, and plenty of exceptions. Some authors

have tried to make 3 and 4 dimensional polarity or solubility

graphs, and put various solvents in various points as having

a combination of different types of solvent power.

See the SOLVENTS section below for more information on the polarity

of specific solvents.

6) What is the advantage of using a polar (or non-polar) solvent?

A: The advantage is that you are able to dissolve what you are

after, leaving behind the things you don't want. (e.g. petroleum

ether will dissolve cannabinoids but leave behind chlorophyll and

sugars. Alcohols and acetone will dissolve cannabinoids,

chlorophyll and sugars.)

7) What type of solvent should I use for extracting substance ?

A: Don't ask me. This FAQ was never intended to be a compilation of

recipes. Look at the various extraction techniques which have

been posted on the 'net or look in the chemistry-extracting file

at hyperreal.com. (hint: oily substances dissolve in non-polar

solvents, most other useful substances will dissolve in water.)

8) What is an acid-base extraction?

A: This is a technique in which alkaloids are extracted by taking

advantage of common solubility properties of most alkaloids. In

general, alkaloids are soluble in an acidic water solution, and

become insoluble when the solution is made basic. The solubility

rules for alkaloids are reversed for non-polar organic solvents.

The basic form (precipitate) is soluble in non-polar solvents,

and the acidic form is insoluble in non-polar solvents. Most

other materials in plants do not have these same solubility

properties. This allows for the isolation of alkaloids from most

of the other unwanted junk. For more information on specific

extractions, see the various extraction techniques on the 'net or

look at the chemistry-extracting file at hyperreal.com.

9) Why does my extracted material still smell like solvent?

A: Your extract may still smell like solvent because it still has

some solvent left in it or because some of the aromatic

components of the solvent are overstaying their welcome. Some

solvents have a high boiling point which makes it difficult to

separate it from your extract by boiling it off. Even if most of

the solvent solution boils off at a lower temperature, there may

have been a portion of it that has a higher boiling point. One

way to reduce the amount of excess solvent is to heat up the

extract even more. Be careful because higher heat may destroy

some extracts. Another way to lessen the smell is to to let the

excess solvent evaporate on its own by leaving your extract

exposed to the air for an extended period of time (anywhere from

overnight to several days). The down side of this is that the

longer your extract is exposed to air, the more it can be

destroyed by oxidation. Warmer temperatures encourage both

evaporation and oxidation while cooler temperatures do the

opposite. Room temperature is probably ok for most purposes. It

may well be next to impossible to get all of the residue out,

however. Picking a good solvent from the start can help you

avoid these problems to a large extent.

10) How dangerous are over-the-counter solvents?

A: It is always best to acquire reagent grade solvents, but since

this IS an over-the-counter solvents FAQ . . .

Some solvents are very dangerous by themselves while others are

almost harmless. Some contaminants in industrial grade solvents

could be quite dangerous (poisonous, carcinogenic, flammable,

etc.), while others are not. Most contaminants are not highly

toxic, and the government imposes some regulations on

manufacturers to prevent highly hazardous contaminants from being

distributed, so one could assume that the risks posed by

contaminants is fairly low. However, if you choose to use an

industrial grade, you always run some risk. Research and common

sense can help reduce this risk. See the section on PURITY below

for a more lengthy discussion on this topic. See the SOLVENTS

section below for information on the hazards of specific

solvents. See the OTHER SUBSTANCES section below for information

on the hazards of other miscellaneous substances.

------------------- REFERENCE & GENERAL INFORMATION -------------------

TERMS: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

"bp" = boiling point (or boiling fraction in some cases)

note: boiling points are slightly lower at high altitudes

"C" = degrees centigrade

"dens" = density (in grams per ml unless otherwise specified)

"dis:" = what it dissolves

"F" = degrees Fahrenheit

"LD50" = (lethal dose 50%) dosage at which 50% of test subjects

(rats, dogs, etc.) died.

"mis" = miscible with

"mp" = melting point

"otc:" = (over-the-counter) where to find it, etc.

"pol:" = polarity ( > = more polar than, < = less polar than )

"prop:" = physical properties

"sol:" = what it is soluble in

"tox:" = data on toxicity. if not listed, DON'T assume it is safe!

"uses:" = common uses. this is nice to know when you are asking a

store clerk to help you find it.

SOLVENTS: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

ACETONE (dimethyl ketone, ketone propanone, propanone)

prop: mp -94.6 C, bp 56.48 C, dens 0.80

dis: water solubles, oils; mis: water, alcohols, chloroform, oils

pol: polar?/moderately polar?

tox: oral LD50 (rat) 9750 mg/kg

otc: hardware stores (acetone)

uses: thinning fiberglass resins, dissolving 2 part epoxies,

cleaning brushes and tools used with resins or epoxies,

cleaning greasy stuff

otc: some drug stores (pure, small quantities, expensive)

uses: dissolving fats, waxes, etc.

caution: flamable, reacts with some solvents

note: acetone is also used in fingernail polish remover, but

it is mixed with water, fragrance, etc.

note: may react with some alkaloids, may extract more organic

compounds than is desirable

ALCOHOL see ethyl alcohol, methyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol

BENZENE (C6H6, benzol, phenyl hydride, coal naptha)

(included for comparison and cautions)

prop: mp 5.51 C, bp 80.1 C, dens 0.8794

dis: oils; mis: alcohols, chloroform, ether, acetone

sol: slightly soluble in water (1 part per 1403 parts H2O)

pol: non-polar

tox: 3000 ppm vapor considered high concentration, toxic via

inhalation or skin absorption as well as oral ingestion,

prolonged inhalation of low concentrations also toxic

otc: none known (you wouldn't want it anyway)

note: do not confuse with benzine which is a petroleum distillate

caution: a recognized leukemogen (causes leukemia)!

caution: highly flamable

caution: can react vigorously with oxidizing materials

BUTANE (C4H10, n-butane, methylethyl methane, butyl hydride)

prop: bp -0.5 C

dis: oils

pol: non-polar

sol: ether, alcohol, water

otc: anywhere (butane cigarette lighters)

uses: lighter fuel, butane torches, curling irons (yes, really)

caution: extremely flamable

note: if you use this, you will have to work with sub-freezing

temperatures or at least higher pressures like a small jar

with a tight lid (higher pressures tend to raise boiling

points thus improving solvent capabilities). the advantage

is that you could boil it off at room temperature!

CHLOROFORM (CHCL3, trichloromethane)

(included for comparison and cautions)

prop: mp -63.5 C, bp 62.26 C, dens 1.498

dis: oils, fats, rubber, alkaloids, waxes, resins

sol: 1mL in 200 mL water; mis: alcohols, ether, petroleum ether

pol: non-polar

tox: oral LD50 (rat) 800 mg/kg, prolonged inhalation can cause

unconsciousness and poisoning (or even death)

otc: none known

note: non-flamable

caution: reacts violently with acetone + base, methyl alcohol +

sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide

DICHLOROMETHANE see methylene chloride

DIESEL FUEL (fuel oil #2)

composed of heavier hydrocarbons than gasoline

prop: bp higher than gasoline

dis: oils

pol: non-polar

tox: recognized carcinogen, see also petroleum distillates


a minor component of kerosene, may be a minor component of gasoline

prop: mp aprox -29 C, bp aprox 174 C

dis: oils

pol: non-polar

tox: see petroleum distillates

otc: see kerosene, gasoline

caution: flamable

DIETHYL ETHER (C2H5-O-C2H5, ether, ethyl ether, anesthesia ether,

ethyl oxide)

prop: bp 35 C

dis: oils, etc.

pol: moderately polar ( < water, alcohols; > petroleum

distillates and toluene )

tox: moderate oral toxicity, low inhalation toxicity, oral LD50

(rat) 1700 mg/kg, oral LD50 (human) 420 mg/kg

otc: found in automobile starter fluid

caution: very flamable, can form explosive peroxides with

prolonged exposure to air

note: this is the ether that was used extensively as an

anesthetic a few years back

ETHANOL see ethyl alcohol

ETHYL ALCOHOL (ethanol, methyl corbinol, spirit of wine, grain


prop: bp 78.32 C, dens 0.79

dis: water solubles, oils; mis water

pol: polar? / moderately polar? ( < water; > isopropanol )

tox: oral LD50 (rat) 21,000 mg/kg

otc: liquor store (Everclear, 95%)

uses: party, party, party!

caution: flamable, could get you drunk :-)

note: there have been reports of people using denatured alcohol as

a solvent. this may be ok if it is denatured only with

something that will be eliminated when the solvent is boiled

off (e.g. with methyl alcohol). if you don't think you can

eliminate the denaturant, then don't use denatured alcohol!

FUEL OIL (fuel oil #1 through fuel oil #6)

increasingly viscous petroleum distillates, generally with increasing

boiling fractions.

dis: oils

pol: non-polar

tox: see petroleum distillates

caution: flamable

note: fuel oil #1 is kerosene, fuel oil #2 is diesel oil

note: there are not many applications that could benefit from

using fuel oils as solvents

GASOLINE (petrol, gas, white gas)

composed of octanes, some heavier hydrocarbons (nonanes, etc.),

and some lighter hydrocarbons (heptanes, etc.)

prop: bp aprox 35-180 C (depending on what it contains)

dis: oils

pol: non-polar

tox: see petroleum distillates

otc: gas stations

uses: automobile, etc. fuel

caution: very flamable

note: gasoline for automobiles contains additives, better to use

white gas.

KEROSENE (fuel oil #1, ultrasene)

composed mostly of heavier hydrocarbons than gasoline (10 to 16 carbon

atoms per chain)

prop: bp 175-325

dis: oils

pol: non-polar

tox: oral LD50 (rat, rabbit) 28,000 mg/kg, oral toxicity is low,

see also petroleum distillates

otc: fuel distributors, hardware stores

caution: flamable

uses: stoves, heaters, lamps

note: ultrasene is deodorized kerosene


a component of starter fluid, gasoline, and some petroleum ethers

prop: bp aprox 98 C

dis: oils

pol: non-polar

tox: see petroleum distillates

otc: found in starting fluid and some napthas

caution: highly flamable


a component of starter fluid, and some petroleum ethers

prop: bp aprox 69 C

dis: oils

pol: non-polar

tox: see petroleum distillates

otc: found in automobile starting fluid and some napthas

caution: highly flamable

ISOPROPANOL se isopropyl alcohol

ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL (dimethyl alcohol, sec-propyl alcohol, isopropanol)

prop: mp -89 C, bp 80.3 C, dens 0.79

dis: water solubles, oils; mis water

pol: polar? (hydrogen bonded?), ( < ethanol; >> diethyl ether )

tox: oral LD50 (rat) 5,840 mg/kg

otc: automotive stores (fuel dryer, 99.9%)

caution: flamable

note: rubbing alcohol is usually only 70% alcohol, and 30% water

METHANOL see methyl alcohol

METHYL ALCOHOL (methanol, wood alcohol)

prop: bp 64.8 C, dens 0.79

dis: water solubles, oils; mis water

pol: moderately polar? (hydrogen bonded), ( < water, > diethyl

ether )

tox: oral LD50 (rat) 13,000 mg/kg, eliminates slowly and can

build up with repeated exposure/ingestion. toxic metabolites

include formaldehyde and formic acid. damages optic nerve.

otc: automotive stores

uses: fuel dryer

otc: hardware and paint stores

uses: shellac thinner, alcohol stove fuel

caution: flamable

note: often mixed with paint removers or varnish removers

note: good at penetrating cell walls and membranes

METHYLENE CHLORIDE (CH2Cl2, dichloromethane)

prop: bp 39.8

dis: oils

pol: non-polar

tox: oral LD50 (rat) 2136 mg/kg, VERY dangerous to eyes,

produces highly toxic fumes when heated to decomposition

(e.g. by open flames, etc.), may be carcinogenic in rats

otc: paint and hardware stores (mixed with methyl alcohol, etc.)

uses: paint and varnish remover

note: fire hazard is low (by itself)

MINERAL SPIRITS see petroleum spirits

NAPTHA (see below for types)

dis: oils

pol: non-polar

tox: see petroleum distillates

otc: hardware and paint stores

uses: paint thinner, some lighter fluids, some spot removers

note: boiling fractions are similar to gasoline

NAPTHA (coal tar, naptha solvent)

prop: bp 149-216 C, dens 0.86-0.89

tox: see petroleum distillates

caution: flamable

NAPTHA, V.M. & P. (benzine, 76 degree naptha)

prop: bp 100-140 C, dens 0.67-0.80, flash point 20 F.

tox: see petroleum distillates

note: do not confuse with benzene

caution: flamable, autoignite 450 F

NAPTHA, V.M. & P., 50 degree flash

prop: bp 115-143 C, flash point 50 F

tox: see petroleum distillates

caution: flamable

NAPTHA, V.M. & P., high flash

prop: bp 138-165 C, flash point 50 F

tox: see petroleum distillates

caution: flamable

NONANE (C9H20, n-nonane)

a component of gasoline, a component of some napthas

prop: mp aprox -54 C, bp aprox 151 C

dis: oils

pol: non-polar

tox: see petroleum distillates

otc: see naptha, white gas, gasoline

caution: flamable


a major component of gasoline

prop: bp aprox 126 C

dis: oils

pol: non-polar

tox: see petroleum distillates

otc: hardware and paint stores (some napthas)

otc: sporting goods stores (white gas)

caution: highly flamable

PAINT THINNER see petroleum spirits, turpentine


usually composed of methylene chloride and methyl alcohol. may also

contain toluene and other solvents. see individual components for

more information

PENTANE (C5H12, n-pentane)

a component of some light petroleum ethers

prop: bp aprox 36 C

dis: oils

pol: non-polar

tox: see petroleum distillates

otc: see petroleum spirits

caution: highly flamable

PETROLEUM DISTILLATES (gasoline, naptha, petroleum ether, mineral

spirits, petroleum spirits, fuel oils, xylene, etc.)

dis: oils

pol: non-polar

tox: generally low to moderate toxicity, laboratory experiments

show a slight carcinogenic potential for most petroleum

distillates. higher boiling fractions may be more


caution: flamable to highly flamable

note: petroleum distillates do not dissolve most water-solubles

note: petroleum distillates include everything from pentane to

heavy tars

PETROLEUM ETHER see petroleum spirits, naptha, starter fluid

note: generally (but not always) refers to the lower boiling

fractions of petroleum distillates

PETROLEUM SPIRITS (petroleum benzine, petroleum naptha, light

ligroin, petroleum ether, mineral spirits)

prop: bp 35-180 C, dens .64-.66

dis: oils

pol: non-polar

tox: see petroleum distillates

otc: hardware and paint stores

uses: paint thinner

caution: flamable

note: "petroleum spirits" often refers to the lower boiling

fractions of petroleum distillates. However, one "odorless

paint thinner" claiming 100% mineral spirits had a boiling

point of 175 C.

note: do not confuse with benzene


composed of hexane, diethyl ether, and heptane. see individual

components for more information.

otc: automotive stores

uses: starting stubborn automobiles on cold days

caution: very flamable

note: some starter fluids may contain heavier lubricants

alpha-TRICHLOROETHANE (CH3CCl3, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, methyl


prop: bp 74.1 C, dens 1.3492

dis: oils, etc.?

pol: non-polar?/moderately polar? (insoluble in water)

tox: oral LD50 (dog) 750 mg/kg, avoid fumes

otc: super markets, hardware stores, etc.

uses: spot remover (brand name: "Energine"), industrial uses

include cleaning of metal parts and metal molds

caution: can react violently with acetone

note: non-flamable!

TETRAHYDROFURAN (OCH2CH2CH2CH2, diethylene oxide, cyclotetramethylene

oxide-1,4-epoxy butane)

(included for comparison and cautions)

dis: oils, etc.; mis: water, alcohols, ethers, hydrocarbons

pol: moderately polar

otc: none known

note: peroxides may be removed by treating with strong ferrous

sulfate solution made slightly acidic with sodium bisulfate

caution: same as diethyl ether (slightly more dangerous)

TOLUENE (C6H5CH3, methylbenzene, phenylmethane, toluol)

prop: mp -95 C to -94.5 C, bp 110.4 C

dis: oils

pol: non-polar

tox: oral LD50 (rat) 5000 mg/kg, oral toxicity is moderate,

inhalation of 100 ppm can cause psychotropic effects, 200 ppm

can produce CNS effects

otc: paint and hardware stores (mixed with methyl alcohol, etc.)

uses: furniture refinisher, liquid sandpaper, paint remover

note: low fire hazard (by itself)

TURPENTINE (spirit of turpentine, turpentine gum, turpentine oil)

prop: bp 154-170 C

dis: oils ?, etc.?

pol: non-polar? (insoluble in water)

sol: alcohols, chloroform, ether, glacial acetic acid

tox: aspiration causes pheumonitis, oral ingestion causes damage

to GI tract and kidneys, inhalation toxicity is high

otc: paint and hardware stores

uses: thinning varnish, paint, & enamel; cleaning brushes

caution: moderately flamable


prop: mp 0 C (32 F), bp 100 C (212 F), dens .99999 @ 4 C

dis: anything that is water soluble

pol: polar

tox: non-toxic unless contaminated with a toxic substance

otc: your kitchen sink (contains chlorine, etc.)

otc: grocery store (distilled water or purified water)

uses: drinking, washing, etc.

note: distilled water is better for most things (and it's cheap).

water is ofter used with petroleum ether to separate water-

solubles from non-water-solubles. i.e. combine and shake

vigorously until your arm falls off, then separate.

WHITE GAS (petrol, gasoline)

prop: see gasoline

dis:, pol:, and tox: see petroleum distillates

otc: sporting goods stores

uses: fuel for camp stoves and camp heaters

caution: flamable


prop: (m-xylene) mp -47.9 C, bp 139 C

(o-xylene) bp 144.4 C

(p-xylene) bp 138.3 C

dis: oils

pol: non-polar

tox: oral LD50 (rat) 5000 mg/kg, see also petroleum distillates

otc: super markets, hardware stores

uses: some cleaners (e.g. for dissolving chewing gum,

brand name: "Goof-off"), some lighter fluids

caution: flamable

OTHER SUBSTANCES: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

ACETIC ACID (CH3COOH, vinegar acid, methane carboxylic acid, ethanoic


prop: mp 16.7 C, bp 118.1 C

sol: water

tox: oral LD50 (rat) 3310 mg/kg

otc: grocery stores (vinegar)

uses: cooking, cleaning

caution: dangerous in contact with: chromic acid, sodium peroxide,

nitric acid, potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide, xylene,

oleum. decomposition (at high temp.) evolves toxic fumes

note: normal vinegar is 5% acetic acid, vinegar concentrate is 18%

acetic acid

note: can be used for extracting some alkaloids from plant material


AMMONIUM HYDROXIDE (NH4OH, ammonia, aqua ammonium, water of ammonia,

ammonium hydrate)

prop: mp -77 C

sol: water

tox: oral LD50 (rat) 350 mg/kg, oral LDlo (human) 43 mg/kg,

inhale LClo (human) 5000 ppm

otc: grocery & hardware stores

uses: household cleaning ammonia

note: ammonia is a gas at room temperature. it is sold otc

dissolved in water (much as is done with hydrochloric acid).

note: a weak base. can be used to precipitate some alkaloids

from slightly acidic solutions.


found in marijuana, organicly converted to THC, can be isomerized

into THC by refluxing with dilute acid

prop: mp 66-67 C, bp 187-190 C @ 2mm Hg

sol: acetone, petroleum distillates, alcohols, etc.

note: this is an oily substance, not water soluble


found in marijuana, a degradation product of THC

prop: mp 76-77 C, bp 185 C @ .05mm Hg

sol: acetone, petroleum distillates, alcohols, aqueous alkaline

note: this is an oily substance, not water soluble


ethyl]benzyl alcohol hydrochloride)

prop: mp 187-188 C

sol: water (1gm/4ml), (insoluble in diethyl ether)

tox: oral LD50 (mouse) 400 mg/kg

otc: truck stops (Mini Thins, MaxAlert, etc.)

uses: bronchiodialator (for asthma)

caution: decomposes into toxic fumes at higher temperatures

note: pure ephedrine is no longer available otc in the U.S. current

otc varieties usually have guiafenesin

note: slightly stronger that ephedrine sulfate

note: pure ephedrine can be converted into methcathinone

note: now a controlled substance in the US


(methylamino)propanol sulfite)

prop: mp 247 C

sol: water (1gm/20 ml), alcohol (1gm/0.2ml)

tox: oral LD50 (rat) 600 mg/kg

otc: same as for ephedrine hydrochloride?

caution: decomposes into toxic fumes at higher temperatures

note: slightly weaker than ephedrine HCl

note: pure ephedrine can be converted into methcathinone

note: now a controlled substance in the US

HYDROCHLORIC ACID (HCl, muriatic acid, chlorohydric acid, hydrogen


prop: mp -114.3 C, bp -84.8 C, dens 1.639 g/liter gas @ 0 C

tox: oral LD50 (rabbit) 900 mg/kg

otc: hardware stores (muriatic acid)

uses: cleaning calcium or lime deposits from cement, brick,

swimming pools, and ceramic tile.

caution: caustic

note: useful in isomerizing CBD to THC. useful in extracting

some alkaloids from plant material. HCl is found naturally in

low concentrations in the digestive juices of your stomach.



an herbicide used by Latin-American drug enforcers to kill marijuana

crops in bulk

tox: oral LD50 (rat) 57 mg/kg, dermal LD50 (rat) 80 mg/kg, can

cause severe damage to lungs (nasty stuff!)

note: avoid all marijuana that looks like it has any dye on it.

unfortunately, not all paraquat is used with dye.


found in marijuana, the psychoactive stuff

prop: bp 200 C @ 0.02mm Hg (other cannabinoids may have bp's

lower than 185 C)

sol: polar solvents, acetone, alcohols, etc.

note: this is an oily substance, not water soluble

SODIUM HYDROXIDE (NaOH, caustic soda, sodium hydrate, lye, white caustic)

prop: mp 318.4 C, bp 1390 C, dens 2.120

tox: oral LDlo (rabbit) 500 mg/kg

otc: hardware stores, etc. (Red Devil Lye, etc.)

uses: unclogging drains

caution: highly corrosive to body tissue

caution: can react violently with acetic acid or tetrahydrofuran

note: useful in precipitating some alkaloids from acid solutions


by product of isomerization of CBD to THC when sulfuric acid is

neutralized with baking soda

sol: water

note: insoluble in alcohol

note: can be removed by dissolving resin in petroleum ether

and shaking with water

SULFURIC ACID (H2SO4, oil of vitriol, dipping acid)

prop: mp 10.49 C, bp 330 C, dens 1.83

tox: oral LD50 (rat) 2,140 mg/kg

otc: plumming supply stores (plummers' sulfuric acid)

uses: unclogging drains

otc: automotive supply stores (battery acid)

caution: battery acid may have lead in it

caution: caustic, use care when mixing with water as it heats

rapidly when dissolved and causes spattering (add slowly to

water drop by drop)

note: useful in isomerizing CBD to THC

VINEGAR see acetic acid

SUBSTITUTIONS: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It is not always easy to come up with the exact solvent discussed in

any particular recipe. Consequently, it may be advantageous to

consider substituting an over-the-counter solvent for a hard-to-get

one. This can often be done successfully if you keep a few things in

mind. The main thing to look for is what the solvent dissolves.

If you are trying to dissolve an oily substance (such as cannabinoids

from pot or oil from lemon peels), look for solvents that will

dissolve oils (e.g. polar solvents, etc.). Be aware that some

solvents may dissolve more than you bargained for. Alcohols and

acetone will dissolve things that petroleum distillates won't, like

sugars and chlorophyll. Another thing to look for is boiling point.

Naptha solvent (coal tar naptha) has a boiling point so high that you

wouldn't be able to boil it off to separate it from THC (the THC

would boil off with it). Solvents with lower boiling points are

much easier to boil off, and usually leave less residual solvent.

Petroleum distillates are usually a mixture of various hydrocarbons

with a variety of boiling points. The boiling fraction of any

particular petroleum distillate refers to the range of boiling points

of its components.

PURITY: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

There are basically two ways that impurities can get into solvents,

etc. The first way is inherent in the manufacturing process. Very

few products are pure at the time of manufacture. The general idea

is to produce a product that meets certain minimum purity

requirements. The product is refined to remove contaminants until

the minimum purity level is reached. Most manufacturing methods

favor low cost production over purity of product. Industrial grade

products are used in applications that require only marginal purity.

With reagent grade chemicals, however, a high degree of purity is

required. Reagent grades are refined until they are ridiculously

pure (e.g. something like 99.999% pure). This additional refining is

costly, and as a result, reagent grades are usually many times the

price of industrial grades. Industrial grades are used in a lot of

commercial products, and are often available at hardware stores, etc.

Reagent grades are generally only available at chemical supply

stores. Unfortunately, most kitchen chemists would have a difficult

time bluffing their way in a chem shop without arousing suspicion.

Additionally, many reagent grade products are watched closely by

certain government agencies, where the industrial grades are not.

(e.g. acetone)

The other way impurities can be introduced is when the manufacturer

intentionally places additives into a product to enhance its

performance (or appearance) or to dilute an expensive component.

Since the performance enhancing additives usually cost more, the

expensive, big brand names are the ones most likely to use them.

When performance enhancing additives are present, the product labels

often boast a lot of features. The less expensive, more generic

looking products are less likely to add performance enhancers but are

more likely to dilute their product. Some additives may actually be

useful, however. e.g. Paint and varnish removers often combine

methylene chloride with methyl alcohol, and furniture refinishers

often have toluene combined with methyl alcohol.

When dealing with industrial grades, always read the label carefully

to determine if it contains things you don't want. Unfortunately,

not all products list every component on their labels. Try calling

the emergency accidental poisoning numbers listed on the labels.

Tell them your dog ingested some of their product, and that the vet

asked you to call the number. Try to get as much information from

them as you can about what the product contains. Work up a likely

story (including symptoms) before you place the call. One crude

method of testing for contaminants in solvents would be to place a

few drops on some clean glass, and let it evaporate. The amount of

residue remaining gives a very rough idea of how much other crud is

in the solvent. Feed a generous amount of this residue to the

neighbor's cat, and if it dies, the product may be too toxic. :-)

Actually, the likelyhood that contaminants in an industrial grade

product are highly toxic or carcinogenic is probably much lower than

most people think. Relatively few substances are highly toxic and/or

significantly carcinogenic. Many things in our everyday environment

are carcinogenic if you are exposed to massive quantities, but potent

carcinogens are not all that common. Due to government regulations,

many (if not most) industrial grade products are not allowed to

contain significant amounts of dangerous substances, anyway. (Who

wants a cleaner or solvent that will leave a highly hazardous

residue?) Even with all of these assurances, there is always a

certain amount of risk associated with the use of industrial grade


In order to reduce the risks associated with contaminants, the

following precautions are in order:

1) use reagent grades when possible

2) if reagent grades cannot be obtained, then make every effort

to acquire the purest product available (read labels, study

manufacturing methods, etc.)

3) purify the product (if you can) before using it

4) use minimal amounts of these products (a liter of solvent

boiled down to a few cc's may still contain a liter's worth

of contaminants)

Some people recommend purifying petroleum distillates by adding

water, shaking vigorously for a long time, and then discarding the

water. This will only help remove water soluble contaminants. A

better way to purify most liquids is to distill them. Unfortunately,

this is not always easy to do if you don't have the right equipment.

One thing I have been intending to try is to shake paint stripper

(containing methyl alcohol and methylene chloride) with a generous

quantity of water to see if I can separate the methylene chloride.

If anyone has comments on whether this will work, please let me know.

USEFUL HINTS: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Boiling off solvents with low boiling points (less than 100 C):

Place the solvent into a small pan or shallow, wide mouth jar.

Shallow containers with wide openings aid in allowing the vapors to

escape quickly. Place the container with the solvent into a larger

pan of simmering water. Don't allow the water to come to a full

boil. Boiling water is really no hotter than simmering water.

Rapidly boiling water can splash into your solvent, or cause the

solvent container to tip over. Watch the level of the solvent as it

boils away so that the container won't get too light, and tip over.

If the level of the solvent is too low (i.e. 1 cm below the level of

the water), then remove some of the water. Anchoring the solvent

container in place may help. Use hot pads to avoid burning yourself.

Remember to use good ventilation to avoid the build-up of toxic or

flamable fumes. If the boiling point of your solvent is too close to

100 C, you can add sugar or automobile antifreeze to the simmering

water to raise it's boiling point a little, or use the method below

for higher boiling point solvents.

Boiling off solvents with higher boiling points (greater than 100 C):

Follow the method and precautions for lower boiling point solvents

with the following differences: Use melted shortening (or vegetable

oil if you don't have shortening) instead of simmering water. If

your solvent container is glass, place it in the shortening as soon

as it is melted, and then heat it up from there. This will help keep

the jar from cracking. Elevate the solvent container slightly from

the bottom of the larger pan to aid in even heating. A few nails in

the bottom of the shortening works for me. Place a candy thermometer

in the shortening to measure it's temperature. Heat the shortening

until it is 20 or 30 degrees centigrade hotter than the highest

boiling point of your solvent or until the solvent begins to boil at

a comfortable rate. Always keep the temperature of the shortening

well below the boiling point of the dissolved product you are trying

to recover, or you may loose significant amounts of it to

evaporation. Be careful to not let solvent or water splash into the

hot shortening or you may get some spattering of hot grease. If your

solvent container is glass, allow it to cool slowly when you are done

to keep it from cracking. If you are extracting cannabinoids or

other oils of similar or higher boiling points, you may want to raise

the temperature of the shortening to about 160 C for a minute or two

to help eliminate solvent residue. (It can be tough to get rid of

all of it, though.)

Preventing boil-overs:

Some solvents may have a tendency to boil over quite easily. This

can waste valuable product as well as pose fire hazards, etc. By

making sure that the solvent level is well below the top of its

container, many boil-overs may be avoided. It is common practice in

chemistry to use boiling chips to control excessive boiling. Glass

marbles can serve the same purpose, and they are easy to get. Put as

many marbles into your solvent as needed to control the boiling.

Marbles may be removed a few at a time as the solvent level drops.

Remember that valuable extract may coat the surface of the marbles.

Wash them with a very small quantity of solvent and add this to the

rest of the solvent when it is mostly boiled off.

Refluxing in the kitchen:

Find a pan with a lid that can be put on upside down, and still

remain stable with a reasonable fit. Place your solvent, etc. into

the pan, and put the lid on upside down. Place ice in the lid. Heat

the solvent until it begins to boil gently. The heat may be applied

directly, or for better temperature control, you may use a method

similar to the ones listed above for boiling off solvents. If you

use hot shortening to apply heat, be careful to not let water from

melting ice or solvent condensing on the sides drip into the hot

grease. Tying a rag around the top of the solvent pan can help. As

the ice melts, scoop out the water and add more ice.

Getting rid of water in oil extracts:

Sometimes water can get into an oil extract when it is purified by

dissolving in petroleum ether, and shaking with water. As the last

of the solvent boils off, the water forms beads in the bottom of the

extract. These beads of water begin to spatter when the extract gets

too hot. By adding a small amount of acetone or alcohol, the water

will tend to evaporate off as the alcohol or acetone is boiled off.

Make sure that the alcohol or acetone is not contaminated with large

amounts of water or this may be counterproductive. This process may

be repeated until all of the water is gone.

REFERENCES: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

- Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials, Litton Educational

Publishing, Inc. (got a lot of good information here)

- CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics

- The Merck Index

- Some dictionary of technical and scientific terms

- Labels from numerous OTC products

- Comments from people on the 'net (many thanks to contributors)

- The chemistry-extracting file at hyperreal.com

- Things I remembered, but don't know where I read them

- My own ingenuity and experience (nothing illegal, of course!)

Originally in Hyperreal Drug Archives. Hosted by Erowid as of Oct, 1999.

Last Mod - Feb 5 2011

Updated version added 26/10/12 - This is the latest version wich is and updated version of my original post

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