Kerosene vs. Turpentine

What's the Difference?

Kerosene and turpentine are both flammable liquids commonly used for various purposes. However, they differ in terms of their composition and applications. Kerosene, also known as paraffin oil, is a hydrocarbon-based fuel primarily used for heating, lighting, and as a fuel for jet engines. It is derived from crude oil and has a higher flash point, making it less volatile than turpentine. On the other hand, turpentine is a solvent obtained from the resin of pine trees. It is commonly used as a paint thinner, solvent, and cleaner due to its ability to dissolve various substances. Turpentine has a lower flash point and evaporates more quickly than kerosene. Overall, while both kerosene and turpentine have their specific uses, they differ in terms of their composition and volatility.


Chemical FormulaC12H26C10H16
AppearanceColorless liquidColorless liquid
OdorCharacteristic odorPungent odor
FlammabilityHighly flammableHighly flammable
UsesJet fuel, heating oil, lamp oilPaint thinner, solvent, varnish
Boiling Point150-300°C155-170°C
Density0.78-0.81 g/cm³0.86-0.87 g/cm³

Further Detail


Kerosene and turpentine are two commonly used substances with distinct properties and applications. While both are derived from natural sources, they have different chemical compositions and are used in various industries. In this article, we will explore the attributes of kerosene and turpentine, highlighting their differences and similarities.

Chemical Composition

Kerosene, also known as paraffin oil, is a flammable hydrocarbon liquid derived from crude oil. It primarily consists of carbon and hydrogen atoms, with a general formula of CnH2n+2. The carbon atoms form long chains, resulting in a relatively high molecular weight. On the other hand, turpentine is a volatile liquid obtained from the resin of various pine trees. It is composed of a mixture of terpenes, such as alpha-pinene and beta-pinene, which give it its characteristic odor.

Physical Properties

When it comes to physical properties, kerosene and turpentine exhibit notable differences. Kerosene is a clear, colorless liquid with a distinct odor. It has a relatively high boiling point, typically around 150-300 degrees Celsius, depending on the specific grade. In contrast, turpentine is a volatile liquid with a strong, characteristic smell. It has a lower boiling point, usually ranging from 150-200 degrees Celsius. Due to its volatility, turpentine evaporates more quickly than kerosene.


Both kerosene and turpentine are flammable substances, but they differ in terms of their flammability characteristics. Kerosene has a higher flash point, which is the minimum temperature at which it can ignite when exposed to an open flame or spark. This property makes kerosene relatively safer to handle and store compared to turpentine. Turpentine, on the other hand, has a lower flash point, making it more prone to ignite at lower temperatures. It is important to exercise caution when working with turpentine due to its higher flammability.


Kerosene and turpentine find applications in various industries, each with its own unique uses. Kerosene is commonly used as a fuel for jet engines, heating, and lamps. Its high energy content and relatively low cost make it an efficient choice for these applications. Additionally, kerosene is used as a solvent in certain industrial processes and as a component in some cleaning products.

Turpentine, on the other hand, is widely used as a solvent in the paint and varnish industry. It helps dissolve resins, oils, and waxes, making it an essential ingredient in many paint thinners and brush cleaners. Turpentine is also utilized in the production of certain pharmaceuticals, fragrances, and as an ingredient in some cosmetic products.

Toxicity and Health Effects

While both kerosene and turpentine should be handled with care, they have different levels of toxicity and associated health effects. Kerosene is considered relatively safe when used as intended, but ingestion or inhalation can lead to adverse effects. Prolonged exposure to kerosene fumes may cause respiratory irritation, dizziness, and headaches. Ingestion can result in gastrointestinal issues and, in severe cases, aspiration pneumonia.

Turpentine, on the other hand, is more toxic than kerosene. Inhalation of turpentine vapors can irritate the respiratory system and cause dizziness, nausea, and headaches. Prolonged or repeated exposure may lead to more serious health effects, including damage to the central nervous system and kidneys. It is important to use turpentine in well-ventilated areas and follow safety guidelines to minimize the risk of exposure.

Environmental Impact

Considering the environmental impact, both kerosene and turpentine have their own implications. Kerosene is derived from crude oil, a non-renewable fossil fuel, and its combustion releases carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. However, advancements in refining processes have led to the production of cleaner-burning kerosene with reduced emissions.

Turpentine, on the other hand, is derived from renewable sources, namely pine trees. However, the extraction process can have negative environmental consequences if not managed sustainably. Overharvesting of trees for turpentine production can lead to deforestation and habitat destruction. It is crucial to ensure responsible sourcing and sustainable practices to minimize the environmental impact of turpentine production.


In conclusion, kerosene and turpentine are distinct substances with different chemical compositions, physical properties, and applications. Kerosene, derived from crude oil, is primarily used as a fuel and solvent, while turpentine, obtained from pine trees, is widely used as a solvent in the paint industry. Both substances have their own flammability characteristics, toxicity levels, and environmental implications. Understanding these attributes is essential for safe and responsible use in various industries.

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