What are glycol ethers?
Glycol ethers form a varied family of more than 30 solvents. All these glycol ethers have different properties – and are therefore fit for different uses. Traditionally, a distinction is made between two main groups of glycol ethers: E series and P series, depending on whether they are made from ethylene or propylene. In each group, different derivatives have been developed to provide the properties of solubility, volatility, compatibility and inflammability required for the applications.
What are the properties of glycol ethers?
The "glycol ethers" are not only a large family of products, they also possess a large range of properties. The main properties are good solubility in water, most organic solvents, and oils. For instance, glycol ethers can provide the following technical benefits:
- improve the wetting properties of water-based products
- impart good long-term stability and shelf-life of products whilst at the same time
- working at low concentrations
- having little odour
What are glycol ethers used for?
Glycol ethers have a very diverse range of uses. Currently, the most widespread use of glycol ethers is in surface coatings and inks. Many water-based coatings (both for consumers and in industry) would not function without glycol ethers. Glycol ethers are found in applications as diverse as decorative consumer paints and the painting operations of car manufacturers. Other important coating types include can and wood coatings, coil and anticorrosion coatings. Glycol ethers are also used in adhesives and inks, particularly in screen printing. Other important applications include cleaning products, cosmetics, specialty chemical manufacture (including pharmaceuticals), electronics manufacture, leather goods manufacture and hydraulic fluids (e.g. brake fluids). Smaller uses include manufacture of fire fighting foams, agricultural products and in the paper, textile, rubber and construction industries.