Perchloroethylene is a clear, almost colourless liquid which is not soluble in water. It is non-flammable and has a mild ether-like odour. It is relatively inert by comparison with other chlorinated solvents. It has a high boiling point and low toxicity.
Synonyms: Tetrachloroethylene, ethylene tetrachloride, carbon bichloride, carbon dichloride
Applications of Perchloroethylene
Perchloroethylene is used extensively as a dry cleaning solvent due to the fact that is has no flash point and no fire point, giving it a distinct advantage over some other petroleum distillates. Its powerful yet gentle cleaning action means it creates less wear on fabric and can be used to clean both natural and synthetic fibres.
It also used as a degreasing agent in metallurgical and engineering applications, as a transfer medium, a drying agent for metals, an extractant of fats and oils, and in chemical processes and manufacturing such as the production of HCFCs and HFCs.
Storage and Handling
Perchloroethylene should be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight, flammable materials and all sources of heat or ignition. In addition, it must be isolated from incompatible materials such as strong oxidizing agents, alkali metals, aluminium and strong bases. The product must be stored at a temperature not exceeding 20°C and for a maximum period of six months. Empty containers of the material may be hazardous as they retain residues of the liquid and its vapours. All warnings and precautions listed for the product must be strictly observed.
Perchloroethylene is harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. The product may be a skin irritant if contact is prolonged or repeated. It may also irritate the eyes, though effects are usually temporary. Perchloroethylene vapours can affect the central nervous system and cause anaesthesia. Caution must be exercised during application and handling. Appropriate working practices and training programmes must be in place. Relevant controls pertaining to ventilation should be implemented and personal protective equipment such as goggles, face shields, protective clothing and gloves and respirators appropriate to the task being carried out should be worn to avoid unnecessary exposure.