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Solvent Alternatives Guide
Glycol Ethers


Glycol ethers are organic solvents. Many different glycol ethers are used for cleaning. They are often found under the trade names Cellosolve™ and Carbitol™. Glycol ethers are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and may be regulated in your area. They are also combustible or flammable and must be handled accordingly.

Glycol ethers are used in the semiconductor industry to strip photo-resist. They also remove flux, solder paste, inks, greases, and oils. They are often blended with other solvents for specific cleaning applications.

The terms E-series and P-series are often used to refer to ethylene glycol ethers and propylene glycol ethers, respectively. E-series members generally are more toxic. A semiconductor industry study has linked two E-series glycol ethers to an increase in miscarriages among assembly line workers. The two specific compounds studied were diethylene glycol dimethyl ether and ethylene glycol monoethyl ether acetate. The time weighted average (TWA) for ethylene glycol methyl ether acetate is 5 ppm, but miscarriage increases have been linked to lower exposure levels.

Glycol ethers tend to emulsify well for cleaning and separate easily during recovery. One method for disposal is to burn the solvent in an approved chemical incinerator.

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Last Update: 14 March 1995