While it is potentially a dangerous chemical if used incorrectly, there are at least 3 advantages to using xylene in your home. Often referred to as xylol, xylene is a powerful chemical solvent. It is derived from petroleum and, for this reason, has certain advantages over other, similar products.
1. It Is a Powerful Solvent
It may seem odd, but solvents are chemical composites that are similar on a molecular level to the substances they are designed to dissolve. Because it is made from petroleum, Xylene is especially good at cleaning up oil-based products like paint, wood stain, and other synthetic products, without damaging the surfaces they are on. Many oil-based decking enamels and varnishes can be thinned or cleaned up with xylene, which also works well as a solvent when used with compounds that are applied to metals to keep them from rusting. Other substances that xylene will dissolve include adhesives such as glue, caulk, and putty, and it is also effective for removing grease, enamels, resins, and waterproofing agents.
2. It Thins Lacquers and Softens Some Paints
Since Xylene dissolves synthetic products, it can be mixed with certain paints and lacquers to thin them down. If one tried to spray a lacquer through a paint gun normally, the product would be too thick to spray and will simply clog the gun. Thinning lacquer remedies all this. When a lacquer is sprayed through a gun it not only saves time, but also ensures the lacquer is applied in a thin even coat. Similarly, when a small amount of xylene is mixed with certain paints, it will cause the paint to soften. Once softened, the paint will brush or spray on more easily, without chunks or clots. In addition, the thinned paint will go further. It will not, however, hide blemishes as well.
3. It Has a Slower Evaporation Time than Other Products
Toluene, also known as Toluol, is a product that is very similar to xylene. It is also used to thin lacquer but toluene has a faster rate of evaporation than xylene. This will cause the lacquer to dry faster when cut with toluene than it will with xylene. Although a faster drying time seems like a benefit, when lacquer dries too quickly it does not level out properly because the product does not have the opportunity to flow together. The result is a grainy, bumpy surface that resembles a topographic map or the texture of an orange peel. Adding some xylene to the lacquer first retards the drying time and will prevent this from happening. Artists may also benefit from slowing the drying times of their paint. Artists who work with oil-based paints will find that a slower drying time increases the amount of time in which they are able to blend colors together.