Methylene Chloride and Dichloromethane

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Methylene chloride, or dichloromethane (CH2Cl2), is a colorless, volatile liquid with a mildly sweet smell. It is a good solvent and is miscible with most organic solvents. It is also one of the least toxic of the chlorinated hydrocarbons, but it is still a potential liver irritant. It can be made by reacting methyl chloride with chlorine gas in air, or directly chlorinating methane. The reaction is usually carried out at 400-500 °C, and the product mixtures are separated by distillation.

Methylene dichloride is used in a variety of chemical processes, including the extraction of pharmaceuticals and cellulose triacetate for use in photography. It is also an important ingredient in some paint and coating removers, a solvent for spray adhesives, and a blowing agent for urethane foam. The low boiling point makes it a useful solvent for heat-sensitive parts, and it is commonly used to clean electronic printed circuit boards prior to the application of photoresist.

It is incompatible with many metals, particularly magnesium and aluminium powders, strong caustics, oxidizing agents, and liquid oxygen. It also corrodes some stainless steels and nickel. Dichloromethane can be degraded to methanol by the action of water, but this is not a significant process under natural conditions and may take up to 18 months. This degradation may then leak to groundwater and the atmosphere.