Turpentine Oil - Overview

turpentine oil in bottle

Turpentine (also called spirit of turpentine, oil of turpentine, wood turpentine, gum turpentine) is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from trees, mainly pine trees. It is composed of terpenes, mainly the monoterpenes alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. Hence, it has a potent odor similar to that of nail polish remover. Although sometimes known colloquially as turfs, this more often refers to turpentine substitute (or mineral turpentine).

manufacturing industry

Manufacturing Process

This chemical is not a pure substance but a complex mixture of terpenes, particularly large proportion of pinene (bicyclic monoterpenic hydrocarbon), a compound from which camphor is manufactured. Terpene is a class of naturally occurring unsaturated hydrocarbons whose carbon skeletons are composed exclusively of isoprene C5 units (CH2=C(CH3)-CH=CH2). The stepwise distillation with water and carbonates yields terpenes. The water solubility of turpentine oil is negligible. But it is miscible in absolute alcohol and ether. With boils at about 155 – 185 C and its specific gravity is ranged from 0.86 to 088. Dissolves sulphur, phosphorus and resins. This product is used chiefly as a solvent in paints, vanishes and waxes, and in making camphor, inks and other products.

chemical tubes

Turpentine Oil Applications

The two primary turpentine oil applications in industry are as a solvent and as a source of materials for organic synthesis

The Application

Turpentine has long been used as a solvent, mixed with beeswax or with carnauba wax, to make fine furniture wax for use as a protective coating over oiled wood finishes (e.g., lemon oil). Turpentine is also added to many cleaning and sanitary products due to its antiseptic properties and its “clean scent”. It is also used as a source of raw materials in the synthesis of fragrant chemical compounds. As a solvent, turpentine is used for thinning oil-based paints, for producing varnishes, and as a raw material for the chemical industry. Its industrial use as a solvent in industrialized nations has largely been replaced by the much cheaper turpentine substitutes distilled from crude oil. 

Canada balsam, also called Canada turpentine or balsam of fir, is a turpentine which is made from the resin of the balsam fir. Venice turpentine is produced from the Western Larch Larix occidentalis. Commercially used camphor, linalool, alpha-terpineol, and geraniol are all usually produced from alpha-pinene and beta-pinene, which are two of the chief chemical components of turpentine. These pinenes are separated and purified by distillation. The mixture of diterpenes and triterpenes that is left as residue after turpentine distillation is sold as rosin.

In early 19th-century America, turpentine was sometimes burned in lamps as a cheap alternative to whale oil. It was most commonly used for outdoor lighting, due to its strong odor. A blend of ethanol and turpentine added as an illuminant called burning fluid was also important for several decades.  In 1946, Soichiro Honda used turpentine as a fuel for the first Honda motorcycles as gasoline was almost totally unavailable following World War II.


Common NameTurpentine Oil
CAS No.8006-64-2
FormulaC10H16 (Pinene)
Molecular Weight136.24 g mol-1
H.S Code3805.10.00
SynonymsPinene Isomers Mixture, Spirits of Turpentine, Terpene, Dipanol, Oil of Turpentine


Contentalpha-PINENE 40 – 55% + beta-PINENE 40 – 55% + Others 5-10%
Specific Gravity0.860 – 0.875
Acidity0.5% max
Distillation Range155 – 185 C
Optical Rotation-25° ~ -31°
Water0.5% max
Color (Apha)35 max