Glycol ethers


Many compounds in this group have properties that may cause severe health effects. Depending on the chemical structure and the size of the molecule, these compounds may be able to damage the unborn child and are suspected of damaging fertility.

Glycol ethers do not generally have properties that pose a risk for the environment.


Function and use

Glycol ethers are mostly used as solvents.

The increased use of water-based surface coatings, in which glycol ethers play an important role, has led to the growth of the entire glycol market. These compounds are alkyl ethers which originate from either ethylene glycol (“E-series”) or propylene glycol (“P-series”). Typically, these solvents have high boiling points.

Most of the compounds that are on the SIN List are in the E-series.


Areas of application

P-series glycol ethers are mostly used in degreasers, cleaners, aerosol paints and adhesives. E-series glycol ethers are often found in pharmaceuticals, sunscreens, cosmetics, inks, dyes and water-based paints.



Most of these compounds are restricted in some way. Some are included in REACH annex XIV or XVII and several are included in the REACH Candidate List.



Over the past 30 years, E-series glycol ethers have been phased out and progressively been replaced by P-series alternatives whenever possible, primarily due to increased concern about the toxicological effects of some E-series glycol ethers.

Alternative compounds are available on the market, such as:







Chemical name

Propylene glycol ethers in general, for example:

Arcosolv PTB (Propylene glycol tert-butyl ether)

Dowanol (di-propylene glycol n-butyl ether)

Ethyl 3-ethoxypropionate

Ethyl lactate