What Is Butyl Degreaser?

Kate Eglan-Garton

Cleaning grease and grime can be a chore if you do not use the right chemically based degreaser. Butyl degreaser has an organic makeup that dissolves sticky substances, giving you the ability to clean more easily.

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Knowing what types of chemicals are contained in your degreaser and if there are health risks helps you determine if precautions are needed. Butyl is not required by law to be listed as an active ingredient in cleaning agents because it poses no danger, according to scientific testing.


Butyl is classified in the glycol ether family and is organic in nature. It possesses several different names depending on the chemical balance for its use. Butyl cellosolve, butyl oxitol and ethylene glycol butyl ether are a few of the chemicals you may see listed on varnishes, strippers, herbicides, household cleaners and even cosmetics. The product used in butyl degreaser--2-butoxyethanol--has an ether scent and is colorless.


Coupled with water, butyl provides a solubility function. Possessing hydrophilic/hydrophobic balances, butyl is beneficial to many products by leveling the combined molecules of ingredients. In degreasers, they disperse upon the oil and dissolve into a liquid. Butyl is biodegradable, being of organic nature, and has a higher boiling point than many other ether members. Sharing like characteristics with ether and alcohol, butyl is very multifunctional.


The dehydrating properties of glycols remove the water vapor of natural gas. It is also used as an additive in anti-freezing products such as antifreeze and added to jet fuel to prevent the buildup of ice in fuel tanks. As a solvent, glycols are used in polymer production, plastics, lacquer, paint and varnish in addition to general-purpose cleaners. Disinfectants and preservatives also use the balancing properties of glycols.

Health Issues

Occasional exposure to butyl has no lasting effects on the human body, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. People exposed to high levels of 2-butoxyethanol for extended periods of time have reported headaches, a metallic taste in their mouths and irritation to the eyes. Those who have ingested cleaning agents that contain this chemical have experienced breathing problems and low blood pressure. No lasting harmful effects have been noted, however.

Butyl Versus Non-Butyl

Being aware of the harsh dangers that chemically based cleaning agents can have to your skin and health are important factors in determining whether or not the threat is worth the cleaning. While butyl degreasers may not possess an immediate danger to your health, other chemicals contained in a butyl degreaser may. Always read warning labels and wear protective clothing if advised.