What is White Gas?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

More properly known as naphtha, white gas is a form of petroleum ether that is used for a number of different applications, most notably feedstock for the creation of high octane gasoline products. With a petroleum base, white spirit or gas products are found in many manufacturing environments, as well as in many of the products that are used in the home. When utilized in small quantities, white gas is perfectly safe for both the users and the environment.

Traces of white gas may be found in shoe polish.
Traces of white gas may be found in shoe polish.

While white gas is safe when used as an ingredient in many different compounds and products, it is important to note that overexposure to the substance can lead to health issues. There is some evidence that prolonged exposure to large quantities of the gas may increase the chances of developing certain types of cancer. However, it should be noted there are strict guidelines for the use of this substance in the creation of industrial and household products, so the potential for overexposure is severely limited.

Many companies that make use of white gas in their product offerings have developed safety guidelines that address how and in what quantities the gas may be used. These guidelines are normally referred to as material safety data sheets. Some of these guidelines are available on the Internet as well as directly from the companies themselves. Such well known entities as Shell Ronsonol, Diggers Shellite and JT Baker maintain strict guidelines for the use of petroleum spirits in their products.

White gas can be found in a number of common products. Many lighter fluids include it in the compound. Shoe polish also will contain trace amounts of the gas, as will many types of oil paints. Even the olefin fiber that is used for upholstery and carpeting may contain a small amount of white gas. While this substance may be found in many everyday household items, it is important to keep in mind the amount of gas included is extremely small and is highly unlikely to create an health issues for persons living in the home.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


My relative has burns over 15 percent of his body. He says gas was spilled and he had a cigarette in his mouth when coming back in and was ignited when he walked in. Is this possible?


The difference between white gas and kerosene is huge, and I found out the hard way. While cleaning up some green brush at a campground, I knew I needed something to help burn it.

I found some lantern fuel in my shed and thinking it was a fuel oil like kerosene, I dumped about a half gallon on the brush and knelt down to light it with my lighter. This led to third degree burns from my knuckles to my shoulder!

Kerosene is a slow burning fuel oil, while white gas, like what is used in lantern fuel, is highly explosive! Don't confuse the two!


What is the difference between kerosene and white gas?

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