Terpentijn, terpentine, wasbenzine

Terpentijn, terpentine, wasbenzine¹

This article is ongoing research in an attempt to entangle a number of common solvents (or fuels) that have different (or confusingly similar) names in the English language area, in the Netherlands and Japan, specifically those related to Dutch terpentijn, terpentine, wasbenzine. To be certain, a background in chemistry would be required - which I lack, so use at your own risk.


Wasbenzine seems to be a product made in the Netherlands packaged in a way that is not universal. It seems to be an alkane (アルカン). Similar substances may be packaged differently in different countries for other applications.

Wasbenzine may be similar to white gas (‘a generic name for camp stove and lantern fuel, usually naphtha’ [en.wikipedia]) or white gasoline [ibid]. White gas seems different from white spirit which seems to be more like kerosene [ibid]. Wasbenzine seems to consist of alkane with 5 to 15 carbon atoms according to the formula CnH2n+2 (for example C7H16, which is Heptane or n-Heptane) [nl.wikipedia]. The chemical formula CnH2n+2 is the same that is used to explain alkane. Naphtha and alkane don't seem to be exactly the same stuff², so wasbenzine and white gas may not be the same stuff either. Japanese seems to follow the English usage, howaitogasorin ホワイトガソリン seems to point back to both white gas and white gasoline [ja.wikipedia].

Note that wasbenzine is primarily used as a solvent. It may be used to clean the inner tire of a bike (degreasing before repair), to remove the glue of stickers, and to clean clothes. However, it can also be used as cigarette lighter fuel and as fuel for specific other types of stoves or lamps. It is seen as a less harmful alternative to common paint thinners (like for example acetone, or mineral spirits (US), white spirit (UK)) [nl.wikipedia] [en.wikipedia].


Dutch label from about 2002.

Dutch terpentine is ‘a clear, colorless liquid with low viscosity that smells like jet fuel or kerosene’ [nl.wikipedia]. (Jet fuel and kerosene seem to be the same stuff, but kerosene seems to be called paraffin in the UK, Southeast Asia and South Africa [en.wikipedia]). According to the Dutch wikipedia article, brand names for terpentine may be Varsol, Exxcol, Hydrosol, Shellsol, Solvesso en White Spirit and would the English for terpentine be white spirit. It also states that ‘terpentine is often confused with terpentijn, however, terpentijn is a mixture of terpenes which is harvested from conifers (such as pine trees), usually through distillation of the resin [nl.wikipedia]. Japanese seems to follow English, using howaitosupiritto ホワイトスピリット for white spirit.

While it seems that terpentine corresponds to English white spirit (and thus to Japanese howaitosupiritto ホワイトスピリット), confusingly in Australia and New Zealand white spirit can also refer to what elsewhere is called white gas (which may be more similar to wasbenzine) or Coleman fuel (which may be the same stuff, or specifically a variant that is petroleum naphtha based). [en.wikipedia].

Further, the designation white spirit may be specific to the UK, while in the US the designation mineral spirit may be in use. Other names are mineral turpentine, turpentine substitute, petroleum spirits, solvent naphtha (petroleum) or Stoddard solvent [en.wikipedia].


Dutch terpentijn seems to correspond to English Turpentine (also called spirit of turpentine, oil of turpentine and wood turpentine or colloquially as turps). It is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from live trees, mainly pines, and is composed of terpenes [en.wikipedia]. The Japanese equivalent of this seems to be terebinyu テレビン油, but may also be called matsu seiyu 松精油, or taapentain ターペンタイン [ja.wikipedia].

1. Updated 6 June 2013

2. A topic that needs clarification: how does naphtha relate to alkane? Naphtha is ‘a broad term covering among the lightest and most volatile fractions of the liquid hydrocarbons in petroleum. Naphtha is a colorless to reddish-brown volatile aromatic liquid, very similar to gasoline’ [en.wikipedia] while alkane is ‘any of saturated hydrocarbons including methane, ethane and compounds with long carbon chain known as paraffins etc., having a chemical formula of the form CnH2n+2.’ [en.wikipedia].