Solvents are widely used throughout the chemical industry, for example in:
Solvents have many other applications other than synthetic chemistry, for example in paints and adhesives, for cleaning (e.g. dry cleaning) and for extraction (e.g. decaffeination of coffee).
Solvents are used as a reaction medium for various reasons including:
Solvent extraction is also vital part of purification process. Often more solvent is used in work-up than as reaction medium. Partitioning products between an organic phase and an aqueous phase is a very important way of extracting products, although this generates aqueous waste as well as organic waste, both of which require disposal.
Some common classes of solvents are given below.