Types of volatile substances

There are hundreds of potentially intoxicating household and industrial products which can be used for the purpose of intoxication. These are often categorised as solvents, aerosols, gases and nitrites:

  • Solvents are liquids or semi-solids that vaporise at room temperature and commonly contain toluene and xylene
  • Aerosols refer to sprays that contain solvents (e.g. spray paint) and/or hydrocarbon propellants (butane/propane)
  • Gases include household and commercial products containing gas fuels, and gases used as medical anaesthetics
  • Nitrites are a group of strong-smelling liquids which may contain any one of a range of nitrites.


Examples of commonly used products containing volatile substances:

  • Solvents: petrol, glues (industrial, super glue, modelling glue etc), toluene-based products (such as paint thinners, paint strippers, sealants), dry cleaning fluids, correction fluid/liquid paper, felt tip markers, nail polish and nail polish remover
  • Aerosols including, but not limited to, spray paint, deodorant, hairspray, fly spray, vegetable oil cooking spray, air fresheners and oven cleaner
  • Gases: whipped cream gas bulbs (nitrous oxide), cigarette lighter refill aerosols (butane), butane gas cartridges for portable cooking stoves, cylinder propane gas, bottled domestic gas, some fire extinguishers, ether, chloroform and halothane
  • Nitrites: amyl nitrite, butyl nitrite and isobutyl nitrite


The following are some of the ingredients/chemicals which cause intoxication and are found in many of the commonly used volatile substance products listed above:

  • Acetone
  • Bromochlorodifluoromethane
  • Butane
  • Chloroform
  • Ethyl acetate
  • Hydrocarbons (aliphatic, aromatic and halogenated)
  • Petroleum
  • Propane
  • Tetrachloroethylene
  • Toluene
  • Trichloroethane
  • Trichloroethylene
  • Xylene.

Specific volatile substances 

For more information on specific volatile substances, see the following pages of this website: