The key difference between paraffin and kerosene is that paraffin has a slight odor while kerosene has a strong odor. Moreover, in chemistry, paraffin chiefly refers to alkane hydrocarbons having the general formula CnH2n+2 whereas, kerosene is a flammable hydrocarbon produced from petroleum oil.
Many people think that paraffin and kerosene are the same things. Although there are many similarities between these compounds, there are some important differences between paraffin and kerosene as well. As the main difference, they have different odors that help us to say which one is paraffin and which one is kerosene, just by smell. Likewise, there are few other differences that we will discuss in this article.
What is Paraffin?
Paraffin is a term that we use to name various compounds such as paraffin wax, liquid paraffin, alkane, mineral oil, petroleum jelly, and sometimes kerosene as well. However, the most common use of this term in chemistry is to name alkanes. According to this idea, paraffin compounds are hydrocarbons, which we call alkanes. They have the general formula CnH2n+2. These are acyclic, saturated hydrocarbons.
These hydrocarbons are the major components in natural gas and petroleum oil. All the paraffin hydrocarbons containing 5 or fewer carbon atoms per molecule are usually gaseous compounds in room temperature. The compounds having 5 to 15 carbon atoms per molecule are liquid, and if there are carbon atoms more than 15, they are solids. Moreover, the branched paraffin compounds are important constituents in gasoline because they have a higher octane number. All the paraffin compounds are colorless and are miscible with water.
What is Kerosene?
Kerosene is a flammable hydrocarbon, which we produce from petroleum oil. Sometimes we call this compound “paraffin”, but there are some differences between two terms. Other names we use to name this compound are lamp oil and coal oil. This compound is a common fuel in industries as well as in household needs. Moreover, it exists in a liquid state at room temperature.
This compound has a pale yellow color. However, sometimes, it seems colorless according to the presence or absence of other components or impurities. It has a characteristic, strong odor. Therefore we can easily determine the presence of kerosene by smell.
In addition to that, kerosene causes the formation of a lot of soot. This is mainly due to the incomplete combustion. For example, if we use this liquid in a lamp, it may cause the glass to turn into black; thus it prevents the light from coming through the glass. The reason for this soot production is because it is less refined and less distilled.
What is the Difference Between Paraffin and Kerosene?
Paraffin is a term that we use to name various compounds such as paraffin wax, liquid paraffin, an alkane, mineral oil, petroleum jelly and sometimes kerosene as well. However, in chemistry, we use this term chiefly to name alkane hydrocarbons. Whereas, kerosene is a flammable hydrocarbon, which we produce from petroleum oil. Sometimes, we call kerosene as paraffin, but there are distinctions between these two terms. More importantly, it has a characteristic, strong odor while paraffin has a slight odor. The below infographic presents more details on the difference between paraffin and kerosene in tabular form.
Summary – Paraffin vs Kerosene
Most of the times, there is a confusion between the two terms paraffin and kerosene. Some people say they are the same, but there are differences between them. The key difference between paraffin and kerosene is that the paraffin has a slight odor while the kerosene has a strong odor.
1. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Paraffin Hydrocarbon.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 28 Apr. 2015. Available here
2. “Kerosene.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Aug. 2018. Available here