Toluene is mainly used as a precursor to benzene via hydrodealkylation:
- C6H5CH3 + H2 → C6H6 + CH4
The second ranked application involves its disproportionation to a mixture of benzene and xylene. When oxidized it yields benzaldehyde and benzoic acid, two important intermediates. In addition to the synthesis of benzene and xylene, toluene is a feedstock for toluene diisocyanate (used in the manufacture of polyurethane foam), trinitrotoluene (the explosive, TNT), and a number of synthetic drugs.