The synthesis, purification and characterization of ionic liquids is reviewed. The major synthetic routes to low melting ionic salts are described in detail. The intrinsic properties of ionic liquids make purification difficult and therefore a special emphasis is placed on currently employed purification methodologies. Synthetic methods which are designed to avoid specific impurities are also discussed. For the same reasons highlighted above characterization of ionic liquids presents unique challenges; the available methods and some of the issues of their use are also reviewed. © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009.