Hydrocarbon oils such as petroleum, shale oils, lignite or coal tar oils are purified by distilling them and collecting the distillate in fractions within narrow limits so that all the impurities are contained in one or more of the narrow fractions. In distilling ligroin obtained by destructive distillation of brown coal, it is found that the coloring and resin-forming constituents are contained in the fractions distilling over at 62 to 86/sup 0/C and 108/sup 0/C. The ligroin is purified, therefore, by distillating in an apparatus provided with an efficient dephlegmotor and removing these two fractions. The distillation may be carried out wholly or in part under reduced pressure, and fractions separated under ordinary pressure may be subsequently distilled under reduced pressure. The hydrocarbons may be first separated into fractions over wider limits and the separate fractions be subjected to a further fractional distillation.