Difference Between Acetone and Acetic Acid

While studying the branch of Organic chemistry, you might have come across the terms- ‘Acetone’ and ‘Acetic Acid’. However, there is often an academic question on how to differentiate the two of them.


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They are both colorless liquids, having different types of smells. They are also used in different industries and have their own separate ways of preparation. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Acetone is a colorless, highly flammable, and volatile organic compound used as a solvent, while Acetic acid is a weak organic acid that gives vinegar its sour taste.
  2. Acetone is used as a solvent in many industries, such as nail polish removers, whereas Acetic acid is used to manufacture plastic and other chemicals.
  3. Acetone has a distinctive and flammable smell, whereas Acetic acid has a pungent and corrosive smell.

Acetone vs Acetic Acid

The difference between acetone and acetic acid lies mainly in their composition and formula. While acetone is made up of a molecule of ketone, acetic acid is considered to be made up of a molecule of carboxylic acid. 

Acetone vs Acetic Acid

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Comparison Table

Parameters of Comparison AcetoneAcetic Acid
FormulaThe chemical formula of Acetone is CH3COCH3The chemical formula of acetic acid is CH3COOH
SmellAcetone has a smell that resembles that of a fruit.Acetic acid has a smell similar to that of vinegar.
Molecule typeAcetone comes from a type of ketone moleculeAcetic acid comes from a type of carboxylic acid.
Molecular weightThe molecular weight of acetone is 58.08 g/mol.The molecular weight of acetic acid is 60.052 g/mol
pH valueAcetone is basic. That is why its pH value is 7Acetic acid is acidic for which its pH value is 2.4.

What is Acetone?

Acetone which is otherwise known as propanone is a chemical liquid without any color. 

Acetone has a huge role to play in Organic Chemistry. It is volatile and also smells like that of a fruit. It plays the role of a solvent mostly and can be mixed with water too.

It comes from the group of ketone with chemical formula- (CH3)2CO. 

It has a wide range of uses in the industry. It aids in manufacturing plastic and can even be held responsible for various household works. You might have heard the name in nail polish removers.

Acetone is indeed the key ingredient in removing polishes from your nails. 

It is also used to make cosmetics and other products frequently used in our daily household. 

A human body can also produce acetone on its own by metabolism. Human urine and blood contain Acetone. 

Since acetone is light and can quickly evaporate, it often used for cleaning purposes too. You can quickly dab it with a thin cloth or cotton, and the solution is ready!

It has various uses in the textile as well as the automobile industry too. Wooden furniture and automobiles are finished with a coating called lacquers. The key ingredient for these lacquers is acetone itself. 

It is not as toxic as some chemicals. But, we do have to maintain some safety precautions while working with it. Being inflammable, you have to take care of it while working with acetone.

Also, you might cough if you accidentally smell acetone. 


What is Acetic Acid?

Acetic acid is something that is present throughout nature. You might be able to find acetic acid in both animals and plants as well.

Like Acetone, it is quite important in Organic Chemistry, and CH3COOH is the chemical formula of Acetic Acid. IUPAC name or the more formal name of Acetic acid is Ethanoic Acid.

It is sour in taste and has a smell like that of vinegar. Usually, these two factors also act as identifiers in the case of acetic acid. 

It comes from a carboxylic acid and is often stated as the simplest one of the family. 

Industrially it is prepared from Methanol by a process called carbonylation.

Though it does not have any color like acetone- the smell of vinegar is how we can tell it apart. 

Acetic Acid has many properties for which it is useful in various fields. Initially, it can kill germs and bacteria for which it works as an antiseptic. It is also antibacterial.

An industrial use would be the help of acetic acid in the preparation of fibers especially rayon fibers. You can even use acetic acid in the treatment of cancer cells. Doctors often use acetic acid to inject it into the damaged cells. 

Vinegar is essentially acetic acid. For this reason, acetic acid is used in the preservation of vegetables. The key ingredient in the preparation of rubbers also happens to be acetic acid.

Several perfumes also contain acetic acid in their proportions. 

Vinyl acetate monomer is produced with the help of acetic acid.

It can be mixed in the water pretty quickly. It also reacts with both polar as well as non-polar substances. Being used in a wide range of industries- Acetic Acid is a very important chemical in our everyday life. 

acetic acid

Main Differences Between Acetone and Acetic Acid

  1. Acetone is a chemical substance that originates from a ketone and CH3COCH3 is the chemical formula of this substance. Acetic acid also happens to be a chemical substance but it is originated from a carboxylic acid. CH3COOH is the chemical formula of this substance.
  2. Both of these chemicals can be found in nature. They are either produced in the human body or in nature by certain bacteria. Acetone can be created in the human body via metabolism. When fats are broken down, acetic acid is produced. On the other hand, acetic acid can be produced by a bacteria called Acetobacter via fermentation
  3. Both substances can also be produced in a lab. There are artificial means to produce these two. The process of making acetic acid in an artificial method is known as cumene hydroperoxide. On the other hand, acetic acid can be produced by the fusion of carbon dioxide and methanol. 
  4. Acetone is generally used to remove paint from nails while acetic acid can be used in the making of plastics. 
  5. Acetone can also be used in the stripping of paints industrially. On the other hand, acetic acid is used to preserve vegetables by pickling. 
Difference Between Acetone and Acetic Acid
  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/recl.19690881005
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