Acetone vs. Ethanol

What's the Difference?

Acetone and ethanol are both organic compounds commonly used in various industries and applications. However, they differ in their chemical structures and properties. Acetone, also known as propanone, is a colorless liquid with a distinct fruity odor. It is highly volatile and flammable, making it an effective solvent for many substances. Acetone is commonly used in nail polish removers, paint thinners, and as a cleaning agent. On the other hand, ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol, is a clear, colorless liquid with a mild, sweet odor. It is less volatile than acetone and is commonly used as a solvent, disinfectant, and fuel. Ethanol is also the main component in alcoholic beverages. While both acetone and ethanol have their own unique properties and uses, they are both valuable compounds in various industries.


Chemical FormulaC3H6OC2H6O
Molecular Weight58.08 g/mol46.07 g/mol
Boiling Point56.05°C78.37°C
Melting Point-94.9°C-114.1°C
Density0.79 g/cm³0.789 g/cm³
Solubility in WaterMiscibleMiscible
OdorSweet, fruityAlcoholic
FlammabilityHighly flammableHighly flammable
UsesNail polish remover, paint thinner, solventAlcoholic beverages, fuel, solvent

Further Detail


Acetone and ethanol are two commonly used organic solvents with distinct properties and applications. Understanding their attributes is crucial for various industries, including pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and manufacturing. In this article, we will delve into the characteristics of acetone and ethanol, exploring their chemical structures, physical properties, uses, and potential hazards.

Chemical Structures

Acetone, also known as propanone, has the chemical formula C3H6O. It is a colorless liquid with a distinct sweet odor. Ethanol, on the other hand, is an alcohol with the chemical formula C2H5OH. It is also a colorless liquid but has a characteristic odor similar to that of alcoholic beverages.

Physical Properties

Acetone and ethanol differ in their physical properties. Acetone has a lower boiling point of approximately 56 degrees Celsius, while ethanol boils at around 78 degrees Celsius. This difference in boiling points makes acetone evaporate more quickly than ethanol. Additionally, acetone has a lower density than ethanol, with a density of 0.79 g/mL compared to ethanol's density of 0.79 g/mL. Both solvents are highly flammable, but ethanol has a higher flash point, making it slightly less volatile than acetone.


Acetone and ethanol find applications in various industries due to their unique properties. Acetone is commonly used as a solvent in the production of plastics, fibers, and pharmaceuticals. It is also a key ingredient in nail polish removers and paint thinners. Ethanol, on the other hand, is widely used as a solvent in the manufacturing of perfumes, cosmetics, and personal care products. It is also a primary component in alcoholic beverages and serves as a fuel additive in some countries.


Both acetone and ethanol exhibit high solubility in water. Acetone is completely miscible with water, meaning it can dissolve in any proportion. Ethanol, while highly soluble in water, has a limit to its miscibility. At room temperature, ethanol can dissolve in water up to approximately 95% by volume, beyond which it forms a separate layer. This property is utilized in the production of alcoholic beverages, where ethanol is diluted to achieve desired alcohol content.

Chemical Reactions

Acetone and ethanol participate in various chemical reactions due to the presence of functional groups in their structures. Acetone, being a ketone, can undergo oxidation reactions to form carboxylic acids. It can also undergo condensation reactions to form aldol compounds. Ethanol, as an alcohol, can be oxidized to acetaldehyde and further to acetic acid. It can also participate in esterification reactions to form esters, which are commonly used in fragrance and flavor industries.


While acetone and ethanol have numerous applications, it is important to be aware of their potential hazards. Acetone is highly flammable and can form explosive mixtures with air. It is also a skin and eye irritant, and prolonged exposure can cause dryness and cracking of the skin. Ethanol, although less volatile than acetone, is also flammable and can cause eye and skin irritation. Additionally, both solvents should be handled with caution as they can be harmful if ingested or inhaled in large quantities.


In conclusion, acetone and ethanol are two widely used organic solvents with distinct properties and applications. Acetone, with its lower boiling point and density, is commonly employed in the production of plastics and pharmaceuticals, as well as in nail polish removers and paint thinners. Ethanol, on the other hand, finds extensive use in perfumes, cosmetics, and alcoholic beverages. Both solvents exhibit high solubility in water and participate in various chemical reactions. However, it is crucial to handle these solvents with care due to their flammability and potential health hazards. Understanding the attributes of acetone and ethanol is essential for ensuring their safe and effective use in various industries.

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