Cyclohexanol vs. Phenol

What's the Difference?

Cyclohexanol and phenol are both organic compounds that contain a hydroxyl group (-OH) attached to a benzene ring. However, they differ in their chemical properties and reactivity. Cyclohexanol is a secondary alcohol with a six-membered cyclohexane ring, while phenol is an aromatic compound with a benzene ring. Cyclohexanol is a colorless liquid with a mild odor, whereas phenol is a white crystalline solid with a distinct medicinal smell. Phenol is more acidic than cyclohexanol due to the presence of the hydroxyl group directly attached to the aromatic ring, making it a stronger acid. Additionally, phenol is more reactive and undergoes various chemical reactions, such as electrophilic aromatic substitution, while cyclohexanol is less reactive and requires harsher conditions for reactions.


Chemical FormulaC6H11OHC6H6O
StructureCyclohexane ring with a hydroxyl group (-OH) attachedBenzene ring with a hydroxyl group (-OH) attached
Physical StateLiquidLiquid
OdorMild, camphor-like odorSweet, medicinal odor
Solubility in WaterPartially solublePartially soluble
Boiling Point161.2°C181.7°C
Melting Point25.9°C40.9°C
Acidity/BasicityNeutralWeakly acidic
UsesIntermediate in organic synthesis, solvent, fragranceAntiseptic, disinfectant, precursor in pharmaceuticals

Further Detail


Cyclohexanol and phenol are both organic compounds that belong to the class of alcohols. While they share some similarities in terms of their chemical structure and properties, they also exhibit distinct characteristics that set them apart. In this article, we will explore and compare the attributes of cyclohexanol and phenol, shedding light on their physical and chemical properties, as well as their various applications.

Physical Properties

Both cyclohexanol and phenol are colorless liquids at room temperature. However, they differ in terms of their odor. Cyclohexanol has a characteristic camphor-like odor, while phenol has a distinct sweet, medicinal smell. Additionally, cyclohexanol has a higher boiling point (161 °C) compared to phenol (182 °C), indicating stronger intermolecular forces in cyclohexanol due to the presence of hydrogen bonding.

Furthermore, cyclohexanol has a higher density (0.96 g/cm³) than phenol (1.07 g/cm³), which can be attributed to the larger size of the cyclohexyl group compared to the phenyl group in phenol. This difference in density affects their solubility in water. Cyclohexanol is partially soluble in water, while phenol is more soluble due to the presence of the hydroxyl group, which can form hydrogen bonds with water molecules.

Chemical Properties

One of the key differences between cyclohexanol and phenol lies in their reactivity towards oxidation. Cyclohexanol can be oxidized to form cyclohexanone, a ketone, using oxidizing agents such as potassium permanganate or chromic acid. On the other hand, phenol undergoes oxidation to form benzoquinone, a cyclic diketone, under similar conditions. This difference in reactivity can be attributed to the presence of the aromatic ring in phenol, which stabilizes the intermediate during oxidation.

Another important distinction between cyclohexanol and phenol is their acidity. Phenol is a much stronger acid compared to cyclohexanol due to the presence of the hydroxyl group attached to the aromatic ring. The hydroxyl group in phenol readily donates a proton, making it more acidic than cyclohexanol. This difference in acidity is evident in their pKa values, with phenol having a pKa of 9.99, while cyclohexanol has a pKa of around 16-17.

Furthermore, both cyclohexanol and phenol can undergo esterification reactions with carboxylic acids in the presence of an acid catalyst. These reactions result in the formation of esters, with cyclohexanol forming cyclohexyl esters and phenol forming phenyl esters. However, due to the higher acidity of phenol, it reacts more readily with carboxylic acids compared to cyclohexanol.


Cyclohexanol and phenol find various applications in different industries due to their unique properties. Cyclohexanol is primarily used as a solvent in the production of pharmaceuticals, plastics, and synthetic fibers. It is also utilized in the manufacturing of adipic acid, which is a key component in the production of nylon. Additionally, cyclohexanol can be converted into cyclohexanone, which serves as a precursor for the production of caprolactam, an essential monomer in the synthesis of nylon-6.

On the other hand, phenol has a wide range of applications. It is commonly used in the production of resins, adhesives, and plastics, such as Bakelite. Phenol is also utilized as an antiseptic and disinfectant due to its antimicrobial properties. Furthermore, it serves as a precursor for the synthesis of various pharmaceuticals, including analgesics, antiseptics, and antipyretics. Phenol derivatives, such as salicylic acid, are widely used in the production of skincare products and medications.


In conclusion, while cyclohexanol and phenol are both alcohols, they exhibit distinct attributes that differentiate them from each other. Cyclohexanol has a camphor-like odor, a higher boiling point, and lower acidity compared to phenol. Phenol, on the other hand, has a sweet, medicinal smell, a lower boiling point, and higher acidity. These differences in physical and chemical properties contribute to their varied applications in industries such as pharmaceuticals, plastics, and healthcare. Understanding the unique attributes of cyclohexanol and phenol allows scientists and engineers to utilize them effectively in their respective fields.

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