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Created by: Team Chemistry -, Last Updated: April 25, 2024


Acetone is organic compound and it has a clear, highly flammable liquid that is widely known for its versatility and effectiveness as a solvent. It is commonly used in everyday life, especially in nail polish remover and in various cleaning products. Chemically, acetone is the simplest form of ketone, a compound characterized by a carbon atom double-bonded to an oxygen atom, with two additional carbon atoms attached. Acetone evaporates quickly and has a distinct, sweet smell. It is also produced naturally in the human body during the breakdown of fat. Due to its ability to dissolve many other substances, acetone is a valuable tool in scientific labs and industries.

What is Acetone?

Acetone is a clear, colorless liquid that is commonly used as a solvent in everyday life, especially in nail polish removers and in various industrial processes. It is known for its ability to dissolve many plastics and synthetic fibers quickly and efficiently. Besides its use in the beauty industry, acetone is also important in the manufacturing of plastics and other synthetic materials. It evaporates quickly, making it an excellent choice for fast-drying applications. Acetone is also produced naturally in the human body during the breakdown of fat. Its simple chemical structure and powerful solvent properties make it incredibly useful in a wide range of applications.

Chemical Names and Formulas

Hill FormulaC₃H₆O
Alternate Names2-Propanone, Dimethylketal, Dimethyl Ketone, Ketone, Dimethyl-, Ketone Propane, Methyl Ketone, Propan-2-one, Propanone, Pyroacetic Ether

Structure of Acetone


Acetone is also known by its chemical name propanone, has a simple molecular structure consisting of three carbon atoms, six hydrogen atoms, and one oxygen atom, represented by the chemical formula C₃H₆O. At the center of the acetone molecule, there is a carbonyl group (C=O), where a carbon atom is double-bonded to an oxygen atom. This carbonyl group is flanked on either side by a methyl group (CH₃), making the overall structure symmetrical. The presence of the carbonyl group makes acetone a ketone, which is a type of compound known for its effectiveness as a solvent. This structure is responsible for acetone’s ability to dissolve many organic substances and its quick evaporation rate.

Preparation of Acetone

Acetone is commonly produced through the process of cumene oxidation, which is widely used in industrial settings. In this process, cumene (isopropylbenzene) is first oxidized by oxygen from the air to form cumene hydroperoxide. This intermediate compound is then subjected to a process called acid-catalyzed cleavage, where it is broken down into acetone and phenol. The chemical equation representing this reaction is:

C₆H₅C(CH₃)₂H₂O₂ → C₃H₆O + C₆H₅OH

(This translates to: Cumene hydroperoxide breaks down into acetone and phenol.)

This method is efficient and produces large quantities of acetone, which is why it is favored for commercial production. The acetone obtained through this process is then purified and used in various applications, ranging from solvents in the nail polish industry to a precursor for other chemical syntheses. This production method showcases the practical application of chemical reactions in industrial chemistry, providing a clear example of how basic organic compounds are transformed into valuable everyday products.

Physical Properties of Acetone

AppearanceClear, colorless liquid
OdorDistinctive, sweetish smell
Boiling Point56°C (133°F)
Melting Point-95°C (-139°F)
Density0.79 g/cm³ at 20°C (lighter than water)
SolubilityMiscible with water, alcohol, and most organic solvents
Vapor PressureHigh (evaporates quickly at room temperature)
Flash Point-20°C (-4°F) (highly flammable)

Chemical Properties of Acetone

Reactivity with Reducing Agents

  • Acetone does not react with mild reducing agents but can undergo reduction with stronger ones like lithium aluminum hydride (LiAlH₄), resulting in the production of isopropanol. The chemical equation for this reaction is:
  • Equation: C₃H₆O + 2[H] → C₃H₈O (Acetone is reduced to isopropanol.)

Reactivity with Oxidizing Agents

  • Acetone can be oxidized by strong oxidizing agents, leading to the formation of acetic acid and carbon dioxide. A typical reaction with potassium permanganate (KMnO₄).
  • Equation: 3C₃H₆O + 4KMnO₄ + 4H₂SO₄ → 3CH₃COOH + 4MnSO₄ + 4H₂O + 3CO₂ (Acetone is oxidized to acetic acid and carbon dioxide.)


  • Acetone reacts with halogens in the presence of acid, which leads to the formation of haloform. An example is the reaction with iodine and a base (like sodium hydroxide), producing iodoform and sodium acetate.
  • Equation: 3I₂ + C₃H₆O + 4NaOH → CHI₃ + CH₃COONa + 3NaI + 3H₂O (This is a classical haloform reaction with acetone.)

Condensation Reactions

  • Acetone undergoes condensation reactions such as the aldol condensation, where two acetone molecules combine in the presence of an alkaline catalyst to form diacetone alcohol.​
  • Equation: 2C₃H₆O → C₆H₁₂O₂ (This reaction is an example of how acetone molecules can link together.)

Acetone (C₃H₆O) Chemical Compound Information

Chemical Identifiers

CAS Registry Number67-64-1
Beilstein Number635680
PubChem Compound ID180
PubChem Substance ID24850839
SMILES IdentifierCC(=O)C
InChI IdentifierInChI=1/C3H6O/c1-3(2)4/h1-2H3
RTECS NumberAL3150000
MDL NumberMFCD00008765

NFPA Label

NFPA Health Rating1
NFPA Fire Rating3
NFPA Reactivity Rating0

Uses Of Acetone


Nail Polish Remover

Acetone is perhaps most commonly recognized as the primary component in nail polish remover. Its effectiveness in quickly dissolving nail polish makes it a staple in cosmetic products related to nail care.

Solvent for Plastics and Synthetic Fibers

Due to its strong solvent properties, acetone is used extensively in the manufacturing and processing of plastics and synthetic fibers. It can dissolve many plastics, making it essential for cleaning and thinning applications in industries.

Laboratory Reagent

In scientific research and chemical laboratories, acetone serves as a vital solvent. It is used to clean glassware due to its ability to dissolve organic residues quickly and evaporate without leaving a trace.

Paint Thinner

Acetone is effective in thinning polyester resin, making it a useful component in the production of fiberglass and a common ingredient in paint thinners for its ability to dissolve and mix with paint.

Medical and Beauty Products

In the medical field, acetone is used as a skin defatting agent and in various beauty products, aside from its use in nail polish removers. It is also employed to prepare skin for medical procedures.

Chemical Synthesis

Acetone acts as an important intermediate in the synthesis of more complex chemical compounds. It is used to produce methyl methacrylate and bisphenol A, crucial precursors to common polymers and plastics.

Side Effects Of Acetone

Irritation to Skin and Eyes

When it comes into contact with the skin or eyes, this can lead to redness, pain, and in severe cases, chemical burns.

Respiratory Issues

Inhaling acetone vapors, especially in poorly ventilated areas, can irritate the respiratory tract, leading to coughing, shortness of breath, and in severe cases, respiratory distress.

Headaches and Dizziness

Exposure to high concentrations of acetone can cause headaches, dizziness, and a feeling of lightheadedness, which are symptoms of central nervous system depression.

Nausea and Vomiting

Prolonged inhalation of acetone vapors can lead to nausea and vomiting, as the body reacts to the chemical irritant.

Dry Skin

Frequent contact with acetone can remove oils from the skin, leading to dryness, cracking, and dermatitis.

Highly Flammable

Acetone is highly flammable, posing a significant fire risk if used or stored improperly near open flames or high heat sources.


Is Nail Polish Remover 100% Acetone?

Not all nail polish removers are 100% acetone; many contain additional ingredients like oils and fragrances.

Is Acetone a Rubbing Alcohol?

Acetone is not rubbing alcohol; rubbing alcohol is primarily composed of isopropyl or ethyl alcohol.

What is the Same as Acetone?

Acetone is a ketone, similar to other solvents like MEK (methyl ethyl ketone), but with distinct properties.

What Can I Use Instead of Acetone?

Ethyl acetate or rubbing alcohol can be used as alternatives to acetone for many applications.

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