Difference between Acetone and MEK

The most popular organic solvents for cleaning and thinning are acetone and methyl ethyl ketone. Both are strong chemical solvents, share the ketone property of having a pungent odor but no color, and are derived from ketone. Many people assume they are equivalent since both may be used as solvent thinners and cleansers. It's important to note that they're distinct. Know these details about acetone and MEK before deciding which solvent is best for you.

What is Acetone?

Acetone is a popular organic compound used to produce plastics and other industrial materials.Acetone, also known as dimethyl ketone and propanone, can be found in various common home items. To remove paint, lacquer, or varnish, this chemical is employed. Most of the time, it is used in nail polish removers. As a colorless liquid solvent, acetone is frequently employed as a component in the production of other substances. The substance is combustible and readily evaporates. It's a typical organic solvent for diluting substances and washing things down.

Low-VOC and low-HAP goods can also be formulated using acetone. It may be found in forest fires, volcanic gases, and plants. It's a normal metabolic waste product; thus, it's also present in people. Nail polish removers often contain this as one of their main ingredients. For centuries, it has been the standard method for extracting ketones from acetic acid and acetates using destructive distillation, making it the simplest ketone available. In 1832, Jean-Baptiste-André Dumas and Justus von Liebig arrived at the right formula. The year 1839 marks the beginning of acetone's usage as a generic term.

What is MEK?

A liquid solvent known as methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) is used in a wide variety of industries, including printing inks, adhesives, and surface coatings, due to its rapid evaporation rate. It is a highly flammable, colorless liquid solvent that is chemically linked to acetone. It tastes sugary and smells like sharp acetone.

Rapid formulation of 2-butanol in the presence of a metal catalyst allows for the industrial production of MEK from n-butenes. It's a standard component of many adhesives and varnishes. Primarily, it is employed as a component of a solvent combination, including other organic chemicals. It's present in many different kinds of organic goods.

The industrial chemical MEK has several applications and is commonly used to clean and thin polyester resins and gel coatings. Glues, inks, paints, cleaning solutions, lubricating oil dewaxes, refined oils, and protective coatings are just some of the many commercial and domestic uses for this substance

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated it as a "very toxic, ignitable dangerous chemical." The respiratory tract, including the eyes, nose, and throat, can experience discomfort with acute exposure to MEK. It can be dangerous to human health if exposed to it in sufficient quantities.

Differences between Acetone and MEK

The following table highlights the major differences between Acetone and MEK −





Acetone, having the formula C3H6O, is an organic substance.

MEK, or methyl ethyl ketone, is an organic molecule with the formula C4H2O that is very flammable.

Also known as

Propanone ketone and dimethyl ketone are other names for acetone.

Butanone is another term for MEK

Water Solubility

Acetone and MEK are both soluble in water. However, because of its low boiling point, acetone may be easily evaporated to achieve concentration or to serve as a solvent in a solvent exchange.

MEK's greater boiling point makes it a more strong and more powerful cleaner.


Acetone and MEK are both examples of low-VOC solvents, making them less hazardous and more generally acceptable for usage when kept in the appropriate conditions

MEK is a highly flammable chemical that is widely utilised in a wide variety of industrial and consumer applications, including paints, inks, adhesives, cleaning agents, dewaxing agents, and protective coatings.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated MEK, which is more powerful than acetone, as a highly toxic, ignitable dangerous chemical.

Evaporation Rate

Because its intermolecula interactions are the lowest, acetone evaporates at a faster pace than any other solvent.

When combined with water, MEK maintains a steady boil because it evaporates at a slower rate than acetone.


Since acetone is less hazardous than MEK, it is commonly substituted for MEK in industrial settings. Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classed MEK as a highly dangerous substance, no research has been discovered that reports human fatalities from inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact with MEK. It has a sugary taste and a sharp, acetone-like stench

Inflammable and odorless acetone has a low boiling point but a rapid rate of evaporation. Although acetone is not as hazardous as MEK, it nevertheless poses many of the same health and safety dangers.

Updated on: 19-Jan-2023


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