What is Acetic Acid?


Acetic acid is a highly useful component. It is used in different food products as an additive and it is used as a preservative. This substance is also known as ethanoic acid or vinegar acid. This substance is a by-product derived from the events of fermentation providing a characteristic odour to the vinegar.

Definition of Acetic Acid

Figure 1: Vinegar or Acetic Acid $\mathrm{CH_3COOH}$

Acetic acid is widely known as vinegar acid as well this substance is widely used in food preparation. This substance is denoted by the chemical formula of Ch3COOH. This chemical compound is known to have its share of chemical as well as physical properties that distinguish it from other compounds.

The IUPAC name associated with this compound is ethanoic acid. This carboxylic acid retains a methyl group, which is bonded to the carboxyl functional group. A raw form of undiluted acetic acid is generally termed glacial acetic acid. This substance is known to have a wide range of industrial applications. It is mostly used as a polar or protic solvent. Even in the form of glacial acetic acid, this substance is utilized to estimate the products that are weak alkali.

Properties of Acetic Acid

Some of the properties of this compound are mentioned below −

Physical Properties

  • The ethanoic acid in the liquid form does not exhibit any colour and has a distinct pungent odour.

  • This chemical component melts at 289K and it begins to boil at 391K.

  • Acetic acid has a molar mass of 60.052 g/mol in a liquid state the density of this substance is 1.049 g.cm-3.

  • Molecular weight of this compound is 60.05u.

  • The pKa value or the acid dissociation constant of ethanoic acid in water is 4.76.

  • In the liquid state, acetic acid is a polar and protic solvent that exhibits a dielectric constant of 6.2.

Chemical Properties

  • The reactions partaken by acetic acid exhibits similar reaction as that of carboxylic acids.

  • This substance is heated above 440°C, this substance decomposes to derive methane and carbon dioxide, or it might release water and ethenone.

  • Certain metals like magnesium, zinc and iron experience corrosion when they are exposed to acetic acid

  • Magnesium upon reaction with acetic acid gives out magnesium acetate and liberates hydrogen in a gaseous state.

  • Acetic acid combines with alkalis and creates acetate salts.

  • The compound also creates acetate salts in the combination with carbonates. This reaction takes place in the presence of carbon dioxide and water.

  • Acetic acid being mixed with phosphorous pentachloride gives out ethanoyl chloride.

Uses of Acetic Acid

Some of the notable uses of acetic acid are mentioned below −

  • It is helpful as an antiseptic because it retains various antibacterial traits.

  • This substance aids in the preparation of rayon fibre.

  • It is widely used as a food additive and it helps in preserving food.

  • It helps make chemicals utilised for various photographic processes.

  • In the rubber industry, this substance acts as a coagulating agent.

  • Acetic acid is utilised to prepare acetate, acetone, and esters.

  • In household chores, acetic acid is commonly used as vinegar that is further used to make food items.

  • Acetic acid is useful in treating cases of cancer. Acetic acid is directly injected into tumours to reduce its impact on the body.

  • This substance helps make vinyl acetate monomer.

  • Two molecules of acetic acid goes through a condensation reaction t create ‘acetic anhydride.

Applications of Acetic Acid

Different applications of acetic acid in different industries are mentioned below −

Figure 2: High-and Zero-Field NMR of Acetic Acid and Bromoacetic Acid

MichaelTayler, High-and Zero-Field NMR of Acetic Acid and Bromoacetic Acid, CC BY-SA 4.0

Industrial Process

The acetic acid is utilised in different industrial applications to prepare substrates and it functions as a chemical reagent to create different compounds like ester, vinyl acetate monomer, and vinegar.

Medicinal Process

Acetic acid is widely used for different medical applications. It is helpful as an antiseptic and is utilised to treat streptococci, staphylococci and different bacteria.

Food Processes

Acetic acid is mostly used in the preparation of pickles and other condiments like mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup. Vinegar mixed with baking soda releases fumes that assist in making the baked food items puffy.

Home Uses

Acetic acid exists in the form of a weak solution and is utilised as vinegar for making food products. Vinegar is mostly used in the home for cleaning and laundry purposes. It helps in combating fungal and bacterial growth.


Acetic acid is an acidic chemical compound that has been found in sausages its usage in different industrial applications. This product exists primarily in a liquid state where it is combined with different substances to generate essential components. Widely this chemical component has found its application in the food industry where it is used as an additive and preservative at the same time.


Q1. How is Acetic Acid prepared?

Ans. Different industrial processes prepare acetic acid and it is mostly carried out by carbonylation of methanol. The methanol is combined with hydrogen iodide and carbon monoxide is added to the substance t derive acetyl iodide which is further hydrolyzed to obtain acetic acid.

Q2. What are the harmful effects of Acetic Acid on humans?

Ans. Concentrated acetic acid can create severe corrosion. Inhalation of the acetic acid vapour can cause a burning sensation in the nose, throat and eyes. This substance can cause severe episodes of coughing and headache. Prolonged exposure to the vapours can even lead to lung damage.

Q3. What are the houseful applications of Acetic Acid?

Ans. Acetic acid in the form of vinegar is useful for cleaning and cooking purposes. This substance is readily helpful in getting rid of bacteria and fungi from various surfaces. Farmers spray acetic acid o cattle silage. Vinegar is a sour product that is used in the preparation of pickles and sauces.

Updated on: 17-Apr-2023


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