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Acetic Acid vs. Ethanoic Acid: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 10, 2024
Acetic acid and ethanoic acid are the same chemical compound (CH₃COOH), with "acetic acid" being the common name and "ethanoic acid" the IUPAC name.

Key Differences

Acetic acid, commonly known as vinegar's sour component, is a key organic acid. Ethanoic acid, its IUPAC name, emphasizes its chemical structure as part of the carboxylic acid family.
In commercial settings, acetic acid is widely used in the production of vinegar and other chemicals. Ethanoic acid, under its systematic name, is recognized in scientific literature and research.
Acetic acid's properties, like its pungent smell and corrosive nature, are well-known in household contexts. Ethanoic acid, when referred to in academic contexts, is often associated with its reactions and compound formation abilities.
The use of acetic acid in food preservation and culinary applications is centuries old. Ethanoic acid, in a more formal context, is discussed for its role in biochemistry and industrial processes.
Acetic acid's versatility ranges from household cleaning to industrial synthesis. Ethanoic acid, in its more formal guise, is studied for its environmental impact and safety measures.

Comparison Chart

Common Name

Acetic Acid
Ethanoic Acid


Ethanoic Acid
Acetic Acid

Usage Context

Common, household
Scientific, formal

Known For

Vinegar, cleaning
Chemical reactions, studies

Industry Application

Food, cleaning products
Chemical, pharmaceutical

Acetic Acid and Ethanoic Acid Definitions

Acetic Acid

A component of vinegar, used in cooking and cleaning.
She used acetic acid to remove stains from her kitchen counter.

Ethanoic Acid

A chemical used in the synthesis of various compounds.
The synthesis of the ester involved ethanoic acid as a reactant.

Acetic Acid

A solvent in the production of chemical compounds.
Acetic acid was used as a solvent in the laboratory experiment.

Ethanoic Acid

A substance studied for its environmental impact.
The research focused on the biodegradability of ethanoic acid.

Acetic Acid

An organic compound with the formula CH₃COOH.
Acetic acid's chemical structure makes it important in organic synthesis.

Ethanoic Acid

A carboxylic acid with the formula CH₃COOH.
Ethanoic acid's properties were studied in the organic chemistry class.

Acetic Acid

A clear, corrosive liquid with a strong vinegar smell.
The acetic acid in the lab needs careful handling due to its corrosivity.

Ethanoic Acid

The IUPAC name for acetic acid, a common organic acid.
Ethanoic acid is often referred to in chemical textbooks and research papers.

Acetic Acid

A weak acid used in food preservation.
Acetic acid is used to preserve pickles due to its antibacterial properties.

Ethanoic Acid

A component in vinegar, used for its antimicrobial properties.
Ethanoic acid, as part of vinegar, is effective in food preservation.


Is ethanoic acid natural or synthetic?

Ethanoic acid can be both naturally occurring and synthetically produced.

What is the formula for acetic acid?

The formula for acetic acid is CH₃COOH.

Can ethanoic acid be used in cleaning?

Yes, it's effective in cleaning due to its acidity.

Is acetic acid volatile?

Yes, it is a volatile organic compound.

Can acetic acid be used in organic synthesis?

Yes, it's a fundamental reagent in organic synthesis.

Are acetic acid and ethanoic acid the same?

Yes, they are the same compound with different names.

How is acetic acid used in food?

Acetic acid is used as a preservative and flavoring agent, especially in vinegar.

What is the main use of ethanoic acid in industry?

It's used in chemical synthesis and as a solvent in various industrial processes.

Can acetic acid be used as a herbicide?

Yes, it can be used as a natural herbicide.

Does ethanoic acid have a strong smell?

Yes, it has a pungent, vinegar-like smell.

Is acetic acid a preservative?

Yes, it's widely used as a food preservative.

How is ethanoic acid produced commercially?

It's commonly produced by the fermentation of ethanol or methanol.

Is acetic acid harmful?

In concentrated form, it can be corrosive and harmful, but it is safe in dilute forms like vinegar.

Is acetic acid safe for skin?

In diluted form, like in cosmetics, it can be safe, but concentrated acetic acid is corrosive.

Can ethanoic acid be used in medicine?

Yes, it has applications in some medical treatments and pharmaceuticals.

How does ethanoic acid affect the environment?

It's generally considered low risk for environmental impact due to its biodegradability.

Can acetic acid be used in plastic production?

Yes, it's used in the production of some plastics and synthetic fibers.

Is ethanoic acid biodegradable?

Yes, it is readily biodegradable.

What is the pH of acetic acid?

It's a weak acid with a pH typically around 2.4 in its undiluted form.

Is ethanoic acid found in the human body?

Yes, it's a metabolic product in the body.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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