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

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 28, 2023
Acetone is a volatile, colorless solvent used in industry and nail polish removers, while acetic acid is a sour-tasting liquid, a main component of vinegar.

Key Differences

Acetone is a simple ketone, known for its effectiveness as a solvent. Acetic acid, is a carboxylic acid, notable for its acidic properties and pungent smell.
Acetone is widely used as a solvent in industries like plastics and pharmaceuticals, and in household products like nail polish remover. Acetic acid is used industrially in the production of vinyl acetate and acetic anhydride and is commonly found in households as vinegar.
Acetone is a colorless, highly volatile liquid with a distinctive smell, known for its quick evaporation. Acetic acid is a colorless liquid too, but with a strong, sour smell, and is less volatile than acetone.
Acetone occurs naturally in plants, trees, volcanic gases, and is also produced in the human body during fat metabolism. Acetic acid, apart from its culinary uses, plays a role in various biochemical processes and is a key component in cellular metabolism.
Acetone is flammable and requires careful handling, especially in enclosed spaces. Acetic acid, especially in concentrated forms, can be corrosive and irritating to the skin and eyes, necessitating cautious handling.

Comparison Chart

Main Uses

Solvent in industry, nail polish remover
Production of chemicals, vinegar

Physical State and Smell

Colorless liquid, distinct smell
Colorless liquid, sour smell

Natural Occurrence

In plants, trees, human metabolism
In biological processes, vinegar

Safety Concerns

Flammable, requires ventilation
Corrosive in concentrated form, irritant

Acetone and Acetic Acid Definitions


Used in the manufacturing of plastics and pharmaceuticals.
Acetone's solvent properties make it valuable in plastic production.

Acetic Acid

A sour-tasting liquid, primarily found in vinegar.
Acetic acid gives vinegar its characteristic sour taste.


A volatile, flammable solvent used in various industrial applications.
Acetone is often used in labs to clean glassware.

Acetic Acid

Employed in the production of synthetic fibers and plastics.
Acetic acid is used in making acrylic fibers.


A key ingredient in nail polish removers and paint thinners.
She used acetone to remove her old nail polish.

Acetic Acid

Used industrially in synthesizing various chemicals.
Acetic acid is a key raw material in the chemical industry.


A colorless, fast-evaporating liquid with a distinctive smell.
The smell of acetone was evident in the freshly painted room.

Acetic Acid

A weak acid, with a strong, pungent odor.
The pungent smell of acetic acid is quite distinctive.


Naturally occurring in plants and human body metabolism.
Acetone is produced in the body during the breakdown of fat.

Acetic Acid

Occurs naturally in cellular metabolism processes.
Acetic acid plays a role in the Krebs cycle in cells.


A colorless, volatile, extremely flammable liquid ketone, C3H6O, widely used as an organic solvent. It is one of the ketone bodies that accumulate in the blood and urine when fat is being metabolized.


(organic compound) A colourless, volatile, flammable liquid ketone, (CH3)2CO, used as a solvent.


A volatile liquid consisting of three parts of carbon, six of hydrogen, and one of oxygen; pyroacetic spirit, - obtained by the distillation of certain acetates, or by the destructive distillation of citric acid, starch, sugar, or gum, with quicklime.


The simplest ketone; a highly inflammable liquid widely used as an organic solvent and as material for making plastics


What is acetic acid mainly known for?

Acetic acid is mainly known as the key component of vinegar.

Is acetone naturally occurring?

Yes, acetone occurs naturally in plants and human metabolism.

Can acetone dissolve plastics?

Yes, acetone can dissolve certain types of plastics.

Is acetic acid harmful to skin?

In concentrated forms, acetic acid can irritate or burn the skin.

Is acetone flammable?

Yes, acetone is highly flammable.

What safety precautions are needed for acetone?

Acetone requires ventilation due to its flammability and strong fumes.

Can acetic acid be used for cleaning?

Yes, acetic acid, especially as vinegar, is used for cleaning purposes.

How strong is acetic acid?

Acetic acid is a weak acid but can be corrosive in concentrated forms.

What industrial uses does acetic acid have?

Acetic acid is used in producing synthetic fibers, plastics, and chemicals.

What is acetone commonly used for?

Acetone is commonly used as a solvent in nail polish removers and industries.

Can acetic acid be used in cooking?

Yes, as vinegar, acetic acid is commonly used in cooking.

Does acetone have a strong smell?

Yes, acetone has a distinctive and strong smell.

What is the pH level of acetic acid?

The pH of acetic acid varies but is typically around 2.4 in vinegar.

Is acetone harmful if inhaled?

Inhaling acetone can be harmful and cause respiratory irritation.

How is acetone produced industrially?

Acetone is produced through the cumene process in the industry.

Is acetic acid good for the skin?

In diluted forms, acetic acid can be used for skin treatments, but caution is advised.

What is the boiling point of acetic acid?

The boiling point of acetic acid is about 118°C (244°F).

Can acetone be mixed with water?

Yes, acetone is miscible with water.

Is acetone a good cleaning agent?

Yes, acetone is effective in cleaning grease and residues.

Can acetic acid be used in medicine?

Yes, acetic acid has medicinal uses, such as in some ear drops.
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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