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Acetone vs. Chloroform: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 22, 2023
"Acetone is a volatile, flammable solvent used in industry and nail polish remover; chloroform, a dense, sweet-smelling liquid, was historically used as an anesthetic."

Key Differences

Acetone is a solvent known for its ability to dissolve various organic compounds, widely used in industries and laboratories. Chloroform, a heavier, trichloromethane compound, was once commonly used as an anesthetic in medical settings.
In terms of physical properties, acetone is less dense and more volatile compared to chloroform. Chloroform is denser and has a distinct sweet smell, and it was historically used for its anesthetic properties.
Acetone is commonly found in nail polish removers and as a cleaner in the electronic industry, reflecting its versatile solvent properties. Chloroform, due to its health risks, is less common and is used more in controlled laboratory settings for organic synthesis and extraction.
Health-wise, acetone is considered less toxic but can be irritating to the skin and eyes, whereas chloroform is known for its potential carcinogenic and organotoxic effects.
In environmental impact, both chemicals can contribute to air pollution; however, chloroform is also a significant groundwater contaminant due to its heavier nature and slower degradation.

Comparison Chart

Primary Use

Solvent, nail polish remover
Historically as an anesthetic, now in laboratories

Density and Volatility

Less dense, highly volatile
Denser, less volatile

Common Applications

Industrial solvent, cosmetics
Laboratory solvent, organic synthesis

Health Risks

Irritant to skin and eyes, less toxic
Potential carcinogen, toxic to organs

Environmental Impact

Air pollutant
Air and groundwater pollutant

Acetone and Chloroform Definitions


Common ingredient in nail polish removers.
She used acetone to take off her nail polish.


Used in laboratories for organic synthesis.
Chloroform served as a solvent in the chemical reaction.


A solvent used in manufacturing processes.
Acetone was used in the production of plastics.


Known for its potential health hazards.
Handling chloroform requires protective equipment.


A simple ketone often used in chemical labs.
The experiment required acetone as a reactant.


A solvent that can contaminate groundwater.
The site was contaminated with chloroform.


A colorless, quickly evaporating liquid.
The acetone evaporated within minutes.


A trichloromethane compound with a sweet smell.
The distinct smell indicated the presence of chloroform.


A volatile, flammable liquid used as a solvent.
Acetone easily removed the paint from the surface.


A dense, colorless liquid formerly used as an anesthetic.
Chloroform was once a common surgical anesthetic.


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.


A clear, colorless, dense, sweet-smelling liquid, CHCl3, used in refrigerants, propellants, and resins, as a solvent, and sometimes as an anesthetic. Chloroform, once widely used in human and veterinary surgery, has generally been replaced by less toxic, more easily controlled agents.


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


To treat with chloroform to anesthetize, render unconscious, or kill.


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.


To apply chloroform to.


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


(organic compound) A halogenated hydrocarbon, trichloromethane, CHCl3; it is a volatile, sweet-smelling liquid, used extensively as a solvent and formerly as an anesthetic.


To treat with chloroform, or to render unconscious with chloroform.


A colorless volatile liquid, CHCl3, having an ethereal odor and a sweetish taste, formed by treating alcohol with chlorine and an alkali. It is a powerful solvent of wax, resin, etc., and is extensively used to produce anæsthesia in surgical operations; also externally, to alleviate pain.


To treat with chloroform, or to place under its influence.


A volatile liquid haloform (CHCl3); formerly used as an anesthetic;
Chloroform was the first inhalation anesthetic


Anesthetize with chloroform;
Doctors used to put people under by chloroforming them


Is acetone naturally occurring?

Yes, in small amounts in the human body and nature.

How toxic is chloroform?

It's quite toxic and can be carcinogenic.

Is acetone dangerous?

In high concentrations, it can be harmful.

Can chloroform fumes be dangerous?

Yes, they can be very harmful if inhaled.

Is acetone used in pharmaceuticals?

Rarely, primarily used as a solvent in manufacturing.

Can chloroform be found naturally?

Yes, but in very limited and specific environments.

Are acetone fumes harmful?

They can be irritating to the eyes and respiratory system.

Is chloroform a good solvent?

Yes, especially in organic chemistry.

Can acetone cause fires?

Yes, it's highly flammable.

Is chloroform still used in surgeries?

No, it's no longer used due to safety concerns.

Can acetone dissolve plastics?

Yes, it can dissolve certain types of plastics.

Is acetone safe on skin?

Brief contact is usually safe, but prolonged exposure can irritate.

Was chloroform ever used in medicine?

Yes, as an anesthetic in the past.

Is acetone environmentally friendly?

Not entirely, it contributes to air pollution.

Is chloroform a controlled substance?

In many countries, due to its potential misuse and toxicity.

What industries use acetone?

Cosmetics, plastics, and pharmaceuticals, among others.

How is acetone produced?

Commercially through the cumene process.

How is chloroform disposed of?

It requires careful disposal due to its toxicity.

Can chloroform be detected in water?

Yes, using specific chemical testing methods.

What precautions are needed for chloroform?

Protective gear and good ventilation are essential.
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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