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Benzene vs. Phenol: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on December 17, 2023
Benzene is an aromatic hydrocarbon with a six-carbon ring, while phenol is benzene with a hydroxyl group (-OH) attached.

Key Differences

Benzene is a simple aromatic hydrocarbon, consisting of a ring of six carbon atoms with alternating double bonds. Phenol, also known as carbolic acid, is a derivative of benzene, with one hydrogen atom replaced by a hydroxyl group (-OH).
Benzene is used as a starting material in the synthesis of many chemicals, and is known for its ring-like structure. Phenol is an aromatic compound too, but its chemical properties are influenced by the hydroxyl group, making it acidic.
The presence of the hydroxyl group in phenol increases its reactivity compared to benzene. While benzene is a nonpolar solvent, phenol's hydroxyl group makes it somewhat polar.
Benzene is mainly used in the production of polymers, plastics, and synthetic fibers. Phenol has antiseptic properties and is used in the production of resins and in pharmaceuticals.
In terms of health risks, both benzene and phenol are toxic, but benzene is particularly known for its carcinogenic properties. Phenol, while toxic, is used in lower concentrations in some medical and cosmetic products.

Comparison Chart

Basic Structure

Six-carbon ring with alternating double bonds
Benzene ring with a hydroxyl group (-OH)

Chemical Properties

Nonpolar, less reactive
Somewhat polar, more reactive due to -OH group


Production of plastics, synthetic fibers
Antiseptic, production of resins, pharmaceuticals


Less reactive
More reactive due to hydroxyl group

Health Risks

Toxic, but used in lower concentrations for medical purposes

Benzene and Phenol Definitions


A colorless, flammable liquid hydrocarbon.
Benzene is a key component in the manufacture of plastics.


Used in the manufacture of resins and plastics.
Many industrial resins are derived from phenol.


An aromatic compound forming a ring structure.
The unique ring structure of benzene is fundamental in organic chemistry.


Also known as carbolic acid, it's a white crystalline solid.
Phenol in its solid form appears as white crystals.


A precursor in the production of drugs, plastics, and dyes.
Many dyes are synthesized using benzene as a starting material.


An aromatic organic compound with a hydroxyl group.
Phenol is often used as an antiseptic in medical applications.


Known for its carcinogenic properties.
Exposure to benzene is a significant health risk in industrial settings.


Serves as a precursor in pharmaceuticals.
Phenol is used in synthesizing various drugs.


Used as a solvent in various industrial processes.
Benzene is often used as a solvent due to its nonpolar properties.


Toxic, but used in lower concentrations for certain applications.
Despite its toxicity, phenol is used in diluted form in some cosmetics.


A colorless, flammable, toxic, liquid aromatic hydrocarbon, C6H6, derived from petroleum and used in or to manufacture a wide variety of chemical products, including DDT, detergents, insecticides, and motor fuels. Also called benzol.


A caustic, poisonous, white crystalline compound, C6H6O, derived from benzene and used in resins, plastics, and pharmaceuticals and in dilute form as a disinfectant. Also called carbolic acid.


(organic compound) An aromatic hydrocarbon of formula C6H6 whose structure consists of a ring of alternate single and double bonds.


Any of a class of aromatic organic compounds having at least one hydroxyl group attached directly to the benzene ring.


Sometimes used in place of the phenyl group.


A volatile, very inflammable liquid, C6H6, contained in the naphtha produced by the destructive distillation of coal, from which it is separated by fractional distillation. The name is sometimes applied also to the impure commercial product or benzole, and also, but rarely, to a similar mixed product of petroleum.


A colorless liquid hydrocarbon; highly inflammable; carcinogenic; the simplest of the aromatic compounds


Why is benzene hazardous?

Benzene is carcinogenic and can cause serious health issues with long-term exposure.

Can benzene and phenol be used interchangeably?

No, due to their different chemical properties and reactivity, they have distinct uses.

What makes phenol different from benzene?

The hydroxyl group in phenol makes it more reactive and gives it different chemical properties.

Are benzene and phenol naturally occurring?

Benzene is found in crude oil, while phenol is usually synthesized, though it can occur in nature.

What products contain phenol?

Phenol is found in some antiseptics, disinfectants, and cosmetic products.

How are benzene and phenol produced?

Benzene is extracted from petroleum, while phenol is usually synthesized from benzene.

What is phenol?

Phenol is an aromatic compound with a hydroxyl group, used in antiseptics and resin production.

Can benzene and phenol cause environmental harm?

Yes, both can be harmful to the environment if not handled properly.

How is benzene used in the pharmaceutical industry?

Benzene serves as a precursor in the synthesis of various drugs.

What is benzene?

Benzene is a colorless, aromatic hydrocarbon, often used as a solvent and in chemical synthesis.

Is phenol safe for use in medical applications?

In diluted form, phenol is safe and effective for certain medical applications.

What are the health risks of phenol exposure?

Phenol can cause irritation and burns; chronic exposure can have more severe effects.

What are common uses of benzene?

Benzene is used in the manufacture of plastics, resins, synthetic fibers, and rubber.

Is exposure to benzene common?

Benzene exposure is common in industrial settings but should be minimized.

Are there safer alternatives to benzene and phenol?

Safer alternatives are available for some applications, but these compounds are still widely used due to their unique properties.

What precautions are necessary when handling benzene?

Proper ventilation and protective gear are essential due to its toxicity and flammability.

Can phenol be used in skin care products?

In very low concentrations, phenol can be used in certain skincare treatments.

Is phenol an acid or a base?

Phenol is acidic due to its hydroxyl group.

How does phenol interact with other chemicals?

Phenol can react with other compounds, especially bases, due to its acidic nature.

Can benzene be detected by smell?

Benzene has a sweet odor, but it should not be inhaled as a detection method.
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
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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