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Chloroform vs. Carbon Tetrachloride: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 14, 2024
Chloroform is a volatile, colorless liquid used as a solvent and anesthetic, while carbon tetrachloride is a heavy, non-flammable liquid used in fire extinguishers and as a solvent.

Key Differences

Chloroform, chemically CHCl3, is primarily known as an anesthetic and solvent, with a sweet smell and rapid evaporation rate. Carbon tetrachloride, CCl4, is used as a solvent and in fire extinguishers, characterized by its high density and non-flammability.
Historically, chloroform was used for anesthesia in surgeries but is less common now due to its risks. Carbon tetrachloride was widely used in fire extinguishers and as a refrigerant, but its use declined due to toxicity and ozone-depleting properties.
In the laboratory, chloroform serves as a solvent in organic chemistry, appreciated for its ability to dissolve various compounds. Carbon tetrachloride is also a solvent but is more limited due to its toxic nature and environmental impact.
Exposure to chloroform can cause liver and kidney damage and is considered a potential carcinogen. Carbon tetrachloride is similarly hazardous, causing liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage, and is a known carcinogen.
Chloroform is less stable than carbon tetrachloride, degrading in air and light to produce harmful by-products. Carbon tetrachloride, while stable, contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer, limiting its use in many applications.

Comparison Chart

Chemical Formula


Primary Use

Solvent, former anesthetic
Solvent, fire extinguishing agent

Physical Properties

Volatile, colorless liquid with sweet smell
Heavy, non-flammable liquid

Health Risks

Potential carcinogen, liver/kidney damage
Carcinogen, liver/kidney/CNS damage

Environmental Impact

Degrades forming harmful by-products
Ozone-depleting, less commonly used

Chloroform and Carbon Tetrachloride Definitions


An organic compound with a sweet aroma, formerly used in medicine.
Chloroform was once a common anesthetic in surgeries.

Carbon Tetrachloride

A chemical that can cause severe liver and kidney damage upon exposure.
Handling carbon tetrachloride requires careful safety precautions.


A trihalomethane, sensitive to light and air exposure.
Chloroform must be stored in dark, airtight containers.

Carbon Tetrachloride

A non-flammable liquid previously used in refrigeration.
Refrigeration systems once commonly contained carbon tetrachloride.


A chemical solvent in the haloalkane class, known for its rapid evaporation.
Scientists often use chloroform for extracting lipids from mixtures.

Carbon Tetrachloride

A solvent known for its stability but hazardous nature.
Despite its effectiveness, the use of carbon tetrachloride is limited due to toxicity.


A volatile, colorless liquid used as a solvent and anesthetic.
The laboratory used chloroform to dissolve organic samples.

Carbon Tetrachloride

A tetrachloromethane compound, contributing to ozone depletion.
The environmental impact of carbon tetrachloride led to its decreased use.


A chemical that can cause dizziness and unconsciousness in high concentrations.
Inhaling chloroform vapors can be dangerous.

Carbon Tetrachloride

A heavy, colorless liquid used as a solvent and in fire extinguishers.
Carbon tetrachloride was a key ingredient in old fire extinguishers.


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.


Is chloroform still used as an anesthetic?

No, its use as an anesthetic is rare now due to safety concerns.

What is chloroform used for?

Chloroform is mainly used as a solvent in laboratories.

What is the main use of carbon tetrachloride?

It's used as a solvent and was once common in fire extinguishers.

How is chloroform stored?

Chloroform should be stored in dark, airtight containers to prevent degradation.

Why is the use of carbon tetrachloride limited?

Its use is limited due to toxicity and environmental concerns.

What are the risks of chloroform exposure?

Chloroform exposure can cause liver and kidney damage, and it's a potential carcinogen.

Is carbon tetrachloride used in refrigeration?

It was used in the past, but not anymore due to safety issues.

Can chloroform be used in lipid extraction?

Yes, chloroform is effective in extracting lipids from mixtures.

Is carbon tetrachloride flammable?

No, it is a non-flammable liquid.

Does carbon tetrachloride affect the ozone layer?

Yes, it contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer.

Can carbon tetrachloride cause health problems?

Yes, it can cause severe liver, kidney, and CNS damage.

Can chloroform be used as a cleaning agent?

It can, but its use is limited due to safety concerns.

Was chloroform widely used in the past?

Yes, particularly as an anesthetic in surgeries.

Are there environmental concerns with chloroform?

Yes, its degradation products can be harmful to the environment.

What is the chemical formula of carbon tetrachloride?

The chemical formula of carbon tetrachloride is CCl4.

Is carbon tetrachloride still common in industrial applications?

Its use has significantly decreased due to health and environmental risks.

Is chloroform sensitive to light?

Yes, chloroform degrades in light and air.

What is the chemical formula of chloroform?

The chemical formula of chloroform is CHCl3.

How does chloroform affect human health?

Inhaling chloroform vapors can cause dizziness and unconsciousness.

Was carbon tetrachloride ever used in fire extinguishers?

Yes, it was commonly used in fire extinguishers in the past.
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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