Acetic acid

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A colorless, corrosive liquid with a strong Vinegar smell. It is widely used in industry as a solvent and reagent. Pure acetic acid, (>99.7%) is called glacial acetic acid. Acetic acid is the active ingredient in vinegar in concentrations of about 5%, giving it an acidic flavor and a pungent odor. Acetic acid is found naturally in many fruits, plants, and wood. It is deleterious to metals and may be harmful to oil paintings, watercolors, drawings and sketches. Acetic acid is used in the manufacture of acetates and plastics, printing Calico and dyeing Silk, in pesticides, photographic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, as an etching agent, bleach, and stain remover, and as a preservative in food processing. Acetic acid can evolve from wood and wood products, degraded cellulose acetate, polyvinyl acetate adhesives, acetoxy-curing silicone sealants, vinegar-based cleaning solutions and many types of fresh coating, such as oil-based paints (Tétreault 2017).

  • See Pollutant record for a comparison table of aerosols and collection risks.

Synonyms and Related Terms

glacial acetic acid; vinegar acid; ethanoic acid; ethylic acid; methanecarboxylic acid; Varigam toner; Fixer 6a; acide acétique (Fr.)

Personal Risks

  • Moderately combustible
  • For glacial acetic acid: skin contact will produce burns; fumes can cause skin, eye and lung irritation; ingestion may be fatal
  • ThermoFisher: SDS

Collection Risks

  • Will corrode metals
  • Reaction with calcareous materials
  • Cellulose and protein embrittlement
  • Degradation of soda-rich glass, enamels, and pigments
  • Acidification of paper

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Miscible in water, ethanol, glycerol, ether, carbon tetrachloride.
  • Insoluble in carbon disulfide.
Composition CH3COOH
CAS 64-19-7
Melting Point 16.7 C
Density 1.053 g/ml
Molecular Weight mol. wt. = 60.05
Refractive Index 1.3718
Boiling Point 118 C
pKa1 4.756


Properties of Common Solvents

Resources and Citations

  • J.Tetrault, 'Products used in Preventive Conservation' Technical Bulletin #2, CCI, 2017. Link
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p.7
  • Hoechst Celanese Corporation, Dictionary of Fiber & Textile Technology (older version called Man-made Fiber and Textile Dictionary, 1965), Hoechst Celanese Corporation, Charlotte NC, 1990
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • Matt Roberts, Don Etherington, Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: a Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1982
  • John and Margaret Cannon, Dye Plants and Dyeing, Herbert Press, London, 1994
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983 Comment: ref. index=1.3718
  • Tom Rowland, Noel Riley, A-Z Guide to Cleaning, Conserving and Repairing Antiques, Constable and Co., Ltd., London, 1981
  • Art and Architecture Thesaurus Online,, J. Paul Getty Trust, Los Angeles, 2000
  • CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, Robert Weast (ed.), CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, v. 61, 1980 Comment: ref. index=1.370

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