Acetic Acid uses are many and varied. Around 6.5 million tonnes are produced around the world each year and it is one of the most important chemical reagents. It is used in many industrial processes such as in the manufacture of Cellulose Acetate which is used in the film industry and Polyvinyl Acetate which is used to make wood glues. Acetic Acid is also known as Ethanoic Acid or Methanecarboxylic Acid. This clear, colourless liquid has a pungent aroma and a chemical formula H3CO2H.
Water-free Acetic Acid is called Glacial Acetic Acid. This is known as an ‘anhydrous‘ substance meaning that it contains no water. The actual word ‘acetic’ comes from the Latin word ‘acetum’ which translates as ‘vinegar.’ You can buy Acetic Acid in a wide range of strengths according to its intended purpose. Any reputable Acetic Acid supplier will be able to help you choose the right strength for your requirements.
The most common Acetic Acid Uses are:-
- As a solvent for many industrial processes
- In the manufacture of fragrances and perfumes
- In the manufacture of synthetic fibres and textiles
- In the manufacture of inks and dyes
- In clinical laboratory analysis where it is used to test blood
- In the manufacture of soft drinks bottles
- As a treatment for outer ear infections where it helps prevent the growth of fungus and bacteria
- In the manufacture of rubbers and plactics
- In the manufacture of pesticides
- Acetic Acid is approved as a food additive and has been given the E Number E260.
A lot of people know that vinegar is a dilute form of Acetic Acid but in addition to being a popular condiment, vinegar has a wide range of other uses, too.
Vinegar has been used from the earliest times not just to preserve food but also as a medicine. Indeed Hippocrates prescribed vinegar to cure coughs and as an antibiotic. However, the practice of using vinegar for medicinal purposes has to some extent fallen out of favour although people continue to use it to soothe sunburnt skin and to deactivate jellyfish stings. It can be an effective tool for cervical cancer screening and up until recent times was used to control the synptoms of diabetes.
Health and Hygiene
Owing to its antibacterial properties dilute Acetic Acid in the form of vinegar can be used for health and hygiene purposes. It is an effective hair conditioner and detangler and a natural deodorant.
White vinegar can be used for a range of household cleaning tasks from removing smears and streaks on mirrors, cleaning windows, polishing brass and stainless steel and descaling coffee making machines. The use of vinegar as an anti-bacterial cleaning agent is enjoying something of a revival as people are becoming increasingly aware of eco-friendly cleaning options. It can be used to remove urine odours and pet stains and is extremely effective against the build-up of mould.
As a condiment and flavour enhancer, it is used worldwide to produce pickles and relishes, to preserve and ‘pickle’ vegetables such as beetroot and gherkins, in the manufacture of sauces such as mint sauce, in the production of sushi rice, as a condiment applied directly to some foods like fish and chips and as a flavouring for ‘salt and vinegar flavour’potato crips.
There are many different types of vinegar including malt vinegar, white vinegar, wine vinegar, cane vinegar, date vinegar and palm vinegar. Some are more popular in certain countries than others. For example, date vinegar forms an essential part of a Middle Eastern diet whilst rice vinegar is popular in Asian countries. Balsamic vinegar is a very expensive specialist type of vinegar produced from grapes in the area around Modena, Italy. It is a highly prized condiment and some bottles are aged for over 100 years.
Whilst Acetic Acid is a well-known and widely-used chemical it must be remembered that it presents a number of potentially serious health hazards. Glacial Acetic Acid is particularly hazardous and is classified as a Poison and Highly Corrosive. Accidental contact with this liquid will result in severe burns to all body tissue including the skin, the eyes, the delicate mucuous membranes of the nose, throat and respiratory tract, the digestive tract and gastro-intestinal tract. Ingestion of Glacial Acetic Acid can result in death.
Always read the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) BEFORE working with Glacial Acetic Acid.
Operators should be fully protected from its vapours and mists. Wear full Personal Protective Equipment at all times including approved eye protection in the form of goggles or full face mask, appropriate acid-resistant safety clothing and protective apron, safety boots or shoes and compatible Nitrile safety gloves. Handle under fume extraction in a vented hood.
Acetic Acid of lower strengths may present less risks but may still be classified as Corrosive and may cause serious burns. Your Acetic Acid supplier will be able to give you advice and support with regard to the safe handling of this material.