Difference Between Acetone and Chloroform (With Table)

Acetone and Chloroform are two colourless organic solvents readily available in nature that hold a lot of use cases in our daily lives. Their natural presence is less, so we manufacture them in large quantities to meet our needs. As they are chemical compounds, they cause considerable damage to any biological matter.

Acetone vs Chloroform

The main difference between Acetone and Chloroform is that Acetone is used as an organic solvent for domestic and industrial purposes. On the other hand, Chloroform is a solvent majorly utilised in industries but is familiar to people only through the medical field, where it is used as a sedative for patients.

Difference Between Acetone and Chloroform

Acetone is a colourless and highly flammable organic solvent. It emits a sharp, pungent odour that irritates the respiratory tract when exposed to it frequently. Acetone was first discovered by the German chemist Andreas Libavius using the distillation process in the 17th century. Industries use the Cumene process to produce large quantities of acetone to meet our needs.

Chloroform, on the other hand, is also a transparent, dense organic solvent. Unlike Acetone, Chloroform emits a pleasant, non-irritating odour. On inhalation or ingestion, it causes drowsiness and even coma when used beyond the recommended limits. In the 18th century, J.N. Dumas characterised the compound and named it.

Comparison Table Between Acetone and Chloroform

Parameters of ComparisonAcetoneChloroform
Chemical formula(CH3)2CHOCHCl3
IUPAC name2-Proponone or Propon-2-oneTrichloromethane
Effects of ExposureOn contact with skin, it causes minor irritation and when inhaled, it is an irritant to the eye and respiratory tract.Highly toxic when used beyond limits.  May cause jaundice and even leads to coma
SignificanceUsed as a solvent in industries.  In domestic, it is used as a thinner for paints and can remove paint and nail-polish stains.Used as a solvent, as a sedative in healthcare.  Also used as a refrigerant and in the fire extinguisher.
Toxicity and flammabilityLess toxic and highly flammableHighly toxic and non-flammable

What is Acetone?

Acetone is, also known as propanone or dimethyl ketone, prepared by Andreas Libavius for the first time by percolating the lead acetate. The discovery of acetone by pyrolation took place during the 17th century. Further distillation led to the extraction of a pungent-smelling compound, later called Saturn’s burning spirit.

Our body secretes Acetone in traces, while in some others, it is abundant, as in patients with the life-threatening diabetic condition, diabetic ketoacidosis. People who are long-fasting and maintain a specialised diet with low carbs have a considerable amount of Ketone group of Acetone content in their body.

In industries, Acetone has a common usage as a solvent. It dissolves paint, nail polish and superglue, so it is a vital ingredient to remove paint, nail polish and superglue from unwanted surfaces or existing ones.

Acetone, a solvent, can break down and dissolve substances like paint. It is used as a thinner with paint to lower its viscosity.
Though Acetone is not extremely dangerous, it can irritate the eye and nose. In addition, acetone is a life-saver because it is an active component in bioplastic manufacturing.

What is Chloroform?

Chloroform is an organic solvent well known as an anaesthetic, found by two different scientists, one from the USA and another from France, in the early 19th century. However,, James Simpson first identified its anaesthetic property in the mid-19th century.

In industries, Chloroform is produced from a mixture of chlorine and methane. On ingestion or inhalation, it affects the activities of the CNS and may push oneself into a coma. On dermal exposure, it induces sores.

Chloroform exists naturally in some fungi and many seaweeds. Though it exists naturally, it causes no negative impact on the biosystem. It evaporates when exposed to air and is non-volatile, so it doesn’t get mixed with water.

Chloroform is industrially produced and is used as a component in the production of pesticides. Like acetone, it can be used as a solvent in dissolving resin, rubber, fat, oil, etc.

Due to its toxicity, medical professionals terminated the usage of Chloroform as an anaesthetic. So, its use in the field of medicine is limited.

Main Differences Between Acetone and Chloroform

  • Due to Acetone’s soluble nature, it dissolves most chemical substances like nail polish, paints and glue.
    Chloroform plays an extensive role in the industry of health care and pharmaceuticals.
  • Acetone is not as dangerous as chloroform, but its exposure to the skin may not cause a notable impact. But Chloroform causes sores and scratches on contact with the skin.
  • Though the presence of Acetone in our body is negligible, it is excess in people who follow low-carb diets. The human body cannot secrete Chloroform independently, but some parasites do.
  • Inhalation of Acetone causes only irritation. However, the inhalation of Chloroform can directly force someone into a coma by affecting their Central Nervous System.
  • Acetone is an essential by-product in cosmetics. Chloroform is involved in chemical techniques like Spectroscopy and Chromatography.
  • Acetone is highly flammable, while the latter is non-flammable.


Acetone and Chloroform are both organic solvents, which differ only by their nature of severity. Because of its harsh nature, Chloroform must be handled more carefully than Acetone. Having the same physical appearance, they are only used for appropriate use cases.

Acetone can never replace Chloroform and vice versa. Acetone, discovered earlier than Chloroform, has equal importance as the latter similarly does the Chloroform. They both began as organic solvents, but time has forced them to serve mankind due to their usage in medical fields. They had been the inspirations of modern medicine.

They had been the inspirations of modern medicine. Though these chemicals help mankind, they also have some negative impacts. When used beyond limits, they can harm the society in which we live.


  1. https://journals.asm.org/doi/pdf/10.1128/mr.50.4.484-524.1986
  2. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/93JD00764
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0099239906809581

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Hi! I'm Nidhi.

Here at the EHL, it's all about delicious, easy recipes for casual entertaining. So come and join me at the beach, relax and enjoy the food.

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