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What is Acetone? - Structure, Uses & Formula

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  • 0:01 What Is Acetone?
  • 0:55 Uses of Acetone
  • 2:30 Lab & Chemical Reactions
  • 3:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nissa Garcia

Nissa has a masters degree in chemistry and has taught high school science and college level chemistry.

Acetone is a common solvent that is present in nail polish remover, and it can be identified due to its distinctive smell. Aside from its use in nail polish remover, acetone has many other uses. In this lesson, we will discuss acetone's formula, uses, and structure.

What Is Acetone?

In the nail business, acetone is a very important solvent. When you walk into a nail salon, you will be greeted with the distinctive smell of acetone. In cosmetics, the most common use of acetone is in nail polish remover.

Acetone is a colorless, flammable liquid that evaporates easily. It is an organic compound because carbon atoms are present in acetone's chemical formula, which is (CH3)2O. It consists of three carbon atoms, six hydrogen atoms, and one oxygen atom.

Acetone falls under the classification of ketones, which are organic compounds containing a carbonyl group bonded to two hydrocarbon groups. Acetone has a carbonyl group, where carbon and oxygen are bonded to each other with a double bond and is known as the simplest ketone.

Uses of Acetone

Acetone is a solvent, which is a liquid that can dissolve other substances. Acetone is most commonly known as the solvent that removes nail polish, but it is also found in bath and fragrance products, hair and skin care products, as well as skin-lightening products.

When you touch nail polish removers that have acetone in them, you may notice that your skin becomes very dry. Acetone is volatile. In other words, it evaporates quickly. This drying effect is utilized by dermatologists when patients come in for a chemical peel; before exfoliating the skin, acetone is used to first clean the skin and remove excess fat and oils in a process called defatting.

Have you ever had an incident with superglue? If it gets on your hands, it can take several days to remove it from your skin. If you use acetone, the super glue can be removed very quickly. Acetone can also remove stains from permanent markers and epoxies before they harden. While in the kitchen, we wash our dishes with water. In the chemistry laboratory, dishes are washed with acetone to remove traces of water, so that the glassware will dry quickly.

Acetone is used as a solvent for various substances due to its ability to mix with most organic solvents and water. For instance, it is a solvent for flammable or volatile substances like acetylene to allow them to be transported and stored safely. Acetone is also a useful solvent in the pharmaceutical industry; it can be used as a chemical intermediate and a solvent for vitamins and cosmetic products.

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