Difference Between Acetone and Acetate (With Table)

Life is incomplete without “bonds” and “chemistry”. Looking at the scientific angle, Chemistry is intertwined with the world. Non-ending list of elements like atoms, molecules, organic and inorganic compounds continues to thrive. Out of these, let us unfold the two confusing terms of organic compounds, acetone and acetate.

Acetone vs Acetate

The main difference between acetone and acetate is that acetone is a ketone with the chemical formula (CH3)2CO. It has no charge and has a functional group C=O. On the other hand, acetate is an anion with the chemical formula CH3COO. It is derived from acetic acid, having the functional group COOH. It has a charge of -1.

Acetone is a ketone with the IUPAC name propan-2-one. It is the simplest type of ketone and is volatile. It has a chain of 3 carbons out of which two carbons belong to the methyl group. It is a flammable and colourless liquid that has a pungent odour.

Acetate is an anion formed by the deprotonation of acetic acid. Its chemical formula is CH3COO. It can exist in three forms namely anion, ester and acetate salt. It has 2 carbons and one of them is a methyl group. The term acetate also denotes salt formed by acetate ions.

Comparison Table Between Acetone and Acetate

Parameters of comparisonAcetoneAcetate
DefinitionIt is the simplest ketone with the chemical formula (CH3)2CO.It is an anion obtained from acetic acid and has a chemical formula CH3COO.
Molecular mass58.08g/mol59.044g/mol
Methyl groupTwoOne
Oxygen atomsOneTwo
FlammabilityHighly flammableDepends on what it combines with.

What is Acetone?

Acetone, also known as propanone, is the smallest possible ketone. The reason, propanone is the simplest ketone, is that ketone is a functional group surrounded by two carbon atoms. Therefore, a minimum of three carbon atoms are required to form a ketone. It is a colourless liquid that is flammable.

It has a boiling point of 56°C. It is miscible in water and organic solvents, volatile and has thinning properties. The molecular geometry of acetone is trigonal planar with sp2 hybridization. It has a pungent smell. It is used in nucleophilic substitution reactions.

The most common way for large scale acetone formation is the cumene hydroperoxide process. It can also be formed by the Wacker-Hoechst process and predominant old technique dry distillation which is not used currently due to lower yield.

Except for chemical manufacturing, it also exists naturally in a variety of flora, fauna and even our body. A little amount of acetone is formed in the body when fat is broken down. It is a part of normal metabolism but can be dangerous in large concentrations.

It has a lot of significant uses. The initial and most common use is as a thinner. Its solvent properties make it a key ingredient in nail paint removers and varnishes. It can effectively remove grease, stains can be used to make plastic. Other uses are synthesizing methyl methacrylate, limited use in cosmetic products.

What is Acetate?

It is an anion, with charge -1 formed by deprotonation of acetic acid. Its chemical formula is CH3COO. The term “acetate” is also used to describe a salt(neutral), formed by an acetate ion. It exists in three forms namely anion( independent ion formed by losing h+ ion), ester( by addition of alkoxy group) and salt( when acetate ion reacts with a base).

It is also the conjugate base of acetic acid. Since ethanoic acid(acetic acid) is weak, therefore, its conjugate base is strong.

It has trigonal planar molecular geometry. It is less reactive towards nucleophilic substitution reaction due to its resonance structure. It can be volatile and flammable in its ester form. It has a sweet and fruity odour which is pleasing.

It is used for making fabrics, removing varnishes, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, electroplating, printing, also used as a food additive for preservation.

Main Differences Between Acetone and Acetate

  1. Acetone belongs to the family of functional group ketone whereas acetate is an anion formed when acetic acid loses a proton.
  2. The former has a pungent or floral smell whereas the odour of the latter is sweet and fruity.
  3. Acetone is neutral in charge whereas acetate has a negative charge.
  4. The molecular mass of the compound acetone is 58.08 g/mol whereas that of acetate is 59.044 g/mol.
  5. The former is highly flammable and volatile. On the other hand, the latter can be flammable and volatile when it combines to form other compounds.
  6. Acetone has a chain of three carbons with one oxygen atom whereas acetate has a chain of two carbons with two oxygen groups.
  7. Acetone is formed naturally by flora, fauna and our body whereas acetate is formed by some bacteria.


Acetone and acetate are two different compounds having different properties. Both of them have an important place in the vast branch of carbon compounds.

Acetone is a ketone that possesses high solvent qualities. This property helps in establishing it as a thinner of paints, nail paints, varnishes, stain remover from fabric. It is used as a polar aprotic solvent in SN2 reactions. It exists and is produced naturally by plants, animals and humans( in small quantities). Its traces are found in human blood and urine. It is known to irritate and can be dangerous since it is flammable.

Talking about acetate, it is an anion that forms a wide range of compounds. It has trigonal planar geometry. It is used in laboratories, diapers, frames of the eyeglass. Sodium acetate is a salt of acetate ion which is used as a disinfectant. Also used in heating pads, textile industry, concrete manufacturing process, neutralizer etc. It is also produced naturally by enteric bacteria and during anaerobic fermentation.


  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/0471435139.tox074
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0021925818483056