Ethanol as a Solvent

Describe and account for the many uses of ethanol as a solvent for polar and non-polar substances

  • Ethanol is a very polar molecule due to its hydroxyl (OH) group, with the high electronegativity of oxygen allowing hydrogen bonding to take place with other molecules.
  • Ethanol therefore attracts polar and ionic molecules.
  • The ethyl (C2H5) group in ethanol is non-polar.
  • Ethanol therefore attracts non-polar molecules.
  • Thus, ethanol can dissolve both polar and non-polar substances.
  • In industrial and consumer products, ethanol is the second most important solvent after water.
  • Ethanol is the least toxic of the alcohols (it is only poisonous in large amounts), which makes it more suitable for use in industry and consumer products.
  • Ethanol is a common solvent in:
    • Cosmetics (such as perfumes).
    • Food colourings and flavourings (such as vanilla essence).
    • Medicinal preparations (such as antiseptics).
    • Some cleaning agents.
    • Industry.

Easychem - Ethanol as a Solvent