• 05
  • 02
  • 03
  • 04
  • 05
  • 05
  • 05
  • 05
  • 05
ACIDS > Carbolic Acid

Phenol — also known as carbolic acid — is an aromatic organic compound with the molecular formula C6H5OH. It is a white crystalline solid that is volatile. The molecule consists of a phenyl group bonded to a hydroxyl group.

Formula: C6H6O, IUPAC ID: Phenol, Melting point: 40.5 °C, Molar mass: 94.11124 g/mol, Density: 1.07 g/cm³, Boiling point: 181.7 °C, Soluble in: Water


The major uses of phenol, consuming two thirds of its production, involve its conversion to precursors to plastics. Condensation with acetone gives bisphenol-A, a key precursor to polycarbonates and epoxide resins. Condensation of phenol, alkylphenols, or diphenols with formaldehyde gives phenolic resins, a famous example of which is Bakelite. Partial hydrogenation of phenol gives cyclohexanone, a precursor to nylon. Nonionic detergents are produced by alkylation of phenol to give the alkylphenols, e.g., nonylphenol, which are then subjected to ethoxylation.

Phenol is also a versatile precursor to a large collection of drugs, most notably aspirin but also many herbicides and pharmaceutical drugs. Phenol is also used as an oral anesthetic/analgesic in products such as Chloraseptic or other brand name and generic equivalents, commonly used to temporarily treat pharyngitis.

Niche uses

Phenol is so inexpensive that it attracts many small-scale uses. It once was widely used as an antiseptic, especially as carbolic soap, from the early 1900s to the 1970s. It is a component of industrial paint strippers used in the aviation industry for the removal of epoxy, polyurethane and other chemically resistant coatings.

Phenol derivatives are also used in the preparation of cosmetics including sunscreens, hair colorings, and skin lightening preparations.

Concentrated phenol liquids are commonly used in the surgical treatment of ingrown toenails to prevent a section of the toenail from growing back. This process is called phenolization.