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Benzoic acid, C7H6O2, is a colorless crystalline solid and a simple aromatic carboxylic acid. The name is derived from gum benzoin, which was for a long time the only source for benzoic acid.

Density: 1.27 g/cm³, Boiling point: 249.2 °C


Benzoic acid is mainly consumed in the production of phenol by oxidative decarboxylation at 300−400 °C:

    C6H5CO2H + 1/2 O2 → C6H5OH + CO2

The temperature required can be lowered to 200 °C by the addition of catalytic amounts of copper(II) salts. The phenol can be converted to cyclohexanol, which is a starting material for nylon synthesis.

Precursor to plasticizers

Benzoate plasticizers, such as the glycol-, diethylenegylcol-, and triethyleneglycol esters, are obtained by transesterification of methyl benzoate with the corresponding diol. Alternatively these species arise by treatment of benzoylchloride with the diol. These plasticizers are used similarly to those derived from terephthalic acid ester.
Precursor to sodium benzoate and related preservatives

Benzoic acid and its salts are used as a food preservatives, represented by the E-numbers E210, E211, E212, and E213. Benzoic acid inhibits the growth of mold, yeast[15] and some bacteria. It is either added directly or created from reactions with its sodium, potassium, or calcium salt. The mechanism starts with the absorption of benzoic acid into the cell. If the intracellular pH changes to 5 or lower, the anaerobic fermentation of glucose through phosphofructokinase is decreased by 95%. The efficacy of benzoic acid and benzoate is thus dependent on the pH of the food.[16] Acidic food and beverage like fruit juice (citric acid), sparkling drinks (carbon dioxide), soft drinks (phosphoric acid), pickles (vinegar) or other acidified food are preserved with benzoic acid and benzoates.

Typical levels of use for benzoic acid as a preservative in food are between 0.05–0.1%. Foods in which benzoic acid may be used and maximum levels for its application are controlled by international food law.

Concern has been expressed that benzoic acid and its salts may react with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in some soft drinks, forming small quantities of benzene.


Benzoic acid is a constituent of Whitfield's ointment which is used for the treatment of fungal skin diseases such as tinea, ringworm, and athlete's foot. As the principal component of benzoin resin, benzoic acid is also a major ingredient in both tincture of benzoin and Friar's balsam. Such products have a long history of use as topical antiseptics and inhalant decongestants.

Benzoic acid was used as an expectorant, analgesic, and antiseptic in the early 20th century.

Benzoyl chloride

Benzoic acid is a precursor to benzoyl chloride, C6H5C(O)Cl by treatment with thionyl chloride, phosgene or one of the chlorides of phosphorus. is an important starting material for several benzoic acid derivates like benzyl benzoate, which is used in artificial flavours and insect repellents.

Niche and laboratory uses

In teaching laboratories, benzoic acid is a common standard for calibrating a bomb calorimeter.