Acetone, our Helpful Ketone

By Dillon Haynes

If you’ve ever worked in a biology or chemistry lab, no doubt this red bottle will look very familiar. Acetone is a solvent that I use on almost every piece of lab equipment, and for good reason. Its ability to dissolve almost any organic is invaluable in our lab. But what I wanted to know is, how practical acetone can be in the household?

Before we discuss this chemical and its many uses, let’s get to know it better. Acetone, also known as 2-propanone, is a ketone that can be found naturally in plants, trees, and even volcanic gases. At room temperature it is a colorless clear liquid and will also evaporate very quickly when exposed to air. Also, acetone was first discovered by alchemists in the Middle Ages, who referred to it as “spirit of Saturn.”

Although it is used frequently in the lab, acetone can be easily purchased at hardware stores or your local retail store. You may also be familiar with acetone from nail polish remover. After looking for some home uses for acetone online, I was actually surprised by how many uses there are!

You can use acetone to remove excess paint from accidental paint marks. You can also buff out scuff marks and scratches from plastics and furniture, as well as cleaning and sanitizing your household medical and grooming tools!

As useful as acetone may be, there are some safety precautions you have to take when using it. For starters, acetone is extremely flammable. Not only can the liquid ignite at room temperature, it also can release a vapor that can create an explosive mixture with air. However, as long as I use it sparingly and do not bring around open flames or heat, I should be fine.

What about bodily hazards? Acetone can easily be absorbed in the skin and also be inhaled. In small amounts, the only effect you may notice is some dry skin and a sweet-smelling odor. However, larger amounts absorbed can cause irritation, inflammation, or even dermatitis. Too much inhalation can give you nausea, tightening of the chest, and vomiting.

So, after considering the uses and potential dangers of acetone, would I consider it to be worth having at home? Yes, I do!

The way I see it, bleach and ammonia can cause far more bodily harm than acetone can. And most of us use these items quite often! Because of this, I believe acetone can make a fine addition to my household projects and chores. Although acetone can be harmful, this can only happen with exposure to large amounts. Like any other chemical, danger can always be avoided with proper safety and knowledge.