Difference Between Alcohol and Phenol

Alcohols are among the most common organic compounds and the most abundantly produced chemicals in the industry. An alcohol is defined as an organic compound where its molecules contain one or more hydroxyl groups. These are further attached to a carbon atom. It is usually classified as primary, secondary, or tertiary types where the classification is usually done based on which carbon of the alkyl group is bonded to the hydroxyl group.

While, ethanol, methanol and propanol are common types, phenol is also sometimes considered as an alcohol. However, phenol is often said to be a different type of hydrocarbon because of its distinctive chemical behavior. Moreover, in phenols the hydroxyl group is directly bonded to the aromatic ring and not the carbon atom.

However, alcohols and phenols are important to humans in many ways. For example, alcohols are used in alcoholic beverages, while phenols are mainly used in pharmaceutical products where they are used as antiseptic substances.

Difference Between Alcohol and Phenol

Now that we have learnt something about alcohol and phenol, we will look at some some the major differentiating factors between the two chemical compounds. The key difference between alcohol and phenol is existing bond between the hydroxyl group of phenol and alcohol. Let’s have a look and understand the differences below.

Difference Between Alcohol and Phenol



Alcohol is an organic compound where its molecule consists of one or more hydroxyl groups which is further attached to a carbon atom.

Phenol, on the other hand, is a compound consisting of a hydroxyl group bonded directly to an aromatic hydrocarbon group.

Alcohols are said to be aliphatic hydrocarbons.

Phenols are mainly aromatic hydrocarbons.

In comparison to phenol, alcohols are less acidic.

Phenols are acidic in nature and should be diluted before using it.

In terms of usage, alcohol is the main ingredient in alcoholic beverages. They are also used in ink, pharma, ink and many other industries.

Phenols are mainly used in medicinal products as antiseptic agents.

Alcohols are mostly colourless and they are in liquid state.

Phenols are colourless solids in the form of crystals.

Alcohols show no impact or reaction during tests as they are mostly neutral.

Phenol can change litmus paper red as they are acidic in nature.

These are some of the differences between alcohol and phenol. To know more about different types of alcohols and other chemistry topics you can keep visiting BYJU’s or download our app for interesting content and learning experience.

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