Formic Acid - HCOOH

What is Formic Acid?

Formic acid is a colourless, fuming liquid with a pungent acrid odour with the chemical formula HCOOH.

Formic acid is systematically named as methanoic acid. The common names for simple carboxylic acids come from the Latin or Greek names of their source. Formic acid, although not widely used as a solvent, is of interest as an example of a protic solvent with high acidity. Formic acid and its salts are corrosive and skin sensitizers. Sodium formate is mildly irritating to the eyes.

Other names – Methanoic acid, Formylic acid, Aminic acid

Table of Contents

Formic Acid Structure – HCOOH

Formic Acid Structure

Formic Acid Structure – HCOOH

Chemical information of formic acid (HCOOH):

HCOOH Formic Acid
Density 1.22 g/cm³
Molecular Weight/ Molar Mass 46.03 g/mol
Boiling Point 100.8 °C
Melting Point 8.4 °C
Chemical Formula CH2O2

Physical Properties of Formic Acid – HCOOH

Odour Pungent, penetrating odour
Appearance Colourless liquid
Covalently-Bonded Unit 1
Hydrogen Bond Acceptor 2
Complexity 10.3
Solubility Miscible with water

Chemical Properties of Formic Acid – HCOOH

    • Formic acid reduce mercuric chloride into mercurous chloride forming a white precipitate. The chemical equation is given below.

HCOOH + 2HgCl2 → Hg2Cl2 + 2HCl + CO2

    • Formic acid reacts with phosphoric pentachloride forms formyl chloride, phosphoryl chloride and hydrogen chloride.

HCOOH + PCl5 → HCOCl + POCl3 + HCl

Uses of Formic Acid – HCOOH

  • Used as a mixture with citric acid or HCl because alone it is unable to remove iron oxide deposits.
  • Used in major industrial chemicals in the group of saturated monocarboxylic acids.
  • Used as a reducing agent to reduce sodium and potassium dichromate.
  • Useful material in the dyeing and tanning industries, but other competing acids have, as a rule, been cheaper and the use of formic acid has therefore been restricted to a few cases for which it has peculiar advantages

Frequently Asked Questions- FAQs


Is formic acid a strong acid?

A strong acid is an acid which dissociates entirely in aqueous solution. A weak acid is an acid which dissociates partially in aqueous solution. Formic acid (methanoic acid, HCOOH) is a weak acid, which occurs naturally in the stings of bees and ants. The acid was once prepared by the distillation of ants.


Is formic acid harmful to humans?

Formic acid is an unpleasant chemical that is found in certain ant species ‘ sprayed venom and in the secretion produced from some stinging nettles. This is harmful at high concentrations but it is very effective at low concentrations. Since it is an antibacterial material, humans use formic acid as a food preservative.


What is the source of formic acid?

The simplest carboxylic acid, with one carbon in it. It exists naturally in various ways like the bee and ant stings venom, and is a valuable organic synthetic reagent. In livestock feed, mainly used as a preservative and antibacterial agent.


Which is more acidic formic acid or acetic acid?

Formic acid does not have such a contributing group of electrons, so is stronger than acetic acid. For this reason formic acid is a stronger acid than acetic acid. This methyl group is an electron donation group that can destabilize the conjugate base’s negative charge that is why acetic acid is less acidic than formic acid.


How do you neutralize formic acid?

Baking soda (NaHCO3) is also used for the neutralization of acids, including formic acid. You would want to neutralize it with a thick paste of sodium bicarbonate water (NaHCO3) if you were to spill some formic acid solution on your skin or on the concrete.

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