Is Alcohol Acidic or Alkaline in pH?

Certain functional groups have been identified in Organic Chemistry for ease of identification and nomenclature. The general formula for an alcohol group is R-OH, which has one or more hydroxyl groups (OH) attached to the carbon by non-ionic boning.

So, what does alcohol’s ph stand for? Alcohol has a pH value of 7.33. Alcohol is classified as amphiprotic rather than acidic or alkaline because the link between carbon and the hydroxyl group is non-ionic but slightly polar in nature. In the presence of a strong base, aliphatic alcohol functions as a weak acid. Because of the resonance that allows the hydrogen to be kicked off, aromatic alcohols behave as moderately acidic under ordinary conditions.

In alcohol, this pH feature allows for two cleavages: the R-O link can be broken as well as the O-H bond (as it behaves weakly acidic). As a result, utilising alcohol as a substrate allows for a wide range of reactions.

However, there are a number of indirect questions in this conclusion that must be understood, and here is the logic behind these findings.

What is the pH of the water?

When we talk about the pH of a substance, we’re referring to the concentration of hydrogen ions present in the solution.

The molarity of hydrogen ions, or the number of moles of hydrogen ion present in one litre of solution, is the concentration.

The negative logarithm (to the base 10) of hydrogen ion concentration is the most precise definition of pH.

Log10[H+] = pH

The pH is inversely proportional to the concentration of hydrogen ions because of this negative sign. A standard pH scale ranges from 1 to 14, with 7 serving as the neutral point.

Acidic pH values are less than 7 and basic pH values are larger than 7.

The lower the pH value, the stronger the acidic strength, making it a strong acid.

When it comes to bases, the higher the pH value, the stronger the base.

Hydrochloric acid (HCl) has a pH of 3.01, while acetic acid (CH3COOH) has a pH of 4.76.

Acetic acid is thus a mild acid, whereas hydrochloric acid is a strong acid. In the case of alkalis, Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) has a pH of 14, while sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) has a pH of 8.

Sodium Hydroxide is a stronger alkali than Sodium Bicarbonate, as evidenced by this.

The substance must be in the ionic state so that the concentration may be measured in order to estimate pH.

Why can’t alcohol be classified as an acid?

There are no ionic bonds in alcohols, resulting in a huge amount of ion production upon dissociation. The connection is covalent, yet it is slightly polar.

Because the hydrogen’s slightly polar nature is insufficient for it to behave as acidic hydrogen, it exists as an ion, and the other part is known as alkoxide.

Because of their high nucleophilic character, alkoxides are an important reactive intermediate.

However, we must make the C-O bond more polar in order to make this hydrogen acidic.

This is accomplished by altering the carbon’s electro-positivity. The polar nature of the bond will be increased as the electro-positivity is increased, resulting in acidic hydrogen. Alcohols are also known as brownsted acids because of their weak acidic nature.

When electron-withdrawing groups (-I and –R effect groups) are introduced at the carbon centre, electrons are drawn away from carbon, making it more electron-deficient and electropositive in nature.

As a result, the C-O bond will become more polar, and the hydrogen will become more acidic, resulting in a weak acidic pH range. (5-7 pH range)

For example. –

1 – Butanol is a very simple aliphatic alcohol that is also present in the human body in tissues and blood as well. The pH of 1-Butanol is very close to 7, because of which it is to be regarded as a very weak acid.

If we connect a chloro group (electron-withdrawing group via negative inductive action) to the identical carbon, we produce 1-Chloro butanol.

This molecule will have a lower pH than 1-butanol, indicating that it will be more acidic.

Similarly, the C=O link makes the same carbon more electropositive in butanoic acid, which is why carboxylic acid compounds are stronger acids than the corresponding alcohol.

Because of the electron-withdrawing group present on the same carbon, butanoic acid has a pH near to 4, making it much stronger than the comparable alcohol.

Why can’t alcohol be used as a base?

This is one of the most difficult questions to answer in the quest for the final answer. This is due to the fact that the compound’s nature resembles that of strong metal bases or alkalis like Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) and Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) (KOH).

This allows for the production of confusion, such as when alcohols are mistaken for an alkali.

It is sometimes viewed as a weak base (since the pH is more than 7), however this is entirely due to the influence of the environment.

As a result, the pH of alcohols is influenced by the surrounding environment, and they can act as both acids and bases. As a result, they’re also known as amphiprotic chemicals.

However, there are certain fundamental distinctions in the bond’s nature. The OH group is connected to the metal centre in bases and alkalis.

In Sodium Hydroxide, for example, the Hydroxide ion forms an ionic link with the sodium metal ion.

When this base is mixed with water, it forms negatively charged hydroxide anions and positively charged sodium metal cations.

Alcohol is a polar chemical that dissolves readily in water. Here’s a link to an article about alcohol’s polarity.

The hydroxyl group in alcohol, on the other hand, is bonded to the carbon by a covalent bond rather than an ionic bond.

As a result, the hydroxyl group will not exist as a hydroxide ion in the solution state, preventing the chemical from being classified as an alkali.

As a result, the idea of alcohol being considered a base based on chemical formula similarities must be dismissed.

Because of the underlying difference in bond nature, these two classes of compounds will not react to the condition in the same way.

Pottasium Hydroxide (KOH), for example, has a pH of 13-14, making it an extremely strong base, while ethanol has a pH of 7.33. (very close to water, hence almost neutral).

Ethanol’s pH is a measurement of how acidic or alkaline it is

Ethanol is a crucial chemical because it accounts for the majority of the alcohol consumed. It is commonly used as a solvent and reagent in the chemical world.

Ethanol is one of the most basic aliphatic alcohols, with the following structure:

Ethanol has a pH of 7.33, while water has a pH of 7.

As a result, because the pH of ethanol is so close to 7, it is considered neutral.

The pH will alter depending on the environment. When potassium Hydroxide (KOH) is present, the pH drops below 7, making it a weak acid.

Between Phenol and Ethanol, which is more acidic?

The peroxide formed after the O-H bond cleavage in aromatic alcohols, such as phenol, is stabilised due to the resonance effect of the benzene ring, which reduces the electronegative character of the oxygen.

Because the chemical generated after the reaction is stable, the aromatic alcohols might be more acidic in nature than ethanol (aliphatic compound).

This is not the case with aliphatic alcohols, which is why they only exist as weak acids when a strong base is present for the formation of the alkoxide.

Apart from that, the reactions of both types of alcohol are similar.

Alcohol’s Characteristics

Because of the connected hydroxyl link that has hydrogen bonding, alcohol molecules have a higher boiling point than hydrocarbons of equal molecular mass.

The hydroxyl (O-H) link is hydrophilic, which enhances its solubility in water by hydrogen bonding with water, while the alkyl group is hydrophobic.

As a result, as the carbon chain lengthens, the solubility of alcohol in water diminishes.

In comparison to secondary and tertiary alcohols, the primary alcohol component is more acidic.

Alcohol, unlike water, does not carry electricity because it lacks free electrons. Take a look at this fascinating article about how alcohol conducts electricity.

Because alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, it evaporates more quickly than water. Here’s a link to an article about alcohol evaporation.


Alcohols are classified as amphiprotic because they can be acidic or alkaline depending on the surrounding conditions. As a result, it cannot be classified as either a basic or an acid. While the basic chemistry cannot be modified, chemists have methodically leveraged these constraints to produce new chemistry and bring it up to par by using these limitations alone.

Read more: Sodium Bohr Model — Diagram and Drawing Instructions

Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.


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