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Formic acid (CAS No: 64-18-6) also known as methanoic acid, is the simplest form of carboxylic acid group of compounds, bearing the chemical formula CH2O2. Formic acid occurs naturally, mostly in the venom of ant and bee stings. It is important constituent in chemical synthesis. Formic acid is industriallyproduced from methanol. Its other names are formylic acid, metacarbonoic acid, oxomethanol, carbonous acid, hydrogen carboxylic acid, hydroxy(oxo)methane and oxocarbinic acid. It is a colorless fuming liquid with pungent odor. It is miscible with water,glycerol,acetone,ether,ethyl acetate, ethanol and methanol. However, it is partially miscible with xylenes, toluene and benzene.



Treatment of methanol with carbon monoxide along with a strong base can result in methyl formate. This reaction is carried out at elevated pressure in the liquid state. Usual reactions conditions are 40 atm and 80 °C. Sodium methoxide is a widely used base for this process. Formic acid is produced through the hydrolysis of methyl formate.

CH3OH + CO → C2H4O2

C2H4O2+ H2O → CH2O2 + CH3OH

Laboratory method for formic acid production involved the heating of oxalic acid in glycerol, where glycerol behaves like a catalyst. It is extracted by steam distillation.

C2H2O4 → CH2O2 + CO2



- Formic acid suppliers supply the compound for use as an antibacterial agent and preservative in livestock feed.

- Farming and animal husbandry industries buy formic acid to apply it on silage in order to facilitate quicker fermentation at lower temperature and minimize loss of nutritional value.

- Poultry industries buy formic acid to add to feed in order to kill E. coli bacteria.

- Formic acid suppliers and manufacturers supply the chemical to industries such as leather, tanning, dyeing and textile industries, who use it in their manufacturing processes.

- Rubber industries buy formic acid and use it as a coagulant in the manufacture of rubber.

- Formic acid suppliers and manufacturers also supply the chemical for the manufacture of various cleaning products such as toilet bowl cleaner and limescale remover.

- Formic acid finds applications informic acid fuel cells as well as hydrogen fuel cells.



Although formic acid is less toxic, its concentrated form can be corrosive to the skin. This chemical is a sensitizer and can cause skin allergies. On ingestion, it is metabolized quickly and eliminated in the body. It can cause optical nerve damage. Experiments have shown it to be a mutagen.Prolonged exposure to formic acid can lead to kidney damage. Formic acid suppliers, manufacturers and distributors must read and understand the MSDS for the chemical.


Safe Handling Precautions

Contact of chemical with skin and eyes as well as inhalation ofvapour must beavoided. It must be kept away from ignition sources. The build-up of electrostatic charge should be prevented. Formic acid suppliers, manufacturers and end user industries who buy formic acid should store it in a tightly closed container. The container must be placed in a well ventilated and dry area. Opened containers must be carefully resealed and kept upright to check leakage.


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