Formic Acid – Strong or Weak

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Formic Acid - Strong or Weak

This article provides information about the properties of formic acid and deciphers the facts of whether is it a strong or weak acid. Read the following paragraphs to gain more information about this acid.

Formic Acid (HCOOH or HCO2) or methanoic acid is colorless and corrosive with a sharp odor, and is found naturally in bee venom and ant stings. In the laboratory, it is prepared by heating oxalic acid in anhydrous glycerol, and then extracting it by steam distillation. It is also prepared by acid hydrolysis of ethyl isonitrile with hydrochloric acid solution.

This compound not only shares quite a few chemical properties with other carboxylic acids, but also, shares some reducing properties with aldehydes by reducing gold, silver, and platinum solutions to their respective metals. However, formic acid varies from other carboxylic varieties in their ability to take part in reactions with alkenes. It reacts readily with alkenes to form formate esters.

What is an Acid?

According to Arrhenius, an acid is a substance that ionizes in water to produce H+ ions. If we go by the Lewis definition, an acid can accept a pair of electrons. However, the best definition for an acid is that it is a solution whose pH is less than 7.

Strong and Weak Acids

Depending on the ionization capabilities, the strength of acids can be determined. Strong acids are those that can completely dissociate and form H+ ions in aqueous solution. Weak acids are those that do not dissociate completely into ions in aqueous solution.

Strong Acid

Hydrochloric acid is a strong one because it dissociates completely in aqueous solution, and releases all its hydrogen ions into the solution.

HCl = H+ + Cl

The other strong acids are perchloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydriodic acid, hydrobromic acid, etc.

Weak Acid

Acetic acid is a weak one because it fails to dissociate completely in aqueous solutions, and does not release all its hydrogen ions.


The other examples are formic acid, ammonium cation (NH4+), oxalic acid, etc.

Is Formic Acid Strong or Weak?

The reaction for formic acid in an aqueous solution is given below.


From the above reaction, we can see that this compound does not release all its hydrogen ions into the solution, which is why it is termed as weak acid. Skin or eye contact with the concentrated forms of vapors or liquid of formic acid can be very dangerous. Therefore, it is important to maintain necessary safety precautions.

Formic acid treated with sulfuric acid is used as a convenient source of CO in laboratories. It is also considered as a material for hydrogen storage. Spraying it on fresh hay and fodder helps to slow down the process of decay, thereby preventing the nutritive value of the hay to dissipate quickly. Thus, this acid is used as a preservative and antibacterial agent in livestock feed, especially to preserve the winter feed for cattle. The poultry industry uses formic acid to destroy salmonella bacteria.

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