Common and Trade Names of Chemicals

This is intended to help High School Chemistry students answer questions about the chemical name and/or formula of various everyday substances. This list is, of course, incomplete as there are many more common substances than those included below.

The following table of the chemical names and molecular formulae of common chemicals is arranged in alphabetical order of the common or trade name of the chemical. If you are not sure what the molecular formulae mean you can look up the symbols by viewing the list of chemical elements (listed in alphabetical order of chemical symbol). You can also read more about molecular formulae of organic molecules.

  • Alcohol, wood ( methanol, methyl alcohol )
    CH3OH
    Many uses, including as a solvent, and as an antifreeze in pipelines and windshield washer fluid. Highly toxic to humans.
  • Alcohol, grain ( ethanol or ethyl alcohol )
    C2H5OH
    Many uses, incl. as a fuel (e.g. for lightweight rocket-powered racing aircraft), in alcoholic beverages, as an antiseptic and as a solvent.
  • Alcohol, rubbing ( 2-propanol, propan-2-ol, propyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol )
    C3H8O
    Many uses, including in healthcare/clinical situations. Examples of uses incl. as a cooling, soothing application for bedridden patients and athletes, for cleansing surgeons' hands and instruments and for the disinfection of skin prior to penetration by a hypodermic needle. Also used as an antiseptic against vegetative bacteria, fungi and viruses - but not spores.
  • Alcohol ( ethanol or ethyl alcohol )
    C2H6O
    The type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages and also some thermometers.
  • Alka Seltzer* ( sodium bicarbonate )
    CHNaO3
    Among other ingredients.
    * Trade name, formula found online - see note below this list.
  • Antifreeze ( ethylene glycol )
    C2H6O2
    Used as an automotive antifreeze. Highly toxic.
  • Antiperspirant (aluminum chlorohydrate)
    Al2Cl(OH)5
    Used in deodorants and antiperspirants.
    Aluminum chlorohydrate refers to a group of salts of which the molecular formula given is an example.
    The general formula is AlnCl(3n-m)(OH)m
  • Aqua regia
    ( 1:3 mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acids )
    HNO3 : HCl
    Highly corrosive, fuming yellow or red solution, also called nitro-hydrochloric acid. Various chemical uses incl. etching, cleaning glassware of organic compounds, and producing chloroauric acid.
  • Aspirin®* ( acetylsalicylic acid )
    C9H8O4
    Aspirin is a registered trademark owned by Bayer, the generic term is acetylsalicylic acid (ASA).
  • Baking soda ( sodium bicarbonate )
    NaHCO3
    also known as: sodium hydrogen carbonate
    An amphoteric compound. Aqueous solutions are mildly alkaline. Mainly used in baking to react with other ingredients to release CO2, which helps dough rise. Other uses incl. for neuralizing acids and bases, medical uses and cleaning uses.
  • Baking powder ( sodium bicarbonate )
    NaHCO3
    Used in baking where it reacts with other ingredients, releasing carbon dioxide (CO2), helping dough rise.
    Among other ingredients. Some baking powders contain sodium bicarbonate with one or more acidic phosphates.
  • Banana oil ( amyl acetate, isoamyl acetate )
    C7H14O2
    Used as a "banana flavour" in some foods, also as a solvent for some varnishes and nitrocellulose lacquers. A honey bee pheromone and used to attract many honeybees to a small area.
  • Battery acid ( sulphuric acid )
    H2SO4
    Used in lead-acid batteries for cars and other vehicles. Formerly known as vitriol.
  • Bleach, laundry ( sodium hypochlorite )
    C2H6O
    Common "domestic" bleach is often a solution of approx 3–6% sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) with "oxygen" and other chemicals.
  • Boracic acid ( boric acid )
    H3BO3
    Sometimes used in products for antiseptic, insecticide, or flame retardant properties. Toxic esp. if ingested or inhaled.
  • Borax ( sodium tetraborate decahydrate )
    Na2B4O7⋅10H2O
    Used as a multipurpose cleaner and bleach.
  • Brass ( alloy of copper and zinc )
    Cu and Zn
    Used to make fixtures, fittings and ornaments. Examples date from the Roman period (history).
  • Bronze ( alloy of copper and tin )
    Cu and Sn
    Other metal elements may also be present. Now used mainly for ornaments, previously various products incl. weapons. Examples date from antiquity, incl. the European 'Bronze Age', approx. 2500BC in Britain.
  • Calgon®* (calcium hexametaphosphate )
    (NaPO3)6
    Among other ingredients. Calgon is a brand registered trademark of several corporations. Its name was is a shortened version of the phrase "calcium gone".
    * Trade name, formula found online - see note below this list.
  • Caustic soda ( sodium hydroxide )
    NaOH
    Used in products for cleaning, unblocking sinks, drains and even toilets. Highly corrosive alkali.
  • Chalk ( calcium carbonate )
    CaCO3
    Uses incl. blackboard chalk, pavement (or, in USA, "sidewalk") chalk, gymnastics and rock-climbing, and sometimes in toothpaste.
  • Chloroform ( trichloromethane )
    CHCl3
    There are many natural sources of chloroform, incl. certain seaweeds and algae. Used to be a popular anesthetic until found to be toxic, then replaced by alternatives. Used as laboratory solvent. Hazardous.
  • Chrome yellow ( Lead(II) chromate )
    PbCrO4
    Important because of the colour associated with (because from) this pigment - a bright yellow as seen on traditional American School Buses. However, the actual chemical has now largely been replaced by others that generate a very similar colour.
  • Cream of tartar ( potassium hydrogen tartrate )
    KHC4H4O6
    Byproduct of winemaking.
    Most household uses concern cooking (preparation of food), also limited cleaning uses.
  • Diamond ( carbon )
    C
    Uses incl. diamond jewellery and diamond glass-cutters.
  • Drano* ( sodium hydroxide )
    NaOH
    Drain cleaning product, USA.
    Among other ingredients.
    * Trade name, formula found online - see note below this list.
  • Easy-off* ( sodium hydroxide )
    NaOH
    Oven cleaner.
    Among other ingredients.
    * Trade name, formula found online - see note below this list.
  • Egg shells ( calcium carbonate )
    CaCO3
    Natural product. Part of hens' eggs not usually eaten or used in cooking.
  • Epsom salts ( magnesium sulphate )
    MgSO4⋅7H2O
    Historically various "home" medicinal uses, also traditionally used as ingredient of bath salts.
  • Ether (Ethyl ether+ )
    CH2O
    +, also known as ethoxy ethane
    One of the ether group of organic compounds. Used to be called "sweet oil of vitriol" (oleum dulce vitrioli). Has various uses, as a fuel, in the laboratory and previously as an anesthetic in medicine.
  • Formalin (40% solution of formaldehyde+ )
    CH2O
    +also known as methanal, an aldehyde.
    Used in some products as a disinfectant or anti-bacterial agent.
  • Glauber's salt ( Hydrated sodium sulphate )
    Na2SO4
    Historically used in the manufacture of paper and glass, as well as as a cathartic and diuretic.
  • Glycerine ( glycerol )
    C3H5(OH)3
    Used in pharmaceutical products, e.g. some cough syrups, expectorants, toothpastes, mouthwashes, skin care products, shaving creams, hair care products, soaps, water based personal lubricants.
  • Grain Alcohol ( ethanol or ethyl alcohol )
    C2H5OH
    Many uses, incl. as a fuel (e.g. for lightweight rocket-powered racing aircraft), in alcoholic beverages, as an antiseptic and as a solvent.
  • Graphite ( carbon )
    C
    The "lead" in traditional pencils is a form of graphite.
  • Green vitriol ( Hydrated ferrous sulphate )
    FeSo4
    Known since ancient times as copperas, has modern uses as a colourant (in the manufacture of inks) and in horticulture where it is used as a lawn conditioner and moss killer.
  • Gypsum ( calcium sulphate dihydrate )
    CaSO4⋅2H2O
    Also known as "plasterboard". Used in construction, incl. interior walls in houses. Usually covered in a thin layer of plaster then either paint, wallpaper or tiles.
  • Inverted sugar ( mixture of glucose and fructose )
    C6H12O6 and C6H12O6
    Inverted sugar gives more powerful preserving qualities (i.e. a longer shelf life) to products that use it than does sucrose. [Glucose and fructose have the same empirical formulae, but slightly different structures - the the two molecular formulae in the previous column are the same.]
  • Laughing gas ( dinitrogen oxide )
    N2O
    Best known as an early anesthetic drug. Has many other uses apart from in medicine, incl. as an oxidizer in rocket motors, in internal combustion engines in vehicle racing, and as an aerosol spray propellant.
  • Lime ( calcium oxide )
    CaO
    Less common in modern homes than in the past. Glows when heated; was used in theatres before invention of electric lighting. Health risks on skin contact or inhalation.
  • Limestone ( calcium carbonate )
    CaCO3
    A sedimentary rock consisting mainly of calcite and/or aragonite. Limestone has been widely used in architecture worlwide.
  • Liquid paper* ( titanium dioxide )
    TiO2
    Generic name: Correction Fluid.
    Among other ingredients. The organic solvent 1,1,1-trichloroethane was used as a thinner in the 1980s and later associated with health concerns. Correction fluids were reformulated to remove suspected toxic solvents.
    * Trade name, formula found online - see note below this list.
  • Magnesia ( magnesium oxide )
    MgO
    Previously used as a home-remedy to treat various ailments, incl. heartburn and sore stomach, as an antacid, magnesium supplement, and as a short-term laxative, also to improve symptoms of indigestion - not without side effects.
  • Marble ( calcium carbonate )
    CaCO3
    Used to make ornaments, bathroom or kitchen tiles, some worksurfaces and even steps e.g. outside a front door.
  • Margarine ( partially saturated fatty acid )
    various
    Used as an ingredient in cooking.
  • Marsh gas ( methane )
    CH4
    Main use is as a fuel. Also used in some industrial chemical processes.
  • MEK ( methyl ethyl ketone, butanone )
    C4H8O = CH3COC2H5
    A common solvent used in processes involving gums, resins, cellulose acetate and nitrocellulose coatings and in vinyl films. One of the organic chemicals known as ketones.
  • Milk of magnesia (magnesium hydroxide)
    Mg(OH)2
    Prior to availability of modern pharmaceuticals, "milk of magnesia" was used as a home-remedy, incl. as an antacid to neutralize stomach acid, and sometimes as a laxative.
  • Moth balls
    ( Traditionally: naphthalene,
    Modern: 1,4-dichlorobenzene
    )
    Trad. C10H8 ; Modern C6H4Cl2
    Due to the flammability of naphthalene, modern mothballs use 1,4-dichlorobenzene as main ingredient. Both have the strong, pungent odour associated with mothballs.
  • MSG ( monosodium glutamate )
    C5H8NNaO4
    Naturally occurring non-essential amino acid. Used as a food additive & commonly marketed as a flavour enhancer.
  • Nutrasweet®* ( aspartame )
    C14H18N2O5
    Among other ingredients.
    * Trade name, formula found online - see note below this list.
  • Paris green
    (double salt of copper acetate and copper arsenite)
    Cu(C2H3O2)2·3Cu(AsO2)2
    Used to be a popular pigment used in artists' paints. Was once used to kill rats in Parisian sewers - hence its common name. Has been used as an insecticide for produce, e.g. certain fruits - but now widely considered toxic.
  • Pewter ( alloy of tin, copper, antimony, and lead )
    Sn, Cu, Sb & Pb
    Modern uses incl. decorative objects, historically also tableware, e.g. tankards, plates etc.
  • Picric acid ( 2,4,6-trinitrophenol (TNP) )
    C6H3N3O7
    Main use in explosives. Various other uses incl. in organic chemistry, metallurgy, to produce a fixative solution for histology samples, and even in workplace drug testing.
  • Plaster ( calcium hydroxide )
    Ca(OH)2
    Used in construction, incl. interior walls in houses.
  • Plaster of Paris
    ( calcium sulphate hemihydrate )
    CaSO4⋅½ H2O
    Several uses (e.g. in art/sculpture) but primarily a building material similar to mortar or cement. Plaster of Paris is initially a dry powder that is mixed with water to form a paste - which liberates heat (generating temperatures of up to around 60°C), then hardens. Can be hazardous.
  • Potash ( potassium carbonate )
    K2CO3
    Potash is the common name for various mined and manufactured salts that contain potassium in water-soluble form.
  • Prussian blue ( ferric ferrocyanide )
    Fe7(CN)18⋅14 H2O
    Probably best known as a synthetic paint pigment. Also has many other uses incl. as a stain in histopathology, for spotting metal surfaces in toolmaking, in analytical chemistry and in medicine.
  • Pyrite, 'Fool's Gold' ( iron disulphide )
    FeS2
    Naturally occurring crystal found in the earth's crust. Of interest to collectors of crystals, rocks and minerals.
  • Quartz ( silicon dioxide )
    SiO2
    Used in jewellry and ornamental objects incl. many types of crystals, e.g. rose quartz and citrine.
  • Quicklime ( calcium oxide )
    CaO
    Quicklime (also known as slaked lime) is a white, caustic and alkaline crystalline solid at room temperature.
  • Rolaids®*
    ( dihydroxyaluminum sodium carbonate )
    NaAl(OH)2CO3
    Among other ingredients. Rolaids is a brand of antacid previously also used for muscle soreness and stomach aches associated with constipation.
    * Trade name, formula found online - see note below this list.
  • Rubbing alcohol ( 2-propanol, propan-2-ol, propyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol )
    C3H8O
    Many uses, including in healthcare/clinical situations. Examples of uses incl. as a cooling, soothing application for bedridden patients and athletes, for cleansing surgeons' hands and instruments and for the disinfection of skin prior to penetration by a hypodermic needle. Also used as an antiseptic against vegetative bacteria, fungi and viruses - but not spores.
  • Salt, Table Salt (sodium chloride)
    NaCl
    Used to season food (during food preparation and at the table), also used in the past as a method of food preservation.
  • Sand ( silicon dioxide )
    SiO2
    Various uses incl. building sand, sand for "sand pits" for children to play in, and for use in ornaments e.g. to hold candles upright in suitable containers.
  • Sani-flush®*
    ( Sodium bisulphate, with sodium carbonate )
    NaHSO4 with Na2CO3
    Among other ingredients.
    Brand of toilet bowl cleaner popular in USA.
    * Trade name, formula found online - see note below this list.
  • Saran™ wrap * ( poly-1,1-dichloroethylene )
    [polymer]
    A form of very thin plastic wrapping used to coveer foodstuffs. Similar to the popular UK brand, "Cling Film".
    * Trade name, formula found online - see note below this list.
  • Silica ( silicon dioxide )
    SiO4
    Silica "gel" (which is a solid) is sometimes used as beads packed in vapour-permeable plastic and used as a desiccant to control local humidity, e.g. in product packaging. It is also used in some forms of cat litter products.
  • Slaked lime ( calcium hydroxide )
    Ca(OH)2
    Slaked lime (also known as quicklime) is a white, caustic and alkaline crystalline solid at room temperature. Unstable and potentially hazardous.
  • Smelling salts ( ammonium carbonate )
    (NH4)2CO3·H2O
    Historic household item: Used in C19th to revive fainting women, still included in First Aid boxes in WWII. Sometimes used in sporting situations and by those feeling faint.
  • Solder ( alloy of tin and antimony )
    Sn and Sb (compositions of alloys vary)
    Soldered joints exist in most consumer electronics products. Solder may also be found in the home if used for home-electronics, e.g. hobby projects.
  • Sugar, Table Sugar (sucrose )
    C12H22O11
    Used in cooking. Use as a sweetener.
  • Teflon®* ( polymer of tetrafluoroethylene, PTFE )
    (C2F4)n
    Used as a non-stick coating for cookware and in containers and pipework for reactive and corrosive chemicals.
    * Trade name, formula found online - see note below this list.
  • TNT ( trinitrotoluene )
    C7H5N3O6
    Among the most commonly used explosives.
    Valued due to its relative insensitivity to shock and friction, which reduces risk of accidental detonation.
  • Toluol, old name ( toluene )
    C7H8 or C6H5CH3
    Use as a common solvent to dissolve paints, paint thinners, silicone sealants, rubber, printing ink, adhesives (glues), etc.
  • Tums®* ( calcium carbonate )
    CaCO3
    Among other ingredients. Non-prescription drug for relief from acid indigestion and heartburn. Also considered a calcium supplement.
    * Trade name, formula found online - see note below this list.
  • Tylenol®*
    (paracetamol, British English; acetominophen, in USA )
    C8H9NO2
    Main active ingredient, but other ingredients present. North American brand of drug for relief from pain, fever, symptoms of allergies, cold, cough, and flu etc.
    * Trade name, formula found online - see note below this list.
  • Vinegar ( acetic acid, ethanoic acid )
    C2H4O2
    Food seasoning and various household cleaning uses.
  • Vitamin C ( ascorbic acid )
    C6H8O6
    Essential vitamin.
  • Washing soda ( sodium carbonate decahydrate - hydrated sodium carbonate )
    NaCO3⋅10H2O
    Also known as "soda ash". Domestic use as a water softener.
  • White lead ( basic lead carbonate )
    (PbCO3)2·Pb(OH)2
    Previously used as an ingredient in lead paint and in a cosmetic product. However, now banned in many countries due to fears of lead poisoning.
  • Windex®*
    ( ammonia plus detergents, dyes and fragrances )
    NH3
    Among other ingredients. Glass and hard surface cleaner, recently reformulated to include more environmentally-friendly ingredients.
    * Trade name, formula found online - see note below this list.
  • Wood alcohol ( methyl alcohol, methanol )
    CH3OH
    Many uses, including as a solvent, and as an antifreeze in pipelines and windshield washer fluid. Highly toxic to humans.

See also more molecular formulae of common chemicals.

Chemistry with Mastering Chemistry: An Introduction to Organic, Inorganic and Physical Chemistry Surviving Chemistry Review Book
Homework Helpers: Chemistry (Homework Helpers (Career Press)) Memorize the Periodic Table
Organic Chemistry by Clayden, Greeves, Warren & Wothers Bioinorganic Chemistry - Inorganic Elements in the Chemistry of Life

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