I would like to know if it would be possible to make Acetic Acid from Wood. I know that you can charcoal wood to get the gases, cool it, and get the liquid. This would yield a bunch of chemicals in a mixture. I also know that you can steam wood to get wood vinegar. Would it be possible to extract Acetic Acid from either the Pyrolysis Gas or Wood Vinegar? Or would I need a different method of extraction or just not be possible at all?

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    $\begingroup$ Any "home chemistry" attempt to do this and get a reasonably pure solution of acetic acid would likely be dramatically inferior to buying the same solution, at a higher purity and lower cost. $\endgroup$
    – Zhe
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 3:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Plus the effort, to assemble raw materials and tools $\ce{->}$ running $\ce{->}$ disassemble the setup for you compared to just go to the shop, picking the jar from the shelf. $\endgroup$
    – Buttonwood
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 8:17

1 Answer 1


Acetic acid is present in 'wood vinegar' that you get by thermal destruction with a lack of oxygen.

Steam can be used as a source of heat, but to be of any help in your desired production it would have to be overheated or under very high pressure, about 100 atmospheres. It is still useful as a way to increase the yield a bit.

Likely the best way is to heat the wood to 300*C without oxygen, collect and cool the gaseous products to condense them. You will get wood vinegar.


After this you can separate the products using distillation.


About 70 % of wood mass will be converted during the thermal destruction into wood vinegar. About 15 % of wood mass will become non-water wood vinegar. About 5 % of wood mass will become acetic acid.

Small yield, toxic waste, energy intensity of the process, are reasons why this process is not used anymore.


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