What Is an Oxidizing Agent?

Isolated oxidising agent, common hazards symbols

nitiwa / Getty Images

An oxidizing agent is a reactant that removes electrons from other reactants during a redox reaction. The oxidizing agent typically takes these electrons for itself, thus gaining electrons and being reduced. An oxidizing agent is thus an electron acceptor. An oxidizing agent may also be viewed as a species capable of transferring electronegative atoms (especially oxygen) to a substrate.

Oxidizing agents are also known as oxidants or oxidizers.

Examples of Oxidizing Agents

Hydrogen peroxide, ozone, oxygen, potassium nitrate, and nitric acid are all oxidizing agents. All of the halogens are oxidizing agents (e.g., chlorine, bromine, fluorine).

Oxidizing Agent Versus Reducing Agent

While an oxidizing agent gains electrons and is reduced in a chemical reaction, a reducing agent loses electrons and is oxidized during a chemical reaction.

Oxidizer as a Dangerous Material

Because an oxidizer may contribute to combustion, it may be classified as a dangerous material. The hazard symbol for an oxidizer is a circle with flames on top of it.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "What Is an Oxidizing Agent?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2020, thoughtco.com/definition-of-oxidizing-agent-605459. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2020, August 29). What Is an Oxidizing Agent? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/definition-of-oxidizing-agent-605459 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "What Is an Oxidizing Agent?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/definition-of-oxidizing-agent-605459 (accessed April 2, 2023).