Examples of Organic Chemistry in Everyday Life

All are chemical reactions in products derived from living organisms

Cropped Scientist Doing Experiment With Cherry Tomato In Laboratory
Stevica Mrdja / EyeEm / Getty Images

Organic chemistry is the study of carbon compounds, which extends to understanding chemical reactions in living organisms and products derived from them. There are numerous examples of organic chemistry in everyday life.

They're All Around Us

Here are examples of organic chemistry at work:

  • Polymers consist of long chains and branches of molecules. Common polymers you encounter every day are organic molecules. Examples include nylon, acrylic, PVC, polycarbonate, cellulose, and polyethylene.
  • Petrochemicals are chemicals derived from crude oil or petroleum. Fractional distillation separates the raw material into organic compounds according to their different boiling points. Examples include gasoline, plastics, detergents, dyes, food additives, natural gas, and medicines.
  • Although both are used for cleaning, soap and detergent are two different examples of organic chemistry. Soap is made by the saponification reaction, which reacts to hydroxide with an organic molecule (e.g., an animal fat) to produce glycerol and crude soap. While soap is an emulsifier, detergents tackle oily, greasy (organic) soiling mainly because they are surfactants, which lower the surface tension of the water and increase the solubility of organic compounds.
  • Whether a perfume fragrance comes from a flower or a lab, the molecules you smell and enjoy are an example of organic chemistry.
  • The cosmetics industry is a lucrative sector of organic chemistry. Chemists examine changes in the skin in response to metabolic and environmental factors, formulate products to address skin problems and enhance beauty, and analyze how cosmetics interact with the skin and other products.

Products With Common Organic Chemicals

These common products make use of organic chemistry:

  • Shampoo
  • Gasoline
  • Perfume
  • Lotion
  • Drugs
  • Food and food additives
  • Plastics
  • Paper
  • Insect repellent
  • Synthetic fabrics (nylon, polyester, rayon)
  • Paint
  • Mothballs (naphthalene)
  • Enzymes
  • Nail polish remover
  • Wood
  • Coal
  • Natural gas
  • Solvents
  • Fertilizers
  • Vitamins
  • Dyes
  • Soap
  • Candles
  • Asphalt

Most products you use involve organic chemistry. Your computer, furniture, home, vehicle, food, and body contain organic compounds. Every living thing you encounter is organic. Inorganic items, such as rocks, air, metals, and water, often contain organic matter, too.