Examples of Organic Chemistry in Everyday Life

Growing, digesting, and making products from living organisms is organic chemistry.
The treatments used on seeds, pesticides to protect crops, nutritional value of plants, and reactions to make products from plants are all examples of organic chemistry. Jamie Grill, Getty Images

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

Organic Chemistry Is All Around Us

  1. Polymers
    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.
  1. Petrochemicals
    Petrochemicals are chemicals derived from crude oil or petroleum. Fractional distillation separates the raw material into organic compounds according to their different boiling points. You encounter products made from petrochemicals every day. Examples include gasoline, plastics, detergents, dyes, food additives, natural gas, and medicines.
  2. Soaps and Detergents
    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 a 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. 
  3. Perfume
    Whether a fragrance comes from a flower or a lab, the molecules you smell and enjoy are an example of organic chemistry.
  4. Cosmetics
    The cosmetic 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.

    Examples of Products With Common Organic Chemicals

    • shampoo
    • gasoline
    • perfume
    • lotion
    • drugs
    • food and food additives
    • plastics
    • paper
    • insect repellent
    • synthetic fabrics (nylon, polyester, rayon)
    • paint
    • moth balls (naphthalene)
    • enzymes
    • nail polish remover
    • wood
    • coal
    • natural gas
    • solvents
    • fertilizers
    • vitamins
    • dyes
    • soap
    • candles
    • asphalt

      As you can see, most of the 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.