Methyl formate, also called methyl methanoate, is the methyl ester of formic acid. The simplest example of an ester, it is a colorless liquid with an ethereal odour, high vapor pressure, and low surface tension. It is a precursor to many other compounds of commercial interest.
|Preferred IUPAC name
|Systematic IUPAC name
3D model (JSmol)
CompTox Dashboard (EPA)
|Molar mass||60.052 g·mol−1|
|Melting point||−100 °C (−148 °F; 173 K)|
|Boiling point||32 °C (90 °F; 305 K)|
|Vapor pressure||634 hPa (476 mmHg) (20°C)|
|Safety data sheet||Oxford MSDS|
|Highly flammable (F+); Harmful (Xn)|
|Flash point||−19 °C; −2 °F; 254 K|
|Lethal dose or concentration (LD, LC):|
LD50 (median dose)
|1622 mg/kg (oral, rabbit)|
LCLo (lowest published)
|50,000 ppm (guinea pig, 20 min)|
|NIOSH (US health exposure limits):|
|TWA 100 ppm (250 mg/m3)|
|TWA 100 ppm (250 mg/m3) ST 150 ppm (375 mg/m3)|
IDLH (Immediate danger)
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
- HCOOH + CH3OH → HCO2CH3 + H2O
This process, practiced commercially by BASF among other companies gives 96% selectivity toward methyl formate. The catalyst for this process is sensitive to water, which can be present in the carbon monoxide feedstock, which is commonly derived from synthesis gas. Very dry carbon monoxide is, therefore, essential.
Because of its high vapor pressure, it is used for quick-drying finishes and as a blowing agent for some polyurethane foam applications and as a replacement for CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs. Methyl formate has zero ozone depletion potential and zero global warming potential. It is also used as an insecticide.
A historical use of methyl formate, which sometimes brings it attention, was in refrigeration. Before the introduction of less-toxic refrigerants, methyl formate was used as an alternative to sulfur dioxide in domestic refrigerators, such as some models of the famous GE Monitor Top.
- NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. "#0417". National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
- "Methyl formate". Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health Concentrations (IDLH). National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
- Werner Reutemann and Heinz Kieczka "Formic Acid" in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry 2002, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim. doi:10.1002/14356007.a12_013
- W. Couteau, J. Ramioulle, US Patent US4216339