Other terms for this chemical include phenic acid and carbolic acid. It is a colorless crystalline solid that emits an intense, tar-like odor. It is both caustic and harmful to humans. It is slightly soluble in water, although it mixes well with oil and various forms of alcohol. Phenol is similar to alcohol in that is flammable and has a similar chemical structure.
The most common application of phenol is as a disinfectant or antiseptic. It is highly toxic to many microorganisms, including bacteria and most fungi. In small doses, the substance can be found in skin treatment products, as well as some cosmetics. Other applications of phenol include prescription drugs, weed killers, and synthetic resins.
Because phenol is highly toxic in its purest form, it must be handled with care. Gloves, goggles, and a breathing mask should always be worn when working with this substance. It should be stored in a cool, dry area and it should never be exposed to the skin, eyes, lungs, or intestines.