Alcohols, Epoxides and Ethers

By James Ashenhurst

Alcohol Reactions Roadmap (PDF)

Last updated: February 8th, 2020 |

The Alcohol Reaction Map

Having now finished (at long last) covering the key reactions of alcohols, let’s stop to put everything in perspective.

Over the past 18 articles (!) in this series on alcohols, we covered reactions such as:

  • Ether formation via substitution reactions
  • Elimination of alcohols to form alkenes
  • Conversion of alcohols to alkyl halides via substitution reactions
  • Cleavage of ethers
  • Opening of epoxides
  • Reactions of thiols

In my experience, there’s nothing that helps doing this like making a “map” of reactions. So let’s put each of these reactions onto a single page, in “reaction map” format:


It’s not easy to do this without making some tradeoffs. Here, you’ll note that “alcohols” are all bunched up into a single box, which includes primary, secondary, and tertiary alcohols. As we’ve stated before, not all reactions work on all types of alcohols (for instance, we can’t oxidize tertiary alcohols).

Using this map requires some judgement. While it would have been possible to separate the categories, that would have ended up making the map a lot more visually distracting. So in order to use this properly, it’s up to you to understand which reactions work for each type of alcohol [which is covered in the initial blog posts on each topic, as well as in the notes on the reaction map below].

Similarly, all the “carbonyls” (aldehydes, ketones, carboxylic acids, esters) have been grouped together, for now. When we cover future sections we’ll expand them out, but at this stage I wanted to keep things as simple as possible.

A Really Big Reaction Map

You might recall that my previous post on synthesis covered reactions of alkanes, alkyl halides, alkenes, and alkynes. Let’s now take the same “map” and add alcohols. Things are starting to get crowded – I count 69 different reactions!

This map covers most of the reactions you’ll see for alcohols, alkenes, alkynes, alkanes, and alkyl halides. One thing it doesn’t cover is formation of the various conjugate bases and acids from each species.

Here is the map in downloadable PDF format

Here’s the big map.


I welcome comments and suggestions – and would even pay for someone who has design skills to make this look better!

In the next series on MOC, we’ll cover reactions of organometallics. Hopefully this won’t take nearly a year like this series on alcohols has!


Comment section

11 thoughts on “Alcohol Reactions Roadmap (PDF)

  1. Hii, My name name is Donald and I’m from. PZPUA new Guinea, really appreciate your note about organic chemistry

  2. Hi, i’m Amit pal from India. I really appriciate the work done by you. These all long info in short handy notes really helps a lot to revise the whole organic chemistry.


  3. What is the ideal level of education for studying this? like is this for college or hs? just wanna know hehe anyways i appreciate how you are helping us to learn chemistry. Goodluck on your life<3

  4. Oh man! This is great help for me. Having my exams so close , these organic sheets are beating the spirit high. NOTHING CAN BE MORE HELPFUL THAN THESE. Keep up this great work.

  5. Very interesting and smart approach. I am not chemist but I love it. Now, I am in a project to find the most simple and cheap ways to prepare some molecules. I live in Colombia and many products are very expensive. I need find a simple and cheap way of having heptanol and Propanaldhyde. The first costs 110 dollars 1 liter here. The second one about 80 dollars 1 liter. Perhaps its possible to find a suitable way. If so, I would can to begin a test using these products in animals.

    Current pyrolisis of castor oil produces heptaldehyde that can be converted to heptanol. This process its not as cheap as I thought.

    Oxydation of 1 propanol using a chromic salt is not cheap neither simple

    Thank you for your help,

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