Seliwanoff’s Test- Definition, Principle, Procedure, Result, Uses

Interesting Science Videos

Seliwanoff’s test definition

Seliwanoff’s test is used to differentiate between sugars that have a ketone group (ketose) and sugars that have an aldehyde group (aldoses). This test is a timed color reaction specific to ketohexoses.

Objectives of Seliwanoff’s test

  • To detect the presence of ketohexoses in a given sample.
  • To distinguish ketoses from aldoses.

Principle of Seliwanoff’s test

  • The reagent of this test consists of resorcinol and concentrated HCl.
  • The acid hydrolysis of polysaccharides and oligosaccharides yields simpler sugars.
  • Ketoses are more rapidly dehydrated than aldoses.
  • Ketoses undergo dehydration in the presence of concentrated acid to yield 5-hydroxymethyl furfural.
  • The dehydrated ketose reacts with two equivalents of resorcinol in a series of condensation reactions to produce a complex (not a precipitate), termed xanthenoid, with deep cherry red color.
  • Aldoses may react slightly to produce a faint pink to cherry red color if the test is prolonged.
  • The product and reaction time of the oxidation reaction helps to distinguish between carbohydrates.
  • Other carbohydrates like sucrose and inulin also give a positive result for this test as these are hydrolyzed by acid to give fructose.


Seliwanoff’s test reaction

Figure: Seliwanoff’s test with fructose as an example. Image Source: Yikrazuul.



  • Seliwanoff’s reagent: add 0.05% resorcinol (m-hydroxybenzene) in 3 N HCl. Dissolve 50 mg resorcinol in 33 ml concentrated HCl and make it 100 ml with water.
  • Test sample
  • Distilled water

Materials required

  • Test tubes
  • Test tube stand
  • Pipettes


  • Water bath

Procedure of Seliwanoff’s test

  1. Take two clean, dry test tubes and add 1 ml of the test sample in one test tube and 1 ml of distilled water in another as blank.
  2. Add 2 ml of Seliwanoffs’ reagent to both the test tubes.
  3. Keep both the test tubes in a water bath for 1 min.
  4. Observe the formation of color and note it down.

Result and Interpretation of Seliwanoff’s test

Seliwanoff’s test

  • The formation of the cherry red-colored complex indicates a positive result which means that the given sample contains ketoses.
  • The absence of such color or the appearance of the color after a prolonged period of time indicates a negative result which means that the test sample doesn’t have ketoses.

Uses of Seliwanoff’s test

  • Seliwanoff’s color reaction is used in the method for the colorimetric determination of fructose in fermentation media.
  • A modified version of this test can be used for the determination of the concentration of ketoses in a given sample.

Limitations of Seliwanoff’s test

  • The high concentration of glucose or other sugar may interfere by producing similar colored compounds with Seliwanoff’s reagent.
  • Prolonged boiling can transform glucose to fructose by the catalytic action of acid and form cherry red-complex giving a false-positive result.
  • This test is a generalized test and doesn’t distinguish between specific ketoses, and a separate test is required for the particular ketose sugar identification.

References and Sources

  • Tiwari A. (2015). Practical Biochemistry. LAP Lambert Academic Publishing.
  • Sánchez-Viesca, Francisco & Gómez, Reina. (2018). Reactivities Involved in the Seliwanoff Reaction. 10.11648/
  • 4% –
  • 3% –
  • 2% –
  • 2% –
  • 2% –
  • 1% –
  • 1% –
  • 1% –

About Author

Photo of author

Anupama Sapkota

Anupama Sapkota has a bachelor’s degree (B.Sc.) in Microbiology from St. Xavier's College, Kathmandu, Nepal. She is particularly interested in studies regarding antibiotic resistance with a focus on drug discovery.

3 thoughts on “Seliwanoff’s Test- Definition, Principle, Procedure, Result, Uses”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.