10 Uses of Denatured Alcohol

10 Uses of Denatured Alcohol

Although there are many uses of Denatured Alcohol, it is not for human consumption. In some countries it is dyed blue or purple as a warning.

Denatured Alcohol is one of the most widely used solvents and is particularly good at cleaning hard surfaces such as worktops, floors, kitchen appliances, CD’s, tiles and mirrors. Denatured Alcohol is a specifically manufactured substance which consists of Ethanol (the alcohol part of alcoholic drinks) modified by the addition of other substances to make it poisonous and undrinkable. The most common additive is 10% Methanol which gives rise to another of its names, Methylated Spirits. In some countries it is dyed blue or purple as a warning. Other synonyms are Rubbing Alcohol or Grain Alcohol. DENATURED ALCOHOL IS NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION.

Listed below are the Top 10 Uses of Denatured Alcohol:-

1. Window Cleaning

A solution of Denatured Alcohol is particularly effective at cleaning windows. Firstly prepare a mixture of 50% warm Distilled Water and 50% Denatured Alcohol in a spray bottle and gently shake to mix. Then spray the solution directly onto a dirty window and wipe off the excess grime with a piece of crumpled newspaper. Finally use a clean, dry cloth to polish the glass. Voila! A sparkling clean window with no smears or smudges. This old-fashioned remedy can be more effective than many proprietary window-cleaning products.

2. Jam Making

It can be used to test pectin levels in jam and jelly making. Pectin must be present in order for a jam or jelly to set. One teaspoon of cooked, cooled fruit juice should be added to three teaspoons of Denatured Alcohol. The mixture should be place in a container and gently shaken to mix. If the fruit juice contains sufficient pectin it will form a thick substance which can be lifted with a fork. This is the ideal consistency for a jam or jelly. If there is insufficient pectin it will form small particles of jelly within the liquid. More pectin will need to be added to the fruit juice mixture and the substance retested.

3. Model Steam Locomotives

Antique and classic model steam trains use Denatured Alcohol as a fuel. This is one of the oldest methods of producing steam in small locomotive mechanisms and can be found in models of all guages. This method of producing live steam is most popular in the United Kingdom and former Commonwealth countries where the tradition goes back as far as the late 1800′s.

4. Camping and Primus Stoves

It is used by campers, boat enthusiasts, caravanners and back-packers as a fuel in camping and Primus stoves. It is light, easy to transport and can be extinguished with water.

5. Shellac Nail Polish

It is used in the manufacture of the new super nail-polish Shellac, a long-lasting material which resist chipping, smudging and accidental damage. Shellac produces a mirror-like finish which can last for weeks. Layers of base coat, colour and top coat are ‘set’ onto the nail by means of UV heat treatment.

6. Ink Stain Removal

It can be used to treat ink stains on a wide range of textiles such as curtains, clothes and upholstery. Always test a smalll area first. Put a little Denatured Alcohol on a cotton wool pad and gently rub over the area of the stain. The ink should start to lift after a few minutes. Then take a clean, damp cloth and blot over the area to remove any residual traces.

7. Medical and Pharmaceutical Uses

It is used in the medical profession to cleanse and disinfect skin prior to surgery. This is why it is sometimes referred to as Rubbing Alcohol. It can also used to treat coldsores. It is used in the manufacture of numerous pharmaceutical preparations, for both oral and topical application.

8. Pest Control

Denatured Alcohol is used in a range of pest control measures. For example, in horticulture, it is used as a means of eradicating mealybug. When a plant is infected with this parasite, it appears as though it has little flecks of cotton wool on the leaves. Mealybug is particularly fond of succulent plants as they attach themselves to each leaf and drink its juice. If possible, first take the infected plant outside and spray with water. Then take a swab of Denatured Alcohol and rub over the infected area of the plant. Allow to dry naturally. Red spider mite is another parasite which may be eradicated by the use of a Denatured Alcohol solution. You can tell if a plant has red spider mite fixation if the leaves start to turn red, wither and drop or if you notice small spider webs on the underside of the leaves. Make a spray-bottle solution of 5 parts water to one part Denatured Alcohol, then spray over the infected leaves only. Do not spray the entire plant as over-exposure to Denatured Alcohol may cause the plant to die. Again, allow to dry naturally. These old-fashioned pest control remedies for plants are extremely effective and inexpensive.

9. Woodwork

It is used in joinery, cabinet making and woodworking practices being more effective than water at controlling excess dust.

10. Paint Removal

It can be used to remove paint from pallette knives and brushes.

If you wish to buy Denatured Alcohol you should check first the credentials of any proposed Denatured Alcohol supplier. Look for ones with quality and environmental accreditations such as ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management System and ISO 14001:2004 Environmental Management System.

The substance is highly flammable and should be stored away from naked flames, sparks or sources of ignition. Vapours are harmful and accidental inhalation may cause dizziness, headache, loss of vision and convulsions. Always use in a well-ventilated area. Avoid contact with skin or eyes. Always wear eye protection, protective clothing and gloves. Denatured Alcohol is a de-fatting substance and will strip skin of moisture. It should never be ingested as this could result in blindness or even death.

Rich Hudson
I'm Managing Director of a leading UK chemical supplier. My company supplies most of the chemicals I blog about, you can buy them online at ReAgent.co.uk. I also keep a personal blog at RichHudson.co.uk.
Rich Hudson
Rich Hudson
Rich Hudson

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  1. Rich Walendowski says:

    I put a wooden vase on a wooden table from Ethan Allen. The table has a dark cherry color with a satin finish. The oil from the vase has left a stain in the table. Any thoughts would be appreciated

  2. Sue Craig says:

    Hi Rich!
    I can’t find a clear, colorless liquid I used back in the 1970′s that I borrowed from a friend (small amount in a bottle) that I poured onto a cotton cloth,wiped pen stains and all dirt off a handbag with NO effect on the leather! I know it was some kind of solvent, but which one ? I’d appreciate it if you could help me..

  3. michael drakeford says:

    I have a 1917 hand held marching compass. This contains a liquid called Meths Absolute.

    Can you tell me what this is as cannot seem to find a description, or how to obtain it?

    • Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your enquiry. I thinks Meths Absolute may be an archaic term for denatured alcohol or methylated spirits, as I can’t find any specific information about it online.
      If you read our blog on methylated spirits, you might be able to get some more information from that. Also, you can purchase denatured alcohol via ReAgent’s chemical store, although be aware you need to register your interest in this product with HM Revenue and Customs before they can sell it to you, for legal reasons.

      Good luck in your search for more info about Meths Absolute!

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