10 Uses of Denatured Alcohol

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.

You can buy Denatured Alcohol on Amazon, where you’ll find a range of pack sizes and concentrations to suit a host of applications.

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 Chemicals.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..

    • Hi Sue,

      Have you tried using denatured alcohol? It’s particularly effective at removing ink stains.

    • jim dunne says:

      It might have been “carbon tetrachloride” sold under the brand name “dab it off” . It came as a clear liquid in a cotton fabric topped bottle,the bottle was upended to moisten the cotton and rubbed on to the offending stain. I haven’t seen it on the market for over thirty years.

  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!

  4. Hi Michael
    I have spot test denatured alcohol as a auto wheel cleaner on aluminum wheels.
    It cleans easily where most auto cleaners have failed. My concern is the damage to clear coat on the wheels. Any thoughts on this application?
    Regards David

  5. Would have appreciated actual chemistry behind the cleaning.

  6. Jessica Cruz says:

    Hi, can I used denatured alcohol for cooking?

    • Hi Jessica,
      You shouldn’t use denatured alcohol for cooking. It’s not recommended for human consumption and is also highly flammable.
      When handling denatured alcohol, you should wear protective clothing – it’s definitely not suitable for the kitchen!
      Thank you for your comment.

      • Denatured alcohol is not for human consumption. My mothers uncle died from drinking it an her cousin Fran only a little bit an went blind this a true an not a made up lie

  7. Are the use of turpentine and denatured alcohol as cleaners and solvents similar?

    • Hi Tina
      It all depends on what you want to use the solutions for.
      Turpentine is used as a thinner for oil-based paints which is why it is effective at cleaning paint brushes used for the same. It is also used in varnishes and furniture waxes plus as an intermediate in organic synthesis.
      Denatured alcohol is also used in organic synthesis, as a laboratory chemical and used widely in cleaning products. It can also be used in paints that are intended to be applied by spraying, as a fuel source and in household cleaners.

      Hope this helps.

  8. my marker has dried up. what should i use to it? will denatured alcohol do the trick? please help.thanks in advance.

  9. j mcgowan says:

    we have a painted drive we put hc waterbase sealer on it , it will not dry can we use denatured alochol on it to help remove sealer ,will it harm the paint under it,the paint under it is laqurer base.

    • Hi,
      Water-based sealers can take a long time to dry; has yours dried since asking the question?
      If not, you would need to contact the company that made the sealer and find our their suggestions, as guidelines for each brand can vary.
      Good luck and I hope you solve your problem.

  10. I would like to stain some paneling in my home.I was told by a friend that cleaning it with alcohol or denatured alcohol would help ready the wood for stain.Your thoughts.

    • Hi Pete. Thanks for your question.
      Denatured alcohol is good to get rid of excess dust after sanding wood. Apart from that, it shouldn’t be needed to help ready the wood. Wood can absorb stain quite easily by itself. Having said that, denatured alcohol won’t do any harm to your staining process, as long as it’s dry.

  11. Will Denatured Alcohol remove glue from the inside of an above ground swimming pool without ruining the vinyl liner

    • Hi Bill
      Thank you for contacting us.
      Denatured alcohol is usually a safe cleaner for vinyl liner swimming pools. However, contact the pool manufacturer before using it just to be safe. Vinyl liners can vary between manufacturers and some may not react well to denatured alcohol.
      Good luck!

  12. Joe sharp says:

    Will Methylated Spirits remove old silicone sealant from a bath.

    • Hi Joe
      Methylated spirits (denatured alcohol) can be effective at cleaning silicone sealant from the bath.
      I’d recommend testing the alcohol on a small section before applying it all over. Leave it for a few hours and check for any unwanted colouring or other effects.
      Good luck and thanks for your question.

  13. I hope you can advise me, as my search to find the correct alcohol has hit a brick wall. I am trying to find the same alcohol that is used to make alcohol ink, such as the ink Sharpies markers use. Please advise me.

    • Hi Jackie
      The alcohol used is likely to be diacetone alcohol – this is used as a solvent and is found in products such as wood stains and permanent markers.
      Hope this helps,
      The Chemical Blog

  14. It also may have been a popular household product named Energine© which is no longer sold. Many products left the marketplace as environmental emmisions standards were revised years ago.

  15. Rich,

    After the flooring company installed my vinyl floor, there was a cloudy haze on the surface. I was told the workman would remove the haze with mineral spirits; however, they showed up with WD-40 and used that instead. Now the floor is full of shoe prints through the substance.

    Can you please tell me what can be used to remove the WD-40 without damaging the surface of my brand-new floors?



    • Hi Penny,
      Thanks for your question and sorry to hear about your brand new floor!
      WD-40 can be used on vinyl flooring, but this is usually just to remove scuffs. It isn’t suitable to clean an entire floor, so the flooring company should have avoided this!
      You could try using rubbing alcohol to clean the vinyl floor. Ensure you read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and wear safety clothing such as goggles and rubber gloves.
      Good luck,
      The Chemical Blog

  16. Metho seems to clean chrome on furniture nicely, will it hurt the surface of new furniture as I realize that it is only a slim coat of chrome nowdays?

  17. Would denatured alcohol be ok to clean the inside of a plastic fuel tank?

    • Hi Roger.
      Denatured alcohol/rubbing alcohol is safe to use inside a plastic fuel tank as it mixes well with gas.
      Another option is acetone as it has good evaporating qualities. You may need to add acetone, shake the tank and empty it repeatedly until the acetone runs clear.
      Hope this helps,
      The Chemical Blog

  18. can denatured alcohol be used as an antifreeze for home drains/traps

  19. We have Bamboo floors and there is a large dull spot in front of the door and the reflection is very noticeable. we don’t know what was spilt there. I clean and polish my floors with Bona but it is still there. How should I use D. alcohol to remove the spot? thanks.

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