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What Is Denatured Alcohol?


Question: What Is Denatured Alcohol?
Denatured alcohol is a widely available form of alcohol that is found in many products. This is an explanation of what denatured alcohol is, how it is denatured, and why it's dangerous to drink it.
Answer: Denatured alcohol is ethanol (ethyl alcohol) made unfit for human consumption by adding one or more chemicals (denaturants) to it. Denaturing refers to removing a property from the alcohol (being able to drink it), not to chemically altering or decomposing it, so denatured alcohol contains ordinary ethyl alcohol.

There are several ways ethanol is denatured.

Methanol as a Denaturant

Denatured alcohol that is intended for use as a fuel or solvent typically contains 5% or more methanol. Another term for this type of denatured alcohol is "methylated spirits." Methanol is flammable and has a boiling point close to that of ethanol. Methanol is absorbed across the skin and is highly toxic, so it is not recommended to use denatured alcohol for making perfume or bath products unless you know the denaturant is not methanol.

Denatured Alcohol for Cosmetics and Labs

Denatured alcohol for use in cosmetics often contains water and a bittering agent (Bitrex or Aversion which are denatonium benzoate or denatonium saccharide), but other chemicals are sometimes used. Other common additives include (but are not limited to) isopropanol, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, pyridine, benzene, diethyl phthalate, and naphtha.

Color of Denatured Alcohol

In the United States, denatured alcohol usually is colorless. In some countries, denatured alcohol must be colored blue or purple using an aniline dye, in order to distinguish it from consumption-grade ethanol.

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